One of the most beautiful things I've noticed about this year's WNBA Draft is the diversity of schools represented in the first and second rounds. Even if the national title game didn't reflect the growing parity in the women's game, the schools of the best seniors in the nation as represented by the draft picks certainly shows that women's basketball has got it going on outside of Tennessee and Connecticut.
Southwest Tennessee Community College takes the cake with Ashley Shields becoming the first junior college player to break into the WNBA draft. (In the top ten no less!) But there are plenty of other schools whose names you don't hear every day, whose logo gear isn't sold at your local sporting good stores, and here their players are being considered the best of the best by the drafting teams.
Delaware (Tyresa Smith, Pick No. 18 Phoenix)
South Dakota St (Megan Vogel, No. 19 to Washington)
Northern Illinois (Stephanie Raymond, No. 20 to Chicago)
Iona (Martinna Weber, No. 29 to New York)
MIddle Tennessee State (Chrissy Givens, No. 31 to Phoenix)
Several of these players, especially Givens, were no national secret this season, but on the whole this group represents something special about the game: national TV time, big power conference notwithstanding, may the best woman win.
Tennesse just got its first shout out of the WNBA draft, as Sidney Spencer goes to the LA Sparks at the 25th spot. Her national title game performance certainly only helped her draft stock.
Talk about a big 24 hours. Play national title game. Win national title. Receive trophy, hats, commemorative t-shirts. Speak in about 47 press conferences. Sleep?. Meet with agents. Attend WNBA Draft. Get drafted. Make plans for your first job out of college -- as a professional basketball player.
And I thought my breakfast at the Embassy Suites, draft coverage and flight home made for a packed schedule...
My "big names" are now officially off the board. Shay Doron is going to try and be New York's next sharpshooter in the absence of Becky Hammond, while Camille Little is headed for San Antonio.
And because I've branched out beyond the ACC this season, big ups to Dee Davis from Vanderbilt who impressed the heck out of me when Vanderbilt won the SEC title. She said she had to prove her toughness at the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp, but Dee, once I saw you in person, I never doubted ya.
One of my personal favorite college players, Ivory Latta, may not have been a college champion, but she's headed to the WNBA's champion Detroit Shock.
So many people found Latta's showboating obnoxious over the years, but I've said before and I'll say again that the kind of spirit and yes, ego, with which she played the game made her so good for the women's game. Forget playing like little ladies, Latta was a baller. and I hope she doesn't lose one step, one smile or one crowd-pleasing center court dance in the pros.
Then again, I bet there are some Shock players who can't wait to give this rookie a good ribbing.
Alison Bales just became Duke's second top-ten pick of the day, picked up by Indiana at the ninth spot. For all the criticisms of Bales' game, you can't teach size, and Bales has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years.
Meanwhile, Carla Thomas, who keyed Vanderbilt's upset SEC tournament title, rounds out the top ten, headed to the dismal-after-expansion Chicago Sky.
Heads are spinning in the press room -- second trade of the day. Davenport now heads to the Liberty (Davenport AND Jackson, talk about size!) and Becky Hammond, once the face of New York, moves to San Antonio along with a second-round draft pick in 2008.
The best part is that the trade happened while Davenport was on the podium answering reporters' questions about being selected by San Antonio They just informed her on the spot to reroute her luggage to New York and she made some quick sidesteps but stayed cheery on the podium. All ready to handle the media pressure of the pros, apparently.
Texas' Tiffany Jackson will be joining Jeff and I one our journey home to New York, apparently, headed to New York Liberty at No. 5. So far not a pick has gone by where someone hasn't done the "trade!" cough here in the media workroom, but Jackson is exactly what the Liberty need in terms of size and toughness, so the chances are that she'll be gracing the hardwood at Madison Square Garden in a matter of weeks.
We may have lost one third of our terrific trio, as we dropped Lara off in the aforementioned wee hours of the morning, but the West Coast is well taken care of in her absence. UCLA's Noelle Quinn just got picked up at No. 4 by the Minnesota Lynx, and not only is she wearing one of the most stylish outfits of this year's draft picks so far, but she's also the first player in Boyko's West-of-the-Mississippi territory to shake hands with WNBA President Donna Orender.
So we're supposed to feign journalistic objectivity here at She's On Fire, but we sometimes can't help playing favorite. And our official Most Interesting Player, our favorite Armintie Price, just got picked up by the Chicago Sky as the third pick in the WNBA Draft.
Suffice it to say we love Armintie because she loves us -- she's recognized Jeff as "Hey! Reporter!" with a big smile here in Cleveland, and she is certainly a natural entertainer with her face breaking into a huge grin more often than now.
"I got an A plus and smiley face," Arminitie just told Rebecca Lobo of the "test" of the WNBA Draft. Speedy, a smooth shooter, a powerful defender a player that crashes the boards AND clever with the media? What's not to love.
A little word association, folks. I say Lindsey Harding, you say...
No. 1 pick of the WNBA Draft!
The great advantage of the head-spinning speed with which college players turn into pros in the women's game has a very specific advantage -- the ability to turn fresh wounds into faint memories in just moments.
And Lindsey Harding is officially the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. Apparently Paul Westhead trust that Harding's two missed free throws against Rutgers won't stop her from becoming one of the top players in the WNBA.
1 Phoenix Mercury 18-16
2 San Antonio Silver Stars 12-21
3 Chicago Sky 5-29
4 Minnesota Lynx 10-24
5 New York Liberty 11-23
6 Washington Mystics 18-16
7 Seattle Storm 18-16
8 Houston Comets 18-16
9 Indiana Fever 21-13
10 Chicago Sky 5-29
11 Detroit Shock 23-11
12 Connecticut Sun 26-8
13 Connecticut Sun 26-8