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Past articles:
  • The 2006 Young All-America Team

  • 2005-06 College Awards

  • Academic All-America Teams

  • Candace Parker's Comeback

  • 2005 WNBA Season wrap-up

  • 2004-05 College Awards

  • Stanford walk-on Markisha Coleman

  • 2004 WNBA Awards

  • 'BEEF' up your shooting!

  • Gball's Players of the Year

  • UConn's two freshmen

  • Gball's 2003-04 All-Americans

  • Leslie repeats as Player of the Year

  • 2002-03 NCAA Awards

  • Sophia Young

  • WBCA All Stars

  • NWBL Draft

  • The Burge Twins

  • 2002 WNBA Successes

  • Title IX's 35th Anniversary

  • The 2002 High School State Champs

  • The 2002 Gball Awards

  • Being Recruited

  • Protecting Your Knees

  • Candace Parker dunks!

  • Michigan Playoff Results

  • WNBA Teen Advisory Board

  • St. Ann's girls' team

  • Leslie Gball's Player of the Year

  • Hitting the last-second shot

  • Scholarships,
    Part I

  • Scholarships,
    Part II

  • Improving Agility

    By Dave Wohlhueter

    The first WNBA draft held at the NCAA Final Four is history, and certainly the excitement of this once-a-year spectacle has settled down in Beantown, better known as Boston, Mass., ironically one of the NBA cities to not have a WNBA franchise.

    There were some interesting picks, and some not so interesting. Some clubs looked at their needs and tried to fill them. Others took the best player still available on the chart.

    The first player taken was LSU guard Seimone Augustus by Minnesota. This was not a surprise, although the Lynx had lots of options. The 6-0 Augustus is a versatile player who led her school to three Final Four appearances while averaging 19.3 ppg., 5.2 rpg. and 2.0 apg. during her career in Tigerland. She is a three-time Kodak All-American, and won the Wade Trophy, as the best player in women's basketball, as a junior and a senior. She was the 2005 Player of the Year. Minnesota needs scoring, and got that in Augustus who tallied more than 2,600 points in her four-year career in Baton Rouge, La.

    Two colleges, LSU and Utah, had two players each taken in the first round. Augustus and guard Scholanda Hoston were the first and last players taken in Round 1, and guard Shona Thorburn and forward Kim Smith of Utah were selected No. 7 and 13, respectively, in the opening session.

    Minnesota gets a grade of "A" for its draft. The Lynx also added a pair of point guards in Thorburn (13.4 ppg., 6.0 rpg., 5.3 apg.) and Notre Dame's Megan Duffy (10.2 ppg., 2.9 rpg., 3.9 apg.), who averaged 15.6 ppg. as a senior. Duffy not being chosen until the third round was a complete surprise to most, and makes the Minnesota draft even more high quality. The Lynx were not the same after trading All-WNBA guard Katie Smith to Detroit last summer. The addition of first-round choices, Augustus and Thorburn, and third-round Duffy should make Minnesota a definite playoff contender in 2006.

    Last year's WNBA champion Sacramento also get an "A" grade. The Monarchs lost guard Chelsea Newton, who started as a rookie last year, to Chicago in the expansion draft. To replace Newton, Sacramento chose Hoston (9.1 ppg., 2.8 rpg., 1.6 apg.), who excels at both ends of the court. Smith (17.6 ppg., 7.0 rpg., 1.9 apg.) of Utah will give the Monarchs additional scoring and rebounding. With last year's MVP Yolanda Griffith, the premier offensive rebounder ever, becoming more mature with each year, Sacramento added a superb shot blocker in San Jose State's Lamisha Augustine, a 6-1 forward, who set a school record with 138 blocked shots over four years. Augustine averaged 10.2 ppg. and 5.0 rpg. during her Spartan career, and is also an excellent defender.

    Phoenix has had grade "A" drafts in two of the last three years. All-WNBA guard Diana Taurasi did it all by herself as the top player chosen in 2004. This year, the Mercury had the No. 2 choice, and selected Rutgers guard Cappie Pondexter (18.3 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 3.0 apg.), who could be an immediate success playing beside Taurasi. Phoenix also selected a fine guard out of Iowa, Crystal Smith, although small at 5-6. Smith was an All-Big Ten first-team choice as a senior, scoring 10.7 ppg., and adding 2.6 rpg. and 2.1 apg. for her Hawkeye career. Hopefully, one of the new guards will enable Taurasi to play the two position (shooting guard). The Mercury worked a trade with Houston involving second-round picks. Phoenix received the No. 15 choice in the draft, UConn 6-3 guard/forward Ann Strother (12.9 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 3.2 apg.), and sent the No. 18 pick, 6-1forward Liz Shimek (13.7 ppg., 8.6 rpg., 1.5 apg.) of Michigan State and 6-3 forward Mistie Williams (9.9 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 1.2 apg.) of Duke, chosen No. 21, to the Comets. All-star guard Anna DeForge (13.1 ppg.) was traded to Indiana for Kelly Miller, and the latter, Pondexter and Strother have big shoes to fill to replace the solid DeForge. The Mercury needs rebounding. Would Shimek and Williams have eased this situation up front? We will never know.

    San Antonio (7-27), who was next to last in the league in victories in 2005, needed much help, and the Silver Stars received three "A" type players in the draft. Holding the No. 4 overall choice, San Antonio went to Baylor 6-1 forward Sophia Young (17.8 ppg., 9.5 rpg., 2.2 apg.), a two-time All-American first-team selection. She was the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, and joins forward Kendra Wecker, the '05 Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, on the roster. Wecker blew out her ACL 11 minutes into the Silver Stars' opening game last summer. San Antonio also grabbed Tennessee 5-10 guard Shanna Zolman (11.8 ppg., 2.5 rpg., 2.1 apg.) in the second round (No. 16 overall). Zolman is the Lady Vols all-time 3-pt. field goal record holder. The Silver Stars added scoring punch and rebounding prowess up front with DePaul 6-2 forward/center Khara Smith (17.6 ppg., 10.6 rpg., 1.8 apg.), who defended well against some of the best post players in the collegiate ranks. Smith certainly will help second-year 6-8 center Katie Feenstra, who had an outstanding yearling season. All-star guard Marie Ferdinand was re-signed during the off-season, but she will miss the first half of the year expecting her first child in June. Getting Wecker back, keeping forward LaToya Thomas off the injured list, and improving the play of 6-6 center Chantelle Anderson (6.0 ppg., 2.6 rpg.) should offset the loss of forward Wendy Palmer-Daniel (9.6 ppg.), who signed with Seattle.

    Los Angeles needed point guard and post depth, so it traded injury-prone Nikki Teasley to Washington for last year's Rookie of the Year, Temeka Johnson, for the backcourt, and veteran forward Muriel Page. Veteran shooting guard Tamecka Dixon also signed with Houston With the No. 5 pick in the draft, the Sparks chose 5-11 UCLA guard Lisa Willis (14.2 ppg., 5.4 rpg., 2.1 apg.), who had a breakout year, winning All-Pac-10 first-team honors. Willis set a conference career record for steals (372). In the second round, LA took UConn 6-2 forward Willnett Crockett, who averaged 3.5 ppg. and 5.1 rpg. in 2005-06. The Sparks' final pick was Western Kentucky guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert (16.0 ppg., 7.9 rpg., 3.0 apg.), who had outstanding career rebounding stats for a 5-7 backcourt player. Joe Bryant, who coached Los Angeles to five wins in its last seven games last summer, is back on a permanent basis, and it will be his job to mesh these players into a cohesive unit. And his nucleus will certainly begin with the highest scoring tandem (32.8 ppg.) in the WNBA in veteran center Lisa Leslie (17.6 ppg.) and forward Chamique Holdsclaw (15.2 ppg.). Give the Sparks a B+ for the draft.

    Connecticut had the best WNBA regular-season record (26-8) last summer, and was back in the Finals for the second consecutive year, so the Sun didn't need a quick fix through the draft. Even so, we're only giving the team a "B" rating for the draft. The Sun didn't have a first-round pick. Backup help for point guard Lindsay Whalen would have helped. Whalen's torn ligaments in her ankle were surgically repaired, and she is expected to miss all of training camp. Instead, the Sun drafted 6-1 forward Debbie Merrill out of Ohio State in the second round (28th pick overall). Merrill divided her collegiate career with three years at Cincinnati (16.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg., 1.7 apg.), and one season with the Buckeyes (10.4 ppg., 5.7 rpg., 3.2 apg. She was All-Big Ten third team. In the third round, Connecticut chose Auburn 6-5 center Marita Payne (7.2 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 0.8 apg.) She was SEC second team in 2005-06. The Sun has the WNBA's top shot blocker, 7-2 Margo Dydek (2.9 bpg.), but went to a pair of front court players in the draft, and signed New Zealand free agent Donna Loffhagen, who was the top rebounder at the 2004 Olympics. Although it lost a top bench player, Brook Wyckoff, in the expansion draft, the reserves should still be the best in the WNBA, led by 6-2 forward Asjha Jones (9.1 ppg., 3.7 rpg. off the bench).

    Houston needed youth, and the Comets grabbed four players to give them a "B" rating. Without a first-round pick, Houston traded the No. 15 choice, Strother, to Phoenix for Williams and Shimek. Both of these youngsters are hard workers, extremely knowledgeable of the game, and will help in the future if not in 2006. Also taken in the second round was unknown Australia forward Ranae Camino. In Round 3, the Comets selected North Carolina State 6-3 forward Tiffany Stanbury (11.5 ppg., 6.8 rpg. in two years with the Wolfpack). Last year's top Houston rookie, Sancho Lyttle, will improve, and center Michelle Snow, who led the league in field goal percentage (.448), has the majority of her career yet to come. Veteran point guard Dawn Staley signed for another year, and free agent Dixon, who came over from Los Angeles, will join her in a shooting role. WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes (18.6 ppg.) is still one of the best two-way players in the league, and veteran forward Tina Thompson will be solid.

    Charlotte (6-28) had the worst record in the WNBA last summer, and its draft rating is a "B". The Sting needs lots of help, but especially from the bench. All-America guard/forward Monique Currie (15.1 ppg., 6.3 rpg., 3.0 apg.) of Duke, taken as the No. 3 player in the draft, will definitely help somewhere. She can play either of the guard positions or as a wing. With their second first-round choice, the Sting took Tennessee 6-5 center Tye'sha Fluker (6.3 ppg., 3.9 rpg.), who will add some bench strength. In the second round, Charlotte grabbed Missouri 5-7 guard LaToya Bond (10.8 ppg., 3.2 rpg., 3.0 apg.) to play the point off the bench. The Sting could be much better in 2006. It all depends on second-year center Janel McCarville, the No. 1 choice in the 2005 draft, who suffered a lower back injury, and if guard Allison Feaster can find her shooting accuracy after leaving the team in midseason for the birth of her daughter. Veteran center Tammy Sutton-Brown re-signed with the Sting, and her return to her 2002 all-star performance would certainly be a plus.

    Stellar performer Tamika Catchings needs interior scoring help from her Indiana team, but the Fever didn't draft that much help for a "C+" rating. Indiana won its initial playoff first-round series last summer, and had the third-most wins in the league.(21-13). The trade for DeForge of Phoenix will help outside, but does nothing up front. So, Indiana used the No. 9 selection in the draft to take North Carolina 6-2 forward La'Tangela Atkinson (9.2 ppg., 7.6 rpg., 2.8 apg.). Atkinson is extremely versatile, and was called upon to shut down the oppositions' top scorer while playing in Chapel Hill, N.C. She will help Catchings, and her rebounding will help make up for the retirement of Natalie Williams, who left as the all-time rebounder in the WNBA. Atkinson will make one of the league's best defensive teams only better. In the second round, the Fever chose Georgia Tech 6-3 swing player Kasha Terry (5.9 ppg., 5.1 rpg., 0.5 apg.). Chosen in the third round was Duke 6-0 guard Jessica Foley, who averaged 5.6 ppg., 1.6 rpg., 1.7 apg. in 2005-06, and Marina Kuzina, a center out of Russia.

    Seattle also earns a "C+" rating in this year's draft because the Storm needed quality bench strength badly. Injuries bothered All-World forward Lauren Jackson and 2005 Finals MVP Betty Lennox. Five players saw most of the starting time. Backup talent at guard will come from first round pick (No. 11) UConn 6-0 guard/forward Barbara Turner (11.6 ppg., 5.7 rpg., 2.0 apg.), who received a tremendous amount of experience in her four years with the Huskies. Also expected to help in the backcourt is third-round pick Erin Grant (8.7 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 6.6 apg.), a 5-8 guard from Texas Tech. Naturally, first-team guard Sue Bird (12.1 ppg., 5.9 apg.) will get the first call. In the second round, Seattle chose Florida 6-3 forward Dalila Eshe (6.7 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 0.6 apg.), who was SEC first-team. Coach Anne Donovan did a great job putting together a young team last year that won 20 games for the second straight season, and she will have to continue this project in 2006. Palmer, who played at San Antonio last year, brings credence to the front court.

    New York receives a "C" rating, although the Liberty might have harvested a plum in Georgia 5-8 guard Sherill Baker (12.7 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 3.1 apg.) who fell in the draft to No. 12. Some had predicted that the competitive Baker, a terrific defensive wizard, would go in the top five. New York lost four starters from 2005 to free agency and two European players deciding not to return to the United States. All-star guard Becky Hammon (13.9 ppg., 4.3 apg.) will be lonely. In the second round, the Liberty snared Boston College forward Brooke Queenan (8.8 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 1.3 apg.), and Missouri 6-3 center Christelle N'Garsanet (15.7 ppg., 6.1 rpg., 1.5 apg.) was taken in the third round (No. 37). Second-year player Shameka Christon (9.1 ppg.) stepped up her game last summer, and should be a star in the Big Apple in a couple of months.

    Detroit earns a "C" rating in the draft based on having just two picks. One of those picks was included in the Katie Smith acquisition last summer. This left the Shock with the No. 35 choice, and it took Western Illinois 6-7 center Zane Teilane (14.6 ppg., 9.1 rpg., 2.1 apg.). I guess that might be taking the best player available, but Detroit is loaded up front with all-stars Swin Cash, Cheryl Ford and Ruth Riley, plus second-year forward Kara Braxton (6.9 ppg.). What happened to the need for a point guard of the future?

    Washington receives a "C" mark on the basis of not filling its needs: rebounding and a power forward. Last year, the Mystics were the second-worst rebounding team (27.7 rpg.) in the league. Having Richie Adubato as its coach will help the team, but he can't go to the boards. Washington went for backcourt scoring in the draft. Does that mean that Alana Beard, one of the brightest stars in he WNBA, moves to forward? In the first round (choice No. 8), the Mystics chose Miami 5-10 guard/forward Tamara James (20.0 ppg., 6.7 rpg., 2.1 apg.) who has a scorer's mentality. UCLA 5-8 guard Nikki Blue (12.5 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 5.9 apg. in 2005-06) was Washington's second-round pick. Maybe Coach Richie knew what he was doing in the third round when he chose Oklahoma City University 6-4 center Miriam Sy, who averaged 22.4 ppg., 9.7 rpg., 1.26 bpg., and was named the NAIA tournament MVP. Sy is the first Oklahoma City player to ever be drafted. The Mystics did pick up all-star guard Teasley in the trade for Washington's 2005 No. 1 choice, Johnson. One thing is certain, the team didn't get the 3-position player in the draft. It might end up being all-star Beard.

    The WNBA didn't do the new entry, Chicago Sky, any favors in the draft. It had picks No. 6, 20 and 34, and came up with a "C" rating. Needing talent at every position, the Sky, with the No. 6 selection, chose Temple 6-2 center/forward Candice Dupree (15.0 ppg., 8.3 rpg., 1.5 apg., 1.9 bpg.). Dupree, who had the benefit of teaching by a WNBA player, Coach Dawn Staley, runs the floor well, has great hands and blocks shots. She definitely will have an impact this season. Chicago took the Division II Player of the Year, Washburn 5-10 forward/guard Jennifer Harris, in the second round Harris led Division II in scoring this past year at 24.2 ppg., and she grabbed 5.8 rebounds, while handing out 5.1 apg. With its third pick, Chicago went to the ACC and chose Virginia Tech 6-1 forward Kerri Gardin. Gardin led the ACC in rebounding (10.0 rpg.) this past winter, grabbing 6.6 rpg. for her career. She scored 12.7 ppg. as a senior, and averaged 8.9 ppg. during her Hokie career. Chicago has lured former Washington guard Stacey Dales out of retirement. Forward Brooke Wyckoff could emerge as a team leader with the Sky, after being a key reserve for Connecticut. Veteran guard Elaine Powell is the only player on the team with more than four years in the league. The team is heavy with guards, as second-year backcourter Chelsea Newton was quite impressive for the WNBA champion, Sacramento, in 2005.

    There you have the 2006 draft report card. If it does anything, it gives you a measuring stick to compare the teams' talent once the season begins. One thing is certain, the WNBA will be better through the contributions of the Class of '06.

    A look back profiled many of the 2006 draftees as High School Heroes. Here's a look back at what we said about them four years ago:

  • Cappie Pondexter

  • Ann Strother

  • Shanna Zolman

  • Mistie Williams (Bass)

  • Barbara Turner

  • Nikki Blue

  • LaTangela Atkinson

  • Erin Grant

    Which former High School Heroes will we be reading about in future WNBA drafts? Only time will tell!

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