The general notion in this year’s WNBA is that it is split in two — Stanford All-American Nneka Ogwumike, and everyone else. The rest of the field is a blend of great talent. Some you have heard of. Some you have not heard of. In the case of the players you have not heard of, you should probably learn their names. Let’s talk draft picks.
1. Los Angeles Sparks — Nneka Ogwumike — 6’2” Forward — Stanford
With Brittney Griner overtaking virtually every conversation related to Women’s College Basketball this year, Nneka Ogwumike, in my opinion, was not talked about enough. She is tough, long, gets rebounds she is nowhere near, can kill you on the block and drain a 15-footer. At 6’2”, she has a nearly complete game and will only get better, especially working on the block with Candice Parker. With the selection of Ogwumike, The Los Angeles Sparks will land a player with the potential to impact the team as soon as she steps on the court. Everyone just imagine for a moment, what it will be like to watch Ogwumike and Parker play off of each other in the frontcourt for years to come. Player of the Year or not, this year’s sure-to-be No. 1 pick is about to get her well-deserved moment. It’s time to start talking about Nneka.
2. Seattle Storm — Shenise Johnson — 5’11” Guard — Miami
WWBA do? What Will Brian Agler do? It’s hard to tell. I could make an argument for him to take at least three different players with his No. 2 pick. I thought Shekinna Stricklen of Tennessee, as a forward, would be a nice pick up with the loss of Swin Cash in a trade to the Chicago Sky. Then I thought, Samantha Prahalis. Her point guard play reminds me a bit of Sue Bird, and how fun it would be to watch her learn under her. In the end, I think he goes with a guard, making the scary-good backcourt of Bird and Tanisha Wright even better. Shenise Johnson is the pick. She averaged nearly 18 points and 8 boards in her senior season at Miami. She adds depth and scoring to the backcourt and isn’t afraid to pound the glass.
3. Minnesota Lynx — Glory Johnson — 6’3” Forward — Tennessee
So, the Minnesota Lynx are a pretty good team. For those of you that don’t know. As defending WNBA Champions, with the league’s highest ppg at 85.8 in 2011, and five players who averaged in double figures, one might say they are fine just the way they are. But, they worked their way into acquiring the No. 3 overall pick and they are about to hit the jackpot yet again [The Lynx drafted Maya Moore No. 1 overall in 2011]. As a well-balanced and talented team, the Lynx are likely looking for a dynamic player who can fit whichever role they need. Glory Johnson was the glue of the Tennessee team, a player with an undeniable presence who cranked out numerous double-doubles last season. There is no doubt she would make a positive addition to Minnesota’s already impressive arsenal of players. Johnson, along with Whalen, Moore, Augustus and Brunson, would put the Lynx in a great position to make another run at the title.
4. Tulsa Shock — Shekinna Stricklen — 6’2” Forward — Tennessee
With a dismal 3-31 record and a league-low in ppg with 69.2 last season, the Tulsa Shock need the best that they can get. With one of the greatest point guards the league has ever seen in Ivory Latta, adding a solid, dynamic scorer to the mix for her to play off of is crucial to Tulsa turning it around this season. Powerful, versatile, Shekinna Stricklen will do just that.
5. San Antonio Silver Stars — Samantha Prahalis — 5’7” Guard — Ohio State
Last season, rebounding was an area lacking for San Antonio, but since the offseason began they have brought in four players over 6’0” to attack that issue. With only one pick in this year’s draft San Antonio will surely look to cash in big. Adding to the frontcourt makes sense. Samantha Prahalis would be a great fit. She is everywhere, involved in every play, a true point guard with great vision, who can score.
6. Phoenix Mercury — Julie Wojta — 6’0” Guard/Forward — Green Bay
Green Bay’s run in 2012 NCAA Tournament ended sooner than my bracket expected, and as a result, did not allow enough people to “Witness Wojta”. Julie Wojta is such a fun player to watch; with statistics as impressive as intangibles. She shot over 50% from the field, over 40% from behind the arc, and averaged 19.5 ppg and 9.9 rpg as a senior at Green Bay. I project her to get taken far sooner than most expect, and I would be shocked if she is not taken in the first round. She’s incredibly versatile, and will make a great role player for the Mercury, who recently lost forward Penny Taylor to injury. NCAA Women’s Tournament games can still be watched on ESPN3.com. Go watch her play. You’ll thank me later.
7. New York Liberty — Devereaux Peters — 6’2” Forward — Notre Dame
Devereaux Peters is the rebounding and post presence the New York Liberty are looking for. With a frame similar to Ogwumike — long and lean — Peters is a handful down low, particularly on the offensive glass. She is one of the few “true” post players in the mix; her game revolving mostly in the paint. With depth at the guard position, Peters will add balance to the New York lineup.
8. Washington Mystics — Natalie Novosel — 5’11” Guard — Notre Dame
Natalie Novosel can create her own shot. She can shoot the three ball. She can get to the free throw line. She can nail the mid-range jumper. So, mostly, Natalie Novosel can make things happen. After tallying up the league’s second-worst record last season, Washington needs someone who can come in and do just that — make things happen.
9. Connecticut Sun — Tiffany Hayes — 5’10” Guard — Connecticut
Anyone who has seen Tiffany Hayes play knows that her impact on both sides of the ball is what makes her incredibly valuable to any team. She’s dangerous off the bounce and from behind the arc. Defensively, she can shut down anyone and has no fear in sacrificing her body. The Connecticut Sun posted an impressive overall record last season [2nd in the league], but winning games on the road is where they struggled. A gritty role player like Hayes would be a nice spark for Connecticut, and her familiarity with the team’s best is ideal. Hayes, Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery, and Kalana Greene won National Championships together throughout their time at Connecticut. Chemistry, then, will not be an issue. Hayes could be the Sun’s missing piece.
10. Washington Mystics — Courtney Hurt — 6’1” Forward — Virginia Commonwealth
Washington was at the low end of the scoring board as a team last season, so with a second pick in the first round look for Washington to add another scorer. VCU’s Courtney Hurt, who averaged a double-double last season is a likely choice.
11. Indiana Fever — Lynetta Kizer — 6’4” Center — Maryland
Similarly to New York, the need for rebounding in Indiana is, well, needed. Kizer is a consistent scorer, who will work well with veterans Tamika Catchings and Tammy Sutton-Brown in the paint, providing, most importantly, the 6’4” body for rebounding that cannot be taught or practiced.
12. Minnesota Lynx — Kayla Standish — 6’2” Forward — Gonzaga
As if the Lynx couldn’t get any better, with the No. 12 pick, they’ll do just that. Look for them to keep with the same theme — versatile, role player — and go with someone like Gonzaga’s Kayla Standish, who is labeled a forward, but has quite an impressive outside game to go along with that 6’2” frame of hers.
Where Will Rushdan Go?
Rutgers’ senior Khadijah Rushdan, I project, will go early second round. It would not surprise me if Los Angeles, who have three of the first four picks in the second round, take a versatile guard or two, perhaps even a point guard, to add depth to their backcourt and balance out the front. Talented guards like Miami’s Riquana Williams, Purdue’s Brittany Rayburn and Rushdan, are likely picks.
Wherever she ends up, Rushdan’s ability to score off the dribble and hit the glass are two elements of the game any team could use. If she is not taken sooner, the Chicago Sky, with the 23rd overall pick, would be a nice landing place. They have serious veteran talent in the post with Sylvia Fowles, and new arrivals, Swin Cash and Ruth Riley, but could use a dynamic point [guard], which Rushdan just so happens to be.
You can watch the WNBA Draft live, Monday the 16th at 2pm on ESPN2.