Toliver Looking On

First-round Pick Playing Little As Sky Vies For Playoff Spot

August 12, 2009|By Fred Mitchell | Fred Mitchell,Tribune Newspapers

CHICAGO - - Derrick Rose has taken heat for a couple of alleged off-court indiscretions this offseason.

Might as well also blame the Chicago Bulls' reigning NBA Rookie of the Year for raising the on-court expectations unreasonably for Chicago Sky point guard Kristi Toliver, the team's first-round pick out of Maryland.

While the Sky attempts to earn its first playoff berth, Toliver has played sparingly (14.4 minutes a game) and did not play at all in Sunday's loss at Detroit.

"Derrick Rose did a great job with the Bulls - coming in, being the leader and being aggressive from the beginning," Toliver said after Tuesday's practice at the Attack Athletics training facility. "That's something all rookies can learn from - his example of really setting the tone early and coming out and playing hard."

The Sky (11-12) has just 11 games remaining in the regular season and coach-general manager Steven Key wants foremost to see his fourth-year franchise gain a berth in the WNBA playoffs.

"It's been tough on Kristi because she has always been a player, she has always been on the court," Key said. "Her skill dictates that she should be on the court, but I think the transition has been a lot harder for her from college to the pros. Even if you are a dominant [college] player, there are very few people who can come in and be LeBron [James], or very few people who can be Cappie Pondexter or Diana Taurasi [of the Phoenix Mercury] or Derrick Rose."

At Maryland, the 5-foot-7 Toliver set the school record for career free-throw percentage (.870) and three-point field goals made (209). She also broke the Atlantic Coast Conference's 30-year-old single-season assist record in 2008.

"Her skill is unquestionable. It's why we drafted her," Key said. "But if you watch the games closely, she comes into the game and the speed and the quickness and the size tend to gobble her up a little bit. Then she gets a little bit erratic. ... On our level, that can't happen."

Toliver has appeared in 19 games this season and has yet to start. Veterans Jia Perkins and Dominique Canty generally start in the backcourt. Toliver is averaging 6.5 points and 2.3 assists.

Key said he wishes he could be more patient with Toliver to let her learn the pro game on the job. But the Sky is battling the Atlanta Dream, Connecticut Sun and Washington Mystics for a playoff slot.

Toliver, whose father, George, was an NBA official for 17 years and is now a league supervisor of officials, has tried her best to be a good teammate.

"The challenging part, obviously, is not playing 40 minutes. I am used to playing since I was a freshman," Toliver said. "Just as a competitor, you want to be out there and you want to play.

"But I have taken this as an opportunity to kind of see the other side, sitting on the bench, observing, watching. You can always learn, whether you are in the game or not. I just want to be optimistic about that and take this as an opportunity to learn from another perspective."

Toliver, 22, wonders whether she could transition faster if she were more assertive.

"The thing about me is that I am very quiet. I am very reserved, very held back. So when I play basketball, I kind to have to have a split personality. On the floor I have to be a little more outgoing, a little more demanding to try to get the best I can out of my teammates.

"My teammates have been great. They are fun to work with and they all have fun personalities. Unlike me, most of them are very outgoing."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.