What often is overlooked is the fact that the young women annually drafted in the WNBA are college graduates. No other major league—not the NFL, who held its draft a week after the W, nor the NBA nor MLB—can make a similar claim.
Still, the annual rite of passage for women’s college basketball players, being one of 32 picked by a WNBA team, is both exciting and humbling. But making a WNBA roster isn’t a sure lock, whether you’re a lottery pick, a later first-rounder, or picked sometime later.
All three Minnesota Lynx 2020 WNBA Draft picks were all sistahs for the first time since 2015, and only the fourth time overall in franchise history: Mikiah “Ke-Ke” Herbert Harrigan (sixth overall, first round), Crystal Dangerfield (16th overall, second round), and Erica Ogwumike (26th overall pick by New York, later traded to Minnesota in a draft night trade).
“I wasn’t expecting my name to get called that early, but it did and I’m happy for that,” Harrigan told reporters, including the MSR, shortly after her April 17 selection. The mock drafts had her picked later in the first round.
Harrigan (South Carolina), Dangerfield (UConn), and Ogwumike (Rice) are or soon will be college graduates. “I graduate in May in criminal justice,” Harrigan said proudly. “I’m not sure what I am planning to do with my degree just yet.”
“I have 19 more days and I officially graduate from college,” added Dangerfield, who will have a communications degree.
“I graduated in May 2019,” Ogwumike announced. “This past season I was playing as a graduate student” while also working with student government groups in her school president’s office.
Her undergraduate degree is in business and pre-law, and she has applied to nearly 10 medical schools hoping to one day pursue a medical career. “I took one class, but it was for fun, in anatomy,” Ogwumike noted.
“No one really influenced me,” she continued. “No one in my family has done anything medically related. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got to college and had to choose a major. I picked Rice because it’s like two steps from the Texas Medical Center.
“I was able to just go shadow doctors and talk to them. It felt like another team atmosphere. I feel very comfortable in that environment,” Ogwumike said.
Harrigan is slated as a forward, where the Lynx have a roster opening, but guards Dangerfield and Ogwumike most likely must compete for one backcourt spot because of “sheer numbers,” Coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters during her post-draft video meeting. “When you look at our roster, you can only have 12 players.”
Harrigan told me that playing for Hall of Famer Dawn Staley at South Carolina definitely prepared her for the next step in her hoop career. “I learned a lot from her, whether it was on the court or off the court,” she said of Staley, one of the greatest women’s hoopsters of all time.
“She taught me about the game,” Harrigan said. “She really helped me with maturity and growing up. I really appreciate what she did for me.”
While some media asked about comparing her with her two older and taller sisters, WNBA veterans Nneka and Chiney, both number-one overall picks respectively (2012 and 2014), the 5’-9” Ogwumike simply and quickly dismissed these inquiries.
“They always supported me and never compared me to them,” she said. “They always have been supported of everything that I have done.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.