Countdown to the WNBA Draft 2016: Imani Boyette

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Some are calling the 2016 WNBA Draft “the Breanna Stewart draft.” But there are other draft eligible players out there as well, and the MSR briefly will discuss them in our “Countdown to the WNBA Draft 2016.”


Today — Texas center Imani Boyette

Size, even in the WNBA, is hard to teach.

“You can’t teach that size,” said Seattle Coach Jenny Boucek on 6-7 center Imani Boyette from Texas. “There’s a need for size around our league. If you want to compete for championships in our league, you’ve got to able to deal with [Brittney] Griner, Tina Charles and some of these great post players, preferably without a double team. So I think she brings value.”

However, Boucek most likely won’t select Boyette since Seattle, which has the league’s No. 1 pick for the second consecutive season, is expected to select Connecticut’s 6-4 Breanna Stewart in Thursday’s draft. Many then expect Boyette to be on the board when Dallas (formerly Tulsa) is on the clock at No. 5.

During last week’s media teleconference call, Head Coach Fred Williams wouldn’t disclose his plans when a reporter asked him about the Texas center. He did say he likes Imani: “She’s really, really high on our list. I can really tell you that she’s a post player that we’re strongly considering. That’s pretty much all I can tell you right now,” admitted Williams.

If Dallas calls her name, Boyette will join second-year post Amanda Zahui B. as the team’s consecutive year in selecting a center with its first pick. ESPN Analyst Carolyn Peck thinks Dallas either will look at a big guard to replace Riquana Williams, who during the off-season was traded to Los Angeles, or go with size.

She will be a first-rounder simply “because she is 6-7 and [has] a lot of skill,” predicts fellow ESPN Analyst Rebecca Lobo of Boyette, who soon can be the first daughter of a WNBA player to make a roster as well.

Imani’s mother is Pam McGee, who she and twin sister Paula, along with Cheryl Miller led USC to two NCAA titles in 1983-84, and later played in the WNBA.

“I think it will be very cool,” says McGee’s daughter on the possibility. “My mom likes to say that basketball is the family business, so I just try to make her proud every time I step on the court, because she takes pride in her game and I try to do the same.”

Boyette, the 2016 Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, is the first Texas player to record 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 blocks in her career. She helped lead the Longhorns to the first Elite Eight since 2003.

But many rookie post players — such as Zahui B. who struggled last season — have the hardest adjustment coming out of college, explained Peck. “The biggest difference from college and the WNBA is the versatility of the post players, and especially with a rookie post player who’s used to staying predominately in the post defensively has to come away from the basket,” she points out.

“Amanda has the ability to score, but in the WNBA, you also have to have the ability to defend. When you have players like Elena Della Donne who can move from the 3 to the 4 but still have that capability of stepping away to score, to shoot the basketball and defend that face-up game. I think that’s the biggest transition that post players going from college to the pros have to make.”

Lobo adds that Boyette’s growth period most likely will occur when she plays overseas after the WNBA season, where she can “get a lot of reps as a go-to player, being 6-7 and mobile as she is. [Boyette] must find a level of consistency.”

But Boyette, formerly Imani McGee-Stafford who married Texas defensive tackle Paul Boyette, Jr. last July, said last week that she’s trying to “stay busy” in the days leading up to Thursday and not get caught up in draft talk, or where she might play or even overseas, which she said she’d welcome if offered the opportunity.

“I am very much in school. I haven’t had much time to get distracted, to figure out graduation plans,” she said. “If I go to Dallas that would be awesome. It would be very convenient to be a couple of hours away from my husband.”

Next: George Washington forward Jonquel Jones