Scouting the Top College Seniors with the WNBA Player Personnel Department
Evaluating the Top Prospects
November 18 - Okay, so the Class of 2005 may not have the same star power or name recognition as the Class of 2004. Yet.
But that does not mean that these seniors are pretenders. In fact, women's college basketball is still overflowing with talent and the Class of '05 is ready to stand on its own and prove itself. Of course, with a full season of college basketball ahead of them, it is difficult to predict just how things will play out.
The WNBA Player Personnel Department has been watching all of the college seniors since their first few seasons and will attend even more games and watch thousands of hours tape all the way up to the 2005 WNBA Draft. As the season gets underway, ReneÚ Brown, Senior Vice President, WNBA Player Personnel, and Angela Taylor, Director, WNBA Player Personnel, will be keeping an especially close eye on the following young women:
Most Likely to Make an Impact as a Rookie in the WNBA:
Jacqueline Batteast, Notre Dame, power forward:
"Several magazines and experts have tabbed her as the 2004-05 Preseason Player of the Year, which may or may not be a surprise depending on who you ask. She is a versatile athlete, and when she utilizes her athleticism, is a very effective player who is difficult to defend. She followed a superb freshman year with somewhat of a sophomore slump, but caught several scouts' attention during the 2003-04 season as she further developed her perimeter skills and demonstrated an ability to score on the low block as well as from the perimeter. She now seems much more comfortable playing both the small forward and power forward positions. She can score from the perimeter, can put the ball on the floor, grabs rebounds and is very active - a presence on both ends of the floor. Coaches would like to see her perform as consistently as she did during the 2004 NCAA Tournament in which she put up some big numbers. This is her year and the national attention will be on her."
Kendra Wecker, Kansas State, small forward:
"Ask anyone who has had the opportunity to watch Wecker play and they will say that her abilities are reminiscent of a perennial WNBA All-Starů Minnesota's Katie Smith. She is an ultimate competitor who hates to lose. Wecker is tough mentally and physically and is willing to play any position she needs to play (from point to post) to help her team win. She may not be as athletic as others at her position, but this kid makes up for it with her competitiveness and intensity. She can shoot the 3-pointer, puts the ball on the floor and has one of the best pull-up jumpers in the women's game. She has a great all-around "tween" game, whether she needs to play outside or inside, she just gets it done. The true test for Wecker will be leading K-State back to the NCAA tournament without Nicole Ohlde relieving the pressure, but everyone will be watching her."
Janel McCarville, Minnesota, power forward:
"She is one of the underclassmen who received an enormous amount publicity going into the offseason after Minnesota's cinderella run to the NCAA Final Four. At a time when the "old-school" traditional low-block players are few and far between, she is probably one of the few remaining big post players out there who plays with her back to the basket. But don't let that fool you. McCarville's mobility is improving every year and that allows her to be more effective facing up, finishing off the dribble, and running the floor in transition. She has great hands, excellent footwork, and is a great passer. She can score off the dribble, in the high post and on the low block. She is starting the season on the bench with a broken hand, so it will be interesting to see how that affects her timing once she returns to the court. She will also be without Lindsay Whalen, her former point guard & one of the best passers in the women's game, so the jury is still somewhat out until she proves that she can step into the leadership role and fill Whalen's shoes."
Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers, shooting guard:
"We will all have to wait to see what Cappie brings to the table for the 2004-05 since she is out until after Christmas. One thing we all know is that she is a great scorer. Pondexter could be one of the best 1-on-1 players in this senior class. She'll probably see several double-teams throughout the course of the season, so it will be important to see if she has continued to improve the consistency of her long & mid-range jumper. She hasn't had to rely too much on her jumper in the past because she has such a quick first step, but that will be key to her effectiveness at the next level. Luckily for Rutgers' fans, she knows how to put on a show. She plays with some flare and style, a lot like Nikki Teasley."
Shyra Ely, Tennessee, small forward:
"One of the few underclassmen to make the Kodak All-America team last season, Ely has just been and done everything for Tennessee the past few years and now she has more help from the top ranked 2004 recruiting class, so it will be interesting to see what role she takes on this season. She is a phenomenal athlete with a quick first step whose leaping ability allows her to rebound at both ends of the court. She is also one of those in-between forwards who continues to add something new to her repertoire every season. Her ball-handling skills, her range and her scoring have all improved, but in order for her to succeed at the next level, she has to continue to improve her perimeter skills. Ely's competitive fire and pure basketball instinct will continue to drive her as she tries to take the Lady Vols back to the Final Four in Indianapolis, her hometown."
More Potential High-Impact Rookies in 2005:
Tan White, Mississippi State, shooting guard:
"Although she plays in a powerful conference with teams (like Tennessee) that seem to dominate every year, she is a player that very few people have heard about, but she is a true talent. Since her freshman season when she played alongside one of the NCAA's most prolific scorers in LaToya Thomas, White has proved that she too is an adept scorer. She may be asked to play some point later in her career, but there is no doubt that she can score from anywhere on the court. In transition, off the dribble, pulling up in front of a help-side post, hitting the crucial 3. She will even try and post up a smaller guard. You name it, this young lady can do it."
Temeka Johnson, LSU, point guard:
"Before you see her play, the first thing that stands out about Temeka is her size. Standing just 5'3" many may think that she will be too small to play at the next level, but a few things a stat sheet can't tell you about Johnson are the size of her heart, passion, and knowledge of the game. Already having graduated from LSU, she could have come out last year but chose to stay in college for another chance to take the championship trophy back to Baton Rouge. Unless you've seen her play everyday, one may think that she is simply a passer, but what Temeka has continued to develop is a perimeter game. Her ability to pick & choose her spots when she needs to take (and hit) that jumper will be key to helping her team succeed this season. When in sync, the backcourt tandem of Johnson and junior Seimone Augustus are a joy to watch. Temeka is the consummate point guard, she puts her teammates in the right position, gets them the ball where/when they can score, and is an extension of the head coach on the floor."
Sandora Irvin, TCU, power forward:
"The niece of Dallas Cowboys' football great Michael Irvin, many may not have known much about how well her junior season was going until T.C.U. played Temple on ESPN during the NCAA Tournament last season. She is very active defensively, an excellent shot blocker, has great anticipation and gets in passing lanes. An effective low block player in the past, her offense has also evolved and is she is now much more comfortable facing up to the basket. She has been putting up numbers since her freshman year, but has yet to prove that she can consistently hit the outside jumper. She can only get better and should be in for another great year."
Tanisha Wright, Penn State, shooting guard:
"A really intriguing player, Wright isn't necessarily the best athlete in the class, but she just gets it done. She is totally the type of player you can count on to make a big play whether offensively or defensively. She is also very strong and can still score despite taking a hit from a defender. Her perimeter game is the area that she can work on the most. But again, she will be the one to hit a big shot or grab a big rebound. With the departure of NCAA scoring leader Kelly Mazzante, Wright will have several more opportunities to score this season and the Nittany Lions success will depend on her ability to hit them."
Loree Moore, Tennessee, point guard:
"She is a big guard and WNBA coaches like big guards (i.e. Ticha Penicheiro, Nikki Teasley, Sue Bird), but she also has quickness and strength. How high Moore goes in the April draft will depend on how she comes back from the knee injury that ended her junior campaign. She has been developing her offensive game and can definitely beat defenders off the dribble, but the question with her is whether she can score off the pass and beyond the 3-pt arc. Since her high school days back in Southern California, she has had a scorer's mentality and didn't always have to be the leader of her team, but she successfully stepped right into that role after Kara Lawson's departure. Whether she can continue to evolve as a point guard, a leader, and a consistent offensive threat will be the question. We think she will."
Best of the Rest (listed alphabetically):
Ashley Battle, Connecticut, shooting guard:
"She is a raw athlete as well, and she will have to play a bigger role in the offense this year. Over her career, Coach Auriemma has continued to find a way to allow Battle to play her style of basketball. As soon as she steps on the floor, it is almost automatic that she will make a big play whether it is with a key defensive stop, a steal, or by leaping over her defender for a rebound and a putback. She runs the floor like no one else, gets key rebounds, and brings intensity. That is why many are intrigued by her."
Jamie Carey, Texas, point guard:
"Carey is a prototypical point guard who a lot of coaches were asking about last year. It is very difficult to find an individual who brings the skills she does to the table. Similar to Temeka Johnson, Carey's value to the Longhorns may not show up in the stat sheet. What she does starts in pre-season practice, which is motivate her teammates, lead by example, and play with a pure passion for the game. She had some problems with concussions in the past and wasn't even starting towards the end of last season, but she is the very definition of what you want a point guard to be. She is a leader on the court and gets everyone involved. What you do see in the stats sheets from Carey is her ability to thread the needle with pinpoint passes to open teammates and to hits big shots (many from well beyond the arc)."
Dionnah Jackson, Oklahoma, shooting guard:
"As someone who can put the ball in the basketball from anywhere, she is more of a scorer than a point guard, but she will have to demonstrate an ability to play some minutes at the point. Playing in a very competitive Big 12 Conference, Jackson has stepped up her game every year and must continue to do so. Despite her slight frame, she isn't afraid to challenge post players off the dribble and can frequently be seen hitting a long range jumper."
Sancho Lyttle, Houston, center:
"A raw athlete who will now have to step out of the shadows of another prolific scorer (Chandi Jones), Lyttle's upside is enormous. If/when she develops her offensive game, she could be unstoppable. The athletic ability she possess at her size is a coaches dream. The key to her senior season will be in refining her footwork, establishing a go to move on the low block, continuing to dominate the boards, and getting comfortable facing up to the basket."
Jessica Moore, Connecticut, center:
"Jessica is coming off of a knee injury, and after losing Taurasi, UConn needs her to step up all facets of her game. She still has the potential to improve her offensive game as she has done over the last few seasons, but one of the main reasons coaches are interested in Moore is simply because she is at Connecticut, Coach Auriemma does a great job of helping players to develop into the best players they can, and winning is contagious. Coaches love players that know what it takes to win around their programs."
Heather Schreiber, Texas, small forward:
"She is also very versatile, reminds us a lot of Deanna Jackson, though she may not be as athletic, but she is more of a post player that is playing on the perimeter. She can face up and handle the ball in transition as well as step out and hit three pointers. The question is what position she will play at the next level and whether she can guard a 3 or a 4."
Erica Smith-Taylor, Lousiana Tech, shooting guard:
"She is also out for an undetermined period of time as she and her professional boxer husband Jermain Taylor are expecting their first child in late November, which means she will miss the first part of the upcoming basketball season. She is just a flat-out scorer - in transition, off the dribble and from the perimeter. She could lose a step as a result of the pregnancy, but many coaches will be willing to wait for such a talented player to get back in shape and do what she does bestů SCORE."
DeeDee Wheeler, Arizona, point guard:
"She is a point guard that can score, but is probably more of a two-guard that will have to play the one at the next level. She is has a quick first step, can score from the perimeter, and has an excellent post player on her team, so she will have an opportunity to distribute the ball and get people involved. It will be important year for Wheeler to lead her team further into the NCAA Tournament this year in order for her to demonstrate her ability against top-notch competition on a national stage."
*Duke small forward Monique Curry, one of the top
seniors in the nation, as well as Arizona center Shawntinice Polk
will both garner considerable attention as well, but are both eligible
to return in 2005-06 for a 5th year of eligibility. Their 2005 WNBA Draft
status will not be known until the completion of the college basketball