5 W.N.B.A. Draft Hopefuls to Watch

W.N.B.A. groups covet versatile, two-way play, and scores of gamers within the N.C.A.A. girls’s basketball match displayed the ability, basketball I.Q. and energy to thrive within the skilled ranks on each ends of the ground.

Several gamers who hope to be picked within the W.N.B.A. draft on Thursday evening made deep match runs and had the massive levels of the later rounds to show their readiness. The gamers whose groups made early exits, nonetheless, have been left to hope that their particular person performances have been robust sufficient to be remembered — or that one subpar outing wouldn’t overshadow an in any other case spectacular collegiate profession.

Here’s a take a look at 5 gamers who both didn’t make or didn’t final lengthy on this yr’s match however should still be one of many 36 drafted Thursday evening. With the league’s 12 groups allowed simply 12 roster spots every, an excellent slimmer quantity will make opening day rosters.

The Razorbacks’ first-round exit from the match was not a mirrored image on the 5-foot-11 guard Chelsea Dungee. Her game-high 27 factors mirrored her high-scoring collegiate profession, however they got here in a sport by which the opposing workforce, Wright State, hit 50 % of its 3-pointers (to the Razorbacks’ 31.eight %) in a 66-62 win.

During her 2020-21 senior season, Dungee scored in double figures in all 27 video games. She scored 30 factors or extra in 12 video games in her profession, the most in team history. Free throws are an necessary a part of her offensive repertoire; she exploits mismatches, attracts fouls and makes 80.2 % of her pictures from the road.

Against Wright State, she made 14 free throws on 18 makes an attempt — becoming for the main free-throw shooter in Arkansas historical past. That she set the file for made free throws (552) in simply three seasons — Dungee sat out the 2017-18 season due to N.C.A.A. switch guidelines — emphasised her sharpshooting sport. The file had been 485, by Bettye Fiscus within the 1980s.

If a dogged defender who made a reputation for herself by gobbling up rebounds and in any other case changing protection into offense is what a W.N.B.A. workforce seeks, it ought to look no additional than N’dea Jones.

Setting apart a freshman season by which she averaged solely about six minutes per sport, Jones was Texas A&M’s largest double-double menace, averaging 10.1 factors and 11.1 rebounds a sport in her closing three seasons. Jones’s offensive manufacturing climbed yr over yr, together with within the 2020-21 season that was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. She pulled down her 1,026th profession board as a senior, turning into the workforce’s profession chief. She completed with 1,056, after simply 33 as a freshman.

Jones’s double-double effort towards Troy to open this yr’s match was adopted by a 9-point, 14-rebound efficiency that helped the Aggies advance previous Iowa State to the spherical of 16 in extra time. Texas A&M’s match run ended there, towards a formidable opponent: Arizona, the eventual match runner-up, which was led by level guard Aari McDonald.

Sometimes the field rating doesn’t reveal the complete fact, and so it goes for the 6-Four middle Kasiyahna Kushkituah, who averaged 6.eight factors and 6 rebounds per sport as a senior at Tennessee.

Even whereas beginning simply 23 of her 100 profession video games, Kushkituah started to carve out a distinct segment for herself as an agile massive. Her quickness was central to her means to disrupt opponents’ offensive schemes; if she failed to file a steal or a block, she may reliably drive opponents into sloppy possessions, main to turnovers. And if the ball ended up in her fingers, she may use her spectacular pace to rating on the break.

The 3-point shot just isn’t in her arsenal, however she made half of her area targets. If she will enhance her 47.5 % free-throw capturing and preserve an urge for food for offensive rebounds — which accounted for greater than a 3rd of her whole profession rebounds — she may grow to be an necessary paint presence for any W.N.B.A. workforce searching for depth at middle. In Tennessee’s first-round win towards Middle Tennessee, Kushkituah scored 10 factors and grabbed eight boards, 5 of them off the offensive glass.

Commonly referred to as Pull-Up Pulliam due to her clean and dependable midrange shot, Lindsey Pulliam was the quickest participant to attain 1,000 factors in Northwestern girls’s basketball historical past. A 5-10 guard, she completed her school profession averaging a well-rounded 16.5 factors, 4.2 rebounds and a couple of assists per sport. Her profession capturing averages of 37.9 % from the sector, 26.6 % from 3-point vary and 75.6 from the free-throw line is probably not the very best in her draft class, however she has more and more demonstrated that she will sizzle within the largest moments, in whichever approach her workforce wants:

With a game- and season-high 28 factors, Pulliam carried the Wildcats to a double-digit win on Jan. 21; one week later, in a street sport towards Iowa, she helped Northwestern to a 7-point victory by changing 12 of her 16 free-throw makes an attempt.

On protection, Pulliam secured 10 rebounds in early February towards Ohio State (to go along with 15 factors) to assist energy Northwestern to a 12-point win. Her 4 steals towards Eastern Kentucky in December helped the Wildcats rating 40 factors off turnovers and 28 on quick breaks on the way in which to a 29-point victory.

Overcoming an 18-point deficit however finally dropping to Florida within the first spherical of the Southeastern Conference match stored Auburn from being invited to the N.C.A.A. match, denying the 6-Three ahead Unique Thompson a nationwide stage.

Despite the loss, Thompson, with 14 factors and 10 rebounds, made her normal double-double contribution in her closing collegiate outing. In 2020-21, she was one in all two gamers within the nation to file two video games of 20-plus factors and 20-plus rebounds. As a junior within the 2019-20 season, she tallied her 21st double-double of the season and the 41st of her profession, surpassing the three-time W.N.B.A. All-Star DeWanna Bonner for probably the most in workforce historical past.

If Thompson can enhance her 66.Three % free-throw capturing, she’s going to solidify an in any other case stalwart sport that options 52.eight % capturing from the sector. With a proficiency for cleansing the offensive glass — Thompson gathers 43 % of her rebounds on the offensive facet of the ground — she is prepared to contend in probably the most aggressive league on the earth. Even with out a nationwide match run, Thompson appears poised for a first-round draft choice.

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