2012 WNBA Mock Draft: Nnemkadi Ogwumike and Early Picks Sure to Become Stars

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Nnemkadi Ogwumike #30 of the Stanford Cardinal in action against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at Maples Pavilion on December 20, 2011 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The WNBA Draft may not be the most talked about draft in sports, but it is always quite intriguing. A bit of that intrigue was lost when Baylor center Brittney Griner decided to return for her senior season, but there is still a ton of talent in this year's draft, and several teams are going to get players they can build upon.

With just 12 teams, the best part about the WNBA is that a franchise can go from worst to first in no time, or vice versa. There is a ton of parity, and that will only become even more apparent after Monday's draft. Many teams are looking for a key player that can turn their fortunes around, and some are bound to find them.

Three players who are guaranteed to become stars are the next level are Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Shekinna Stricklen and Tiffany Hayes. Here's a look at where they might end up, as well as a mock draft for the rest of the first round.

1. Los Angeles SparksNnemkadi Ogwumike, F, Stanford

This is simply a case of the rich getting richer.

The Los Angeles Sparks had a rough season last year as injuries knocked them off track, but there is no question that they still have a ton of talent. Candace Parker is one of the best players in the game, while Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones are great supporting players.

The Sparks won the lottery despite not having the league's worst record, and they'll be rewarded with a sure-fire star.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike, a 6'2" forward out of Stanford, is the unquestioned top player in the draft and will form a formidable combination with Parker.

Not only did Ogwumike make the Final Four in each of her four seasons at Stanford, but she got progressively better every year. Ogwumike hit a high-water mark this past season when she averaged 21.8 points per game and was perhaps the best player in the nation aside from Griner.

Ogwumike can and will produce right away, helping the Sparks get back to elite status in no time.

2. Seattle Storm (from CHI)Shenise Johnson, G, Miami

In terms of all-around prospects, there are few better in this draft than Miami guard Shenise Johnson. Not only did she average over 19 points per game in a season twice at Miami, but she had three consecutive seasons with over 100 steals. She and Sue Bird will form a dynamite backcourt.

3. Minnesota Lynx (from WAS)Shekinna Stricklen, F, Tennessee

PALO ALTO, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Shekinna Stricklen #40 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in action against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion on December 20, 2011 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx are the defending WNBA champions, so it isn't as if they need to add too much to their roster as it is. Thanks to some shrewd maneuvering, however, they landed the third overall pick and will be able to make their squad even stronger.

Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen form perhaps the best trio in the WNBA, but that trio should become a quartet with the addition of Tennessee forward Shekinna Stricklen.

There is no question that Stricklen's best asset is her versatility. The 6'2" swing-woman played nearly every position for the Lady Vols and can do a bit of everything. She averaged over 15 points per game as a senior and was a strong three-point shooter, but she was also adept at hitting the boards.

The Lynx are a team that already has a ton of interchangeable parts as it is, so Stricklen will fit right in.

4. Tulsa ShockSamantha Prahalis, G, Ohio State

Tulsa is a team that is good, but not great, at pretty much every position, so it can afford to go with the best player available here.

There is some debate regarding exactly who that might be, but after a senior season in which she averaged 20 points per game, Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis has to be the pick.

5. San Antonio Silver StarsGlory Johnson, F, Tennessee

Last season was the same as it ever is for the Silver Stars as guard Becky Hammon led the way, but she is in desperate need of some help. Enter Tennessee forward Glory Johnson, who averaged over 14 points per game last season and was the leading rebounder in the tough SEC.

6. Phoenix MercuryRiquna Williams, G, Miami

As the other half of Miami's dynamic backcourt duo, Riquna Williams shouldn't last much longer than Shenise Johnson. The Mercury still have one of the best players in the league in Diana Taurasi and a good sidekick in Penny Taylor, but they need some more explosion and Williams provides exactly that.

7. New York LibertyCourtney Hurt, F, VCU

She may not be as well known as some of her counterparts, but VCU forward Courtney Hurt is more than deserving of going in the first round.

She averaged over 22 points per game in consecutive seasons for the Rams and led the CAA in rebounding last year, so she'll bring a tough mentality and high motor to the Liberty.

8. Washington Mystics (from ATL)Natalie Novosel, G, Notre Dame

As perhaps the best pure shooter in the draft, Notre Dame guard Natalie Novosel will really help a Washington Mystics team that lacks in star power.

Novosel averaged 15 points per game last season and led the Big East in both three-point percentage (.455) and free-throw percentage (.842), and those are skills that translate to the pros.

9. Connecticut SunTiffany Hayes, G, Connecticut

DENVER, CO - APRIL 01:  Tiffany Hayes #3 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Pepsi Center on April 1, 2
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun certainly haven't been shy about remaining in state as they currently roster five former UConn Huskies, and they won't hesitate to make it a sixth if guard Tiffany Hayes is still on the board.

Although Hayes' numbers may not jump off the page as much as some of the other players in this draft, she is a great shooter, she's fundamentally sound and she had the benefit of playing for the best program in women's basketball.

Hayes became increasingly efficient over the course of her collegiate career, and everything came to a head this past season as she averaged over 15 points per game, shot 51.5 percent from the field and 81 percent from the line as UConn's go-to player.

Hayes makes absolutely every touch count and that is something that the Sun would love to have.

10. Washington Mystics (from SEA)Lynetta Kizer, C, Maryland

After grabbing a sharpshooter with its previous pick, Washington would be well served to take an interior scorer at No. 10. The best available is Maryland center Lynetta Kizer.

At 6'4" she can go toe to toe with most of the league's tallest players, and after averaging at least 11 points per game in each of her collegiate seasons, she is someone who can be counted on consistently.

11. Indiana FeverDevereaux Peters, F, Notre Dame

The Indiana Fever are a team on the brink of greatness, but they need a player who can bring it all together. Notre Dame forward Devereaux Peters may be precisely that.

She isn't the greatest scorer, but she is an elite defender who won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award twice, so she can be a game changer from day one.

12. Minnesota LynxTavelyn James, G, Eastern Michigan

After winning the title this past season and drafting Shekinna Stricklen earlier, the Lynx really don't have any needs to address. Because of that, they can afford to take a chance with Eastern Michigan guard Tavelyn James. She averaged 24 points per game last season, and although it was only in the MAC, she can be a spark plug off the bench.