Cleveland Rockers Head Coach Dan Hughes has been busy preparing for the WNBA Draft. Hereís an exclusive interview with about the process he goes though every year to try to bring in the best players.

Dan Hughes
When do you start getting prepared for the draft?

Dan Hughes: We prepare for the draft when the last game of the season is done. We begin the evaluation of the college senior class, the European players, which is done mainly in November, December, and January. Our hope is to become more selective when the draft comes around, since we have to be prepared for a variety of different scenarios, drafting anywhere this year from one through six.

What percent of your offseason is spent on preparing for the draft?
Hughes: The majority of my offseason time is spent on the draft. Most of the current Rockers players are in Europe, which means that most of the players are involved in another professional league, so crafting workouts is limited in that regard. The reality of our league is that 80% of the WNBA players play in Europe, China, or Korea. We do have some players that are here in Cleveland, and weíll do some individual things with them. And you keep track of what the others playing overseas are doing. Because of the WNBA, we donít have the scouts to do the legwork, so most of that responsibility falls to the coaches.

What methods do you utilize to scout players for the draft?
Hughes: I see at least one game every day either live or on video. Thereís not a day when I donít watch a game on TV during the offseason. Combine that with some travelling overseas, talking to some of these players in person, looking at what theyíve done in college or abroad, and itís a busy offseason scouting process.

Does foreign scouting consume a lot of your time in the offseason?
Hughes: Quite a bitÖactually a lot of my time is devoted to scouting European players because I use it not only to evaluate the players eligible for the draft, but for our own players and players on other WNBA teams as well. They play every week, I follow their performances, and I get as many tapes as I can watch. Iím very aware of the players from our league playing overseas, as well as the potential players coming to our league. A lot of my week is watching tape, meeting players, and being aware of whatís going on with those players.

Are foreign players at any disadvantage if they want to play in the WNBA?
Hughes: No, I donít think so. But I sense that the WNBA is the best basketball played in the world, with better defense, better athletes, and better skills. Youíre having to play your game at an optimum level and you have to play your game more frequently. I think European players can deal with the level of intensity, but I just think youíre dealing with the best athletes and the best competition, when youíre playing three to four games a week versus one or two overseas.

How closely does a playerís performance in the NCAA Tournament affect her draft status?
Hughes: I think itís important, but I also think itís in context with what she is dealing with, like playing with an injury or something like that. Itís another evaluation, but I donít think itís necessarily a greater evaluation. I think playing under the pressure of the NCAA Tournament is a good gauge for how theyíll perform in the WNBA. But for me, itís just another evaluation.

A poor or outstanding performance could hinder or help a playerís position in the draft. I try to have a number of evaluations, so thatís only a percent of the evaluation, but not a huge percent. I wouldnít make a decision just on the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament would either reinforce or draw into question something, but I would need more evidence, positive or negative. Iím not going to make a judgement on one gameóif they have a bad first game, Iím not going to say theyíre a bad player. The same is true for outstanding performances in the Tournament. Iím looking for some consistency throughout a playerís season.

What kinds of traits do you look for in players in addition to consistency?
Hughes: Probably the first thing I look for is a skill thatís so outstanding, itís WNBA caliber. Itís either an offensive skill, defending, or reboundingósomething thatís WNBA caliber. You know that they could come into this league and do that right away. If I see that, and when I watch them, the second trait I look for is athleticism. By that I mean is this player going to cause a problem if I match them up a certain way defensively? Can they athletically move and stay with the player Iím going to ask them to guard? Or offensively, can they get open and do what they need to do? And the third thing is what type of player/person is she going to bring to our mix? And I do ask that a lot. I look at both off-the-court and on-the-court performance for my evaluation. I watch them on the bench, how they interact with teammates, and the intangibles.

Do you find any similarities with previous drafts?
Hughes: It reminds me a little of the draft in 2000 when I first came here. I donít think itís as strong as some of the previous drafts or possibly even next yearís draft in regards to numbers. I still think there are going to be some players whoíll have an impact on the league, and some will also become rotation players.