Tulsa Shock officials David Box and Teresa Edwards and Australian Opals coach Carrie Graf on Liz Cambage.
The draft situation for 6-foot-8 Australian center Liz Cambage is not nearly as complex as that of, say, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, who has yet to arrive to the U.S. to play for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.
Nevertheless, according to the ABC Sport feature in the video above, Cambage has still not finalized her decision about the WNBA Draft. Whether the scouting visit from the Tulsa Shock - who have been following Cambage for the entirety of their existence, according to owner David Box - made a difference has yet to be determined. However, there are a few nice takeaways from the video that provide some insight into what this draft battle is about.
Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans already described what figures to have a major influence on Cambage's decision: the 2012 Olympics.
Women's Hoops Blog | The fight over Aussie Liz Cambage begins | Seattle Times Newspaper
Like in the NBA, the WNBA is fawning over size. Mainly Cambage's 6-foot-8 stature and wealth of potential, especially since she's only 19. Yet, while the WNBA is jockeying for position to possibly draft the Aussie, should she throw her name in, former Storm assistant coach Carrie Graf is again throwing salt in the game. Graf would like Cambage to forgo the WNBA and continue to train.
Evans' conclusion about the issue leaves us with a question: how wouldn't playing in the WNBA for a year prepare Cambage for the Olympics if she'd get a chance to play against the best in the world?
Other takeaway's from the video (in order after the intro):
- How might she compare to a more familiar 6-foot-8 center? Cambage says in the first segment of the video that she's been working on her post moves and if that might be the most significant thing about projecting just how good she can be in the WNBA. Not that we can take too much from a highlight video, but the immediate thing you might notice about her game in comparison to, say, Baylor's Brittney Griner is that she's not only more comfortable around the basket as a scorer, but also visibly more aggressive in attacking the offensive boards. That's not at all to diminish how great Griner could become with two more years of NCAA experience - she's already a legitimate candidate for Player of the Year in a season that Maya Moore has been outstanding and she will get better. But one thing that she could certainly stand to improve is her tenacity on the offensive boards, numbers and strength of competition aside. Cambage appears to have no problem in that department.
- What impact might Cambage have on the WNBA as a "fan favorite"? Box wouldn't commit to drafting her at #2 in the upcoming 2011 WNBA Draft, but did note that she could become a fan favorite. Candace Parker was one of the WNBA's biggest draws her rookie year and UConn's Maya Moore figures to be as well. Given the growing interest in Griner as an "attraction" at the college level, how much might Cambage help attendance and interest around the league? Does she have the type of star power to help the Shock begin to establish themselves as a successful franchise in their second year?
- How will she respond to the challenge of competing for 40 minutes against WNBA competition? Edwards notes how impressed she is with Cambage's size and agility but also mentions that maintaining her intensity for a full WNBA game against increased competition might be difficult. Seattle Storm forward Abby Bishop mentioned during training camp last year that the biggest differences between the WNBA and the game in Australia are size, strength and athleticism. Cambage obviously won't have the size challenge in terms of height, but it will be a much different situation for her in the post. Given her own comments about working on not taking plays off and Edwards' observation, that could be something to watch for.
What might influence her discussion to stay or go? Cambage said she's 'going to make her final decision after the WNBL's finished' and the comment that she needs to make her own decision when all about her others want to make it for her is a good one - as described, she's a budding star and part of that is obviously learning how to thrive in the spotlight (for whatever spotlight U.S. media gives her). One thing of note: she seems to believe that playing against stronger women in the WNBA is important in her preparation for the 2012 Olympics because she won't get it in Australia.
- She smiles a lot: That's good because if she gets drafted by Tulsa because their first season involved a lot of tough moments.
How important might Cambage be to the WNBA?
Edwards suggested that Cambage is "next in line" to become the next great Australian star after Seattle Storm star Lauren Jackson. But there's an additional element to Cambage that might be interesting: coming in with Maya Moore. Rivalries generally create more interest in sports and even if they don't play the same position, a Cambage-Moore combination as "rivals" for the designation of top rookie could be the jolt the WNBA has been searching for from the likes of Candace Parker or Tina Charles in recent years, who were essentially, though not entirely unrivaled as the top rookies in the game. It's not near what the NBA got from the Larry Bird/Johnson combo in the 80's - that situation was so unique that it's unlikely that we'll ever see that again in professional sports and we don't have the benefit of having anywhere near the same exposure to Cambage nationally. However, it's interesting to imagine.
It's also worth wondering about what going to Tulsa would mean for her development: while it would make the league's worst team in 2010 substantially better, might it be better long-term for her to go to a more stable franchise where she wouldn't have the weight of building a market on her shoulders in addition to potentially being its top player? Then again, perhaps that type of question goes right back to the point made above: if she's going to be a star, she just has to learn to handle the pressure.