The Dawn Staley Award was established last year to honor the NCAA DI guard who, "exemplifies the skills that Dawn possessed throughout her career – ball handling, scoring, her ability to distribute the basketball and her will to win."
A 16-player watch list for the award was announced on Saturday, as published at DawnStaleyAward.org. The players, with the some basic info for each player, is listed below (alphabetically) along with links to their WBB State profile.
|Rachel Banham||Minnesota||Junior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Brittany Boyd||Cal||Junior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Crystal Bradford||Central Michigan||Junior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Jerica Coley||Florida International||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Aaryn Ellenberg||Oklahoma||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Christina Foggie||Vanderbilt||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Chikilra Goodman||Stony Brook||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Bria Hartley||UConn||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Brittany Hrynko||DePaul||Junior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Jasmine Lister||Vanderbilt||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Maggie Lucas||Penn State||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Kayla McBride||Notre Dame||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Tiffany Mitchell||South Carolina||Sophomore||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Shoni Schimmel||Louisville||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Odyssey Sims||Baylor||Senior||School bio||WBB State bio|
|Breanna Stewart||UConn||Sophomore||School bio||WBB State bio|
There's quite a bit that could be said about the list and some people have already provided some initial impressions on Swish Appeal's Facebook page. Yet as we continue to look ahead to the 2014 WNBA Draft, it's also interesting to take a look at the 10 seniors on the list as most of them have a good chance to hear their names called on draft day. And one thing that stands out as interesting about this group of guard prospects is the number of them who have earned reputations as three point shooters in their college careers.
Three of those 10 senior guards stand out as taking more than half of their total field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc: Aaryn Ellenberg, Christina Foggie, and Shoni Schimmel (interestingly, Maggie Lucas is not among that group and hasn't been since her freshman year, which is noteworthy given her reputation). That three point rate (3PA/FGA) is a very different number than a player's three point percentage (3PM/3PA) - there is a difference between players who take a lot of shots from beyond the arc and those who make them. Yet in contrast to what former ESPN analyst John Hollinger found about NBA draft prospects about made threes being a positive, things are all over the map among recent WNBA prospects.
What makes that 3-point rate significant is that just six major conference wings with 3-point rates over 50% in their senior season have been drafted from 2008-2013. Perhaps reinforcing the notion that "there's always room for a shooter", five of those eight players have made rosters in the year they were drafted; just two have lasted in the league for more than a season - Alex Montgomery (2011) and Jeanette Pohlen (2011) - and neither has earned major minutes in their career. And accounting for the fact that Pohlen started at point guard for Stanford in her senior year - her efficiency as a distributor was a major strength of hers in addition to her 3-point shooting - Montgomery is the only college wing with a 3-point rate over 50% to last more than a season in the league.
Although it's true that just making a roster should be seen as an accomplishment in the 11-player roster era, it's not clear how much general managers value players who specialize in three point shooting - even when drafted, they're struggling to make a significant contribution in the league. So what does that mean for this year's group?
What makes for a successful WNBA wing prospect?
Players who shoot more than 40% of their total field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and don't produce many points from the free throw line have not fared well at all in the WNBA. Why not?
We've already given Foggie and Schimmel some attention this year, but Ellenberg is a particularly interesting case as someone who's known for bother her shooting prowess and athleticism.
What these high 3-point rates can be a proxy for is players who a) thrived in college on spot-up jumpers and struggle to create their own shots or b) an inability to beat defenders off the dribble and create high percentage scoring opportunities at the rim. As you might logically conclude, players with high 3-point rates also tend to have low free throw rates, a tell-tale sign of a player who isn't putting herself in position to get fouled in the act of shooting very often. In defiance of that classic three point shooter stereotype, both Ellenberg and Foggie have above average free throw rates (27.10% and 48.92%, respectively) for a wing. And if you know anything about Ellenberg, that probably makes more sense than the notion that she's someone who solely hangs out around the arc waiting for passes from teammates: she is often the fastest player on the court regardless of who Oklahoma plays and has the handle to beat her defender off the dribble to create for others when need be.
The challenge for Ellenberg-the-prospect might be her size: Ellenberg is listed as 5-foot-7 (and considered 5-foot-6 by some), which normally means that a player's best chance for survival is at the point guard spot. Her ability to shoot threes off the dribble will help her as could being surrounded by WNBA teammates who can score and take some of the scoring pressure off of her, similar to what Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript described about the situation at Oklahoma recently. And when Ellenberg struggles to get to the free throw line or to the rim at all against WNBA competition, how effective will she be as a scorer?
Three point shooting on its own is not a bad thing, obviously. The issue is that high volume 3-point shooters generally have to prove that they can offer more to their team than shooting beyond the arc - what appears to be happening around the league right now is that with 11-player rosters players who can't do something more than shoot threes are being left out in favor of other players who can clearly be more than long-range specialists. Ellenberg's quickness on both ends of the floor certainly gives her a chance to make a roster and become a bit more successful than past three point shooters.
For more on potential draft selections, check out our 2014 WNBA Draft prospect watch storystream.