In one of the deepest drafts in WNBA history, the point guard position is no exception. With big-name stars like Candice Wiggins and Matee Ajavon likely to be chosen near the top of the first round, there are several who will no doubt shape the future of the WNBA for years to come.
But this year's draft class is also full of true point guards who are true leaders and floor generals: players like Sharnee' Zoll from the University of Virginia.
Never a prolific scorer under legendary UVa. coach Debbie Ryan, Zoll has averaged nearly 6.0 assists per game in her four years in Charlottesville and looks to bring that passer's mentality to a WNBA locker room in 2008.
WNBA.com spoke with one of the draft's top point guards at the Pre-Draft Camp in Tampa, where she discussed her early cockiness, her respect for Dawn Staley and her ability to stay inside the lines while coloring before games.
WNBA.com: What have you been up to since the end of your season?
Zoll: "I took a couple of days off to reflect on my career and… basically to be depressed (laughs). Yeah, I'm depressed to see the end of my college career."
WNBA.com: How do you make that transition from losing in the NCAA Tournament and seeing the end of your college career to getting the invitation to come to the WNBA's Pre-Draft Camp and trying to impress the pro coaches and GMs here?
Zoll: "I've talked to some people who have been through it. Again, I was pretty much in my room for three straight days after we lost to Old Dominion… I wasn't taking phone calls or anything. But then I realized that I can't sit there in my room. The game is over and I have to move on.
"My coach Debbie Ryan also gave me a lot of wisdom about how I had to get back out here on the court and keep playing, because this is an amazing opportunity and it's all about taking this next step in my life. I'm not really leaving the university… I'm not really moving on. I'm just going somewhere else for a little while. I'll be back and I'm never really leaving the family. And that made me feel a lot better."
WNBA.com: What are your fondest memories of your time at UVa.?
Zoll: "Most of them surround things related to Coach's milestones: her 600th win, her being inducted into the Hall of Fame and me breaking Dawn Staley's assist record.
"Being there also allowed me to get to know people I wouldn't ever have gotten to know. There are girls on my team who like to play the guitar, who like country music… you know, those kinds of things… They're people I might never have gotten to know if they weren't on my team. And now we're the best of friends."
WNBA.com: Breaking Dawn Staley's assist record at Virginia must have had some special significance for you, especially being from Philadelphia originally, right?
Zoll: "Oh yeah, it was huge. The day after I broke her record, Dawn actually left me a message on my voicemail. She called when I was asleep. And of course, I didn't have her number stored in my phone or anything. Then I listened to my voicemail, and I was absolutely giddy. I was like a 5-year-old kid… I called my parents all frantic. But then I realized, 'Oh man, I need to call her back now.' So I call her back and I'm kind of praying to get voicemail, because I know I'm gonna say something stupid if I actually talk to her. I had no idea what I was gonna say. But I did get her voicemail and I don't even remember what I said, but I must have sounded like the biggest groupie ever!
"'Yeah, um, this is Sharnee'. I just really wanted to thank you for the call. It, um, really made my day.' I swear, I sounded like the biggest groupie.
"Then afterwards, I called my dad almost in tears for how bad I must have sounded on the phone. I left my message and I couldn't take it back, and I was out of my mind… so my dad said I should call her back and leave another message. 'No way,' I said, 'then I'll really sound like a stalker.'
"But it was a humbling experience for me. I like to talk and I'm never at a loss for words. There have been only two times in my life when I've been speechless: when I met Allen Iverson and when I met Dawn Staley, later on. So breaking Dawn's record was a huge achievement for me."
WNBA.com: Turning more to your skills on the court, what do you feel are the biggest positives you'd bring to the WNBA?
Zoll: "Leadership is a big thing. Not a lot of people can be leaders, either vocally or by example out on the court, and I think I do both pretty well both on and off the court.
"I've been through a lot with Coach Ryan and with USA Basketball, and I think I'm a selfless player. I like to pass the ball. I'm not a point guard who's always looking to get mine or score. I'm looking to make the people around me better. If anything, I'll get yelled at for NOT shooting the ball.
"So any team that needs somebody to come in and run their system and understand and evaluate how to make that system work best, I can do that."
WNBA.com: What do feel that you really need to work on to improve your game and take it to the next level?
Zoll: "I need to recognize when it makes the most sense for me to shoot the ball. Like I said, I love to pass the ball and that's what I've been doing my whole life. But there are times when I'm gonna have to shoot to keep the defense honest. Over my four years at Virginia, I've progressively done a better job of knowing when to shoot, usually with Coach Ryan… um… pointing it out to me… all the time (laughs). But being able to be a great point guard and playmaker, you also have to know when to call your own number and when it's up to you to hit the open shot."
WNBA.com: Are you a WNBA fan? Are there teams or players you play special attention to?
Zoll: "Yeah, I watch the Mystics when I can because they're fairly close in D.C. But the team I follow the most is Sacramento. Our director of basketball operations (Erin Batth) played there and Jenny Boucek, another UVa. Person, is the coach. Jenny is like a big sister to me, so I definitely follow them pretty closely."
WNBA.com: Is there a team that you think you'd fit in really nicely with?
Zoll: "No, any team would be great. Any team that wants to pick up a point guard."
WNBA.com: Are there any players in the WNBA who you're really looking forward to meeting or playing against?
Zoll: "Ticha Penicheiro is at the top of the list, probably. I used to love watching her play, and I've modeled my game after hers. Coach Boucek tells me stories about her all the time."
WNBA.com: What would you say is your best ever on-court moment?
Zoll: "Breaking Dawn's record. It had to be. Aside from all of the team goals I had in going to Charlottesville, breaking her record was the only real goal I set for myself personally. There were a lot of people who thought I was this little, cocky kid coming into college there and writing the number 729 on my shoes. They were like, 'Come on, you're kidding… You're not gonna break Dawn's assist record! You're too cocky. Sweet dreams, freshman! Be reasonable, kid. Get outta here!' So actually being able to do it was just crazy."
WNBA.com: Do you have any pregame rituals?
Zoll: "I color. I started it my freshman year, because I get really nervous before games. Coach Ryan suggested that I start coloring, just to keep myself focused on something but to lessen the nervousness, so I sit there before every game, listen to my iPod and color like a little kid. I have coloring books, I have 96 Crayola crayons, I have princess coloring books and I'm not ashamed of it (laughs). I actually have some coloring books back in my room, yes."
WNBA.com: What about after basketball? Have you given any thought to what you might want to do?
Zoll: "I want to coach, definitely."
WNBA.com: What are you studying in school?
Zoll: "I studied psychology."
WNBA.com: Oh, wow… that will definitely help you in coaching, eh?
Zoll: "Yeah, a lot! A lot! Being a point guard and a coach out on the floor… and being able to see things from all angles… well, I think that being a coach would be a pretty easy transition. I love being on the sidelines when other people are playing and being able to call the play in the huddle and seeing it work perfectly out on the court. Like, 'Yeah, I called that play… :' I get a lot of satisfaction out of that."
WNBA.com: What's the best piece of advice you ever received, whether on or off the court?
Zoll: "Keep God first in your life and just work hard for what you want. People are going to tell you that you can't do things. If you're winning, people are gonna love you. If you're losing, they're gonna hate you. But as long as you keep God first and realize all your hard work will pay off someday, you'll be fine."