The Pac-10 had a down year placing only two teams in the NCAA tournament and most people justifiably assume similar results for the WNBA draft: one first round prospect in Stanford center Jayne Appel.
However, there are other players from the Pac-10 who have WNBA aspirations, though some may be more realistic than others.
The Minnesota Lynx recently launched their WNBA draft site and asked Swish Appeal for contributions on two Pac-10 players who are considered among the top 15 prospects: Appel and California's Alexis Gray-Lawson.
However, after hearing from players and coaches around the Pac-10 during conference play, it became apparent that two other Pac-10 players are going to give the pros a shot: Stanford's Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Oregon's Taylor Lilley.
So in the spirit of social media networking, I also reached out to three other blogs to get their take on the Pac-10's draft hopefuls: SBN's California Golden Blogs, Chasing the Title, and C and R Stanford Women's Basketball Blog. As a NBA fan, there is probably more information available about fringe second round NBA picks than most WNBA first rounders. So our hope is to provide more comprehensive analysis of the prospects from our modest Pac-10 conference as we head into tournament season (while Stanford plays in the Big Dance, both Cal and Oregon will be playing in the WNIT).
So with a combination of observations, thoughts from coaches, and statistics, we make the first of our contributions to WNBA draft season.
For individual player bios, click on the names below:
West Coast Conference bonus:
Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media
Whereas Alexis Gray-Lawson is getting some attention as a WNBA draft prospect, Ros Gold-Onwude is getting considerably less attention.
However, if there is an argument to be made for the Pac-10's 2010 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, it's that she is an outstanding defender.
Gold-Onwude blanketed Gray-Lawson for most of the game, completely stopping all penetration and making it difficult for the 5'8" Gray-Lawson to get any shots off at all. Yet to be fair, it wasn't Gold-Onwude alone that deserves the credit for stopping Gray-Lawson: it was definitely a team effort.
Gray-Lawson faced double to quadruple teams at times because her freshmen teammates are less threatening and yet she still managed to get some shots off. With 6:45 left in the second half, she crossed ever her defender breaking the double team got into the lane and just willed the ball to the basket to draw the foul and get to the free throw line. Near the end of the game, she dribbled to the left elbow from the right wing, spun, and faded away for a jumper after shaking Gold-Onwude.
In other words, Gold-Onwude made the conference's top perimeter scorer work for every basket she got and yet Gray-Lawson still found a way to create scoring opportunities seemingly out of nothing with Stanford's entire team keyed in on her. Yet the game also demonstrates that bigger defenders can really limit Gray-Lawson's impact.
So it's hard to know what to make of a match-up like this: Gray-Lawson handled being the center of attention relatively well all things considered, but there is no way she'll be in that position in the WNBA as a first year player. But perhaps you can't blame her for playing poorly against the conference's best perimeter defender.
For Gold-Onwude, it's hard to separate her defensive performance from the fact that she plays with so many strong post defenders standing behind her in the lane - it means she can gamble and expect support if she makes mistakes. Offensively, she's not necessarily a bad player - when you're playing with so many dominant offensive players going scoreless and picking up six assists demonstrates that you know how to play a role.
But perhaps the question is if Gray-Lawson is considered a pretty sure WNBA draft pick and Gold-Onwude can lock her up, then why shouldn't Gold-Onwude also be considered?
Statistically, while Gray-Lawson is a better scorer, Gold-Onwude shoots a better percentage (see Kalana Greene for someone who does both well). In addition, Gray-Lawson does more to help her team win, is a better rebounder, generates more points and has a much higher offensive rating. Add to that the fact that she often defended the opponents best perimeter player for Cal, and it's easy to say that she might be the better all-around player.
However, team statistics tell a slightly different story. In Chasing the Title's strength of schedule adjustments Gray-Lawson gets hurt by her team's .5604 RPI which says that her team has played more poorly against weaker competition than Stanford. With players so close and RPI being the determining factor an argument could be made that only Gray-Lawson's performances against top competition should be considered for her draft portfolio.
Ultimately, Gray-Lawson is probably the better all-around basketball player based on the numbers -- while she is the best player on a fringe tournament team, Gold-Onwude is a fringe prospect on a great team.