A friend of mine jokes that all you have to do to get selected high in the WNBA Draft is play for a high-profile team, show up to the NCAA tournament, and have a half-decent game or two (with emphasis on the "half").
While we all know that WNBA GM's are far more sophisticated than that, the point is that oftentimes draft decisions seem to be made based on pedigree (school affiliation or a high profile reputation) instead of performance (demonstrated WNBA potential or readiness). And without naming names, we can all probably think of a few draft decisions over the last few years that reflect that underlying logic.
None of this is to say that drafting is a science that somehow eludes WNBA GMs any moreso than those in other U.S. professional sports - drafting is hardly a science in any sport and it's an even more delicate art in a league in a young league given less history to inform decisions and the fact that the game has changed so much as it approaches its 15th year.
So at the beginning of the season, we posted a list of Top 13 WNBA draft prospects and five additional high-profile prospects in order to prepare for our own draft analysis. And as mentioned then, the list was by no means exhaustive and we've been keeping an eye out for additional players all season. With contributing writers from coast to coast, we've seen a number of strong prospects collectively and have come up with a list of 8 more players that have caught our eye including two lesser-known players who could end up in the WNBA Draft combine.
For now we're neither ranking nor suggesting how high players might be drafted (or even whether they will be), instead just trying to take stock of the landscape of the talented players we've seen before doing a more extensive analysis later.
Lauren Prochaska, Bowling Green State University (5'11", wing)
Prochaska will leave BGSU as arguably the program's best-ever and we've already documented our excitement about her previously.
And as stated previously, although her near-40% three point shooting might stand out, what makes her a particularly intriguing prospect is her ability to get to the free throw line at a high rate of 52.59% and then hit 92% of those attempts. So although you might find her field goal percentage of 43.2% rather underwhelming, her shooting efficiency as defined by her true shooting percentage - taking the value all those free throws and three pointers into account - is actually an outstanding 62.22%. If there is any flaw as a scorer it would be her 46.06% 2-point%, but her ability to get to the line shows an aggression and scoring IQ that will serve her well in the pros.
At the very least, the fact that she can decide what time it is according to BGSU SID Mike Cihon should make her an attractive prospect to the Tulsa Shock - if she could figure out how to decide it's not the third quarter for the Shock, Jessica Lantz (a vocal third quarter abolitionist) would be very happy.
Chastity Reed, University of Arkansas - Little Rock (6'1", wing)
Prochaska had the opportunity to go up against Reed earlier this year in Seattle and afterwards Miller suggested that Reed is a WNBA prospect. Reed is certainly talented enough to merit consideration in the draft, but if you thought it took a little statistical digging to explain Prochaska's potential then Reed will make her look like a no-brainer.
Reed has a few significant red flags - she's a pure scorer who shoots 40.87% from the field, she doesn't get to the line or shoot the three like Prochaska has to boost her efficiency (for the sake of comparison, her true shooting percentage is 43.63%), and she has the lowest offensive rebounding percentage of anyone in UALR's rotation. But here's what makes her an interesting prospect: Reeds usage percentage currently stands at almost 40%, meaning she uses up 4 out of 10 UALR possessions as a scorer. That's beyond even Andrea Riley at Oklahoma State last season.
So there are two ways to look at this: the obviously negative way to look at this is that she shoots far too often at a low efficiency. Conversely, the positive way to look at this is that her team really needs her to shoot all those shots and that the ability to create shots that often is actually a talent. And indeed, she is the scorer on this team as nobody else even averages double digit points per game so it's not like she's stealing the ball away from teammates and chuck it up - they run just about everything they can to her. To the latter point, although she has what NFL scouts might call a "hitch" in her release, but knows how to create space and get her shots off which is particularly impressive when you consider the amount of attention she gets from defenses.
If you look at Reed from an optimistic perspective, in the WNBA she a) won't be needed to shoot nearly as often on most teams and b) won't be the focal point of defenses. It's conceivable that her scoring efficiency could improve with less shots and more selective shot opportunities. Her length also helps her as a defender with a solid 2.1 steals per game. Nevertheless, she'll also have to demonstrate the ability to do something well other than take shots if she expects to make a roster.
Shanika Butler, UALR (5'7", point guard)
This one might come as a bit more of a surprise, but despite Reed drawing the majority of the attention from UALR it's Butler who might be the team's statistical MVP accounting for a healthy 24.3% of the team's overall statistical input. With that, she has a lot of positive statistical indicators as a WNBA point guard.
First, she is the most efficient shooting perimeter player in the rotation with a true shooting percentage of 57.23%. Second, she accomplishes that in a way similar to Prochaska: despite only 43.9% from the field, she has a very high free throw rate of 88.77% and makes 73.6% of them. Third, she has a 2-point percentage of 51.38%, which is very good for a guard. Fourth, she has an elite assist ratio of 33.65% compared to a turnover ratio of 18.06% for a solid pure point rating of 1.72.
All of these numbers are promising for a point guard prospect and that's not even taking into account her 2.4 steals per game or role as a vocal leader and steadying force on a team that likes to get up and down the court. But there's one major question mark about her: her usage percentage of 13.95% is very low and means she rarely looks to shoot, which also helps to explain her strong percentages. On a team that has Reed as the focal point, that makes sense and there's nothing passive about Butler - she makes solid decisions in running the team quite often. But with limited range - unless she's holding back with only 20 three point attempts this season - she might have a hard time making an 11-player roster or catching the eye of a WNBA team. Nevertheless, she has a solid statistical profile.
Kalisha Keane, Michigan State University (6'1", forward)
Keane has size, aggression, and solid scoring ability with a true shooting percentage of 56.13% and a 2-point percentage of 51.08%.
Redemption: Michigan State Spartans win rematch against Dayton Flyers - Swish Appeal
...the 1st half performances of MSU's Keane and Dayton’s Raterman showed that the two stars were going to prevent their opponents from pulling away. Keane shot an astounding 86% from the field and hit both of her three pointers to finish the half with 14 points.
Alex Montgomery, Georgia Tech University (6'1", wing)
Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans helped with the draft scout on Montgomery when Georgia Tech visited the University of Washington to pummel the Huskies earlier this season.
Women's Hoops Blog | Game thread: Georgia Tech at Washington | Seattle Times Newspaper
PRO TALK?: Montgomery will certainly find herself in the draft. She can play the point, shoot the three, rebound and defend. Hmm. Another future Storm player playing at Hec Ed? Montgomery has 20 points and five rebounds as Georgia Tech continues its slaughter, outscoring UW 24-6 in the second half.
While many of her numbers point to a somewhat fringe draft prospect on the wing, Montgomery is certainly not lacking for athleticism and her rebounding - she leads a solid Georgia Tech team with 8.5 per game - makes her someone that is certainly worth a look.
Italee Lucas, University of North Carolina (5'8", guard)
Lucas is one of the best shooters in UNC history, with a three point percentage of 34.7% this season. But what stands out about her as a scorer is actually her 2-point % of 53.76%. She doesn't get to the line that often, but a 54.87% true shooting percentage at a high usage percentage of 28.36% is encouraging.
While we're on the subject of UNC, I'm going to note Cetera DeGraffenreid, who I've personally liked quite a bit since seeing her in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year: she's lightening quick and a strong defender. Her quickness allows her to get to the basket with a free throw rate of 48.71%. She also sports an assist ratio of 36.24% and turnover ratio of 12.88% for an elite pure point rating of 5.70. So I like her as a player, but the challenge is that at 5'6" she is only an average shooter across the board at a usage percentage barely above Butler's.
Donica Cosby, Oklahoma City University - NAIA (5'8", guard)*
Donica Cosby interviewed about being selected as OCU's Super Star Athlete of the Week.
Dishing with Donica; Super Star Athlete of the Week | freelantz sports media
Cosby sums up her game in one word, "playmaker". Making plays is exactly what she does each night for the undefeated Stars.
The traditional role of scorer is still a role in which this week’s Super Star of the Week embraces and loves. While putting points on the scoreboard is still a prevalent piece of her game, she has a new – creative – side to her game that she’s been honing in her time wearing an OCU uniform.
Breanna Salley, Seattle University (5'11", wing)
Salley is definitely planning on being at the WNBA Draft combine and she has an even more interesting story, already well-documented by Evans.
Having been declared academically ineligible to play for Seattle U since their transition to Division I basketball, we don't know much about how she handles top tier talent, but her coaches know what it takes to make the WNBA and they're confident in her.
Seattle U.'s Breanna Salley keeps playing, even if she can't get on the court | Seattle Times Newspaper
Salley said she'll attend a workout in front of WNBA teams on April 3 in Indianapolis, where the women's NCAA Final Four is being held.
SU assistant coach Kristen O'Neill, who played one season for the Seattle Storm, has spent extra time with Salley so she'll be ready for the tryout.
Bonvicini is putting together a DVD and making calls on the player's behalf.
Both Seattle coaches equate Salley's game to Iziane Castro Marques or Angel McCoughtry, both of the Atlanta Dream.
That's obviously high praise, so to clarify they're apparently talking more about her style of play than making a direct comparison. Salley is long, skilled, and created a buzz in the area even before the transition to Division I. To put her talent in perspective a little more clearly, she has gone up against former Oregon State forward Talisa Rhea and has apparently more than held her own. She can play ball even if people haven't seen a whole lot of her.