SALT LAKE CITY — On April 10, at 7 p.m. Eastern time — 5 p.m. Mountain — the 23rd edition of the WNBA draft will commence from somewhere on 6th Avenue in New York City, a location otherwise known as Nike’s New York headquarters.
Many of college basketball’s greatest stars, not to mention some of the best prospects from around the world, will wait in hopes of hearing their name called.
For a few, the wait will be for but a brief moment.
For others, it’ll be a test in patience, an agonizing one at that.
Among the draft hopefuls who will take in the broadcast will be Utah’s Megan Huff.
The chance to be drafted into the WNBA, the opportunity to play professional basketball at its highest level, was the reason Huff went to Utah at all.
She started her career at Hawaii, after all, where she had great success.
In each of her two seasons with the Rainbow Wahine, Huff was the Big West Conference’s Sixth Player of the Year. She also earned a spot on the All-Big West second team her sophomore season and that same year — 2015-16 — helped Hawaii to its first NCAA tournament berth since 1998.
Collegiate success was never Huff’s lone goal, however.
She wanted to make it to the WNBA.
That is why she transferred to Utah.
“I really bought into coach (Lynne) Roberts’ vision for the program and it was a good building block for me,” said Huff. “It was a stepping stone to getting to where I want to go.”
The decision paid off, as Huff will be drafted Wednesday night.
That at least is the general consensus of national media and WNBA officials.
“Everything I have heard is that she is going to get drafted into the WNBA, which is exciting for her and for us,” Roberts said.
Where she’ll will be drafted is a different question.
ESPN’s latest mock draft has her being selected in the middle of the third round, at No. 30 overall, by the Minnesota Lynx.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, has Huff going as high as No. 24, which would place her in the middle of the second round in the hands of the defending champion Seattle Storm.
The reasons for such a variety of predictions are plentiful.
For one, earning a roster spot in the WNBA is no easy task. Draft picks made outside of the top five are often the result of fit rather than ability.
“It's just really hard to make a WNBA roster,” ESPN analyst Kara Lawson said. “If you think about it from just a numbers perspective, there are only 12 teams. Then you look at the fact that there are players ranging from their first year in the league to their 17th or 18th, and then all those players in between. It's about finding a team that has an open spot and being able to win that spot. Outside of the top picks, that is the reality of the WNBA.”
Another reason for Huff’s seemingly unpredictable draft location are questions about her athleticism.
“I would say that she's in a category, and there's probably a handful of players that you go, they've got a skill set, but can they athletically translate to the WNBA and still do those things?” Minnesota head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “Where she goes in the draft, if she gets drafted, the challenge will be can this player carve out a spot on a WNBA team.”
Fortunately for Huff, her athleticism is the only real question about her game.
Her ability and skill level are not in doubt, something her two All-Pac-12 first team selections speak to.
“Megan Huff is a skilled post player,” Reeve said. “I think Utah's evolution as a team, she's been a big part of that. Megan's skill set is really interesting. She is a big that can shoot the 3. She has some agility. She is just an overall good basketball player. She's somebody that is on our radar, for sure.”Comment on this story
Huff’s ability to play power or stretch forward, a position which according to ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson is the most important in the league, will also go a long way to where she is drafted, not to mention the length of her career.
While that certainly won’t be determined for years to come, Huff has at least one firm believer in her ability to make and stay on a WNBA roster heading into the draft — her college head coach.
“I am so proud of her,” Roberts said. “She has worked so hard. She is an incredible player and will be a pro for a long time.”
And it’ll all start sometime Wednesday night.