On April 16, 2012, another group of 36 of women's college basketball best will be chosen in the annual three round WNBA Draft.
Nnemkadi "Nneka" Ogwumike is without a doubt be the first pick.
Despite finishing with the fourth worst record in the league last year (technically 15-19 is not bad at all compared to the records of Tulsa and Washington), Los Angeles Sparks holds that pick.
Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx, the 2010 and 2011 WNBA champions, respectively, hold the next two picks through trades.
Most WNBA fans (WNBA and every women's college basketball team except for Baylor and Notre Dame too for that matter) were likely hoping Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins would take advantage of their option to join this year's draft class. However, both have decided to wait until next year.
After Ogwumike is off the board, the draft has no definite No. 2, 3 and even fourth best player.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of talent to choose from.
The good news for Nneka Ogwumike is, the Sparks, despite their struggles, are a good team and she gets to remain near her sister, Chiney, who also plays for Stanford.
Ogwumike gives the Sparks another post player to go alongside an already scary rotation of Candace Parker, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Jantel Lavender and Nicky Anosike.
LA recently hired former Atlanta Dream assistant coach Carol Ross as head coach.
Ross is a known defensive minded coach and plans to improve the Sparks rebounding among other things. Ogwumike fits right into those plans.
What Ogwumike brings to the team, in addition to strong defense, is extra rebounding and scoring. Her sophomore season at Stanford is arguably the best example of what she is capable of.
That season she averaged 18.5 points (field goal percentage of .598) and totaled 376 rebounds (9.89 average). Ogwumike also had 17 blocks and 33 steals, all of whom earned her Pac-10 (now Pac-12) Player of the Year honors.
This season Ogwumike led Stanford to a No. 1 seed and a fourth straight Final Four appearance in the NCAA tournament. She came short of getting the Cardinal back to their third championship game in five years and a chance at attempting to win the school's first title since 1992.
Point guard is actually the bigger need than adding another forward. They traded away Noelle Quinn, and Ticha Penicheiro signed with the Chicago Sky. That leaves Kristi Toliver as the only one on their roster who played significant minutes last season.
There is not, however, a point guard in this draft class worth taking with the top pick.
The Sparks are better off waiting until the second round where some worthy point guards like Tyra White, Jericka Jenkins and Tavelyn James will be available. Character issues surrounding University of Miami point guard Riquna Williams may drop her to the second round as well.
Seattle traded Swin Cash, Le'coe Willingham and the 23rd pick in this year's draft for the second pick.
That pretty much says they have either a strong idea of who they want or have been evaluating a few players and narrowing down who fits the best.
Kayla Standish may win them over.
Here is why: much attention in 2010-11 was paid to the success of former Zags and current Chicago Sky star, Courtney Vandersloot. However, that did not stop Standish from having a breakout season last year. She scored 617 points to become one of only five players in school history who scored 600-plus points in a season. She was named All-West Coast Conference and to the WCC All-Tournament team for the first time in her collegiate career.
Prior to this season, Standish was looking like a early second round pick. Now her stock has risen.
Standish recently became a two-time All-WCC honoree by averaging a team-best 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds,1.5 blocks per game, and shooting 48 percent from the field and 78.9 percent from the three-point line.
She also helped lead the Zags to their third-straight NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen appearance. During both the NCAA and WCC tournament she averaged 23.2 points, six rebounds and two assists.
Standish closed out her Gonzaga career as the school’s leader in games played (138) and blocks (176). She also stands fifth in the career record book for rebounds (809); seventh in both points (1,583) and field goal percentage (48.8) and eight in free throws made (289).
As an added bonus to playing at Gonzaga (which is located in Spokane, Wash), Standish is a native of Ellensburg, Wash., which means the Storm should be very familiar with her entire athletic career.
She led Ellensburg High to four straight State championship games, winning three. She also finished her high school career with 2,076 points and was a top ranked small forward in the 2008 recruiting class.
The Minnesota Lynx currently do not have a back-up point guard for Lindsay Whalen.
Although more of a shooting guard, Shenise Johnson is a player the Lynx absolutely cannot pass on. They would regret it.
Johnson at 5-foot-11 may be listed as a guard, but she does just about everything. She recently became the third player in Women's College Basketball history to achieve 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists and 400 steals in a career.
Johnson even led the Miami Hurricanes in all four categories, the only player in Division I to do so during the 2008-09 season, as a freshman! She was named to the All-ACC Defensive team and First Team All-ACC three times. She was also named ACC Player of the Year during her junior season. The accolades continue on from there.
Having the third pick, by way of last year's trade with the Washington Mystics for Nicky Anosike, and a chance at players like Johnson proves things are going great in Minnesota as of late. Things will probably continue to be great if they keep adding high caliber talent.
The Lynx won the top pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft, which allowed them to draft Maya Moore. She not only helped the Lynx end a six year playoff drought, but was the missing piece in their long quest for both a playoff series win and championship. Minnesota's starting five of Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams Franklin will remain intact.
Key players off the bench Alexis Hornbuckle and Charde Houston were traded to Phoenix, however. So Minnesota will be looking for depth.
In January 2012, the Shock hired former NBA and WNBA assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg as head coach to replace legendary collegiate coach Nolan Richardson.
Kloppenburg, like new Sparks coach Carol Ross, is defensive minded.
Ideally he would probably love for Nnemkadi Ogwumike to be a member of the Tulsa Shock.
Since that will not happen, Devereaux Peters is the pick. Peters is known for being one of the best defensive players in Women's College Basketball. Notre Dame's recent success has made her a household name for those that follow women's sports. So Tulsa fans will be supportive and happy.
Peters was a finalist for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Defensive Player of the Year and midseason candidate for the Naismith Trophy, both of whom went to Brittney Griner of Baylor. She also earned the Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year award and first-team all-conference accolades.
Peters ranked among the top 10 in the conference in three out of the five categories: rebounding (2nd, 9.4 rpg), blocked shots (3rd, 2.0 bpg) and steals (8th, 2.1 spg). She also ranked 40th in the nation in both rebounds and blocks.
Peters concluded her collegiate career as the second Notre Dame player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 150 blocks and 150 steals.
When the Shock were located in Detroit, they were one of the WNBA's top franchises. Now known as the Tulsa Shock, they have finished the past two seasons 9-59.
So to say they need immediate help would be an understatement.
The only downside to Peters is the possibly of becoming injury prone. She suffered two ACL injuries early in her collegiate career, which wiped out a small portion of Peters' freshman and junior seasons as well as majority of her sophomore season.
Danielle Adams and Danielle Robinson, two of the Silver Stars three picks from last year's draft, played a major role on the team in 2011. Both were named to the WNBA All-Rookie team.
Adams was voted to the WNBA All-Star game. Her 11 games missed due to a foot injury had a huge effect on the Silver Stars team chemistry. They struggled mightly without Adams.
San Antonio needs another player like Adams. A player who can come off the bench dominate and enter the starting lineup and help maintain the pace if one of their star players is injured again. They also need a player to help improve their league worst rebounding stats.
Glory Johnson has the type of talent to be that person.
She was this year's Southeastern Conference (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division I Defensive Player of the Year.
Johnson finished her collegiate career second all-time on the Lady Vols career rebounding list with 1,218. Former Silver Star player Chamique Holdsclaw is the all-time leader with 1,295.
While most will talk about more about her defense due to numerous accolades, Johnson can score. She is one of the most consistent scorers in women's college basketball. She had a 14.1 average this season and a 12.0 average last season.
During this year's SEC tournament, she averaged 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Her three-point shooting, however, is a different story. Johnson rarely shoots from there.
The Phoenix Mercury are known for their up-tempo style of play. For this system to be successful, a deep bench is needed.
Notre Dame's success of the past two seasons has helped raise the stock of Natalie "Nasty" Novosel.
People may talk a lot about her Notre Dame teammates Skylar Diggins and Devereaux Peters, but Novosel greatly stepped up her game over the last few seasons and became an important part of the team's success, which includes two recent runner-up finishes in the NCAA championship game.
Novosel is not a pure point guard; more of a combo guard.
A catch and shoot type of player, the 5-foot-11 Novosel fits the Mercury style of play. She is also one of the best (if not the best) passers in this year's draft class.
She was ranked sixth this season in Big East conference scoring (15.3 ppg), and lead the conference in both three-point percentage (.423) and free throw percentage (.847).
Novosel ranks 10th in Notre Dame history in points, second in free throws made and games played, and fourth with a .396 three-point percentage.
That is the type of player Corey Gaines needs on his team.
The New York Liberty were fourth in the Eastern Conference last season in second chance points allowed. Therefore, they will or should be targeting a post player.
Courtney Hurt (Virginia Commonwealth) and Sasha Goodlett (Georgia Tech) are the top two post players remaining at this point in the draft. Both could help the Liberty instantly.
Goodlett played on the same team with Alex Montgomery (New York's first round selection last year) for several seasons. Hurt played one season with Quanitra Hollingsworth (New York's star center) in college. So both Montgomery and Hollingsworth have likely been asked to help the Liberty scout their former teammates.
I think Hurt stands out more than Goodlett because of ability to both play multiple positions and take over games. During the 2010-11 season, she led the nation in rebounding (12.4) and double-doubles (25). She also ranked second in the NCAA in scoring (23.2 ppg). Hurt is also the only player in VCU history to score 2,000 points in a career. She is also the school's career leader in rebounds (1,190).
Goodlett, who is 6-foot-5, mainly is a defensive threat. She had never averaged a higher shooting average than 47.4 percent until this past season (51.7). That would cause me concern as a coach.
Hurt's scoring ability can allow her to play both forward positions if needed, and she can slide over to center. In addition, the last time Hurt and Hollingsworth played together it helped produce a 26-win season and the first ever NCAA Tournament appearance for VCU.
Take into consideration Plenette Pierson, Kara Braxton and Kia Vaughn also play for New York, adding Hurt fixes their defensive troubles and gives them one of the best front courts in the WNBA.
Trudi Lacey is entering her second season as the Mystics head coach/general manager and is hoping this year's draft class works out better than the last.
Stricklen is one of the most versatile players in this year's draft. At 6-foot-2 and listed as a guard/forward, she can play the point, on the wing and in the post.
She led the Lady Vols in scoring (15.4) this past season and averaged 6.6 rebounds.
For her career, Stricklen finished with 74 double-figure scoring games, 25 double-figure rebounding games and 23 double-doubles.
She is the first of the Mystics two first round selections and should provide a huge boost to a team that finished 6-28 last season. The Mystics are looking to get back to the playoff team they were in 2010.
Alana Beard, Crystal Langhorne, Monique Currie and Marissa Coleman were the remaining nucleus of that team after Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith was traded. Now only Langhorne and Currie remain.
Currie and Beard sat out last season with season-ending injuries. Therefore, Coleman and Langhorne along with newcomers Nicky Anosike, Matee Ajavon, Jasmine Thomas and Kelly Miller were left to lead the Mystics. Anosike, Miller and Beard are now no longer with the team.
Currie has healed and is expected to be ready for the upcoming season, but if she is not, Stricklen can step into the starting role and be successful.
Although they did not play at Tennessee together, Stricklen will also have the comfort of former Lady Vols Michelle Snow and Ashley Robinson as teammates.
Over the years, Tiffany Hayes has served in more of a supporting role to Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery. UCONN and Geno Auriemma won a NCAA champion with their "Big Three"; another the following season with Charles and Moore leading the way.
With the graduation of Moore in 2011, UCONN was expected to stumble a bit this season. Yet they advanced to their fifth straight Final Four, where they nearly defeated Big East foe Notre Dame and earned the right to play in yet another championship game.
Hayes grew up before Auriemma's eyes and became the team's leader.
She led the team with an average of 15.1 points per game, 2.1 steals, .432 three-point shooting and .515 field-goal percentage. She also earned First Team All-Big East accolades.
The Connecticut Sun, however, are probably the only team who will actually take Hayes in the first round. She will be gone early in the second round to another team, if Hayes is not the pick here.
So unless the Sun plan to trade with the Los Angeles Sparks for one of their three early second-round picks, they are wise to take Hayes with the ninth pick. Connecticut's next selection is the 21st pick (eighth pick in the second round).
As a member of the Sun, Hayes would be reunited with her former UCONN teammates Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Kalana Greene.
Connecticut obviously has developed a habit of collecting Geno Auriemma's former players. They currently have five on the roster, four of whom are starters.
If the Sun were able to, they would probably sign every active UCONN alum in the WNBA, especially Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi.
Samantha Prahalis is hands down one of the best point guards in Ohio State history. Although her draft stock has dropped a bit as of late, she arguably may be among the top 100 point guards to ever play Women's College Basketball.
The Los Angeles Sparks, who are point guard needy as stated earlier, may use their multiple second draft picks as leverage to trade back into the first round for Prahalis.
Nevertheless, if Prahalis is there, I cannot see Trudy Lacey passing on her. Pairing Prahalis and Shekinna Stricklen with the talent already on the Mystics roster would make Washington a team to watch out for, barring more injuries.
Throughout her collegiate career Prahalis has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, All-Freshman team, First and Second Team All-Big Ten, Big Ten All-Tournament team, WBCA and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America, Big Ten Player of the Year and Associated Press All-America Second team.
She has also been a four-time Nancy Lieberman Award semi-finalist (Nation's Best Point Guard), as well as a semi-finalist for the Wade Trophy, John Wooden Award and Naismith Award.
Whether it is the Mystics or some other team who selects Prahalis, they are getting a steal.
Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas have been the Indiana Fever's only consistent scoring threats for several seasons now. Without them, the Fever would be among the WNBA's worst teams.
Head coach Linn Dunn is likely hoping that scoring help can be found in this year's draft class.
While I do sense a trade brewing during the draft, Dunn should convince the front office to keep Brittany Rayburn and her offensive skill in Indiana by making her their first-round pick.
Rayburn came to Purdue as a shooting guard and probably expected to remain at that position throughout her career. Head coach Sharon Versyp had other plans. Versyp transitioned Rayburn into the team's starting point guard during her freshman season.
That means Rayburn can now play both guard positions.
Rayburn finished her collegiate career with 1,795 points scored (sixth most in school history) and second all-time in Purdue school history with 201 three-pointers made. She also led the team in points for three consecutive seasons. In her final collegiate game a few weeks ago, she tied Lyndsay Wisdom-Hylton's school record of 93 double-figure games.
Rayburn has been named to the Big-Ten All-Freshman team, Big-Ten Sixth Player of the Year as well as, First, Second and Third All-Big Ten team.
She was a Naismith midseason finalist this year.
With the Lynx's second first-round pick, they look toward the future.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin is Minnesota's starter at center. Over the years she has been the glue that has held various WNBA teams together. So it was not a surprise to see the type of leadership McWilliams-Franklin provided the Lynx last season, her first as a member of the team.
One negative about her that has become obvious over the past few years, McWilliams-Franklin (who is the WNBA's oldest player at 41 years old) numbers are starting to gradually decline and she may retire soon.
Enter Sasha Goodlett.
This situation fits Goodlett best because she would not be expected to contribute in a major way as a rookie. McWilliams-Franklin can essentially groom her as she is likely doing with current back-up Jessica Adair.
As stated earlier, Goodlett is not a consistent scorer but the Lynx is full of scoring options. So she could initially focus on what she does best, her defensive game. There are not many 6-foot-5 players in the WNBA. So Goodlett will get double teamed often.
That opens up more opportunities for the Lynx to pass the ball around and find open shots. With the weapons they have offense, as a WNBA head coach I would want to avoid that situation.
I think Goodlett's offensive game will improve in time. Once she finds the right balance of offense and defense, look out.
Julie Wojta (Pictured), University of Green Bay-Wisconsin
Jessica Jenkins, St. Bonaventure
Riquna Williams, Miami
Tyra White, Texas A&M
Lynetta Kizer, Maryland
Sydney Carter, Texas A&M
LaSondra Barrett, LSU
Whitney Hand, Oklahoma
Tavelyn James, Eastern Michigan
Ashlee Brown, Utah State
Jasmine Lee, Memphis
Chay Shegog, North Carolina
Keyla Snowden, Kentucky
Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers
Ceira Ricketts, Arkansas
Shey Peddy, Temple
Markeisha Grant, South Carolina
Da’Shena Stevens, St. John’s
Kristina Santiago, Cal Poly
Keisha Hampton, Depaul
Cierra Bravard, Florida State
Katelan Redmon, Gonzaga
Justine Raterman, Dayton
Jericka Jenkins, Hampton
Brittany Mallory, Notre Dame
La'Keisha Sutton, South Carolina