April 5, 2004 - It's Draft time again. I can just picture all the coaches and GMs sitting in their "war rooms" (are we allowed to call them war rooms these days?), with greaseboard marker in one hand and eraser in the other. Just for my own enjoyment I also imagine Carol Blazejowski or Anne Donovan or Penny Toler leaning back in her Barcalounger and lighting up a cigar after Janel McCarville inexplicably drops to the 10th, 12th or 26th pick, respectively.

The Draft is a few short days away, so lets tip our headbands to the women who will make this year's' first round an excitement-filled hour on ESPN.

(Names have been listed alphabetically to protect the innocent... or until I talk to more GMs and get a better feel for who they might draft.)

Jacqueline Batteast (Notre Dame)
Batteast made me a believer last year when she helped ND beat a Taurasi-led Uconn team in South Bend. She was able to score off the dribble, in traffic, and when double- or triple-teamed. She made every big shot when the Irish needed one. While Batteast hasn't always been consistent, she has shown that she's got the goods.

Ashley Battle (UConn)
Battle probably won't be a first-round pick but I'm listing her here just because I like her. She's an incredibly hard worker, ridiculously strong and athletic, and will do anything that a coach asks of her. And when my daughter was born three months ago, AB gave her a Care Bear stuffed animal. That's enought to get her on my draft board.

Steffanie Blackmon (Baylor)
Teams like size and Blackmon has size. She's also played well in the NCAA tournament for one of the best young coaches in college basketball. She's learned the game and knows how to win.

Shyra Ely (Tennessee)
Ely can score off the dribble and hits the offensive glass like crazy. While much was made during the NCAA tournament of the Lady Vols' improved play when Ely was moved from the 3 spot back to the 4, the question remains -- where will she play in the WNBA? She's a bit of a tweener but she played for one of the best coaches in the college game, so knowing how to work hard and possessing an understanding of how to play are givens.

Katie Feenstra (Liberty)
Feenstra opened up a lot of people's eyes during the NCAA tournament. She's intriguing because of her size (6-8, 240 lbs) but the question remains: Is there still a spot for the big bigs in a league that is becoming less half-court oriented and more run and gun? If so, Feenstra is the player to fill it.

Kristin Haynie (Michigan State)
Haynie quietly led the Spartans all season long. Her triple-double versus Stanford in the NCAA regional final got some folks talking. Word around town is that her stock is rising. (Not that that helps since we don't know where her stock started or which town she'll end up playing in.) Get Haynie in the right situation, however, and she could be a solid point in the league.

Sandora Irvin (TCU)
Irvin is super athletic and can have an immediate impact as a defender and rebounder. Her offensive game has improved since her freshman year and she can shoot the three and put the ball on the floor. She played with a young backcourt this past season at TCU and there were times I wished she would have grabbed the young 'uns by the jersey and demanded touches when they got shot-happy. Irvin is a really nice kid and will be a phenomenal player once she gets a little more vocal like her uncle Michael.

Temeka Johnson (LSU)
Quick and gutsy point guard. Johnson can score in transition and runs a team well. She also knows how to play with a superstar... having spent 3 years with Seimone Augustus.

Cathrine Kraayeveld (Oregon)
I'd draft anyone with two vowels dancing side by side in her last name. Plus, she's got size (6-4) and can shoot the 3.

Sancho Lyttle (Houston)
My second favorite name in the draft next to Tan White (see below). Lyttle is still a bit raw offensively but has tremendous upside because she's a great athlete with terrific size. (Lyttle's not little.) She's quick enough to defend and run with the bigs in the WNBA.

Janel McCarville (Minnesota)
My favorite player in the Draft. McCarville has phenomenal hands and is the best passing post player I've ever seen. She makes the game fun to watch and will make it enjoyable for her teammates. Couple that with her ability to score and take over when needed and you've got a sure thing. Plus, she's tough. She's going to leave a few of the vets with black and blue marks this coming season.

Jessica Moore (UConn)
Moore's stock fell a little at the beginning of the season because she was still recovering from the ACL tear she suffered in the 2004 National Championship game. However, she came on strong halfway through the season after regaining her confidence in the knee. Moore learned from the best coach in women's basketball while at UConn and will succeed in the pros. Geno Auriemma's players understand the game and the importance of winning. Combine that with Moore's athletic ability and you've got a winner.

Kendra Wecker (Kansas State)
Wecker's game has been compared to Katie Smith's. She is a deceptively great athlete, strong, and can score off the dribble. She could follow in fellow-Wildcat Nicole Ohlde's footsteps and get drafted in the Top Ten.

Tan White (Mississippi State)
Do you have to get the 32 or 64 Crayola box to find the best name in the draft? White is the most talented player that most casual hoops fans have never seen play. She can handle, score, playmake and rebound. She'll be one of the first few to hear her name on draft day.

Tanisha Wright (Penn State)
Wright is a great defender and has the ability to drive and post up smaller guards. I hope she goes fairly high in the draft so we don't have another heartbreaking Nittany Lion episode like we saw last year with Kelly Mazzante. I don't think that will be the case.