A few of the top college WNBA prospects had a chance to talk to the media yesterday about their expectations for the upcoming draft and what they have been doing since the end of the season.
Coaches and analysts also weighed in with their views of prospects and roster needs for the league’s 12 teams and underscored the theory that the number one pick in the draft will be Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike. The Los Angeles Sparks have the first pick in the first round of the draft.
“I think everybody assumes that Nneka is going to go to Los Angeles I think that would be a big surprise if she didn’t,” said ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo. Her colleague Carolyn Peck agreed.
“I agree with Rebecca that Nnemka would probably be taken first,” said Peck.
However, when it comes to the picks after that things get a little murky.
“But then it gets interesting because we don’t know yet what coach Agler from Seattle is going to do with the No.2 pick,” said Lobo. “And after what he chooses, obviously the other pieces will fall into play. You are looking at a group of three players who have a best chance to go to that No. 2 pick if he keeps it and doesn’t trade it, and I think it’s Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen and Shenise Johnson from Miami.”
Supporting Players for the Lynx
For Cheryl Reeve, the head coach of the defending champions, the Minnesota Lynx, the draft is not about reloading but adding young talent for the future.
“I think we have got a great balance of veterans and young players,” said Reeve, “and we are going to continue down that road of adding talent that I think will be able to stick in the future and try to keep this thing going.”
A player that is chosen by the Lynx will have to take a supporting role and be comfortable with that according to Reeve.
“You know, I think we are in a unique situation in that we feel like we have talent and depth at each position. I think when we describe our greatest need, we talk about, we need a player that is certainly first and foremost is talented,” said Reeve. “But we are looking for a second component, which is somebody that can understand playing a role or even a diminished role on a team. So the quality of the individual and their history in being able to step outside of being the best player on team, which most of these guys have been throughout their careers. So we are hopeful that we are able to combine the talent with the mindset of being selfless, which was such a big part of our championship run.”
The Stock of Riquna Williams
While analysts and coaches had praise for Miami seniors Shenise Johnson and Riquna Willliams, there is a question mark of how Williams’ suspension at the end of the season for the team’s first games during the NCAA tournament will affect her draft potential.
“Regarding Riquna, it was obviously a difficult situation at the end of their season,” said new Tulsa head coach Gary Kloppenburg. “ I think that in my mind, you definitely want to know exactly what happened there and why that happened, and is that going to affect her going forward at the next level.”
Williams did not travel with the team to their NCAA first round game to Spokane, Washington due to conduct detrimental to the team. Miami lost to Gonzaga in the second round.
“But no question, she’s talented enough and can score the ball,” continued Kloppenburg. “I think we all as coaches and GMs, we definitely look at how is this young player going to come in and affect the chemistry in the locker room of the team.”
The school never revealed the specifics of the suspension but only released a terse statement.
“I think the situation was so unfortunate at the end of the season,” said Reeve, “while none of us will know exactly what happened because we were not there, I think all of us have information that we’ll rely on. And it will be very subjective as to how we think we’ll be able to handle it. And I think more than anything, I think what we have been trained as professional coaches is, what happens is between the college system and the player, it does not usually carry over to the pros. We have to look past it. Our job is to win games. But again, this comes down to individual franchise’s tolerance for maybe questionable situations.”
Preparing for the Draft
For Ogwumike, shopping has helped her calm down from the excitement of the upcoming draft.
“It’s exciting,” she answered when asked about the anticipation of draft day. “It’s definitely not college anymore. Personally for me, I’ve been calming myself down by shopping. I don’t know what anyone else has been doing. I think it’s more exciting than nerve-wracking at this point.”
Ogwumike graduated from Stanford so she does not have school obligations like other prospects.
“I’ve just been keeping focused on finishing up the school year because I’m not done,” said Connecticut’s Tiffany Hayes. “I get to take this time to really focus on my classes and only my classes, because we don’t have practices to go to or tournaments to worry about. So that’s definitely been one thing that’s keeping me down on the ground and not so much on a high or anything like that.”
Notre Dame’s Devereaux Peters also has school work to finish.
“I actually still have class. So I’m not quite off the hook yet,” she said. “So I have that to focus on for now. I don’t think it’s that nerve-wracking. I think all of us have already done what we have throughout the season, and they are going to take what they take. So that’s out of our hands, so I don’t think it’s anything really to be that nervous about for now.”
Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis also weighed in on the question.
“I’m just playing ball,” said Prahalis. “And I would agree with Nnemka, like shopping a little bit and just like Devereaux said, the hard part is kind of over, and now just kind of have to wait and see where you get picked.”
The draft will be held on Monday, April 16 at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. ESPN2 will provide coverage and analysis of the first round beginning at 2 p.m. ET. ESPN3 will simulcast the entire Draft. The second and third rounds will be televised on ESPNU and NBA TV.
Sue Favor contributed to this story.
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