If only NCAA tournament bracket picks were this easy. Based on a WNBA pre-draft teleconference call, the first two slots are filled and there shouldn’t be any surprises. The picks are also your best bets for “franchise” players as the remaining teams will fill need and add depth with their selections.
Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, whose team has the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA’s draft on April 11, made it clear the Lynx weren’t messing around with their selection this year.
Reeve disclosed she’d be in a lot of trouble if she confirmed that the Lynx would select Maya Moore with the pick on the teleconference call with media Thursday morning. Yet, by the end of the call, she couldn’t contain the excitement of having the Connecticut star in a lighter shade of blue this summer.
“The assumptions being made are not off-base,” Reeve began when questioned. Last year, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault also disclosed his top choice in Tina Charles in one-on-one interviews. “This franchise is extremely excited about the prospects of a very, very talented player from the University of Connecticut.”
However, once Reeve was asked to rank Moore among the history of college women’s basketball players, she was more specific.
“We’re certainly excited to get her here and see what we can do with her,” said Reeve, after stating she’d rank Cheryl Miller and Carol Blazejowski before Moore as some of the college game’s best ever. “I heard All-Star (in Moore’s rookie season mentioned), that’s a little bit of pressure for Maya. But, again, we’re excited (about) a special, special player.”
Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson, who’s also the team’s general manager, was also on the call. In his second season coaching women’s hoops, he was asked about Australian phenom Liz Cambage’s comments that she doesn’t want to play in Oklahoma.
“I don’t want to play at Tulsa,” Cambage told her native Herald Sun. “I’ve made that clear. They want to make me a franchise player, but I’m not going to the WNBA for that. I’m going there to learn and improve my game. But what can you do? My agent will deal with that and I’ll focus on trying not to stress out.”
At 19, Cambage showed her youth in stating in the Australian press that she’d prefer to play in a spot like Los Angeles because of the Sparks’ playoff potential and her looking good in yellow and purple. But as the WNBA’s first potential Eli Manning, Richardson was quick to note it’s not going down like that. He already won’t release the rights to former Detroit star Deanna Nolan, who was resting in 2010 from year-round play but also didn’t approve of her franchise relocating to Tulsa.
“Our situation is very unique and if that’s the person we choose to pick, then that’s the person we’ll choose. Whether or not she decides to play, that would be still her option of what she needs to do,” He said without going into specifics about his picks other than stating he’s going for size. Cambage is 6 foot 8 with gobs of potential. “Our position is we’re going to do the things that we know regardless of what the player’s going to say.”
Cambage has acquired an American agent and there were rumors Tulsa would trade the No. 2 pick for Chicago’s No. 3 selection, tossing in a post. But Richardson intimated Thursday that he’s keeping the selection.
It’s a solid move. The WNBA is in its 15th season and although Camabge could holdout, her rights will always be held by Tulsa. The league can’t have rookies snubbing budding franchises, which was a trend among veterans last year. Like in the NBA, players are rarely in their base city, anyway. Plus, the focus should be playing basketball and developing your game.
“Again, we are concerned about her concerns,” Richardson said. “Again, we have to move on and not let any player dictate any position from the standpoint of where they should play and where they won’t play. We’ll see what happens.”
GET THE POINT: We’ll have more on Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot as the draft nears, but she’s regarded as the top PG in the draft. One question that popped up about the All-American is her lithe stature and ability to transition quickly to the WNBA game. But New York coach/GM John Whisenant said he hoped Vandersloot dropped to 10 so he could pick her.
Fellow local Angie Bjorklund of Tennessee was projected to be a mid-second rounder by Revee and Whisenant while Richardson thought the Spokane native could get selected late in the first round. The defending champion Storm selects last in the opening round.
Coach Brian Agler, who’s also the Storm’s director of player personnel, said he’s going for the best athlete available regardless of position. Free agent signees from Erin Phillips, a veteran PG, and returning C Ashley Robinson allow Seattle some flexibility.
“She’s a good shooter, but there are some concerns about defense,” said ESPN analyst Pam Ward of Bjorklund via the conference call.
GRAB A MIC: One player who can go ahead and put their degree to use is Alabama senior Tierney Jenkins. The first-time All-SEC selection was part of one of the more embarrassing moments in WNBA teleconference history — none of the three coaches knew who she was when asked if Jenkins would be selected.
Jenkins, a 6-foot F, has nice stats in averaging 15.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.8 steals in guiding the Crimson Tide to the WNIT Sweet 16. She majored in broadcasting, so maybe the WNBA will offer her a position as a sideline reporter as a consolation prize.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Maya Moore calling a play by The Associated Press