Preseason rankings and mock drafts are educated guesses, at best. Assumptions are a whole different animal.
In mock drafts published to date for the WNBA Draft, which will take place April 10, all list Tennessee’s Diamond DeShields and Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell as top draft picks. A few have also included another Lady Vol, Mercedes Russell. All three are juniors, and to date, none has formally declared that she will forego her final year of college eligibility to enter the draft.
DeShields and Russell could make the jump easily, as DeShields sat out a year after transferring from North Carolina, and Russell took a year off to recover from injury. Both will soon have their degrees and could follow in the footsteps of their predecessor, Candace Parker, who had a redshirt season and opted out of her last collegiate year to go pro in 2008.
— Lady Vol Basketball (@LadyVol_Hoops) March 2, 2017
[More from Excelle Sports: A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Mitchell are named conference players of the year]
Mitchell, however, is a true junior, and she is on record pace to surpass Kelsey Plum’s new NCAA all-time scoring leader record by next year. She and the Buckeyes have found heartbreak in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments the last few years and have unfinished business. Why would there be an assumption that Mitchell would leave the program? Her college tuition is likely about the same as a rookie salary in the WNBA.
Until there are any official declarations, this mock draft will focus on who is actually eligible for come April 10: college seniors. And there are so many talented senior athletes to consider.
The same mock draft boards that have put three juniors in the mix have also put DeShields as the top pick over Washington’s Plum. This is puzzling, to say the least.
Plum has averaged 30 points per game all season long in the top RPI conference in the country while helping keep the Huskies ranked in the top 12 since the year began. She broke the NCAA all-time scoring record in the last regular-season game with a stunning 57-point outburst. She has spawned countless “Can Kelsey Plum be stopped?” stories from various outlets because of her ability to score at will and her tendency to take over games.
— Hassan Barzani (@airhasiescardo) March 8, 2017
[More from Excelle Sports: WATCH: Washington’s Kelsey Plum breaks NCAA all-time women’s scoring record]
DeShields has averaged a team-best 17.2 points per game this season, but hasn’t been the most consistent Lady Vol, with vacillating performances. Tennessee has been similarly up and down, upsetting ranked opponents one day and being upset themselves shortly thereafter. DeShields is a different player than she was when she was a star Tar Heel as a true freshman, when she averaged 18 points per game.
Even if DeShields, Mitchell and Russell all decide to enter the draft next month, it would be a misguided notion—to put it kindly—to think Plum wouldn’t be taken first. To not take one of the most creative scorers the game has seen, even if to make a trade, would be extremely foolish.
Beyond the first pick, teams will have some hard choices to make from a quality field. Here’s where we see the draft going:
- Kelsey Plum, G, Washington
- Alaina Coates, C, South Carolina
- Brionna Jones, C, Maryland
- Alexis Peterson, G, Syracuse
- Lindsay Allen, G, Notre Dame
- Nia Coffey, F, Northwestern
- Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, G, Maryland
- Tori Jankoska, G, Michigan State
- Alexis Jones, G, Baylor
- Jennie Simms, G, Old Dominion
- Sydney Wiese, G, Oregon State
- Precious Hall, G, James Madison
- Ashley Deary, G, Northwestern
- Chantel Osahor, C, Washington
- Ally Lehman, G, Northern Illinois
- Brittney Sykes, G, Syracuse
- Jasmine Joyner, F, Chattanooga
- Evelyn Akhator, F, Kentucky
- Lanay Montgomery, C, West Virginia
- Cyrtyce Knox, G, Texas A&M
- Lizzy Wendell, F, Drake
- Bria Day, C, Syracuse
- Jessica January, G, DePaul
- Ronni Williams, G, Florida
- Erica McCall, F, Stanford
- Kalani Purcell, F, BYU
- Makayla Epps, G, Kentucky
- Sophie Brunner, F, Arizona State
- Ty Petty, G, Middle Tennessee
- Imani Tate, G, UAlbany
- Feyonda Fitzgerald, G, Temple
- Nina Davis, F, Baylor
- Aaliya Lewis, G, St. John’s
- Peyton Little, G, Oklahoma
- Leticia Romero, G, Florida State
- Quiera Lampkins, G, Ohio