Stef Dolson, Bria Hartley Continue Smooth Transition To WNBA

Their UConn careers had Stef Dolson, left, and Bria Hartley well-prepared for life in the WNBA. (Cloe Poisson)

WASHINGTON – Aside from her new swash of purple hair, a look she began to percolate as soon as her UConn career was over, nothing seems particularly different about Stefanie Dolson.

"If you want to know the truth, that [the new hair color] may be the most fun of all this season," Dolson said. "A conversation starter? Yes."

Same goes for Bria Hartley. Not much has changed with her, either. The cool confidence that pushed her through so many tense moments with the Huskies has also carried her successfully into her rookie season in the WNBA.

"I am getting used to the style and the system, and I think I've been playing pretty well for the most part," Hartley said. "I'm a pretty confident person by nature. When you've played at UConn, you play with many very talented players. And just about all of them turn into great pros. So I just run with that and play my hardest every day."

Together again, Hartley and Dolson, once college All-Americans in Storrs, are forging their new lives with one another with the Washington Mystics.

Both played major roles in Washington's 89-75 win over the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday at the Verizon Center.

Dolson, as she has done all season, came off the bench for the 24th time and scored 13 points (5-of-7 from the field) with four rebounds. She is averaging 18.3 minutes and is fourth among league rookies in rebounds (4.4).

"The team has been so great to both Bria and I," Dolson said. "I can't believe that we're already getting to the end of [the regular season].

Hartley, starting for the 19th time, had 11 points and three assists in 26 minutes. She is averaging 10.1 points (also fourth among rookies) in 26.8 minutes.

Chiney Ogwumike of the Sun, who was an All-Star , leads all WNBA rookies in scoring (15.4 points) and rebounding (8.5).

"Bria is very quickly going to become an All-Star in this league," Mystics guard Kara Lawson said. "She can do everything and even now she is probably our most complete guard, capable of excelling in every area.

"And she can guard people. Every night she's one of the other team's biggest offensive threats. She's taking the matchup for us and taking care of it."

The Mystics (11-13) have won four of five with a very young team. But Lawson hasn't noticed either missing a step.

"You can tell how prepared they both were for this when they arrived [from UConn]," Lawson said. "They know how to play the game. I know that sounds like a simple thing, but it really isn't. They understand team concepts, schemes and reads."

The lessons Hartley and Dolson learned at UConn, where they won consecutive national championships as juniors and seniors, have helped them adapt easily to the pro game.

If anything, it's what goes on outside the lines that have produced more commotion. One of the biggest adjustments WNBA rookies must make — especially those spawned by systematic programs like UConn — is to adjust to a lifestyle with less logistical comforts, highlighted by commercial flights.

"I'm not going to say I'm crazy for that part," Hartley said. "But it's something that you need to get used to. I had a middle seat once, but I was between [teammates] Ivory Latta and Emma Meesseman [neither wide bodies]. If I was between a pair of strangers, that might have been a little difficult."

"Hey look, we were definitely spoiled to some extent by the way we were treated at UConn. But we knew what to expect," Dolson said.

Dolson's career-high 14 points came in a 40-minute effort against the Los Angeles Sparks on June 1, a triple-overtime win at the Verizon Center. Her playing time has basically hovered between 13 and 24 minutes, and Dolson said she's OK with her new role.

"Obviously at UConn, it was a big role as a starter right from the beginning," Dolson said. "But we have one of the deepest benches in the WNBA here. So knowing that, I am fine with being asked to provide some spark and energy when the team needs it. And we have some fun before the game with the bench players. So it's been all good for me."

Lawson said Dolson's ability to make reads on pick-and-roll plays reminds her of Asjha Jones, who she said was the best she's every played with at the very specific skill.

"Stef is not at that level yet, but for a very young player it's rare to be able to come in and be able to do it all right away," Lawson said. "We've worked the pick-and-roll together great since the first day. That's more a credit to her. She knows how to screen, how to read defenses and how to make the 15-footer, if needed. And she's big [6-5]."