Seven players in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship are expected to be selected in a deep WNBA Draft.
Now that Sabrina Ionescu has decided to return to Oregon for her senior season, Wednesday’s WNBA Draft is taking shape. Ionescu’s absence elevates Louisville’s Asia Durr to the top of the heap as the probable No. 1 pick for the second-year expansion team Las Vegas Aces.
Durr is one of a deep crop of elite players entering the 2019 Draft. A bunch of draft probables were on display in last night’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game between Notre Dame and Baylor.
Notre Dame underclassmen Jackie Young had just 4 points in the title game — and I’m not sure how that affects her draft standing — but recent mock drafts still have her going No. 2 to the New York Liberty, who need help at guard.
Despite her title game dud, Young has massive potential and is multi-faceted and strong, averaging 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the Irish. She would be a sound addition to Kia Nurse and perennial All-Star Tina Charles.
The next player chosen in the first round after Young should be Notre Dame’s 2018 NCAA title MVP Arike Ogunbowale, the 5-8 guard, who can light it up.
After her heroics in last year’s championship game, Ogunbowale missed a clutch free throw in the closing minutes of Notre Dame’s 82-81 loss to Baylor in the 2019 Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship. That doesn’t change the fact that with legendary Maya Moore out for the season, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeves needs another 20 point per game scorer. And Ogunbowale is always ready to hoist some shots.
Notre Dame center Jennifer Shepard is one of the less-heralded, but respected members of Muffet McGraw’s Super Team. Shepard stands 6’4″, and ranked just outside the top-100 in the country at 17 points per game on 61 percent shooting. She was productive despite having to share the ball with a bunch of scorers.
Her tournament play has elevated her from a second round pick into the first round as she had a double double in the chip. She also led Notre Dame with 19 points in last year’s championship win. ESPN has Sheppard going ninth overall to Connecticut. SB Nation has her going 10th to the championship-contending Washington Mystics.
Baylor’s Kalani Brown, daughter of NBA veteran PJ Brown, is expected to be a Top 10 overall pick as well. The 6-foot-7 center has rare size and ability around the basket. Brown had 20 points and 13 rebounds in Baylor’s Championship win, solidifying her spot as an elite draft pick who could make an immediate impact.
Brown’s teammate, guard Chloe Jackson, was a low third round pick on most mock drafts circulating, but that’s sure to change after her performance in the NCAA title game. Jackson led all scorers with 26 points and hit the game icing shot.
That clutch shot alone is sure to move her up on someone draft board.
In addition to Notre Dame’s projected first round killers, 6-foot-3 forward Brianna Turner is another Irish WNBA prospect expected to go in the first two rounds. She had 12 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday’s NCAA Women’s final ,which will help her stock in a deep, competitive draft.
Not be forgotten is Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey. The 5-11 guard had 21 points in the title game, which could help elevate her early third-round projection.
Having a starting five of potential WNBA Draft picks on one team would classify this Notre Dame team as one of the strongest in history not to win a championship. Combined with Baylor’s draft hopefuls, the 2019 title game featured seven of the greatest women’s basketball players ever assembled in one game.