Future Stars Lavender, Phillips and Vandersloot Talk About the Upcoming WNBA Draft

In a recent question and answer conversation hosted by the WNBA at ESPN Studios, three top WNBA prospects discussed how excited they were about moving to the next level and what they expected it to be like. Read on to learn more about these collegiate standouts: Ohio State center Jantel Lavender, Xavier center Ta’Shia Phillips and Gonzaga point guard Courtney Vandersloot.

“I’m really excited, really eager,” Jantel Lavender said. “There are a lot of mixed emotions for me going into this. I’m looking forward to the Draft and finding out where I’ll be going.” Ta’Shaia Phillips said “I’m very, very excited for the opportunity to continue playing the game I love. I, too, am very eager, waiting to see where I’ll be playing.”

When asked about there individual games and what they needed to improve and focus on, the future WNBA players had much to say. “I’m excited about the opportunity and it’s going to be a learning experience, a learning process,” Vandersloot said when asked how she saw her role in the WNBA. “I’ve worked hard to learn as much as I can up to this point and I’m excited to take a different role and learn from the (veteran) players on whatever team I get chosen by.” Nolan Richardson, Tulsa Shock GM and Head Coach, said “It’s not hard for anyone to see she’s one of the great guards in college basketball.”

Next she was asked “what challenges are there when taking your game to the next level and is there a team or players in the WNBA you’ve dreamed of playing with?”

“The opportunity to play with any of these pros would be a dream come true. There are so many talented players all over the league; so it’s hard to just pick one or even a couple. The challenge is just trying to sharpen up your game. Every level that you get to is a little bit better and the opportunity to play at the highest level in the WNBA is a rare opportunity and you have to be ready to give it everything you’ve got.”

The conversation switched to the two “bigs” from Ohio State and Xavier. “What kind of feedback have you received from your college coach (Kevin McGuff) about your game and about what you might need to do to transition to the pro level?” Phillips was asked.

“We’ve really just been focused on the end of our season and the things we accomplished. We haven’t yet had our end of season meetings. We’ll talk probably within the next few days. Coach McGuff over the past four years has talked to me about maintaining my conditioning, maintaining my strength, and maybe opening up my game a little bit more by taking it out to 15, 17 feet (from the basket).” Cheryl Reeve – Minnesota Lynx Head Coach said that “Ta’Shia, by far my favorite rebounder in the Draft. If you need rebounds and someone to be solid defensively, Ta’Shia will certainly help in that regard.”

Lavender was asked, “How quickly can you adapt to the pro game and what areas do you intend to focus on?”

“I definitely think I can adapt quickly. It will certainly be a difference from college to the WNBA with all the legends playing there. I really need to focus on doing a lot of the things I’ve done well in college, which is run the floor, get low position. I think my face-up game will really benefit me because it allows me to see the floor and read the situation. I really want to make sure I’m versatile, make sure that my 3-point shot is where it needs to be and focus on those things I did well in college.”

Both Players (Jantel and Ta’Shia) were asked about the value of rebounding and how physical a task that is in the WNBA and they relish the challenge . Lavender responded: “It’ll definitely be a challenge that I’m looking forward to. I love to rebound but I think it will take a bit more precision because you’re going to see a lot more ‘bigs’ in the WNBA. So the emphasis will have to be on using our strength, like we have in college, but we’ll have to focus in on the fact that these veterans have been doing this and know the tricks of the trade and how to do certain things to get rebounds over rookies like us. So we’ll have to have a big emphasis on boxing out and really using the techniques we know to be rebounders in the league.”

Phillips had a similar take “Like Jantel said, we’re going to have to focus on the fundamentals, like boxing out. I think speed is also going to be a factor besides our strength that we’ve always used because there are going to be a lot of taller players in the league that we didn’t necessarily have to face in college. So we’re going to have to use speed and learn the tricks to give ourselves a little bit of an edge…but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

The two were also asked: “Are there any WNBA players (past or present) that you saw as a role player for your game.”

“I definitely have two players…Lisa Leslie and Lauren Jackson,” Jantel Lavender said. “I really like both of their games. They’re a little bit different; Lauren Jackson does a little bit more face-up but she’s really dominant in the post and so was Lisa. That’s definitely big shoes to fill but I definitely like both of their games and admire how they play.”

Phillips said, “I admire their game (Lisa and Lauren) most but I didn’t really necessarily model myself after anyone. A lot of the post players in the pro game are more of a face-up style and have more step-out skills while I’ve always been more of a back-to-the-basket (type).”

Pam Ward, ESPN Women’s Basketball Analyst, said “There are only 11-person rosters and there will be a lot of quality kids that are taken, yet they may not make a roster. But, overall this is a fairly deep draft and some of these kids will come in and make an immediate impact.” The 2011 WNBA Draft is on Monday April 11 and all three players agree that they all need to work harder to compete at the next level. Regardless of where these players go they will make an impact on whichever team they join.

Click here for our Where Are They Now feature and Part 1 and Part 2 of Sky Draft Central.