Fever Focused on Draft

April 7, 2005
For the Indiana Fever, all eyes are focused squarely on the date of April 16, the date of the 2005 WNBA Draft. The Fever, with the No. 2 selection behind the Charlotte Sting, has the luxury of selecting from the nation’s best college players.

The college season is behind us, with Baylor’s national title a fond Indianapolis memory. WNBA coaches and executives, and many of the top players in the country will converge on Tarrytown, N.Y., this weekend (April 8-10) for the annual WNBA Pre-Draft Camp, taking place at the New York Liberty’s training facility. Who will emerge among the top selections? Who will raise their game? Whose stock might be lowered?

Unlike the 2004 draft, there is not a clear-cut favorite to be the top pick. Diana Tarausi earned that label a year ago, and proved the Phoenix selection to be worthwhile – outdistancing Connecticut’s Lindsay Whalen, the No. 4 player drafted, as the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year. Close behind in the balloting was Washington Mystics rookie star Alana Beard, last year’s No. 2 draft pick.

In 2005, however, teams will likely draft based on specific needs, rather than choosing from an obvious list of leading candidates. With the top selection, the Sting has the luxury of filling a roster void or choosing whoever it deems to be the best available player. Indiana has much the same opportunity – hoping only that the Fever and Sting don’t both covet the same player.

On the morning of Saturday, April 16 (11:00 a.m. CT, first round on ESPN2), the Sting and Fever will lead the WNBA into its annual draft carousel – three rounds, 39 selections. Indiana boasts the second, 16th and 29th selections with hopes of grabbing not just one, but perhaps two players that will make the 2005 Fever roster. Indiana’s 2004 campaign was an up-and-down, roller-coaster-ride-of-a-season which featured two stays atop the Eastern Division standings (for the first time in franchise history) before struggling through six- and four-game losing streaks that left the Fever on the outside of the playoffs. Kelly Krauskopf and Brian Winters hope that Saturday’s draft will help vault Indiana back to contention for a WNBA title.

And why not? Seattle, a 2000 expansion team with Indiana, won the 2004 WNBA Championship one season after missing out on the 2003 playoffs.

But the lingering question remains – who to draft?

Will the Fever try to bolster a sometimes-dominant front line that includes Natalie Williams, Kelly Schumacher and 2004 first-round draft pick Ebony Hoffman? Or will Indiana seek a perimeter star to accent the offseason acquisition of fiery point guard Tully Bevilaqua, a veteran leader signed from that championship team in Seattle? Or, might the Fever look for the best overall athlete on the board, possibly adding another versatile scorer to complement superstar Tamika Catchings?

The candidates to fill the draft’s top two selections are plentiful. In fact, a poll of WNBA general managers might yield 13 different answers as to who they might choose at No. 1. And so, based on that theory, here are 15 (two more, just for fun) top prospects as evaluated recently by WNBA analyst Rebecca Lobo.

Said Winters in a recent interview with WNBA media, “There are five to six really good players for us to choose from. We’ve taken a hard look at a bunch of players. If Monique Curry was going to come out, we’ve looked at her. If Cappie [Pondexter] or Seimone [Augustus] would’ve come out, we looked at them, too. We’ve looked at them all – from Tan White and Temeka Johnson, to [Janel] McCarville, Sandora Irvin and Steffanie Blackmon. It really comes down to a team’s need.”

Want more information? WNBA.com breaks down each team with a draft overview for all 13 franchises.