2004 WNBA Draft Prospect Tracker

as of April 8
Diana Taurasi, UConn
Alana Beard, Duke
Nicole Powell, Stanford
Chandi Jones, Houston
Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota
Kelly Mazzante, Penn State
Nicole Ohlde, Kansas State
Vanessa Hayden, Florida
Shameka Christon, Arkansas
10. Rebekkah Brunson, Georgetown

By Rebecca Lobo
April 8, 2004

The WBCA put together a group of the top college seniors to play a game against the USA National Team at the Final Four. (Diana Taurasi, Lindsay Whalen, Tasha Butts, and Doneeka Hodges didn't play because their teams were competing in the Final Four.) Some players' talents are suited for All-Star games (Shemeka Christon) while others need an organized environment to show all they can do (Kelly Mazzante). I watched the game and talked to the WNBA vets afterwards to get their impressions.

1. Diana Taurasi (Connecticut):
4/8: No college player was under more pressure this season than Diana Taurasi and she came through again. She's a champion -- 3 times over.
4/1: Diana is reinforcing her reputation as the best clutch-time player in the game. Her numbers in the NCAA tournament are great, and her exuberance is back. (Witness how she threw her 2004 east regional championship hat into the heckling Penn State student section after UConn handily beat the Nittany Lions).
3/25: If it's possible for D to make her stock rise, she did it with a great showing in the first two rounds. And her shooting touch is back.
3/17: She's a stud. The '03 Player of the Year has more confidence than Tony Siragusa at a pie-eating contest. Her numbers are down a little this year because she's been battling nagging ankle and back injuries, but no one is more of a big-game player than Taurasi. Every GM in the Draft would take her with the first pick.

2. Alana Beard (Duke):
4/8: Beard didn't play in the All-American game.
4/1: Beard had a stellar career at Duke and broke a lot of records but her team never made it to the promised-land. Her sub-par game against Minnesota won't hurt her draft position and might make her hungrier when she enters the league.
3/25: Beard only had eight points in the team's opening round game against Northwestern State but she did everything else (8 boards, 9 assists, 3 steals). And, when her team needed her to score against Marquette, she got 30.
3/17: Beard is putting up Player of the Year numbers (20 points, 5 rebounds per game) and is a terrific defender. She has added a decent jump shot to go with her stellar driving game. This shy Blue Devil has a strong, solid physique and will start right away for the team that takes her.

3. Nicole Powell (Stanford):
4/8: Powell looked like she was having a lot of fun playing against the world's finest. She was solid on both ends of the floor.
4/1: Powell was the engine that made the Stanford team run while powering the Cardinal to an Elite 8 finish. She showed everyone her versatility and will open the eyes of any team that has a need for the 2, 3, and 4.
3/25: She continues to do everything for Stanford -- and that's what we've all come to expect.
3/17: While Powell looks like she could be fellow Cardinal Tiger Woods' sister, I have no idea if she has game on the links. However, on the court, Powell could be the most versatile player in the Draft. She's 6'2" and can play any position on the floor. She does everything for Stanford (20 ppg, 11 rpg) and is a one-woman show in Palo Alto.

4. Chandi Jones (Houston):
4/8: She was quiet during the All-American game. Nothing spectacular, but she held her own.
4/1: Mazzante's difficulty in creating her own shot against UConn reinforces the value of a player is who can create her own shot. Since Jones can score off the drive, shoot the pull-up J, and drain the three -- she is difficult to guard.
3/25: Her stock would have risen a little if she had made the last second three to put her team in the Sweet Sixteen.
3/17: Jones led the nation in scoring in '03 and her average this year is down to 22.5 ppg. She's a smooth player who can drain the deep three, hit the pull-up J, or take it all the way to the hole. Her jump-stop is very Swoopes-like and she can score in bunches like the WNBA MVP. She doesn't force shots and she'll keep her post players happy with her unselfish play.

5. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota):
4/8: She has proven that she can play the point and that is a hot commodity in the WNBA.
4/1: Whalen's stock went way up after the win against Duke. Her toughness and willingness to take big shots were showcased. Throughout the tournament she's contributed some gutsy performances and shown that she can score, pass, and handle pressure against top defenders (like Alana Beard). Folks can now look at her as both a point guard and a shooting guard. She's going to make this draft pretty darn interesting.
3/25: She showed how valuable she is to the Gophers by leading them to an upset win over #2 seed Kansas State. She answered any questions regarding how her hand injury would effect her game.
3/17: Whalen broke two bones in her shooting hand a few weeks ago, but hopes to be back in time for the NCAA Tournament. She's a tough kid who plays with the intensity of Allen Iverson (without the rows and tattoos). She can score from anywhere and will be a solid 2-guard in the WNBA.

6. Kelly Mazzante (Penn State):
4/8: Her shooting woes continued but this type of all-star game doesn't play to her stregths anyway.
4/1: Mazzante struggled with her shot in the tournament and a lot of that can be credited to the teams defending her. While she made some big plays at the end of the Notre Dame game, she also had a tough time defending the bigger and quicker Jacqueline Batteast. She's incredibly appealing to teams that have penetrating guards where she can benefit from drive-and-kick situations.
3/25: This kid's stock will really rise if she can lead her team to a victory at the Hartford Civic Center over UConn.
3/17: She's the all-time leading scorer in Big 10 history -- men's or women's. She has NBA range and is Dan Marino-quick with her release. The 6'0" guard also has a decent handle and plays good D.

7. Nicole Ohlde (Kansas State):
4/8: She impressed some of the national team members with her athleticism when hitting the boards. She didn't force anything during the game -- but needs to be more offensive-minded when getting the ball on the block.
4/1: Vanessa Hayden was the clear-cut post favorite until she had recent surgery on her foot. If a team needs an immediate post presence, Ohlde's stock might rise.
3/17: She's an Ohlde-but-goody, a legit 6'5", runs the floor well, and can shoot from the perimeter. She can also put the ball on the floor. She's a pretty appealing prospect, especially for teams in the West who have to deal with Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, and Yolanda on a daily basis.

NBA TV analyst Rebecca Lobo tracks the prospects.
Attiba Jefferson
WNBAE/Getty Images

8. Vanessa Hayden (Florida):
4/1: The question with Hayden has always been conditioning. Now that she had surgery on her foot, her play-by date and conditioning are big questions. She might still go in the top 3, but she also might fall a few.
3/25: She spent the tournament in foul trouble and needs to learn how to stay on the court. Florida suffered whenever she was forced to the bench.

3/17: Coach Carolyn Peck calls her, "the best center in the country." Her numbers against Georgia in the SEC quarterfinal: 26 points, 12 rebounds. She won't average those numbers in the WNBA, but she'll be a force in the lane.

9. Shameka Christon (Arkansas):
4/8: Every national team member I talked to after the game said they were most impressed with Christon. She competed hard, ran the floor really well, and already has a WNBA physique.
3/17: The 6-1 senior was named SEC Player of the Year after averaging 21.8 points and 7 rebounds per game. She's athletic, can shoot the three, and gets to the free throw line. Unfortunately, we might not be able to track her progress in the tourney because Arkansas is a bubble-team.

10. Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown):
4/8: Brunson was quiet during the game but that can be attributed to the squad that was surrounding her when she was in there. (They had her running with the third team).
4/1: The domino effect of Hayden's injury could effect other players in the draft. I don't think Brunson will leap-frog over Hayden to pole position for posts, but a shake-up near the top could effect where she ultimately lands.
3/17: This kid can sit back and rest up for the Draft because her Georgetown team has as much chance of stepping on the dance floor as an ugly 7th grader with B.O. Even if she isn't dancing this March, Brunson can hoop at the highest level. She averaged 19 points and 12 boards a game and led the Big East in both categories. She's 6-3, lean, and has the body of a thoroughbred. She can play with her back to the basket or put the ball on the floor.

Others to keep an eye on:

Iciss Tillis (Duke)
4/8: Tillis chose not to participate in the all-american game and I think that was a mistake. While she is very versatile and athletic, folks still have a lot of questions about how she'll fare in the pros.

Shereka Wright (Purdue)
4/8: Wright was able to use her strength -- getting to the free throw line. However, she won't get the same calls in the WNBA that she got in the Big 10.

Tera Bjorkland (Colorado)
4/8: Bjorklund was pretty quiet. However, like Brunson, she didn't have much time with the best guard rotation.

Christi Thomas (Georgia)
4/8: Thomas was impressive. She was very physical with Tina Thompson (and took a couple of Tina's elbows to the throat) and Lisa Leslie. She showed her toughness against some of the WNBAs more intimidating posts.

Stacy Stephens (Texas)
4/8: Stephens is an undersized post (6'0") but was able to use her up-and-under moves a few times to get shots off against Lisa Leslie. Granted, the USA Team hadn't scouted the members of the college squad, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Stephens was able to score in the post.

Rebecca will be updating her prospect rankings each week until the 2004 WNBA Draft on April 17.

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