The MSR spoke to four of the 15 prospects invited to ESPN headquarters for Monday’s WNBA Draft during a pre-draft conference call with reporters Wednesday.
If everything stays to form, Stanford forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike will be the seventh consecutive Black female chosen as the league’s overall pick: Seimone Augustus (2006), Lindsay Harding (2007), Candace Parker (2008), Angel McCoughtry (2009), Tina Charles (2010) and Maya Moore (2011). Of the 15 top picks in league history, nine have been Black.
LaSondra Barrett (LSU), Sasha Goodlett (Georgia Tech), Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen and Vicki Baugh (Tennessee), Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams (Miami), Lynetta Kizer (Maryland), Natalie Novosel (Notre Dame), Kayla Standish (Gonzaga) and Julie Wojta (Wisconsin-Green Bay) are the other invitees.
“I think it would mean a lot” to be chosen first by Los Angeles, Ogwumike admitted. “I’m looking forward to Monday.”
When asked how she is spending the final nerve-wracking countdown days to Monday’s draft, “I’ve been calming myself down by shopping,” the 6-2 Ogwumike quipped. Then, seriously, she briefly talked about the possibility of being selected by the Sparks and joining a re-shuffled roster that includes Parker, six new players and a new coach. “As a freshman I never thought I’d be in this position. Whether [Los Angeles] takes me or not, I’ll be somewhere,” says Ogwumike.
Tiffany Hayes (Connecticut), Devereaux Peters (Notre Dame) and Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State) — all but assured to be first-round picks as well — also shared what they are doing as they wait for Monday, Monday.
The 5-10 Hayes says she is finishing up her classwork: “When I was younger, I didn’t think about [playing in the WNBA]… I’ve been a below-the-radar type of player my whole life.”
Although she has had some injury concerns, the 6-2 Peters assured reporters that she is healthy: “I don’t think my knees are an issue. I haven’t had to sit out a game or practice for the last couple of years.”
“I’ve done [some] shopping a little bit,” says Prahalis, borrowing a page from Ogwumike.
Aside from Ogwumike, the rest of this year’s “question mark” draft lacks any consensus.
“Everybody assumes that Ogwumike is going to Los Angeles. [Then] you’re looking at a group of three players who have the opportunity to go at the number-two pick,” believes ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo. “Then the rest of the draft — at least the first round will be based on particular needs of the teams or best available athlete.”
Former WNBA coach and general manager Carolyn Peck, now a ESPN analyst, adds that any one of the aforementioned players could be in the next three selections (owned by Seattle, Minnesota and Tulsa in that order), as well as other players such as Glory Johnson, Stricklen, or 5-11 Shenise Johnson of Miami, the guard who Peck favorably compares to Hall of Famer and former WNBA coach Teresa Edwards, and to a lesser extent, Sheryl Swoopes — a future Hall of Famer. “I like her court maturity and leadership,” says Peck.
She also likes the 5-7 Prahalis: “She makes moves, like splitting screens and getting past players,” says Peck, who questions if the point guard can handle the W’s physicality.
“She played 1 to 4 at Tennessee and did pretty well at all of them. She has the ability to make big shots at big moments,” notes Peck on the 6-2 Stricklen.
When the MSR asked if any player improved their draft stock by recording impressive post-season performances, Peck said Goodlett, the Georgia Tech center, “helped her stock in the ACC tournament and the NCAAs.”
Seattle (No. 2) hasn’t picked this high since 2001 when they selected Lauren Jackson at No. 1. “This is a big decision for us,” said Seattle Coach-GM Brian Agler on Wednesday’s conference call.
On paper Minnesota (No. 3) appears to have no needs — they return nine players of last year’s championship squad. “We will use the draft to add talent,” proclaims Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve of their first of a league-high six picks in this year’s draft. “The 2011 season is in the books. Now we have to put ourselves in the position to compete in 2012.”
“We’re waiting for Cheryl and Brian” to pick then see what’s available at No. 4, notes new Tulsa Coach Gary Kloppenburg. Peck suggests the Shock may go big since 6-8 second-year center Liz Cambage of Australia is unavailable until after the Olympics in August. “They are going to need a scorer,” she points out.
Although this year’s draft perhaps lacks a sure-fire superstar, “There are some talented seniors,” says Peck.
“It’s something you hope for and dream about,” concludes Peters on Monday, Monday. “To be at this point right now is a blessing [because] I never thought I have the opportunity.”
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