As Carl Adamec of the Journal Inquirer described the other day, the UConn women's basketball team has the first trio in program history to reach the 50 blocks plateau.
UConn leads the American Athletic Conference and the nation in blocked shots with Breanna Stewart, Stefanie Dolson, and Kiah Stokes each reaching the 50 plateau. UConn also ranks second in the AAC in steals behind only Louisville...Stewart, Dolson, and Stokes are the first UConn trio to record at least 50 blocks in a season and it’s the first time the Huskies have had three players on one team with 100 career blocked shots.
That on its own is quite an impressive (and, as teammate Bria Hartley described in the article, intimidating) feat. But for Dolson in particular, it reminded me of a bit of draft wisdom from NBA analysts.
John Hollinger (formerly of ESPN, currently with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies) made the point in one of his early iterations of his NBA draft prospect rater that NBA draft prospects who had 50 blocks and 50 steals in college end up faring pretty well as pros. Others have also pointed out the historical value of being in this 50-50 club for NBA prospects - as well as the value of steals more generally - though it's clear that there have been mixed results over time.
As it turns out, if Dolson were to average around 1.5 steals per game for the remainder of her senior year - not too far above her current average of 1.2 steals per game - she'd find herself in that 50-50 club. But how much might that mean for the women's side?
Of the 350+ prospects that I've been keeping track of in my similarity database from 2008 to 2013 - meaning it's not every NCAA Division I player from that time period - I found just seven players from major conferences who hit that 50-50 milestone.
Khadijah Whittington, NC State (2008)
Laura Sweeney, Villanova (2013)
Sylvia Fowles, LSU (2008)
Karisma Penn, Illinois (2013)
Candace Parker, Tennessee (2008)
Latoya Pringle, North Carolina (2008)
Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame (2012)
So obviously, we can't say that the 50-50 club guarantees getting drafted or making a roster once drafted (and there's a chance I'm missing some players who went undrafted prior to 2011). But it's noteworthy that both Penn and Sweeney, had other significant red flags (turnovers and rebounding, respectively) that hurt their chances of making the league. The remaining five managed to spend multiple years on a roster, which in the age of 12 11-player rosters is a feat unto itself. Two, of course, became all-stars.
So, again, what exactly does this mean?
50 might seem like an arbitrary number and it sort of is: if you drop that threshold to even 40-40, you get a decent mix of all-stars and players who made rosters along with a few who weren't able to find a spot in the league (that list includes Nicky Anosike, 2008; Kali Bennett, 2012; Victoria Dunlap, 2011; Briana Gilbreath, 2012; Sasha Goodlett, 2012; Laura Harper, 2008; Glory Johnson, 2013; Maya Moore, 2010; Nneka Ogwumike, 2012; Chay Shegog, 2012; Shenneika Smith, 2013; Toni Young, 2013). Yet even if it doesn't always generate all-stars, it does seem to serve as a bonus for players that don't have major red flags (Bennett and Smith, for example, both had scoring efficiency red flags). It isn't until you start probing into a 30-30 group when it becomes entirely meaningless.
But trivia aside, what it really means to be among this group of players who record both blocks and steals is probably best illustrated by quotes from UConn coach Geno Auriemma as reported by the UConn media in response to this imposing block record: as Adamec reported, the steals reflect defensive aggression, involvement, and a willingness to take some risks; as Rich Elliott of the Connecticut Post reported, the blocks come from a combination of agility and instinct. That's a set of characteristics that most WNBA coaches would surely like to have around in training camp to give a chance, if nothing else.
Barring something crazy happening, Dolson will finish her senior year in that 40-40 group at the very least and will have a chance at the 50-50 set. Either way, that's an impressive group to be in for a player her size. That certainly won't make or break her as a WNBA prospect, but considering the rest of her numbers and the intangibles she brings to the floor it just adds to her resume.
For more on draft prospects, check out our 2014 WNBA Draft prospect watch storystream.
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