When high school basketball completes its seasons, college hoops says to the teenagers, “Our turn.”
Now that college hoops is finished with its 2021-22 season with the South Carolina Gamecocks being crowned as national champions, it is time for the WNBA to say to those teenagers and early twenty-somethings, “Our turn.”
With high school and college in the books, there is only one place for the eyes of the women’s basketball fan to turn to and that is the WNBA. Its calendar will really become the focus of the women’s hoops fan next week on April 11 when the WNBA stages its draft in New York City.
Here are five things to be on the lookout for as we get close and closer to draft day (other than cueing the Drake hit of the same name).
Life in women’s basketball unfortunately means not having the same time to prepare for a draft as the men do for its renditions, whether that is the NFL or the NBA. The lightning fast turnaround that would-be draftees have to get readied up and glammed up for draft night has been an often talked about fact of life as a top college baller who is about to hit the big time.
It is especially true for those such as Christyn Williams, Emily Engstler, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and, yes, Destanni Henderson, who were all representatives from one of the Final Four teams who are projected to hear their names called next week.
The 2022 WNBA draft will also be a nostalgic draft because of its location. Lately, in-person drafts have always been held in New York City, but the last couple of drafts were staged in a virtual format due to concerns about the pandemic.
Concerns over COVID-19 have all but abated throughout society and many entities are going full speed ahead with in-person events again – including our beloved WNBA. This year’s draft will be held at Spring Studios in New York City’s TriBeCa district. It is the first time the draft will be held in-person since 2019 when the draft was held at Nike New York City headquarters.
At that draft, Jackie Young was the first overall selection by the Las Vegas Aces, followed by Asia Durr to the New York Liberty.
Stock Up/Stock Down?
March Madness almost always has an effect on the draft stock – either positively or negatively – on would-be draftees. One would think after South Carolina’s Destanni Henderson posted a career-high in the national championship game that her stock is certainly in buy, buy, buy mode.
Lines.com currently has Henny as a second-round pick to the Los Angeles Sparks, but in some of its earlier mocks, she was as high as a first-round pick to the Seattle Storm. Ironically, Lines also has UConn’s Christyn Williams also as a Sparks draftee.
Mississippi’s Shakira Austin also has her stock on the rise, according to Lines. While earlier mocks had her as a fifth overall pick to the Liberty, she is now projected to be a lottery pick – third overall to the Washington Mystics after the team traded its first overall to the Atlanta Dream for the third and a second rounder.
Could she be keeping the seat warm for a certain Gamecock that will be draft-eligible beginning next year?
Left Out of the Party
Earlier in the build up to the draft, we were lamenting how the Los Angeles Sparks did not have any first-round draft picks (including lottery selections) because of an earlier trade it made that sent its pick to the Dallas Wings.
Currently, and somewhat fittingly, the defending champion Chicago Sky are the lone team without a selection in this year’s draft. That could change if things remain fluid between now and draft night. Not only do the Sky not have a selection, but the Phoenix Mercury have zero picks until the third round.
Appetizer for Next Year?
Let us be honest – general managers throughout the W showed zero respect for last year’s draft. After all, there was a reason why the first overall pick was traded twice in the same day – the perception among general managers was last year’s draft class was softer than Charmin.
The Mystics, who won the 2022 draft lottery, traded the first overall pick (to the Dream) the way Jonathan Kolb and the Liberty did last season, but a bit more respect is being shown to this draft class because it is being perceived in WNBA circles as stronger than last year’s.
But as stacked as this year’s class is, is it possible that it is a mere appetizer for the 2023 draft class when Aliyah Boston, Paige Bueckers and Haley Jones are all eligible. Then there is the 2024 class where Cameron Brink, Hailey Van Lith and, of course, Caitlin Clark will be eligible.
The talent pool in women’s basketball is deep and is only getting deeper. So to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert – worry less about if your flagship franchise is chartering flights because it actually sees women’s basketball as an asset and not a liability and how about we expand the W by a few more teams, shall we?