Inside The W with Michelle Smith: Top WNBA Draft Prospects to Watch This College Season

The 2018-19 NCAA women’s basketball season is on the horizon, the nation’s best teams starting the sprint to April and a run at a national championship in Tampa.

But for some of the nation’s best upperclassmen, there is another parallel mission: Get themselves ready to play in the best women’s professional league in the world.

The draft-eligible class of WNBA incoming talent is versatile, experienced and deep and will be a welcome addition to the league come next spring. But in the meantime, there are big games to be played, awards to be won, records to be broken and a title trophy to chase.

Here is a list of 10 of the top WNBA prospects out of the college game this season.

Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon, G. If the Ducks’ point guard, who broke the Pac-12 record for career triple-doubles as a sophomore, decides to forgo her final year of eligibility and enter the WNBA Draft (she will turn 22 in her draft year, making her eligible), she will shoot to the top of the Draft board. Ionescu was the last collegiate player cut before the U.S. team competed in the FIBA World Cup in September. She might be pro-ready right now. She is strong, aggressive with a great basketball IQ and a scorer’s mentality. She wants the ball in crunch situations and she will make the big play when its needed most. The Ducks have their eyes on a national championship this season and Ionescu, a front-runner for national player of the year, is the reason why.

Asia Durr, Louisville, G. Durr is considered by many to be Ionescu’s equal, in terms of her ability to impact a WNBA team fresh out of college. Durr led the Cardinals to the Final Four in Columbus last spring and was the second player in program history (the first is Atlanta Dream star Angel McCoughtry) to be named a first-team WBCA All-American. The ACC Player of the Year averaged 18.7 points a game, finishing the year with 115 made 3-pointers. Durr is as consistent a scorer as there is in the college game, with 31 double-digit scoring games last season. She gets better when the spotlight gets brighter, averaging 21.8 points a game against ranked teams a year ago. That will make her a perfect fit for the W.

Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State, C. With the graduation of so many star players, McCowan, at 6-foot-7, literally becomes the Bulldogs’ centerpiece player and a coveted WNBA pick for her size and ability to impact play around the basket. An All-American in 2018, as well as the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, McCowan set the SEC single-season rebounding record, pulling down 544 boards, also ranking her second in NCAA history. She averaged an eye-popping 18.2 points and 13.9 rebounds a game in her junior season and finished the year with 29 double-doubles, a program and SEC record. She also set the NCAA Tournament record with 109 rebounds and is the only player in NCAA Tournament history to record multiple 20-point, 20-rebound games. She will be a game-changer at the next level and a player that could make an immediate impact.

Napheesa Collier, Connecticut, F. Collier is widely considered the best forward in the country coming into her final collegiate season. Collier, who broke out as a sophomore in 2017 when she led UConn in scoring and rebounding, started 37 games for Connecticut last year on their way to another Final Four appearance last season, ranking second on the team in scoring at 16.1 points a game. She put up double-digits in 33 games, including six double-doubles and scored 24 points in the Huskies’ semifinal loss to Notre Dame. Collier was also among the select group of collegiate players invited to U.S. National team training camp in September. This season, if Collier can get to 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 250 blocks – a testament to her versatility – she will become only the second UConn player to reach those plateaus.

Katie Lou Samuelson, Connecticut, G.  Also a senior for Connecticut, Samuelson has established herself as one of the best shooters in the country, and would be the kind of perimeter threat coveted by any number of WNBA teams. Samuelson enters her final season coming off surgery on her left ankle in April to repair a lingering injury that impacted much of her junior season. Samuelson, the two-time WBCA and AP All-American, has been named the American Athletic Conference preseason player of the year. She averaged a team-leading 17.4 points a game as a junior and led the nation with a 47.5 3-point field-goal percentage. But she also shot 69 percent from the field from inside the arc, showing that she is more than just a perimeter threat. At 6-foot-3, Samuelson is a difficult defensive matchup for guards.

Kalani Brown, Baylor, C. Brown is one of the nation’s premier post players. The 6-foot-7 Louisiana native put up All-American numbers in 2017-18, averaging 20.1 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, both career-highs. She enters her final college season with the top career field-goal percentage in program history at .649. She will be a national player of the year candidate. Her ability to excel in the paint, move well with the ball, block shots, rebound and finish with consistently will definitely have the attention of WNBA coaches looking for add depth in the post.

Arike Ogunbowale, ND, G. Ogunbowale became a household name with her two buzzer-beating shots in last year’s Final Four, leading the Irish to a national championship. Now in her final season, she will be looking to burnish her credentials as a future WNBA player. She will be following up a remarkable junior season in which she averaged an ACC-leading 20.8 points a game. She led the ACC with 25 games of at least 20 points last season, starting in all 38 games for the Irish. Ogunbowale’s ability to rise to the big occasion is going to make her a coveted WNBA talent.

Brianna Turner, ND, F. The two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year is back on the floor for her final season after sustaining a devastating knee injury in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, an injury that cost her the entire 2017-18 and a chance to be on the floor as her teammates won the national championship. It has been a long recovery and a long wait for one of the best frontcourt players in the nation. In her junior season, Turner averaged 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game, shooting a team-leading 61.9 percent from the floor. She ranks second in Notre Dame program history in field-goal percentage and blocks.

Megan Gustafson, Iowa, F. The reigning Big 10 Player of the Year, Gustafson has been a dominant presence for the Hawkeyes and is coming off an extraordinary junior season, setting herself up for strong WNBA Draft status next spring. In 2017-18, the 6-foot-3 Wisconsin native led the nation in points per game (25.7), field goal percentage (67.1), and field goals made (320), ranked third in double-double (28) and total points (823), fourth in defensive rebounds per game (9), fifth in rebounds per game (12.8), sixth in total rebounds (411), and ninth in free throws made (183).

Kristine Anigwe, Cal, C. Anigwe has been the Bears’ centerpiece player for the past three seasons and is looking to lead them back to the NCAA Tournament. Anigwe has led Cal in scoring over each of the past three seasons, averaging 16.7 points a game as a junior last season. She also collected 8.8 rebounds a game. Long and athletic, Anigwe is a consistent scorer, entering her final season with 1,849, the second highest total among active Division-I players to start the year.

Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.