2005 Small Forward Prospects
The biggest contributions for the small forward Class of '04 are still ahead of them. A pair of small forwards, Stanford's Nicole Powell and Arkansas' Shameka Christon, were selected amongst the top five picks. However, Christon only started four games as a rookie and Powell never started, both playing on veteran teams. Powell will get a bigger opportunity this season after being dealt to the Sacramento Monarchs this off-season, while Christon should play more minutes but is still behind some talented players in New York.
As for the Class of '05, there's an elite small forward prospect in Kansas State's Kendra Wecker, who is unlikely to get past the fourth pick of the draft and the San Antonio Silver Stars. After Wecker, a trio of players - Shyra Ely, Kristen Mann and Angelina Williams - could go in the first round, though it's doubtful all three will be first-round picks. There's depth behind those players into the second and third rounds.
Storm Outlook: Many mock drafts have the Storm going for a small forward in the first round, but they're probably making the Storm's need at small forward out as greater than it is. Iziane Castro Marques will get a shot to win the starting job in training camp, and, at 22, she could keep that role for a long time. Holdovers Adia Barnes and Alicia Thompson are also in the mix. That's not to say the Storm won't take a small forward, but that decision would be based on talent, not need.
The measurements: 5-11, 172
College: Kansas State
The skinny: Wecker faces a reasonably difficult transition from power forward to small forward in the WNBA, but I've yet to find anyone that doesn't think she can make it. While not overly athletic, this year's Senior CLASS Award winner can capably defend on the wing and has 3-point range. Wecker's best qualities might be intangible in nature, as was on display during her final collegiate game, played in Seattle during the NCAA Tournament. Wecker scored a game-high 29 points and rallied Kansas State to within a missed tying 3-point attempt of coming back against Vanderbilt. She is a tremendous competitor and a hard worker, qualities that have drawn a comparison to WNBA star Katie Smith. In terms of skills, however, they're different players; Wecker is a fine rebounder but not the kind of lethal perimeter gunner Smith is. Wecker may also be better with the basketball. Whatever team is lucky enough to land Wecker on Saturday won't have to worry about the small forward position for years to come.
The measurements: 6-2, 175
The skinny: Ely's transition from the post to the perimeter in the WNBA may not be as smooth as Wecker's. Thinking ahead, legendary Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt played Ely at small forward much of the early part of this season, but moved her back to the four later in the year when Ely struggled with the transition. Ely's rebounding average went down from 8.0 to 7.0 per game, while her shooting percentage dropped from 48.1% to 45.6%. At 6-2, Ely will have to play on the perimeter in the WNBA, though she will have the opportunity to use her post skills against some smaller opponents. Given time, Ely should be able to adapt and thrive as a professional.
The measurements: 6-2, 180
College: UC Santa Barbara
The skinny: The Big West's Freshman of the Year and its Player of the Year as a senior with three all-conference first team picks in between, Mann started her NCAA strong and kept on developing. With frontcourt teammate Lindsay Taylor in the WNBA, Mann had a breakout senior season, averaging 19.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game (up from 13.6 and 6.6 as a junior). At 6-2, Mann too played mostly inside in college, but she's got some long-distance shooting ability, hitting 105 3s at a 33.8% clip over her career. Mann largely flew under the radar during her senior season, but has gained some buzz recently and could be a first-round pick.
The measurements: 6-0
The skinny: A pure scorer, Williams averaged better than 15 points per game her last three seasons at Illinois and ranking third in the Big Ten at 17.8 points per game as a senior. Williams did not get a lot of attention because the Illini only made the NCAA Tournament during her sophomore season, losing in the first round of the WNIT this year. A good athlete, Williams averaged better than a block and two steals per game as a senior, but will have to contribute more on the boards at the WNBA level. She has 3-point range, hitting 37 as a senior, but could stand to improve her outside shot. Depending on needs, Williams is definitely a first-round possibility.
The measurements: 5-10, 195
The skinny: It was difficult to pick from amongst several deserving candidates for the fifth stpot at small forward, but Earley got the nod for a very important reason: I saw her play in person when the Commodores were in Seattle, beating Kansas State and Wecker to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in this year's NCAA Tournament. Ann Meyers has made the comparison to Barnes for Earley, and it seems apt. At a listed 5-10, Earley is short enough that she's been listed as a guard at the WNBA level at some sources, but she was a powerful post presence in the NCAA, shooting a remarkable 63.9% from the field as a senior to lead the SEC. A backup her first two years at Vanderbilt and a role player as a junior, Earley had a huge senior campaign, averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and earning All-SEC First Team honors. She doesn’t have a perimeter game, not making a 3-pointer during her final seasons, and it could be a slow transition to the WNBA, but don't count Earley out.
|OTHER SMALL FORWARD PROSPECTS|
Nikita Bell, North Carolina - Another Defensive Player of the Year (2005, ACC) and a fine athlete.
Megan Mahoney, Kansas State - Out for 2005 after tearing Achilles tendon, but could merit a pick with an eye to 2006.
Anne O'Neil, Iowa State - Led NCAA in 3-point percentage (49.6%) as senior, but more than just a shooter.
Heather Schreiber, Texas - Versatile offensive player had disappointing senior season.