WASHINGTON - A lanky young man in a white T-shirt and jeans walked past Crystal Langhorne yesterday as she stood outside the Washington Mystics' locker room at the Verizon Center.
Kevin Durant, a Texas Rangers hat completing the outfit, touched Langhorne's shoulder in acknowledgment. Langhorne, talking about how she could earn more playing time, paused and nodded hello.
It was a subtle exchange. Durant, the NBA rookie of the year for the Seattle SuperSonics this season, continued through the hallway. Langhorne, the No. 6 pick in April's WNBA draft and graduate of Willingboro High School, returned to topic: life as a WNBA rookie.
Twenty minutes earlier, she was sitting at the end of the Mystics' bench, where she spent the entire second half. Watching is new for the 6-foot-2 post player, whose list of accolades at her alma mater, the University of Maryland, has more items than a weekend shopping list.
Yesterday, Langhorne's Mystics lost, 70-59, to the Los Angeles Sparks and fellow rookie Candace Parker.
Langhorne's line: 11 minutes, one field-goal attempt, two rebounds and one turnover.
"You look at a game like that, and I need to rebound more, maybe get a basket here and there," said Langhorne, who averaged 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds during her college career. "Little things like that are going to help me build my game."
Langhorne played the last minute of the first quarter and the entire second quarter. She said she went into halftime knowing she probably would not play much in the second half.
"I'm sitting there thinking, 'Could I have done a little bit more to get myself back out there?' " Langhorne said.
"It's tough," Mystics coach Tree Rollins said. "We made a decision to leave her out that second half. I'm looking to get her 15 minutes a game. We just need to find more minutes for her. She'll be the same pro player she was in college, we have no doubt."
Life in the pros
The Mystics' locker room is carpeted. There are leather couches, a flat-screen TV, and wooden lockers with ergonomic chairs in front of each.
Ninety minutes before tip-off, Langhorne walked out of the training room. She had just finished treatment on her back. Some of her teammates already were on the court, warming up, but Langhorne has yet to find a routine.
"I'm still not even in a flow," Langhorne said. "I'm trying to find one. It's different than college because you're so much on your own. We don't stretch as a team. All I know is the post players need to be out there about 50 minutes before the game."
Parker, the top pick in April's draft, agreed: Freedom is the biggest difference between college and the WNBA.
"Here, you have to take care of yourself," said Parker, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. "Nobody is imposing a curfew. You have to make sure you get to bed on time because it's not like college where everyone tells you where to be and when."
On the court, both agreed that the speed, intensity and physicality are the biggest challenges.
At one point yesterday, Langhorne caught the ball near the basket. Los Angeles immediately double-teamed her, and she disappeared like a shadow between two skyscrapers.
"Everybody is just so big," Langhorne said. "In college, they're big, too, but here they're big and athletic."
Heck, even the folks milling in the corridors afterward - folks like the 6-9 Durant - are big and athletic.
Olympic picks. Before the game, USA Basketball named nine players to the U.S. women's team for the Beijing Olympics. U.S. head coach Anne Donovan and selection committee chairwoman Renee Brown were at the news conference for the announcement. The Sparks' Parker and Lisa Leslie were chosen along with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, and former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter.
There are three spots remaining and a pool of 20 players from which to choose.