The 2013 Draft features three game-changing prospects that could shape the WNBA landscape for many years.
One of the most important days on this year's WNBA calendar will actually take place the day before the playoffs start. That's because the fate of four franchises will be in the balance as the 2013 WNBA Draft Lottery takes place on Sept. 26.
The hype surrounding this year’s draft class – which includes three game-changing prospects in Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins – is at an all-time high as all three have the potential to immediately resurrect a franchise. The draft lottery will be held for the first time at ESPN in Bristol, Conn. during the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter.
The importance of the draft lottery cannot be overstated. In 2011, Minnesota selected Maya Moore with the No. 1 overall pick and the Lynx went on to win a championship her rookie year. Other notable No. 1 picks include Lauren Jackson (2001), Sue Bird (2002), Diana Taurasi (2004), Seimone Augustus (2006) and Candace Parker (2008).
With three rare talents seemingly capable of being stars in this league for quite some time set to enter the WNBA, this draft lottery could very well be a lucky team's first step to winning a championship. The outcome of this lottery -- which holds the hopes and dreams of the teams involved, their fans and the players themselves -- has the potential to shape the landscape of the WNBA for many years.
Below you will find bios -- including analysis from ESPN's women's basketball analyst Rebecca Lobo -- of the trio of emerging superstars that will be the prizes of this April's draft. Their list of accomplishments is already substantial despite the fact that they still have their senior years to play for their respective schools. The draft, then, will serve as a culmination of a college career and a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice for these aspiring pros. And each, while obviously blessed with great physical talents, also possesses a unique personality and back story off the court.
It's time for WNBA fans to meet some of the future stars of this league. Here they are.
Courtesy of Mark Campbell/UD Athletics Media Relations Photo
Hometown: Wilmington, Del.
Elena Delle Donne, the No. 1 recruit in the nation in 2008, became a household name after she left the University of Connecticut, where she had accepted a basketball scholarship, just days after arriving on campus and enrolling at the University of Delaware to play, of all things, volleyball. What may have seemed like a curious move to some, was an easy one for her. Delle Donne did it so she could be closer to her family, namely her sister Lizzie who is blind and deaf and suffers from autism and cerebral palsy.
After a year of trading in set shots for sets at the net, Delle Donne found her love for basketball again and the Delaware program has not been the same since. Last year, Delle Donne led Delaware -- or Delle-ware as some came to call it -- to a record-setting 31-2 season in which they went undefeated in the CAA and advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round, the first time the program earned a postseason victory.
The athletic 6-foot-5 guard/forward led the nation in scoring with 28.1 ppg and was a consensus first-team All-American last year. In the process, she became only the 15th women's player in NCAA Division I history to surpass the 900-point mark for a season.
A complete player, Delle Donne also led the Blue Hens in rebounds, blocks, steals, 3-pointers while ranking second on the team in assists.
Two time All-American
Former Scout.com No. 1 high school recruit
Accepted a basketball scholarship from UConn but enrolled at University of Delaware
Staying home kept her close to her sister, who is blind and deaf and suffers from autism and cerebral palsy
Led the nation in scoring in 2011 with 28.1 average
Has scored over 2000 points in her three seasons
Rebecca Lobo’s Take:
"I think any team would be happy to have her as well. I mean, because of her size at 6-5 and her skill, teams in the WNBA, if you can score, they like you, and then if you’re a big guard it’s great because you have so many big guards in the WNBA. She’s got a ton of potential and existing skill on the offensive end and she would definitely make a big impact. "
Courtesy of Matt Cashore/Notre Dame Athletics
School: Notre Dame
Hometown: South Bend, IND
Position: Point Guard
Diggins is one of the top point guard prospects in recent memory. A first-team All-American in 2012, Diggins has led the Fighting Irish to two straight Final Fours, including a loss to Brittney Griner’s Baylor squad in the 2012 NCAA Championship. The reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, Diggins became just the fourth NCAA Division I player in the past decade to register 600 points, 200 assists and 100 steals in a single season.
This summer, Diggins proved she can be successful on any court as she earned gold at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship in Greece, her fifth gold medal representing USA Basketball.
In addition to her star power on the court, the Indiana native is already one of the most popular women’s basketball players in the world, professional or otherwise, as she already has over 260,000 followers on Twitter.
Led her Notre Dame to back-to-back NCAA championship games
Averaged 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in 2011
2012 Big East Player of the Year
Recipient of the 2012 Nancy Lieberman point guard award, which honors the nation's top collegiate point guard
2012 BET Award nominees for Sportswoman of the Year (alongside Brittney Griner, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Candace Parker)
2012 summer intern at espnW
Rebecca Lobo’s Take:
"Not only has she produced against really good competition, but she seems to elevate her game when it matters the most. When you look at her sophomore year and what she did in (Notre Dame's) run through the NCAA Tournament, she upped all of her numbers and just comes to play and seems to really like the big stage. The tougher, the bigger the moment, the more she enjoys it and I think she just has the right mentality for the WNBA. You can see her as player who with back-to-backs or West coast trips or whatever it is, just has the mental capacity to produce and not let distractions get in her way."
Courtesy of Getty Images
Hometown: Houston, Texas
When asked why there was so much hype about Brittney Griner, Rebecca Lobo may have summed it up best in only 10 words. -- "because there’s no other player like her in the world," Lobo said.
The 6-foot-8 center is the definition of a unique talent and she is as prized a prospect that has ever entered the WNBA Draft. Griner led Baylor to a 40-0 record -- the first team to ever win 40 games in a single season -- and a national title in 2012.
She swept the national player of the year awards after she averaged 23.2 points and 9.5 rebounds while leading the nation in blocked shots (206). The Houston native is just 34 rebounds shy of becoming the first player in NCAA history to score 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds and reject over 500 shots.
Griner's impact will be felt the most on the defensive end. She can single-handedly change the way an opposing team runs its offense. As proof, she needs just 65 more blocks to become the NCAA's top shot blocker.
2012 AP Player of the Year
Arm-span of 86 inches
Averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.2 (nation high) blocks per game in 2011-12
Led Baylor to perfect 40-0 season in 2011-12
First NCAA player to score more than 2000 points with 500 blocked shots
65 blocks away from becoming all-time leader in NCAA history
2012 BET Award nominee for Sportswoman of the Year (alongside Skylar Diggins, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Candace Parker)
Rebecca Lobo’s Take:
"She completely changes a game on the defensive end. There’s never been anyone like her that we’ve seen in a draft and I wonder how long it will be before we see anybody else who has the skillset she has. I don’t think it’s very often you get a completely unique player – it just doesn’t happen. So, I think that’s why she is so coveted."
Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.