Philly native Natasha Cloud was a big reason why the Washington Mystics had the best record in the WNBA. — PHOTO COURTESY OF WASHINGTON MYSTICS

Philly native Natasha Cloud was a big reason why the Washington Mystics had the best record in the WNBA.

— PHOTO COURTESY OF WASHINGTON MYSTICS

It’s always good to see professional athletes make an impact in and out of the sports arenas. Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has done exactly that with her efforts in the Washington, D.C. community.

Cloud, a former Cardinal O’Hara and Saint Joseph’s University basketball star, has received special recognition for her community work during the regular WNBA season and the offseason. The WNBA recently announced that Cloud has earned the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.

The award, which is named in honor of WNBA legend and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and the University of South Carolina head women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, annually recognizes a player who reflects Staley’s spirit, leadership, charitable efforts, love for the game and inspirational presence in the community. She was thrilled to get this honor. Moreover, Cloud is a big fan of Staley.

“You know being a Philly kid,” Cloud said. “I grew up watching Dawn not only as a player, but as a coach at Temple. I followed her career very closely as a fellow point guard.

“She was a big role model for me growing up. I’m extremely humbled and honored not only for the award, but to receive as one of the legends of this league and the legends of women’s basketball in general. This award will forever be the most important award that I’ll win in my entire career.”

Cloud is working with children through her active involvement with youth clinics and education of children on the importance of fitness while promoting participation in youth sports. During the month of December, she participated in various holiday events including Dream for Kids Holiday celebration on Dec. 8. She was also a part of MSE’s (Monumental Sports Entertainment) Family-to-Family program, Cloud and other athletes from MSE teams and front office employees delivered Christmas presents to underprivileged families in the Washington, D.C. area.

Cloud plans to do some community work in the Philadelphia area.

“It’s real important for us as professional athletes from every team to get out in the community and be a face in the community,” Cloud said. “Sports is a way of bringing everyone together. I really love it here. I also spoke to Kahleah Copper [a former Prep Charter and Rutgers basketball star] who plays on the Chicago Sky. She’s a Philly kid. I spoke to her a couple weeks ago to figure [out a] way while we’re overseas in the offseason to give back to where we’re from. Philly holds a special place in my heart.”

It’s been a great year for Cloud and the Mystics. Cloud and star forward Elena Delle Donne helped Washington put together a league best 26-8 record. The Mystics are the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs. They have a double bye to the semifinals and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the season to get back to the finals,” said Cloud, who averages 9.0 points and 5.6 assists a game. “I’m really proud of our team and how we approached the season and how professional we were.”

A lot of people are proud of Cloud for what she has done on and off the court.

dhunt@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5719

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