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WNBA Draft Watch 2020: Crystal Dangerfield could make strides in her final NCAAW season

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In the first of our 2020 WNBA Draft class previews, we take a look at UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield, including how she may elevate her game to keep the Huskies atop the NCAA.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Albany Regional-Connecticut vs Louisville
Crystal Dangerfield enters her senior season at UConn projected as a first-round WNBA Draft pick, and her stock is poised to rise even higher.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Sue Bird. Diana Taurasi. Renee Montgomery. Moriah Jefferson.

Throughout UConn’s storied women’s basketball history, point guard excellence has been a recurring theme. The Connecticut-to-WNBA pipeline has yielded plenty of star guards and current Huskies floor general Crystal Dangerfield figures to be next in line.

First, though, she’ll have to prove herself as a senior leader. UConn women’s basketball is in a bit of a transition period — a perfect opportunity for Dangerfield to solidify her place in Huskies history and establish herself as one of the top draft prospects in the 2020 class.

Honors and statistics

As is the case with many UConn players, Dangerfield boasts an impressive list of accolades. She was named to last season’s AAC All-Conference and All-Tournament teams, as well as to the NCAA’s All-Tournament Team for the Albany region. She enters the 2019-20 season as the AAC Preseason Player of the Year (an award she shared with UCF’s Kay Kay Wright), and Dangerfield is also on the early-season watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top point guard.

As a junior, Dangerfield averaged 13.4 points and 5.9 assists per game, the latter figure ranking 15th in the country. Her assist/turnover ratio of 3.08 was also among the NCAA’s best.

Internationally, Dangerfield has spent extensive time with USA Basketball, winning gold in FIBA’s U19 World (2015) and U16 Americas (2013) championships and silver in FIBA’s U19 (2017) World Cup.

How she helps the Huskies

NCAA BASKETBALL: APR 05 Div I Women’s Championship - Final Four - Notre Dame v UCONN Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

During her first three seasons, Dangerfield had the luxury of playing alongside some big-time talent. Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams, Azurá Stevens, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson all starred alongside Dangerfield at some point, allowing her to fit comfortably into the niche of a low- to mid-volume distributing point guard, one who got the ball to her scorers at the right times and minimized mistakes.

As a senior, Dangerfield’s role might be a little different. The Huskies don’t exactly have a WNBA-level primary scorer for her to defer to — sophomore Christyn Williams will probably become one. But in the meantime, it will be up to Dangerfield to shoulder more of the offensive load. Last season, Dangerfield’s usage rate was 19.3 percent, a figure that will need to rise.

That’s not to say she isn’t a capable scorer. As a junior and sophomore, Dangerfield scored 1.12 and 1.17 points per attempt, respectively. She’ll just need to do more of it.

To summarize Dangerfield’s senior to-do list:

  • increase scoring level to that of a second- or first-option player
  • continue taking care of the basketball at an elite level
  • aid in the development of Williams and other Husky youngsters
  • keep UConn at the top of the NCAA as the program reloads

Not exactly a walk in the park.

But if Dangerfield’s career trajectory and basketball pedigree are any indication, it’s nothing she can’t handle. If she does handle it well, her status as first-round pick in the spring will be a no-brainer.

Watch her play

UConn is one of the most frequently-shown NCAAW teams on television, so there will be no shortage of opportunities to see Dangerfield in action. The Huskies have upcoming national TV games against Virginia (Nov. 19, CBSSN) and Ohio State (Nov. 24, ESPN). In December, UConn faces rivals Notre Dame (Dec. 8, ESPN) and DePaul (Dec. 16, FS1).

Dangerfield’s biggest challenge will likely come against Baylor (and fellow draft prospect Te’a Cooper) on January 9 (ESPN), and she’ll even get a chance to play against Team USA in an exhibition game on January 27.