The title of this article tells you exactly how Indiana Fever staff have begun spending time during this first week of the new year. Coaches have been scouting prospects since the start of the college season, but elsewhere in the front office, conversations have begun focusing on top players that could fall to the Fever with the No. 3 pick in this year’s WNBA Draft.
The draft is not until April, but there’s a lot of good basketball being played right now at the college level and another top, young women’s star will soon join the Indiana roster for 2019.
Baylor’s upset of No. 1-ranked Connecticut was an instant showcase for center Kalani Brown who all but cemented her spot among top draft candidates. The 6-7 senior already was considered by most analysts as a likely top-five pick, even before her 20 points and 17 rebounds that helped the Bears hand the Huskies their first regular-season loss since 2014.
It was a marquee non-conference battle in which eighth-ranked Baylor outlasted UConn and another pair of talented seniors in Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier. With Chloe Jackson on Baylor’s perimeter, there were four top seniors going head-to-head in a classic women’s showdown.
With Baylor’s big win, there now exist four teams that can make a case for the No. 1 ranking in women’s basketball: Notre Dame, Louisville, UConn, and Baylor. From among those schools are ten probable WNBA draft picks in April.
There is near consensus among the top five picks. In some order, Brown, Collier, Samuelson, Asia Durr of Louisville and Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State are anticipated as the top seniors in the draft. A wild card will be Oregon combo guard Sabrina Ionescu, a draft-eligible junior who leads Pac-12 frontrunner Oregon. Some say Ionescu could go No. 1 if she declares for the draft.
As for the Fever, Indiana could very well take the best available athlete at No. 3, or choose specifically for size in the post which has been lacking on the Fever roster for several years. Brown or McCowan, also 6-7 and a college teammate of Victoria Vivians while leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back Final Fours, could have Fever coach salivating with the prospect of a major haul in the post.
But might the versatile Samuelson or sharpshooting Durr, or even Ionescu, be more pro-ready and better capable of big impact in 2019?
Let’s see how the college season plays out before those decisions need to be made.
Locally, five Big Ten teams are nationally ranked as teams aim for their conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, March 6-10. Indiana moved into the AP Top 25 after last week’s win over Michigan State. A native of nearby Bedford, Ind., MSU center Jenna Allen averages 15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and tops an alphabetical list of 20 players to watch as conference schedules heat up.
2019 WNBA Draft Prospects:
Jenna Allen, Michigan State (6-4, center)
Kristine Anigwe, California (6-4 center)
Kenisha Bell, Minnesota (5-9, guard)
Kalani Brown, Baylor (6-7, center)
Napheesa Collier, Connecticut (6-1, forward)
Sophie Cunningham, Missouri (6-1, forward)
Cierra Dillard, Buffalo (5-9, guard)
Asia Durr, Louisville (5-10, guard)
Megan Gustafson, Iowa (6-3, forward)
Megan Huff, Utah (6-3, forward)
Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon (5-11, guard)
Marina Mabrey, Notre Dame (5-11, guard)
Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State (6-7, center)
Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame (5-8, guard)
Katie Lou Samuelson, Connecticut (6-3, guard/forward)
Jessica Shepard, Notre Dame (6-4, forward)
Alanna Smith, Stanford (6-4, forward)
Hallie Thome, Michigan (6-5, center)
Brianna Turner, Notre Dame (6-3, forward)
Jatarie White, Texas (6-4, forward/center)