Teammates turned sisters: Tianna Hawkins and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough sharing a bond beyond basketball

Teammates turned sisters: Tianna Hawkins and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough sharing a bond beyond basketball originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Anyone who has ever played sports knows that you meet some of your closest friends when competing as teammates.

For Mystics Tianna Hawkins and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the game of basketball is exactly what led them to one another.

It all started for them at the University of Maryland. The two just missed getting to play as teammates since Hawkins graduated before Walker-Kimbrough was an incoming freshman for the 2013-14 season.

Through the Terps basketball program, they had a great deal of respect for one another and Hawkins made sure to set the standard.

“When I came in [to the Mystics] TT set a great example,” Walker-Kimbrough told Monumental Sports Network’s Wes Hall. “Her consistency, her work ethic, first one in the gym, last one out. If she didn’t play a certain amount of minutes, she was getting extra conditioning.

“Different things like that that’s what I wanted to do and that’s where I wanted to be. Kind of forced her to be my OG, she didn’t have a choice.”

Hawkins graduated from the University of Maryland in 2013 and was selected by the Seattle Storm No. 6 overall, just four picks after fellow teammate Elena Delle Donne was drafted by the Chicago Sky. After just one season with the Storm, Hawkins was traded to the Mystics in 2014 as part of the Crystal Langhorne trade.

Come the 2017 WNBA draft, Walker-Kimbrough made a name for herself and was also selected No. 6 overall, this time by the Mystics.

The two would find their way to each other come the 2017-18 season and that’s when their bond would officially begin as teammates. Teammates turned into friends and friends turned into family.

“My grandmother loves Shatori-Walker Kimbrough,” Hawkins said. “She asks about her every day. But no, just knowing that she came from Maryland, I mean it was easy, she’s a pro's pro.”

Since the 2017 season, both Hawkins and Walker-Kimbrough have left D.C., and remarkably both have found their way back to each other on the Mystics.

The two have both improved immensely in their careers, most recently displaying that during the 2023 season.

Hawkins and Walker-Kimbrough have been playing with a ‘next woman up’ type of mentality. With injuries being a key storyline for the Mystics, the two earned and were presented with more minutes in bigger roles.

“Taking advantage of the opportunity at hand and staying ready so you don’t have to get ready,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “Preparing as if I’m going to play 30 minutes. If I play two minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, but preparing as if I’m going to play 40 minutes so if and when that time comes, nothing has to change.”

Walker-Kimbrough and Hawkins’ chemistry has been continuing to build and as a result, both have been experiencing career highs in their numbers.

Courtesy of Monumental Sports Network

Primarily coming off the bench, the two have displayed how important they are when it comes to the Mystics’ depth.

Hawkins has been a real X-factor for the Mystics stepping into a huge role when Delle Donne and Shakira Austin were sidelined with injuries. Walker-Kimbrough has been a huge sleeper as well, providing the spark and energy off the bench that every team needs.

Even their old head coach at Maryland, Brenda Frese, has acknowledged what it means to still have them right in the DMV’s backyard.

“I just am so proud, they are living out their dreams,” Frese told Monumental Sports Network’s Ariana Prather. “When they came to Maryland and voiced what they wanted to become one day and then you see them living it out…it’s an incredible feeling.”

Hawkins and Walker-Kimbrough share a special bond on the basketball court, but off the court, the two rely on each other like no other. They share a love for clothing and fashion and for the most part, are always just a phone call away if they need one another.