Dec. 3 --
When the Draft Class of 2004 makes its debut at a WNBA arena near you next May, what you could be seeing from those players could be called "Lisa Leslie
With a powerful game on the blocks and a graceful game on the perimeter, Leslie, the Sparks' 6-5 center and two-time WNBA Finals MVP, has shown a generation of young players that being tall doesn't mean one must be a one-dimensional basketball player.
Players such as Ruth Riley and Lisa Leslie have influenced a new generation of multi-dimensional post players.|
Jesse D. Garrabrant
"Back in the early days, I don't think women were comfortable with being tall," said Reneť Brown, WNBA Vice President of Player Personnel. "A lot of post players, if you were 6-5, you just stayed inside. But Lisa, Tina Thompson
, Lauren Jackson
and Ruth Riley
are all players who are multi-dimensional. It shows younger players that your game cannot be one dimensional at the next level.
"A lot of post players have watched Lisa for so long that they know they need to develop other skills."
With Diana Taurasi and Alana Beard, the six teams in Wednesday's WNBA Draft Lottery , will have plenty of versatile players of all sizes to choose from on draft day. Brown evaluated some of the more prominent seniors in the Class of 2004 and we placed them in order, from tallest to shortest.
Iciss Tillis, Duke, C, 6-5
"A younger version of Lisa Leslie because of her versatility. She loves to shoot the three. When you find a 6-5 player who loves to shoot the three, it creates mismatches for the defenses. She forces defenses to adjust. But she has the ability to play with her back to the basket.
"She's a strong rebounder and she can handle the ball. Iciss will need to get used to more physical contact, get on that block, call for the ball and show them she can score there, because right now, she'd rather face up than post up."
Nicole Ohlde, Kansas State, C, 6-4
"Athletic. What I like about Nicole is she's mobile. She can run the floor. She can make great decisions with the ball. I think she's done a good job, she has the skills to play at the next level."
Vanessa Hayden, Florida, C, 6-4
"There's a player that people may forget about, that I think she could be the best center in the class and that's Vanessa Hayden from Florida. At 6-4, 230, she can run the floor. Right now, she has a pro body. I think a lot of teams will be watching her progress this year.
"We have a former WNBA coach, Carolyn Peck, there. I think Carolyn will help her develop. Her junior year, she was a hurt for a while. Her strengths are her size, her mobility, she can finish with both hands on the block and she has quick moves on the block. She's a true center and it's really hard to find true centers."
Rebekkah Brunson, Georgetown, F, 6-3
"Rebekkah is extremely athletic. If I had to compare her to anyone, she's like Tina Thompson. She can score and she's a fierce rebounder. And she's just so versatile. I think players like Rebekkah have had a chance to watch players like Tina and kind of copy."
Nicole Powell, Stanford, F, 6-1
"She's one of the most versatile players coming out in this class. She's efficient in so many different skills. She can pass, she can shoot, she can rebound, she can shoot the three, post you up, put it on the floor. There are so many things Nicole does well. As a 6-1 guard-forward, she can do many things. If you need her to play the 1 (point guard), she can play the 1. If you need her to play the 3 (small forward), she can do that. Nice player."
Kelly Mazzante, Penn State, G, 6-0
"Has one of the quickest releases on her shot I have ever seen. She gets her shot off, but what she will need to do at the next level is create her own shot. Her ability to catch and shoot is amazing, but on the next level, she'll need to be able to catch and create."
Chandi Jones, Houston, F-G, 5-11
"She knows how to put points on the board. She has confidence. Some people shoot, some people score. She's a scorer. She's a big guard and that's going to work for her, coming in as a big guard. I think she's a WNBA talent."
Shereka Wright, Purdue, G, 5-10
"She's just an athlete. She has the ability to put it on the floor to create for herself. She can create, pull-up and hit a three."
Lindsey Whalen, Minnesota, G, 5-8
"She's very deceptive. If I had to compare her to someone, I would compare her to Becky Hammon
. She can get her shot off. She's a fierce competitor."