After the conclusion of the 2003 WNBA Draft, ESPN analyst Vera Jones shared her thoughts on the top picks, the teams that did the most to better their situation and the biggest surprises and sleepers in this year's selections.
Can you go through some of the top picks and talk a little about them and how you think they’ll impact the teams they’re going to?
Coming in to the draft, there was a lot of talk about how this wasn’t one of the strongest ones yet, but when you consider the top 10 or even the first round, I think it’s just as competitive as it’s always been.
Jones think Thomas will be able to come right in and contribute.
I think you can’t go wrong with LaToya Thomas
. She was an undisputed first round pick, going to Cleveland. I think she’s going to help them tremendously, and when you talk about impact players, she is certainly one of those in the draft. And I don’t think there was necessarily many, maybe a handful, that can come right in and contribute and do great things. LaToya Thomas is just that versatile.
Chantelle Anderson. You can’t buy and you can’t teach and you can’t find size at 6-6. What I like about her is she’s ambidexterous – a word it took me at least 25 years to learn to say, but something it takes most players a lifetime to learn to do. Her ability to go left or right is just unbelievable. Her size, I think along with Yolanda Griffith and Tangela Smith, even if she doesn’t start, just imagine how strong Sacramento just got by picking her up in their front line.
I like Cheryl Ford’s physical play at Detroit. They certainly needed someone that was big and strong and Cheryl Ford is the type of player who’s not all about points for her. She is a rebounder, and not many post players can say that they have a knack for just getting the basketball and she has that.
And also, just looking in the top lineup, another player that stands out for me is Aiysha Smith. She’s a player for me that during the season when she was at LSU, I was very interested, I had heard about her but never really, really paid attention. I was really impressed with her play during the NCAA Tournament run. She’s going down to Washington. I think she’s probably the sleeper of the whole draft – that player that a lot of people don’t talk about but you’re going to finally see her play and go “Whoa.” And I think Marianne Stanley and Pat Summitt knew exactly what they were doing when they grabbed her in the first round.
Obviously, Kara Lawson and Gwen Jackson are going to do very well -- both from Tennessee, from a strong program. A natural leader, Kara Lawson will do tremendous things for Detroit. And Gwen Jackson going to the Indiana Fever, I think she’ll fit in perfectly with what Nell Fortner tries to do, and they really needed a big player given that their center Olympia Scott-Richardson was injured playing overseas.
Is there one team more than any other that you think really made a big jump in Friday’s draft?
I think it helped Detroit tremendously by getting the two picks. I think Kara Lawson and Cheryl Ford certainly will do very, very well for Detroit. And that’s what it’s all about, teams getting better. I think they improved their situation tremendously by having those two picks.
The Sparks may have come up big with their selection of LaRue.
Photo courtesy of the University of Virginia
But I’m going to tell you right now, the Los Angeles Sparks had an unbelievable draft. A comment was made by Doris Burke that the rich just got richer. For them to pick up Schuye LaRue
, a player that kind of had dropped off the map simply because she stopped playing, she went overseas to Europe after her sophomore season. She is an unbelievable player. If nothing has changed and she has improved by playing overseas in Europe, she is just an awesome player. They just picked up one of the most talented players in the draft that no one is talking about because everyone forgot about her. And now that L.A. got her, everyone’s probably going to go “Oh, man!” So it depends on what kind of shape that she’s in, but I certainly think they really didn’t need anything but they got something in Scuye LaRue.
Any particular sleepers that you see in this draft?
I like DeTrina White for the Indiana Fever. I think she’s another great pick, so I would say Indiana did very well to pick up Gwen Jackson and then to turn around and pick up DeTrina White from LSU. She is another one of those players, she’s strong, she’s physical, she has already just a natural talent, what it takes to do well in the WNBA and having a good coach in Nell, that should bring her along.
I don’t know a lot about Seattle. I know that they really, really wanted to get better, but I guess this player Jung Sun-min from Korea -- obviously just because we don’t know much about her doesn’t mean anything. Anne Donovan is an excellent coach, so I would expect that this player’s going to do some good things.
What was the biggest surprise to you of the draft?
Outside of Jung Sun-min in the first round, maybe the New York Liberty’s selection of Molly Creamer from Bucknell. Bucknell’s not a very strong school and the Patriot League’s not a very strong league, but Molly Creamer is obviously an outstanding scorer, leading the nation in scoring, so that surprised me. That was a name that wouldn’t have come to my mind when I thought of the New York Liberty. They definitely need a guard that can score, someone who can back up Teresa Weatherspoon, so I hope they found that in her.