It’s customary to hand out grades on draft day, but that really doesn’t work for the 2012 WNBA extravaganza. Only one player looks like a surefire WNBA starter (Nneka Ogwumike), and after that, well, it’s anybody’s guess.
So we just went in draft order, and as will become clear, it won’t take long for the talent well to start running dry.
1. Nneka Ogwumike, Stanford
13. Farhiya Abdi, Sweden
15. Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers
16. Tyra White, Texas A&M
28. April Sykes, Rutgers
Even though Ogwumike was clearly the top pick, it’s unclear how much she’ll help the Sparks right now, as she and Candace Parker play the same position. (In fact, so does Ebony Hoffman.) Still, Penny Toler really had no other option.
As for the rest of the draft, Abdi is a young Swede who hasn’t done much overseas to generate a lot of buzz, but she also won’t take up a roster spot this year, and could develop into a solid 6-2 wing down the road.
Rushdan and White are both flawed guards who will battle Darxia Morris for the last spot on the roster, and like almost all the third-rounders, Sykes should enjoy her time in camp as much as possible before she heads off to Europe in the fall.
2. Shekinna Stricken, Tennessee
22. Keisha Hampton, DePaul
The question with Stricklen is simple: Will she be able to deliver her best on a more consistent basis than she did in college? She clearly has all the tools to be a very fine WNBA small forward, but her collegiate inconsistency is the reason most people thought Shenise Johnson would go in this spot.
Hampton is coming off an ACL injury, and is a borderline prospect, but this pick didn’t cost the Storm anything this year. If Hampton goes over to Europe and shows she can play well enough to make this roster, it’s gravy. Otherwise, the DePaul grad costs them nothing.
3. Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame
12. Damiris Dantas, Brazil
18. Julie Wojta, Green Bay
19. Kayla Standish, Gonzaga
20. Nika Baric, Slovenia
31. Jacki Gemelos, USC
Even though the Lynx have the most stacked roster in the league, they somehow wound up with six draft choices, and even though two are ticketed for delivery way down the road (Damiris Dantas and Nika Baric), only one of the other four has a chance to even make the team. That, of course, would be the No. 3 overall pick, Deveraux Peters, but even she’s going to have to earn a position. A slender power forward in a league known for its physicality, Peters also has a history of injuries which adds even more confusion to the mix. Still, she’ll probably make the roster this year, while the others are training camp fodder.
One note, though: The Jacki Gemelos pick was a wonderful gesture to a player who could have been one of the greats had her knees not failed her. We’ll never know what might have been, but it’s good to see Gemelos’ drive and skill acknowledged by the best league in the world.
4. Glory Johnson, Tennessee
17. Riquna Williams, Miami
25. Vicki Baugh, Tennessee
29. Lynetta Kizer, Maryland
Glory Johnson is a marvelous athlete, a 6-2 power forward who can run and jump at the WNBA level. Unfortunately, she’s a little undersized and has no perimeter game to speak of, a combination that may limit her ability to contribute. On top of that, she also plays the same position as Tiffany Jackson and Kayla Pedersen, arguably Tulsa’s two best players, which means someone has to move to the three.
It’s possible, of course, that Johnson, like other Tennessee players, needed to leave Knoxville to fully develop her game, but if she can’t make an elbow jumper now, what are the odds she’ll be able to down the road?
Riquna Williams is also a roll of the dice, for a different reason, as she got booted off the Miami team just before the NCAA tournament – and the players supported the coach’s decision. She’s athletic and could be a contributor, but she’s not good enough to bother with if her attitude doesn’t improve.
Like Gemelos, Vicki Baugh’s knees turned a promising career into one of frustration, but it’s conceivable she could get healthy enough to make a roster. Lynetta Kizer? Maybe after a year or two of seasoning in Europe … but maybe not.
5. Shenise Johnson, Miami
It was a one-pick draft for the Silver Stars, but the one pick was outstanding. Johnson was generally expected to go No. 2 overall, as the 5-9 guard can do everything on the court, but she somehow fell to No. 5. Dan Hughes said San Antonio hadn’t even really scouted her because he was sure she’d be gone at No. 5 – but when her name was still on the board, there was no hesitation.
6. Samantha Prahalis, Ohio State
24. C'eira Ricketts, Arkansas
30. Christine Flores, Missouri
33. Amanda Johnson, Oregon
The Mercury draft is like an SAT question: Which of the above four items does not fit with the others? The answer is Ricketts, who is the only one of the quartet who doesn’t create offense. Prahalis is a point guard who likes to shoot, and Flores and Johnson are camp fodder with offensive potential. All that said, though, the only player likely to show up in a WNBA box is Prahalis.
7. Kelley Cain, Tennessee
36. Katelan Redmon, Gonzaga
First, let’s just pause for a second and remember 2005, when John Whisenant led a pretty unlikely bunch to the WNBA title.
OK, it’s 2012 now, and Whisenant has either a) declined into senility, or b) sees something in the oft-injured Kelley Cain that no one else has. Cain hasn’t played well since high school, and though she’s 6-5, Whisenant is pretty much the only person on the planet who sees her as even a rotation player in the WNBA.
Redmon deserves note as Ms. Irrelevant, the last pick in the draft, and also the fourth Gonzaga player to get chosen over the years. She is unlikely to be the last.
8. Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame
10. LeSondra Barrett, LSU
26. Anjale Barrett, Maryland
35. Briana Gilbreath, USC
The Mystics are without question the most poorly run franchise in the league, and though it’s certainly easy to criticize the pick of Novosel – who lacks the quickness to play in the league – in truth, there was no one left who was clearly any better.
And LeSondra Barrett might prove to be a good enough defender to find a home in the league, so it wasn’t a bad day for Washington. On the other hand, the Mystics will have to start playing games pretty soon, and that’s probably not going to go as well as the draft.
9. Astan Dabo, Mali
21. Chey Shegog, North Carolina
Mike Thibault loves foreign players, even after years of having them spurn the Sun for a summer overseas. He gave it another shot with the tall (6-8) Dabo, who’s just 19 and full of potential. That said, she’s not going to help Connecticut much right now, and neither will Shegog.
11. Sasha Goodlett, Georgia Tech
34. Courtney Hurt, Virginia Commonwealth
The most difficult part of recruiting and drafting is trying to figure out when a player will stop improving. April Sykes, for example, stopped improving after her senior year in high school; Sasha Goodlett, on the other hand, has gotten better every year at Georgia Tech, which could mean she will stay on that path in Indiana and develop into a solid WNBA post.
Courtney Hurt, sadly, is just 6-0, and unless she transforms herself into a small forward at the professional level, it really won’t matter how much she improves her power forward skills.
14. Tiffany Hayes, Connecticut
32. Isabelle Yacoubou, France
The Dream benefited from Hayes’ poor performance in the Final Four, which caused too many folks to overlook her four years of solid play at UConn. Granted, Hayes isn’t a lead guard at this level, either at the one or the two, but she’s skilled enough, tall enough, athletic enough and versatile enough to have a career.
There are some doubts as to whether Yacoubou is even eligible to be drafted due to her age, but it doesn’t really matter. The No. 32 pick is not exactly crucial.
23. Shay Peddy, Temple
27. Sydney Carter, Texas A&M
The Sky went for two small guards, but at least Peddy put up some numbers. Carter was a nice college player who will not be able to score at the WNBA level, so unless she suddenly learns how to put the ball in the basket, she’s going to have the summer off. Peddy, though, could surprise.