Unlike last year’s top-heavy, star-studded draft, the 2014 WNBA Draft was instead more workwoman-like. Filling specific team needs took precedence over obtaining star players.
The MSR, during the April 10 pre-draft media conference call, asked ESPN Analysts Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson if they foresee “a publicity let-down” from last year’s “3 to See” draft that featured Britney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Della Donne.
“I don’t think necessarily we have an Elena Della Donne or Britney Griner in this class,” explained Robinson. “We do have a lot of impact players: Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Odyssey Sims (Baylor), Kayla McBride (Notre Dame), Alyssa Thomas (Maryland). You may not have stars, but I think definitely not a let-down at all. These are the players who over time will blossom — I want to see how they will perform at the next level.
“I think there is tremendous depth in this class,” said Robinson. “Last year was more top-heavy, but I think the talent [this year] is more stretched [out] across the board, especially in this first round. You will see a lot of players that can come in right away and make an impact.”
Robinson correctly predicted Monday’s first four picks: Ogwumike to Connecticut, Sims to Tulsa, McBride to San Antonio and Thomas to New York.
“I think the top three picks can fill specific needs on teams,” said Peck last week. “Not that they are the best players in the draft, but they will fill specific needs to make these teams competitive.” But she also predicted that Thomas “will go in the top four or five, and I don’t think Howard will be far behind [her].”
As she earlier noted, Howard (Florida State) was selected Monday by Indiana with the fifth overall pick.
“Odyssey is the best point guard in the college game,” stated Peck on Sims. “I think she is so ready [for the WNBA]. But [for] what Connecticut needs, I think Chiney would really fit the Sun.”
Of the 36 players selected in Monday’s three-round draft, 17 were sisters of color, including three of four Minnesota picks: Asya Bussie (15th overall), Christina Foggie (24th overall) and Asia Taylor (36th overall), as well as three foreign players.
“I’ve watched a few of them” including Ogwumike and Sims, said Odessa Davis, who was among 10 Blacks out of an estimated 200 persons on hand to watch the draft in the ticket office lobby of the downtown Minneapolis basketball arena.
“I’ve never seen her play,” admitted Davis’ daughter, Jackie Bailey, on Duke guard Tricia Liston, picked by the Lynx at the 12th and final selection of the opening round. “Hopefully she’s good, I don’t know,” added the season-ticket holder.
Another Minnesota season-ticket holder, Felicia Harrison, noted of Liston, “She looks like she’s got a jump shot, which is what we need.”
Like Harrison, Minnesota Vice-President Roger Griffith afterwards told a small group of reporters, including the MSR, that Monday’s draft offered little surprises to him as well. He pointed out that the four incoming rookies must fight for three or four roster spots with returning veterans and two 2012 non-roster draftees in training camp beginning the end of this month. The Lynx has an eight-man set rotation.
“Whatever you have done in college got you drafted. But you have to earn [a WNBA roster spot],” Griffith said, adding that nonetheless all four draftees are “very hard workers and solid basketball players.”
“I’m very excited for training camp,” said Bussie during a phone interview after her selection Monday night. “I’ve continued to work out, lift, condition, and continue to do rehab to make sure my knee is as strong as it is…so I could prepare for this day and give my best performance at training camp. Whatever the role is, I will play it to the best of my ability.”
MSR Intern Onika Nicole Craven contributed to this report.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.