The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, April 7, 2021
A WNBA Mock Draft for you — Tara VanDerveer talks title — Must-click women's basketball links
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Hi everyone! There’s plenty to discuss, from the Stanford championship to big news from the PBWA adding a WNBA chapter (writers who want more info, hit me up!).
But in lieu of a think piece, or analysis that extends beyond the court, let’s just dig into what I’ve spent all day doing: now that we know which players are eligible for the 2021 WNBA Draft, what do folks around the league think the order will be?
I spoke to a half-dozen WNBA talent evaluators this afternoon. I’ll be speaking to more between now and next week, and will update as I hear more and can put more pieces together. This is NOT, to be clear, my pref list or a ranking of prospects as I see it. It is, instead, what the emerging consensus seems to be. According to those I spoke to, here’s what you should expect:
Dallas Wings Charli Collier, Texas
Dallas Wings Awak Kuier, Finland
Atlanta Dream Rennia Davis, Tennessee
Indiana Fever Arella Guirantes, Rutgers
Dallas Wings Aari McDonald, Arizona
New York Liberty Jasmine Walker, Alabama
Dallas Wings Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas
Chicago Sky Dana Evans, Louisville
Minnesota Lynx Natasha Mack, Oklahoma State
Los Angeles Sparks Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA
Seattle Storm Iliana Rupert, France
Las Vegas Aces Kiana Williams, Stanford
Dallas Wings DiDi Richards, Baylor
Las Vegas Aces Kysre Gondrezick, West Virginia
Atlanta Dream Selena Lott, Marquette
Chicago Sky Ivana Raca, Wake Forest
New York Liberty Chelsea Perry, UT Martin
Seattle Storm Shayna Heal, Australia
Indiana Fever Nancy Mulkey, Rice
Connecticut Sun DiJonai Carrington, Baylor
Connecticut Sun Unique Thompson, Auburn
Los Angeles Sparks Raquel Carrera, Spain
Seattle Storm N’Dea Jones, Texas A&M
Indiana Fever Tiana Mangakahia, Syracuse
New York Liberty Aleah Goodman, Oregon State
Indiana Fever Jenna Staiti, Georgia
Atlanta Dream Jill Townsend, Gonzaga
Los Angeles Sparks Destiny Slocum, Arkansas
New York Liberty Natalie Kucowski, Lafayette
Connecticut Sun Trinity Baptiste, Arizona
Indiana Fever Kasiyahna Kushkituah, Tennessee
Phoenix Mercury Lindsey Pulliam, Northwestern
Indiana Fever Kionna Jeter, Towson
Los Angeles Sparks Aaliyah Wilson, Texas A&M
Seattle Storm Jenn Wirth, Gonzaga
Las Vegas Aces Chasity Patterson, Kentucky
More to come, but think of me like a loyal pet who spent the afternoon hunting and has now dropped this information at your feet.
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This week in women’s basketball
Terrika Foster-Brasby puts the Adia Barnes/Dawn Staley elevation into larger context, particularly what it means for popular understanding of Black excellence.
Strong work here from basketball writer Dawn Staley, whose name I seem to remember from somewhere else.
Normally I get to eat with Michelle Smith at the Final Four, this year all I got to do was read her. Still fun, though.
Morgan Tencza has a Quinnipiac-eye view of the massive inequality between men’s and women’s basketball. Worth your time.
Five at The IX: Tara VanDerveer, Stanford
Hear from the incredible Stanford coach just after breaking her 29-year gap between titles.
Q.Back in 1992, if you had known it would be 29 years before you would be climbing up that ladder again, would you have imagined no way will I still be coaching by then?
TARA VANDERVEER: I never really thought about it. This isn’t why I coach. I wanted to be a teacher. Each year is a great year. I enjoy working with all the our players. But I guess the first thing I just want to say is I just want to congratulate Arizona on a great year, great job that they did. They really, really had a great tournament. I’m really excited to take the trophy back to the Pac-12.
Also I want to thank the Pac-12 coaches, every university in the Pac-12, for the commitment to women’s basketball, Pac-12 network, the great coaches we have in our league got us ready for this moment. It was a very, very tough tournament to play the three games in a week, to deal with all the COVID stuff, I’m so proud of our team.
Q.I thought it was really neat you were at the bottom of the ladder hugging each one of your players and support staff, a really neat touch. 29 years ago you last won the title. This group got another one for you. What does it mean to get this third championship, to have gone through what you’ve gone through so many years, so many great teams?
TARA VANDERVEER: I really feel like we won this for all of the great players that have played at Stanford. Going back to, we went to three Elite 8s and never made to it Final Four with great players like Candice Wiggins, Brooke Smith, Jillian Harmon. Then we got to the Final Four with Candice and Roz and Nneka and Chiney and Jayne Appel. We were right here in San Antonio, had the lead at halftime. Jayne was playing on a broken foot. Since then, going to the Final Four with great players like Erica McCall and Karlie Samuelson, Karlie sprains her ankle.
We had some special karma going for us. When we dodged the bullet — we had to come back against Louisville, dodged a bullet against South Carolina, dodged a bullet against Arizona.
I think sometimes you got to be lucky. I will admit it, we were fortunate. We were very fortunate to win.
Q.When you won in ’92, you said that the final seconds of that Final Four game was the longest second of your life. How did that compare to the second where Aari McDonald’s shot was in the air tonight?
TARA VANDERVEER: It wasn’t a one-point game that I remember in ’92. I haven’t watched that game for probably 29 years. It was the longest second. We had played Arizona I think it was three years ago at home. She put up that same shot. That shot went in, then came out. This shot I don’t think went in, but we knew she was taking that shot. I think three people on the court went to her, which was a good thing.
.Haley was hurt last year, then not having a tournament. She talked about how she had to dig deep and come back. Being Most Outstanding Player, put in perspective the journey she’s had in the last year.
TARA VANDERVEER: Haley obviously had a season-ending injury last year. We didn’t have training in the spring or training in the summer. I think what she has done is really amazing. She comes back — she was a go-to player on the stretch, no two ways about it. When we wanted a basket, we went to Haley and she delivered. There were some shots that she missed, but she was always right at the rim.
I think a young player like that, she really stepped up. I think what you see with Haley is the tip of the iceberg. I think what I really respect about what she’s done, through this season Haley has really changed in practice. She’s a loose, fun young woman, but she gets serious in practice. She’s talking. She’s a very intelligent player.
I’m really excited for her upside, and I’m very happy for her to win the MVP. I actually told her, Haley, step up and play the game you can, at halftime, you’ll be the MVP, and she was.
Q.The confetti was falling, the players were cutting the net, your assistant coaches. What was going through your mind seeing all of them celebrate after all you’ve been through through the pandemic? How did it feel that it’s finally done? The fans may not know, how tough was that Arizona team? How exciting was it to play that team tonight?
TARA VANDERVEER: The Arizona team was really tough. Again, Adia and her staff, Aari is like super quick. They just built on their confidence, just built and built and built throughout the tournament. The fact that we’d beaten them twice, quite honestly in Arizona we beat them very badly. A real credit to their team and staff. They played great.
What I was thinking about was, I can’t believe it. We’re just like, Is this really happening? This whole year has been so weird, everything about it. I’m so excited, happy for our team, our fans, our parents, everything. I think it will really sink in tomorrow.
Q.You did a pregame interview with Kevin, saying the last nine seconds against South Carolina felt like a root canal. What did the last six seconds of this game feel like?
TARA VANDERVEER: I was back in that dentist’s chair. I mean, it was painful. The fact when we had the ball, we needed to hang on to it, at least get a shot up. At least we held onto the ball for a while.
But that’s the way basketball is. If you’ve got a faint heart or weak stomach, then don’t coach.