2012 WNBA Pre-Draft Conference Call: ESPN Analysts

Opening Statements

CAROLYN PECK: I think that there are some talented seniors in this class. But as the league has continued to evolve, the competition of making rosters has increased. I think there's some opportunities, especially with this being an Olympic year and some teams needing to fill some spots in the absence of a few players.

There have also been some injuries like Penny Taylor not being able to be available for Phoenix. And so there could be an opportunity there, as well. It just continues to make the league better.

You know, each year, we have seen the competition and the play on the court improve, and I think it's because of the preparation that the young college athletes have received in college, and as they move on to compete at the next level.

REBECCA LOBO: Yes, specifically for this draft, I think everybody assumes that Nneka (Nnemkadi Ogwumike) is going to go to Los Angeles I think that would be a big surprise if she didn't.

But then it gets interesting because we don't know yet what Coach (Brian) Agler from Seattle is going to do with the No. 2 pick; and after what he chooses, obviously the other pieces will fall into play. You are looking at a group of three players who have the best chance to go at that No. 2 pick if he keeps it and doesn't trade it, and I think it's Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen (of Tennessee) and Shenise Johnson from Miami.

But then the rest of the draft is going to be interesting. It will be, at least the first round, based on particular needs for teams or best available athlete.

And then, you know, depending on who goes, there might be a kid who goes in the first round or if, you know, different players don't go ahead of her, she might get drafted early in the second round. It's just like every other draft in that regard but I think the first four players taken will probably be taken from that group of four that I mentioned.

Question and Answer Session

Q. I wanted to ask specifically, at the Miami Herald we are most interested in Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams…Riquna Williams, she might be more of a question mark partly because of the suspension; will that play any part in her draft status? Just wonder what you think of both of those players?

REBECCA LOBO: I think everyone thinks really, really highly of both players. Shenise Johnson as I mentioned could go as high as No. 2, you know, because of her versatility, her scoring ability, because of her good size and everything that she can do.

Riquna Williams is interesting, and because of what happened late in the season with her suspension I haven't gotten a great handle on how that will impact her. But talking to some of the coaches and GMs around the league, not talking about her specifically, but about players in general, often they bring up a good character kid, and I'm not saying that Riquna is not that. But I think it's something that they are thinking about.

That being said, she's going to be a first round draft pick, and she will most likely make the team and be playing in the WNBA this coming summer. Both of those players will be first round draft picks and Shenise will definitely be on a roster and I would be very surprised if Riquna is not.

CAROLYN PECK: Shenise Johnson, you know, in looking at everything, I agree with Rebecca that Nnemkadi would probably be taken first. But the versatility that Shenise Johnson brings, and with her size, and her scoring ability, her ball handling ability, the way that she plays basket, plays defense; and I like her court maturity in different situations and her leadership throughout the season, I saw that on a consistent basis and that's got to be very attractive to every GM and coach in the WNBA.

When it comes to Riquna Williams, you look at different players that maybe have had some issues in college. You take Plenette Pierson, for instance; she was able to mature and be a great player in the WNBA.

And I think surrounded in the right situations, and understanding the guidelines that she would follow in order to play in the league, this is now a professional career of what you're paid to do. And a lot of that that helps a lot of players to mature quickly, because she's very talented. She can score; a fierce competitor; high energy, which is attractive in the WNBA.


Q. You watched the NCAA Tournament. Was there anybody who improved in your estimation with their play during the Tournament?

CAROLYN PECK: I don't know if Nnemkadi could improve her stock any more than where it is, but she had a phenomenal season all year long. I think a post player Sasha Goodlett at Georgia Tech, she helped her stock in the ACC Tournament and then on in the NCAA, and throughout the year, really with her ability to get in better shape. I think that helped her.

We were able to see Julie Wojta with Green Bay, not on television that often, yet we were able to see her. Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters, both getting Notre Dame all the way back to the Finals.

REBECCA LOBO: There wasn't any player who improved their stock like Courtney Vandersloot last year, for example, and there wasn't anyone who went kind of from being out of the conscious of mainstream basketball fan and all of a sudden everybody knew what she could do and then her stock skyrocketed.

I agree with Carolyn, though. The kids from Notre Dame, and Julie Wojta. But I think coaches who are out there scouting all winter long were aware of those players.

But yeah, at least I can't think of any right now that had any kind of a meteoric rise like Vandersloot last year.


Q. Just wondering what you guys thought of Samantha Prahalis, especially you, Rebecca, since you didn't mention her in the Top 4.

REBECCA LOBO: Well, she's probably the No. 1 point guard on the board. Samantha is a terrific player, and she will get drafted in the first round, and be on a roster this year. I don't know that she would go to one of those first fours teams. Although maybe she would go to Tulsa.

But Samantha is a terrific player who can score the basketball, who can pass the basketball and just a lot of fun to watch. You wonder what would happen for a player like that if she ended up in Phoenix.

But you know, not to take anything away from any of the four that I didn't mention.

CAROLYN PECK: I agree with Rebecca. Samantha, in watching her in college, she's able to make reads and next level moves that a lot of times you don't see until guards get in the WNBA; like splitting greens or getting past defenders with certain moves. She's got a terrific court vision that I think would make her very attractive.


Q. Just wondering if you could maybe go into a little bit more depth of what Devereaux Peters from Notre Dame could bring to a WNBA team?

REBECCA LOBO: I have loved Devereaux Peters' game. I think that one thing that hurt her from not being mentioned in the Top 4 that I said is just her injury history.

But she is a high energy rebounder. There was a stretch this year from the Tennessee game in mid January until the BIG EAST Tournament where she was averaging 14 points, 14 rebounds and I think it was five blocks in that stretch of 12 or 13 games, which was phenomenal.

Her rebounding will translate to the WNBA. I think she is attractive because she can defend around the perimeter. And pro coaches like to have the flexibility of switching screens, even with their bigs; she brings that. She's a very good passer from the high post. You know, one thing she needs to improve on is the consistency in her foul line jump shot and her ability to consistently score on the block.

But a terrific offensive rebounder, rebounder in general, very good defender. She's a player who if she stays healthy, which of course because of her history is a question, with the grueling schedule that takes place in the WNBA of back to backs or this year, seems like there's a game every other day in August; she can be a very, very good pro.

CAROLYN PECK: To add to what Rebecca said, I think that what would make Devereaux Peters a great pro or good for any team on their roster, is No. 1, different from college. She doesn't have to worry about foul trouble. She can come in and just play hard.

And also, she is a post player who runs the floor. And as we have seen, the WNBA game has gotten faster. To have she's a complementary post, had another strong rebounder on her team; the ability for her to get out and run the floor. And coming from the Notre Dame system that is built a lot around making reads, making plays, as opposed to running plays, but playing the game; I think that she's got that basketball knowledge.


Q. Tulsa had hoped to win the lottery and have the first pick, and they have the No. 4 pick now. Is there a player at No. 4 who can help that franchise make kind of a significant jump next year, and if so, who might that player be?

REBECCA LOBO: There's definitely a lot of talented players who will be available at No. 4, without question. And because Tulsa does have more needs than most of the other teams, they can take the best available there and they will get a player that will help them. Especially with the fact that (Liz) Cambage won't be able to join the team until after the Olympic break; I don't necessarily know that that player that they get at No. 4, or even a player that they got at No. 1, would get them into the playoffs in the Western Conference.

But, you know, they have got a terrific new coach there, and he'll have an opportunity to continue to build this team. And in complete candor, it would not be all of if they were not in the playoffs and it would not be all of if they were in the lottery next year, because next year's draft is going to be a pretty special one.

CAROLYN PECK: I think the biggest change that Tulsa made this year, as Rebecca referred to, is Coach Kloppenburg; and he was extremely instrumental in implementing the defense that Indiana plays. He relates to players and is great with player development. There are I think four players, and I think that their biggest need is either scoring in the perimeter or getting a good post player. As Rebecca mentioned Cambage won't be back until after the Olympics.

But the moves that they have made in getting a Temeka Johnson to run your point will help. That will complement the inside game. You have Tiffany Jackson; they acquired Jennifer Lacy.

And I think that that I think that you're going to see a much improved Tulsa game. You've got an experienced coach that has experienced success, especially with his longevity that he had in Indiana. And in order to compete, start and building with the defense and I think he's got some good parts there. They are going to need a scorer.


Q. You talked about Shenise Johnson earlier, I guess what current or former WNBA player would you compare her to with that versatility?

REBECCA LOBO: Carolyn, I don't have any that come to mind right away, do you?

CAROLYN PECK: I believe a combination of former players that I think more time in the ABL, just briefly in the WNBA, was Teresa Edwards, because of her size. And then with her scoring ability, a little bit of a Cheryl Swoops.

There are parts of her game, of their game that she has; that she doesn't have. But I think if you wanted to try to compare what you would say if you saw Shenise Johnson on the floor, you've got her size with point guard ability, court sense, savvy, that would have to have the respect of any team she came against defensively, because of the versatility of what she had offensively.


Q. I was wondering if you could assess Natalie Novosel's game, her chances and how badly was her stock hurt by the performance against Baylor in the championship game?

REBECCA LOBO: I love Natalie Novosel's game, and I've said that repeatedly when I've covered them. She just has a toughness about her. And not only can she shoot the three and has a mid range game, but she can get to the free throw line and she's just a tough, tough kid.

And when you talk to coaches and GMs about her, they mention that toughness. And I have not heard one coach or GM mention the Championship game. This kid has consistently performed at a high level in big games and big moments. I don't think that one poor shooting performance is going to hurt her draft status to be completely honest with you. I think she's a player who could probably go somewhere between 9 and 12 the first round.

But yeah, I don't think that that one poor shooting performance because it wasn't an all around bad performance. She got to the free throw line a little bit. Her shot wasn't there. But she's had other big moments, big games, where she's been terrific. She's just got a toughness about her that I think everyone respects and would like to have on their team.


Q. How difficult do you think it's going to be for Julie Wojta who has really flourished at forward the last few years at Green Bay, having to move back to a guard position after she's drafted and whoever drafts her, how good of a chance do you think she has to actually make the roster?

CAROLYN PECK: I think it will depend, really, on who drafts her. Because I think that she would be a good complement to any team because of her basketball view; her court knowledge. She has a fantastic knack of being able to get in and create contact and get to the free throw line, and she has that perimeter threat of being able to score.

What I also like about Julie is her anticipation defensively; on ball defense, I don't know that she's necessarily going to be one of those players that's going to take the ball from you. But in a system that does a lot of trapping and shooting gaps off the ball, I think she's very smart there.

REBECCA LOBO: She will have to make the transition from the post to the perimeter, and that's the hardest transition to make going from the college to the WNBA, especially defensively. That will be a challenge.

But she's a good, tough player. She to me is similar to Natalie Novosel in the way they play and what they can bring. Granted, she's playing at a mid major, but she still has a hundred assists and a hundred steals on the season and can shoot 42 percent from the three point line, and good size at six foot; so she brings a lot.

Again it comes down to the best fit for every player and the team that drafts them. I mean, last year, we were in Bristol and had been waiting and watching Danielle Adams' face as she kept getting passed by and passed by. Well, she ended up in the perfect fit in San Antonio and she would not have had the year that she had most likely if she had gone anywhere else. That was just the right system for her.

So hopefully Julie will get taken to a place where she can fit in, and the first thing is making the roster, and then after that, you start worrying about playing time. But she is like Natalie, they just have something about them that can be special you and hope that they find the right home.


Q. The Lynx have five picks in the top 20 and seems like they don't have a lot of spots open on their roster. What do they need and what should they do with all those picks?

CAROLYN PECK: If it were me, I would try to trade as many as possible to try to get a high opportunity next year.

REBECCA LOBO: Yeah, that's without question. When you look at the Lynx roster, and it's a tribute to what they did last year and what Cheryl Reeve has done the last couple years there. They really don't have very many needs.

They have probably one roster spot that they are looking to fill; in an ideal world for them, they sign another big post players who can learn from Taj McWilliams Franklin, because even though she seems ageless, at some point she's going to retire from the league.

So I would think that that's what their No. 1 thing is that they will be looking for at their pick at the No. 3 spot. But yeah, what's going to happen with the rest of their picks, I don't know. But they will have a pretty great training camp though.


Q. Can give me an idea of what you think the league looks at in terms of Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson, pros and cons?

REBECCA LOBO: I'll take Glory. The pros of her game, people talk about her as being just relentless and they talk about her motor and how her motor is such a great motor, because she's constant energy, and terrific rebounder; good size; good length.

The negative to Glory's game is you don't know exactly what her strength is offensively; what is her go to move. What can she consistently hit, the free throw line jumper, the 15 footer, because she didn't have to do a lot of that at Tennessee. She did a lot of everything or a little bit of everything, but I know teams love her motor and just how hard she plays.

Reminds you a little bit of Swin Cash in college, just was a constant and relentless and needed to expand her offensive game once she got to the WNBA, and she's become a pretty terrific player. So I think, you know that might be a comparison -- can Glory become the type of player that Swin is now?

CAROLYN PECK: I'll take Stricklen. The value of Shekinna is her versatility. At Tennessee, she played one to four. And so she has had experience at all of those positions, and has done pretty well at all of them. And she has made it known when she was in college that she really didn't want to play that point guard position but she demonstrated that she could be very good at it.

She can shoot the three. She has the ability to make big shots in big moments. And her size is definitely attractive.

I think the question is, she was able to produce a lot in a lot of minutes at Tennessee. When she comes to the WNBA, if she doesn't play a lot of minutes, and plays versatile minutes, how productive will she be in those versatile minutes? She's shown that she can do it, but then, you know, there's been games like in the NCC tournament, where she didn't show up until the second half and in the WNBA you kind of don't have the time to play yourself into that situation.


Q. Is Julie the type of player that, first of all, I guess your opinions on where she might get drafted, and with the league she's in, is that do the other coaches in the WNBA know about her even though the type of conference she's in?

REBECCA LOBO: You know, from the people I've talked to, I've heard that she could go somewhere between 9 and 12 in the first round. You know, she can also go early in the second round but that's what I've heard. It's coaches and general managers jobs to know about every player that could potentially help their team in the WNBA.

I don't think the fact that she played at Green Bay or in a smaller conference, I don't think that hurts her in terms of coaches being aware of who she is and how she can play.

I think what the coaches don't have is they have not seen her consistently go against players from the power conferences.

So you know, how do her stats measure up to a player who is at a power conference consistently playing in the BIG EAST or the SEC or that type of thing, but the coaches and GMs are very aware of Julie and her game.

CAROLYN PECK: I would agree. And I think that people know about Julie because Green Bay has been great and that attracts a lot of attention from GMs and like Rebecca says, they go out and do their homework and assess teams and how she plays.

So I don't think it hurts her from a conference she played in.


Q. Almost the opposite question, you have Tiffany Hayes coming from not only a big conference but a great program, but she's also been a complementary player, is she going to fit in well in the WNBA and what skills does she bring where she doesn't necessarily have to be the go to player every night?

REBECCA LOBO: I think her experience being a complementary player is a good thing because that's what she's going to be is a complementary player. She has a lot of things you look for in a pro: she has got good size and she can get to the free throw line. She can pass the ball. She can rebound the ball. She's a high percentage field goal shooter and three point shooter.

You know, I think Tiffany is going to be a really good pro and the one criticism that she might have gotten at Connecticut is sometimes in big games, she's had some struggles and in the final hour she had some struggles. Well you know she's not going to need to carry a team in the WNBA and not going to need to be called upon to hit the big shot at the end of the game. There will be other players to do that.

I think she's going to be a really good pro and I think she's going to be a high draft pick.

CAROLYN PECK: I see it as an asset not being a star from a team and coming into the WNBA and having to be a supporting cast or coming off the bench. Tiffany knows that role and she's high energy. When she comes into games, she makes her presence felt.

REBECCA LOBO: And she has experience playing alongside WNBA All Stars, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles. So she knows what it's like to play with that level of talent.


Q. How much of a luxury is it for a club like Minnesota to be in the position that they are right now in that they have got pretty much their entire roster is solid, they are going into this draft day, they don't have to pick an impact player. They can find someone who can be a bench player and learn on the go here from a fantastic team. How much of a luxury is it for the Minnesota Lynx to be in on draft day?

REBECCA LOBO: Well, it's just a huge credit to Cheryl Reeve and what she's done as the GM there, because you generally don't get a draft, a lottery pick, unless you're really, really bad the year before. I mean, she's done a great job since she's gotten to Minnesota, stockpiling draft picks. The second round of this year's draft is an example of that.

But the fact that the WNBA Champion has the third pick is pretty impressive, and it's definitely a luxury that many other coaches would like to have.

CAROLYN PECK: I believe it's a luxury because of the consistency that she's going to be able to have from last year into this year, the same group of women all playing together. And like you pointed out, you can draft someone that can learn from the expectations; the experience that you're going to gain in practice.

So even drafting if there's that international player that's not going to come over this year, it doesn't hurt you if they didn't show up. You would just hold the rights to them going into next season.