Last year, in its first draft, the WNBA signed players as old as their late 30s. It had its pick of graduating classes from the late '50s to 1997. Yet Wednesday's second WNBA draft, with four rounds starting at 9 a.m. MDT, is thought to be deeper and better.
Says Utah Starzz coach Denise Taylor, "There's more talent. Last year, the other league (rival American Basketball Association) signed a lot of the top players, but this year (the WNBA) has been able to get the top players coming out."Scott Layden, Starzz VP of player personnel, said in a WNBA interview, "The talent is better; the conditioning of the players is better."
Julie Rousseau, coach of the Los Angeles Sparks, against whom the Starzz open June 11 in the Delta Center, told the WNBA, "It's better than last year, and a lot younger. There's a lot of players that will fit in well anywhere."
"Way deeper. It'll change our rosters immediately," says Sacramento Monarchs coach Heidi Vanderveer.
Following are capsule looks at some of the top draft prospects:
- Alli Bills, 22, 5-7 guard, Utah: School and WAC all-time assists leader (605); second nationally in assists (7.9); averaged 8.9 ppg as a senior; first-team All-WAC; ranks third in career-three-point field goals and second in steals (227).
- Cindy Blodgett, 22, 5-9 guard, Maine: Ranks fourth on NCAA Division I all-time leader scorers with 3,005 points; fifth in career scoring average (25.5 ppg); two-time America East Conference player of the year; holds 20 school records (including 52 points scored in a single game).
- Octavia Blue, 22, 6-1 forward, Miami: Led team in scoring (19.2) and 3-point FG percentage (.453); first-team All-Big East; second-leading rebounder (5.7) in conference.
- Malgorzata Dydek, 23, 7-2 center: Polish National Team member; six-year professional in Europe, including past two seasons with Pool Getafe in Spain; averaged 24.3 ppg last season.
- Allison Feaster, 22, 5-11 guard/forward, Harvard: Nation's leading scorer (28.5 ppg) this season; Kodak All-American and Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference player of the year; four-time first-team All-Ivy; holds school records for career points (2,312), rebounds (1,134) and steals (308).
- LaTonya Johnson, 22, 6-1 forward, Memphis: First-team All-Conference USA and MVP of conference tournament; team's second-leading scorer (21.9) and ranked second on school's all-time scoring list (2,232); led team and league in 3-point percentage (.405).
- Julie Krommenhoek, 22, 5-9 guard, Utah: Four-time first-team All-WAC; Top Utah and WAC career scorer (2,087); set NCAA tournament sigle-game record with eight treys vs. Louisville; Holds school record for career steals (255) and ranks second in 3-point percentage (.431); averaged 20.2 ppg as a senor.
- Murrial Page, 22, 6-2 forward, Florida: Kodak All-American and two-time member of first-team All-SEC; led team in scoring (19.1) and rebounding (12.6) and was second in nation in rebounding. Second-leading rebounder (1,251) and scorer (1.915) in Florida history.
- Tracy Reid, 21, 5-11 forward, North Carolina: Two-time Kodak All-American and 1998 AP All-American; twice named ACC player of the year; three-time conference leader in scoring; ranked fourth in school history in points (2,200) and eighth in rebounds (1,065); scored school-record 42 vs. Virginia this year.
- Nyree Roberts, 22, 6-3 center, Old Dominion: Colonial Athletic Association player of the year and two-time first-team All-CAA; helped Old Domion to Final Four last year; lead league in scoring (20.6), rebounding (12.0) and FG percentage (.632) this year; fourth-best rebounder in nation this season.
- Olympia Scott, 21, 6-2 center, Stanford: Two-time first-team All-Pac-10; ranked third in conference in rebounding (7.5) and fourth in scoring (17.5) this past season; second-league scorer (16.2) on team as a junior.
- Tangela Smith, 21, 6-1 forward/center, Iowa: Big Ten player of the year; led team in scoring (19.9 ppg), rebounding (8.4 rpg), blocked shots and shooting (.559); holds school record for blocks (game, 7; season, 73; career, 235); school's third-best career rebounder (859) and scorer (1,598).
- Alicia Thompson, 21, 6-1 forward, Texas Tech: Big 12 player of the year; led conference in scoring as junior and senior; two-time first-team All-Big 12; first-team AP All-American; second in Tech history in career points (2,156) and rebounds (953); nation's second-best scorer (23.7 ppg) as a junior.