Inside the W with Michelle Smith: Potential WNBA Draft Seniors Who Are Pro-Ready

Three days after the NCAA crowns its 2019 national champion, one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory will gather in New York for the 2019 WNBA Draft. This year’s draft class is a mix of size and skill, versatility and pure basketball talent. It’s an impressive collection of players that have proven they know how to win and how to succeed even when they are the focus of the opposing team’s game plan.

The players who were regarded as top picks at the start of the college season have set school records, led the nation in multiple categories and taken their teams to the ends of the NCAA bracket. And they are ready for the next level.

The last time we reviewed the top potential draft prospects was the beginning of the NCAA season, when we highlighted the top 10 players to watch. But now, as the draft board evolves, let’s take a look at the top 11 seniors coming out of the college game and how their final seasons have contributed to making them pro-ready.

Asia Durr, Guard, Louisville

Durr missed a chance to send her team to a second consecutive Final Four with a loss to Connecticut in the Elite Eight, but that takes nothing away from the stellar senior season logged by the dynamic 5-foot-10 guard. She averaged 21.2 points, hit 96 3-pointers and her prowess at both the offensive and defensive ends is going to make her a highly sought-after scoring guard at the top of the draft board.

Teaira McCowan, Center, Mississippi State

One of the biggest players in the draft at 6-foot-7, McCowan changes shots in the paint and she will change the fortunes of any team she joins. McCowan, who averaged 18.3 points a game in her senior season, shot better than 66 percent from the floor in her final season, has proven herself to be a strong free-throw shooter (74.5%) and is the second-leading rebounder in the nation this season at 13.5 per game.

Napheesa Collier, Forward, Connecticut

Collier might be the best all-around player in the country. She is smart, skilled and she is a winner, having led Connecticut to a Final Four in all four seasons. Collier’s even-keeled demeanor on the floor belies a fierce competitor who ranks third on UConn’s all-time scoring list and shot 62.3 percent from the floor this season. Heading into the Final Four, she leads UConn in scoring (21.1), rebounding (10.7) and blocked shots (54), and ranks second in assists (126) and steals (53). 

Katie Lou Samuelson, Guard, Connecticut  

Samuelson is known as one of the best perimeter shooters in the country, but she is also a strong passer and is poised to make a great wing player at the next level. A back injury cost her four games late in the season, but she led the Huskies back to the Final Four with a superb effort against Louisville in the Elite Eight game, hitting seven 3-pointers. Samuelson is averaging 18.3 points a game heading into the Final Four and shooting 87 percent from the free-throw line.

Kalani Brown, Center, Baylor

The 6-foot-8 Brown is the best player for the No. 1 team in the country. After winning four Big 12 regular-season titles at Baylor, Brown will play in her first Final Four. Brown has averaged 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds a game this season, is shooting 64 percent from the floor and will be a player who can add needed depth in the paint for the team that selects her.

Arike Ogunbowale, Guard, Notre Dame

Last year’s Final Four hero has stepped up big for the Irish in her final college season. Ogwunbowale has averaged 21.5 points a game to lead the Irish in her final season, including a season-high 34 points in the Sweet 16 against Texas A&M and has six games this season when she’s scored at least 30 points. Her offensive explosiveness will be a big bonus for the WNBA team that selects her, not to mention the fact that she’s the best big-moment player in the country, a mentality that coaches will covet.

Megan Gustafson, Forward, Iowa

Gustafson, the 6-foot-3 post, led her Iowa team to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with one of the best individual seasons in recent memory. Gustafson has been the nation’s leading scorer at 27.9 points a game, was tied for second nationally in rebounds at 13.5 and can provide a team offensive punch inside. Gustafson leads the NCAA in scoring as well as shooting percentage (69.6), field goals made (369), field goals made per game (11.5) and points per scoring attempt (1.44). She has great hands, can score with her right or left and is a physical presence in the paint.

Kristine Anigwe, Center, Cal

Anigwe’s amazing individual season (averages of 22.5 points and 16.2 rebounds a game) came as every opponent did all they could do to stop her inside. Anigwe’s consistency – she’s the only player in the country to post a double-double in every game she played this season – combined with her ability as an interior scorer and a nose-for-the-ball rebounder is going to make her a valuable addition to a team looking for depth in its post game.

Alanna Smith, Forward, Stanford

The Australian forward has seen her WNBA stock rise greatly with a terrific senior season at Stanford in which she has become a versatile offensive threat and a strong defender, particularly in the paint. Smith is one of only two players in the country averaging 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. She is also the only NCAA women’s basketball player in the last 20 years to accumulate 70 3-pointers, 70 blocks and 600 points in a season. 

Jessica Shepard, Forward, Notre Dame

Shepard’s versatility is evidenced by the 16 double-doubles she has collected this season (31 over two years with the Irish). And she steps up to the big moments, averaging 23.8 points and 12.3 rebounds over the first four games of her final NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-4 forward could be a first-round pick for a team looking to add depth and somebody that will be strong, physical and looking to score.

Sophie Cunningham, Forward, Missouri

The 6-foot-1 wing player from Missouri set the school scoring record in her time with the Tigers and saw her WNBA stock rise. Her great senior season culminated in her being named to the All-SEC team, as she’s proved to be one of the country’s most consistent perimeter scorers, with 288 career 3-pointers. Her intense style has been called “aggressive,” which may help her adapt against the bigger, stronger players of the WNBA.

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.