2006 Center Prospects
While other players were more touted entering the Draft and other players played better as rookies, it's possible that the member of the 2005 Draft class with the biggest long-term impact - literally and figuratively - will be 6-8 San Antonio center Katie Feenstra. Taken eighth out of Liberty by Connecticut as part of a pre-arranged deal for Margo Dydek, Feenstra was figured for a steep learning curve given the enormous leap in competition. But Feenstra played well from day one and ended up second amongst rookies in scoring (8.8 ppg) and tops in rebounding (5.1) and in blocked shots (1.3). The future looks very bright for Feenstra, and she's not alone. Kara Braxton, taken seventh by Detroit, might have been the most talented player in the Draft and joined Feenstra on the All-Rookie team. Sancho Lyttle, the fifth pick, got little time behind All-Star Michelle Snow, but showed promise in Houston.
Alas, this year's crop of posts is unlikely to have anywhere near the same impact as last year's group. Some projections have no centers being taken in the first round, and it's considered unlikely that any is selected in the top eight picks. With few teams having a pressing need for size, centers will likely be something of an afterthought tomorrow in Boston.
Storm Outlook: The Seattle Times reported this morning that Storm center Suzy Batkovic will not return to the team for 2006 because of the World Championship and her commitment to the Australian Opals. While forwards Lauren Jackson and Wendy Palmer can certainly play together up front, the Storm could use more size in the middle. There will probably be better combinations of talent and need in the first round, but the Storm could add a center at some point in the Draft.
The measurements: 6-5
The skinny: There seems to be a fairly strong consensus that Fluker is the top post available this year, though she can't compare to the top three prospects from last year. At 6-5, Fluker has the height desired of a WNBA center, but she was never a star at Tennessee. Fluker peaked at 9.6 points per game last year as a senior (she did shoot an excellent 54.7%), and grabbed only 9.0 rebounds per 40 minutes, which is too low for a center. Fluker can block shots, blocking 1.7 per 40 minutes as a junior before dropping off in her final season. Fluker's name has been tied to Indiana since the Fever moved up by trading their only post player over 6-2, Kelly Schumacher, to New York.
The measurements: 6-7
College: Western Illinois
The skinny: This year's Feenstra? Like the Silver Stars center, Teilane is a super-tall (6-7) center from a smaller conference (Mid-Continent) where she dominated. Teilane averaged 16.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocks as a senior, similar to Feenstra's numbers at Liberty (though Feenstra did shoot 67.1% to Teilane's 47.8%). The comparison doesn't hold up in terms of style, as Teilane, a native of Latvia, is a more versatile player who added 3.2 assists per game and is comfortable at the high post. Strength may be something of an issue, and the step up in level of play is tremendous, but Teilane held her own in yesterday's Pre-Draft Camp and has been invited to the Draft, a good sign for her stock.
The measurements: 6-2
The skinny: Smith looms as one of tomorrow's biggest question marks. There is little question about her talent after Smith averaged a double-double each of her last three seasons at DePaul, earning All-America honors all three years. The question, then, is not whether the WNBA is interested in Smith but whether she is interested in the WNBA. "I'm keeping my options open," she told the San Antonio Express-News. "The WNBA hasn't really been a No. 1 goal of mine, but I know it's something within reach." Smith is studying Elementary Education, and could put being a teacher ahead of being a player. That will likely drop her out of the first round, but some team could grab Smith later on hoping to talk her into the WNBA.
The measurements: 6-3, 205
The skinny: If you haven't seen Williams play, you'll get your last chance tonight when she and the Duke Blue Devils take on Maryland in the NCAA Tournament finale. Williams has averaged 11.2 ppg and 6.8 rpg during the Tournament, helping Duke come within one game of its first title. The daughter of famous musician Chubby Checker, Williams has averaged 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds for the season. Williams is solidly built and can create space in the paint. She's also got soft touch, allowing her to shoot 64.0% from the field this season. She may struggle on defense in the WNBA because she's short for a center and quickness is an issue at power forward, but Williams will get a chance.
The measurements: 6-3
College: Arizona State
The skinny: Kovesdy's calling card is her ability to make shots. As a junior, she set a Pac-10 record by shooting 61.3% from the field, and she followed that up by shooting 60.0% as a senior. In a large rotation where nine Sun Devils averaged at least 10 minutes per game, Kovesdy's per-game averages (12.8 points, 6.6 rebounds) don't really do her justice. Per 40 minutes, she averaged 20.7 points and 10.7 rebounds, solid marks. Kovesdy blocked just seven shots all season, so defense isn't a strength, but look for her to have her name called tomorrow.
|OTHER CENTER PROSPECTS|
Christelle N'Garsanet, Missouri - Ivory Coast native was All-Big-12 Second Teamer, averaged 8.7 blocks.
Marita Payne, Auburn - 6-5 Aussie led the NCAA with eye-popping 5.0 blocks per game in 2004-05.
Tiffany Stansbury, North Carolina State - Daughter of former NBA Slam Dunk Champ Terrence Stansbury averaged 11.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg in two years with Wolfpack.
Brittany Wilkins, Iowa State - Blossomed as senior, averaging 16.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.