Sky Hoops with House
February 16, 2012

Hey Sky Fans! I’m sorry for the one-day delay in posting my BLOG... I was on the road, as usual, an all-driving trip this time and it just wasn’t a good idea to drive and type at the same time. I tried a dictation app I have, but it just didn’t work.

My trip was amazing! It was just like the old Division III College recruiting days. I loaded up a cooler full of food, bottles of water, jumped in the car (at 4:00 AM) and hit the highway. With airports they way they are now, it’s about the same amount of time for me to drive as it is to fly, especially if my trip is in the central and north east portion of the country. The bonus is I can be on the phone the entire time. You’ll see why that is a bonus when you read below. This week I was in Philadelphia, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

Things are really starting to pick up as NCAA teams head into the final 3-5 regular season games. I love these games right before conference tournaments begin. Players are locked in mentally to their coaches and scouting reports. They are playing really hard because they know they are playing for seeding positions in the tournament. We are able to see players step up their game both in terms of athletic performance as well as leadership, mental toughness, handling adversity and pressure. In evaluating for any draft pick these characteristics are key, but in many ways they are even more so for later round picks. Let me explain...

You may wonder if the philosophy changes when evaluating prospects for second or third round picks as opposed to first round picks. Honestly, it does. Some of the basic premises pertain: overall talent level (or potential for growth & development) to compete at the WNBA level, desire, work ethic, a strong commitment to the defensive end of the floor and the ability to communicate. Those are characteristics any potential draft pick #1 – #36 must have to enter into Pokey’s draft book. The parts of the evaluation that change are the guessing game on how and if the player will fit onto a roster or develop over the 2-3 years it normally takes a college player to acclimate themselves to the pro game. The concept of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is very true regarding later round picks as all WNBA teams look at their roster and the potential for second and third round picks to make a team. Teams identify “what” they need and see who is out there that can compete during training camp to fill that role on the team. It may be roster depth or versatility; it may be a third PG or a combo forward. It may be a great locker room person or a certain type of personality. With only 11 roster spots it is so important to not leave yourself short handed when the injury bug bites as well as making sure all players are all committed to their role and to all the attributes listed above and below.

My point being is the research needed for 2nd and 3rd round picks is almost more valuable in some regards than for first round picks. Teams really have an opportunity to find a steal and help their chances for success. Equally so, if you don’t make these evaluations you can destroy your teams chances. The evaluation of things other than just basketball or athletic talent is crucial. We evaluate and discuss such things as: EFFORT, ATTITUDE, TOUGHNESS, COMPETITIVENESS, COACHABILITY, DECISIONS, LEADERSHIP, CHARACTER and SELFLESSNESS. Often, these traits are not clearly evaluated in games or practices. As a coach, we have to speak to the player’s coach, trainer, academic advisor, strength coach, assistant coaches, teammates, etc... (*My driving phone time!) The main reason being is if a player drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round makes a WNBA roster they have to have the right mind-set. They have to know the percentages say they won’t be your star or go to player... at least not right away. They have to be a great teammate. They have to be willing to work extremely hard daily in practice and know that they may not receive as many minutes as the starters, but that their position and role is vital to the team.

Over my years in the WNBA most of the players I’ve seen survive at an impact level come from the top six or seven picks in the draft. After that, the percentages drop drastically. Since the 2000 draft there has been 426, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round draft picks. Currently, there are 30 players from those picks still on WNBA rosters. That’s 7%. Our own Carolyn Swords and Shay Murphy are perfect examples of this. They were both 2nd round picks, (coincidentally, both #15 picks) are both exceptional teammates, tireless workers in practice and on their own and are so important to our team. Both embody all of the traits and characteristics listed. Both improved throughout the 2011 season and stayed ready to compete. Carolyn and Shay are also having great seasons’ in Europe. (*Click on their name to see their overseas update.) “Big C” and Shay both know and understand their current roles on our team, while working tremendously hard to: 1.) Improve themselves and their role, 2.) Push and help the players in front of them at their respective positions improve and stay ready and 3.) Improve the overall position and success of our team. They are capable of starting on nearly any WNBA team and they do so overseas. It’s sort of like our version of #Linsanity. I don’t think either one of them was sleeping on a couch, but.... Shay was out of the league and home and stayed ready to compete. She came to Chicago averaged 21 minutes per game, 9.8 ppg and shot 93% from the FT line. Shay had an impact. Carolyn was a rookie, learning and developing. She starts the last four games of the season shooting 71% from the field, 100% from the FT line and averaging 4.5 rpg. She stayed ready. Carolyn had an impact. The traits Carolyn and Shay embody are those we hope to find in this year’s 2nd & 3rd round picks.

Alright Sky Fans... stay connected to our website for all the free agency news and also check in on the PLAYER MOVEMENT CENTRAL for everything going on around the league!

I’ll catch up with you again next week!

To view more of Hoops with House, click here to visit the archive.