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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where will UConn stars land in Monday's draft?

UConn's Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley shouldn't have to wait long to
hear their names called during Monday night's WNBA Draft
It's a foregone conclusion that Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley will become the 14th and 15th UConn players taken in the first round of the WNBA Draft.

The biggest question is where they will land.

Connecticut and Tulsa have the top two picks and on a pre-draft conference call on Thursday, the team's respective head coaches Anne Donovan and Fred Williams said that Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike and Baylor's Odyssey Sims will be the first two players off the board.

"Sims is quite the player.  Everybody who thinks that it's a foregone conclusion that Chiney Ogwumike is going to be here with us," Donovan said. "We'd love to have Chiney Ogwumike, we'd love to have Odyssey.  It just depends on guard or post truthfully.

"I don't know that Odyssey is not the most prepared player skill-wise to be in the WNBA. She's shown she can pass the ball really well when she played three years with Griner. A lot of people are knocking her now she takes too many shots. That's what her team needs her to do. She's focused defensively as she is offensively. I think Sims is a great get for Connecticut or Tulsa."

As for what Tulsa is thinking:

"Well, we're going to do the opposite of what you do," Williams said. "You got the first call on that one there. But either player on that end is a good find and good pick. You can't count the other players that's in there with Thomas and some of the others. But, yeah, either player is a good fit."

If things go according to the plan with the top two picks that could mean the rest of the draft could be determined by what San Antonio does with the third pick. There have been plenty of rumors of the Silver Stars looking to move out of the pick so that certainly bears watching. If San Antonio holds onto the pick the feeling is it is looking for rebounding help. San Antonio took Syracuse center Kayla Alexander in the first round last year and also have Jayne Appel on the roster.

From the first time I saw Dolson play when she was at Minisink Valley High School, Appel was the player whose game Dolson's reminds me of. That hasn't changed over the last four years. Apparently, I am not alone.

"Similar but Stefanie been fairly healthy and I think she could contribute more significantly early than Jayne did her rookie year," ESPN's Rebecca Lobo said.

San Antonio has tended to draft the "best player available" as much as any other team in recent years. In my opinion, that would be McBride although Thomas could provide some help in the rebounding department.

New York picks at No. 4 and obviously Dolson and Hartley, both New York natives, would be delighted to land with the Liberty. However, if McBride is sitting there I would be stunned if Bill Laimbeer didn't scoop her up in a heartbeat. With New York taking Kelsey Bone and Toni Young a season ago, it would seem as if guard help would be more of a pressing need (although the serious knee injury suffered by former Plenette Pierson could alter some of the thinking).

Indiana made the trip to Connecticut to watch the Huskies practice and Indiana coach Lin Dunn said on the same call that Hartley and Dolson are very much on the Fever's radar.

"I think when we get to the fifth pick there, we've got McBride, Hartley, (Florida State's Natasha) Howard, Dolson, Thomas," Dunn said.  We're looking closely at all five of those players."

Washington and Seattle are set to pick at No. 6 and 7. Nobody knows more about drafting UConn players than Washington coach Mike Thibault and Seattle coach Brian Agler was in attendance at the regular season finale against Louisville and he could take a look at either Dolson or Hartley if both are available (which would be a stunning turn of events if both are still on the board).

"Stefanie's success will be determined more by where she goes and what system they run but I think she could be a really good center at the pro game, she is smart and she gets everybody better," Lobo said. "She doesn't need to take a lot of shots to really affect a game in a really positive way. I think Bria will be really good, she is tough, she is smart, she works really hard and I think both of those players have really great pro careers ahead of them.

"I think Bria it doesn't matter too much (which team drafts her) because of speed, she can do whatever but if Stefanie goes to Atlanta, that is probably not the best fit, a team that just goes up and down, doesn't necessarily run as much of having the post where they can make decisions. There are some places where she could be really, really successful."

Stay tuned as the first round starts a few minutes at 8 p.m. on Monday and will air on ESPN2.

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