Who Will Be No. 1?

With the first overall selection in the 2006 WNBA Draft, the Lynx likely will make their pick from among four talented players.

By Dan Bell
When it comes to this spring’s WNBA Draft, the consensus is that four players stand out above the rest: LSU guard Seimone Augustus, Duke guard/forward Monique Currie, Rutgers guard Cappie Pondexter and Baylor forward Sophia Young. But only one team gets to choose from among all four of these talented players — your Minnesota Lynx.

Minnesota received that honor by winning the WNBA Draft Lottery on Oct. 24. The Lynx had the third-best odds to win the coveted top pick, but beat the odds to get No. 1.

“Now we control what happens in the next draft and we have the entire college season to decide just what we want to do and what will be best for our team,” said Roger Griffith, Lynx Chief Operating Officer, after the draft lottery. “You have seen the impact that other top draft picks have had in the past and it gives us an opportunity to be in that position.”

The final decision will be made when the draft arrives in April. Lynx head coach Suzie McConnell Serio is excited about bringing another talented player into the mix.

There won’t be a lot of adjustments for the these top four players,” McConnell Serio said. “The players that you are looking at us taking at No. 1, they are the best. They’ve separated themselves from the rest and they will not need a lot of improvement. I think it’s just a matter of getting to know a new system, a new team... the travel and playing back-to back games might be an adjustment — your typical rookie adjustments.”

Here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at the four players the Lynx will most likely be choosing from.

Seimone Augustus - Louisiana State
Many people consider the 6-1 forward from Baton Rouge, La., to be the best player in college basketball at the moment. It’s hard to argue with that when you consider she was named the Associated Press (AP), United States Basketball Writers Association and Naismith National Player of the Year for 2005. Augustus, a two-time All-American, was the SEC Player of the Year last year and has continued her stellar play this season.

“She’s very talented, very skilled, has a high basketball IQ and is a very hard worker,” McConnell Serio said. “She has size, strength and skills.”

This season, Augustus is averaging 19.9 points, while shooting 55.9 percent from the field and adding 4.7 rebounds per game. She has shot better than 52 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the free throw for all four of her seasons at LSU. Pokey Chatman, LSU head coach, knows she has had a special player in Augustus.

"When she touches the ball, something special is going to happen and it may not be a shot,” Chatman said. “It may be the pass that sets up the pass. She's such a cerebral player. She knows when to take the shot, when to cut, not to follow the ball, because it will come back to her.”

Monique Currie - Duke
Currie has helped make Duke one of the top-ranked teams in the nation this season. The do-it-all 6-0 guard/forward from Washington, D.C., became just the third Duke player to record more than 1,500 points, 650 rebounds and 300 assists. She is averaging 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds this season after setting career-highs in 1004-05 with 17.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg.

McConnell Serio saw Currie in person in mid-January and came away impressed. “She has a quick first step and is strong off the dribble. She is a scorer and a good defender. She’s very strong. I think she’ll step in the WNBA and be an impact player depending on the team that she is on.”

The Lynx head coach is not the only WNBA coach to be impressed by Currie’s game. “She’s one of the best players in the country, game in and game out,” said Van Chancellor, Houston Comets head coach and GM. “You can separate players by how they play in crunch time, and Monique stands out.”

Cappie Pondexter - Rutgers
The 5-9 guard from Chicago had an immediate impact on the Rutgers program. The Scarlet Knights finished with a 9-20 record the year before Pondexter arrived. In her first season, Rutgers went 21-8 and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. She became the first freshman to be named to the Big East All-First Team.

This season, Pondexter has helped make Rutgers one of the top-ranked teams in the nation. She’s having a phenomenal senior year, averaging 22.0 points on 52.8 percent shooting from the field, including scoring a career-high 40 points against South Florida on Jan. 11.

“She’s very skilled at handling the basketball,” McConnell Serio said. “She can take over at crunch time and has a great ability to create her own shot.”

At Rutgers, the ball is in Pondexter’s hands quite a bit and she doesn’t hesitate to take matters into her own hands. “She does what a player of her caliber should do — say, ‘When my team needs something, I'm going to go get it.’ ” Texas head coach Jody Conradt said.

Sophia Young - Baylor
The 6-1 forward from St. Vincent, The Grenadines, helped the Baylor Lady Bears win the 2005 NCAA Championship. Minnesota fans probably remember her game-high 26 points and seven rebounds in Baylor’s Sweet 16 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Gophers head coach Pam Borton was impressed with Young’s play.

“She is probably one of the best athletes and one of the best players we have ever played against,” Borton said. “She puts the ball down on the floor and has an explosive first step.”

Young was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists against Michigan State in the championship game.

Statistically, Young is having the best season of her collegiate career this year averaging 20.8 points on 57.4 percent shooting from the field and grabbing 10.2 rebounds per contest.

“She has dominated in the post in college,” McConnell Serio said. “She is athletic and can create her own shot. She’s very smooth around the basket and also has 15-foot range.”

Photo Credits:
Seimone Augustus: Credit Steve Franz, LSU Sports Information
Cappie Pondexter: Credit Larry Levanti/Rutgers Athletic Communications
Monique Currie: Credit Jon Gardiner, Duke University Photography