Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Her grip is larger than LeBron's. That's what one of the ESPN analysts said about Brittany Griner.
And, for those waiting, she is finally in the WNBA.
Phoenix took her with the No. 1 pick. Which some people are still mad about because a case can be made the Mercury tanked the season to get into the Giner draft lottery. Diana Taurasi sat out most of the season with injuries before and after the Summer Olympics -- after she played in the games in London.
That's the topic of another blog. This is on the WNBA draft tonight.
Time will tell if this will go down as one of the greatest WNBA drafts ever, but it has the makings of one. At the top were three can't miss superstars in most people's eyes:
6-8 Baylor center Brittany Griner who went to the Mercury. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve she will change the game in the WNBA. She can dunk, she had 18 in college, three in one of her last games. And she can block shots like nobody before her.
She should draw fans like nobody else to home and away games, too. Forget she is a rookie. She will be one of the league's best players as soon as she steps on the court.
ESPN analyst Rebecca Loco said, with Griner, Phoenix, a seven-game winner last season, is the favorite to win the WNBA title. She picks the Lynx for third in the West behind the Mercury and the Los Angeles Sparks.
No doubt Phoenix will be a handful with a healthy Taurasi and a healthy Penny Taylor and Griner.
And guess which two teams will open the WNBA season on national TV?
Phoenix vs. Chicago on May 27.
Chicago, curiously enough, had the No. 2 pick and nabbed 6-5 Elena Delle Donne of Delaware. Another of the Big Three.
She's 6-5 and she plays like a guard, Lobo said. Delle Donne can play any position but point guard.
And she scores like a machine. She averaged 34 points in five NCAA tournament games. ... She will give the Chicago Sky, which has never made the playoffs, a 6-6, 6-5, 6-2 front line.
So TV viewers will get to see the pro debut of two future superstars.
The final member of the Big Three is Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame. She led the Irish to three Final Fours, that's all. She went to Tulsa, which had the No. 3 pick.
Five-win Washington had bad luck in the draft lottery and picked fourth. The Mystics grabbed Tayler Hill of Ohio State, a high-scoring guard who played prep ball for Minneapolis South. Being fourth behind the Big Three is darn good.
After that -- much to the Lynx's delight came a run of bigs, centers and forewards.
The New York Liberty, picked No. 5 and 7, took 6-4 center Kelsey Bone of Texas A&M and 6-2 forward Toni Young of Oklahoma State.
Swish Appeal in its mock draft had the first five picks right, in the exact order.
Seattle, which wil be without its two bests, center Lauren Jackson and guard Sue Bird because of injuries the entire season, took 6-4 center Tianna Hawkins of Maryland to shore up the middle.
There were four more picks to go before the Lynx's turn. They had to be getting nervous. Would the players they wanted at No. 12 and 14 still be there?
San Antonio had the No. 8 pick and the Silver Stars went big, too -- will the average height in the WNBA got up an inch this season? Maybe. San Antonio took 6-4 center Kayla Alexander of Syracuse.
Then the run on guards began. WNBA champion Indiana, picking No. 9 (draft order is based on where a team finishes in the regular season, not the postseason, took 5-9 Layshia Claredon of California. She's been known to sport a blonde mohawk.
The Los Angeles Sparks, picking No. 10, took guard A'dia Matthies of Kentucky.
Then Connecticut, at No. 11, picked hometown favorite Kelly Faris, a guard for NCAA champion UConn. Might have been a little bit of a reach.
Checking three mock drafts -- draftsite.com, Swish Appeal and ESPN's -- was No. 9 on one of them and not in the top 12 in the other two.
Whatever. The Lynx were grateful. In under 30 seconds, it seemed, they had their pick in: Lindsey Moore, a 5-9 point guard from Nebraska.
Here is her short bio from my Sunday blog:
Lindsey Moore, Nebraska: 5-9 point guard from Tacoma, Wash. Led Big Ten in assists to turnovers ratio, avg. 15.1 points, had 195 assists, 60 steals, shot 38.2 percent on three-pointers.
Comments: Lynx had to love that assists to turnover ratio and the near 40 percent shooting touch on threes.
After Atlanta took another Big Ten guard, Alex Bentley of Penn State, the Lynx were on the clock again.
And, yup, they hesitated only second again before taking Sugar Rodgers.
Here is her short bio from Sunday blog:
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown: Most decorated Hoya ever in women's basketball; four-time all-Big East first team pick. ... 5-11 from Suffolk, Va. ... team's top three-point scorer; shot 31.9 pct. behind arc as senior when she avg. 22.9 points per game and had 127 assists and 105 steals.
Comments: Has good size, like all the steals, too. Played in a tough, tough conference with UConn and Notre Dame but excelled.
I had the Lynx taking Rodgers No. 12 and Moore No. 14. The Lynx reversed the order.
The three mock draft mentioned above had Moore going 11th, ninth or 12th and Rodgers fifth, 12th or not in the top 12 at all.
The Lynx finished the draft with the last pick in the second round and the last in the third. They took 5-10 guard Chucky Jeffrey of Colorado and 6-6 center Waltiea Rolle from North Carolina. Both should be considered longshots to make the team.
Jeffrey is from Colorado Springs. Rolle is from Nassau of the Bahamas.
Notes: Guard Brittany Chambers of Kansas State went No. 22 to the Los Angeles Sparks. She is from Jordan and was expected to go more toward the middle of the second round, not near the bottom.
This was the first time in 17 years the WNBA draft was on prime time TV. The first round was on ESPN2, starting at 7 pm in Minnesota, and took only an hour. Rounds 2 and 3 followed and were on ESPNU.
This is a blog I wrote Sunday, correctly guessing the Lynx's top two picks in the WNBA draft. When they are No. 12 and 14, that's hard to do. I am even surprised.
Here is the blog. with comments on the Lynx top two picks -- before they were chosen:
Brittney Griner of Baylor will change the WNBA. She is a 6-8 shot-blocker and dunker whom the Phoenix Mercury will take with the No. 1 pick.
After that 6-5 Elena Delle Donne of Delaware and guard Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame will be taken next. Although the order could be reversed.
Chicago, which has 6-6 Sylvia Fowles and might pass on Delle Donne, has the No. 2 pick. Diggins might spark more fan interest, too. Since she played for the Irish in nearby South Bend, Ind..
Tulsa, which picks No. 3, would probably prefer Delle Donne after 6-8 Elizabeth Cambage, an Aussie, said she would not return to the team this season. She played in China over the winter, which is a lot closer to home for her and her Chinese team pays her a lot more money, too.
The Lynx, after going 27-7 for the second year in a row in the regular season, will pick last, or No. 12, in the first round because they had the best record in the league.
After looking at six mock draft, it's clear nearly everyone expects the Lynx to draft a guard because they could use another ballhandler and three-point shooter off the bench. They traded Candice Wiggins to Tulsa and didn't re-sign Erin Thorn, a veteran.
So now the only players listes at guard only on their roster are Lindsay Whalen and unproven rookie Jacki Gemelos, who has a history of torn ACLs. Seimone Augustus and Monica Wright are both listed as G/F. They are both more shooting guards than ball-handlers.
So who will the Lynx take?
Draftsite.com says Alex Bentley of Penn State. So does Dish & Swish.
Swish Appeal says the Lynx will pick Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown. Kevin Pelton of ESPN says it will be Lindsey Moore of Nebraska. Doug Feinberg of Associated Press predicts Layshia Clarendon of California.
In other words, nobody knows.
And there is always one mock draft which goes against the trend. wnbadraft.net says the Lynx will take a forward, Chelsea Poppens of Iowa State.
The truth of the matter is, even the Lynx can't say who they will pick. It depends who is still available when their turn comes on Monday night. Some of the players they want will be gone.
Rodgers is picked as high as No. 5 in the mock drafts, Bentley as high as No. 7, Moore as high as No. 9.
So who will be on the board when the Lynx's turn comes?
Probably not Tayler Hill, a guard for Ohio State who played for Minneapolis South. She is picked as high as No. 4 in one mock draft. In the middle of the first round, in several other mock drafts.
One other guard from Minnesota is also expected to be drafted. That's Brittany Chambers of Jordan. She played for Kansas State. Two mock drafts have her going early or in the middle of the second round..
Here is the order teams will pick in the first round:
5. New York
7. New York, second pick in first round
8. San Antonio
9. Indiana, the WNBA champion
10. Los Angeles
Here is who draftsite.com, Swish Appeal and ESPN expects those teams to pick:
1. Phoenix: Brittney Griner
2. Chicago: Diggins, Delle Donne, Delle Donne
3. Tulsa: Delle Donne, Diggins, Diggins
4. Washington: Markel Walker, UCLA; Tayler Hill, Ohio State; Tianna Hawkins, Maryland
5. New York: Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown; Kelsy Bone, Texas A&M; Bone
6. Seattle: Angel Goodrich, Kansas; Kayla Alexander, Syracuse; Hill
7. New York: Hill; Toni Young, Oklahoma State; Alex Bentley, Penn State
8. San Antonio: Hawkins; Hawkins, Carolyn Davis, Kansas
9. Indiana: Alexander, Kelly Faris, UConn; Walker
10. Los Angeles: Davis; Lindsay Moore, Nebraska; A'dis Mathies, Kentucky
11. Connecticut: Moore, Mathies, Alexander
12: Lynx: Bentley, Rodgers, Moore
Besides Diggins, Hill is probably the second most coveted guard. So the Lynx, unless they can pull off a late pre-draft swap have no chance at drafting her.
Here is her college bio and those of some real possibilities for the Lynx:
Hill: 5-10 guard from Minneapolis, played for South High. State's all-time leading scorer. ... Led Big Ten in scoring as senior, avg., 21.1 points. Twice all-Big Ten first team, three times on all-Big Ten defensive team. ... Had 88 assists, 66 steals as senior, shot 31.7 percent on three-pointers.
Alex Bentley, Penn State: 5-7 point guard from Indianapolis, avg. 14.1 points, 3.5 assists ... all-Big Ten first team three times, on all-Big Ten defensive team twice
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown:Most decorated Hoya ever in women's basketball; four-time all-Big East first team pick. ... 5-11 from Suffolk, Va. ... team's top three-point scorer; shot 31.9 pct. behind arc as senior when she avg. 22.9 points per game and had 127 assists and 105 steals
Lindsay Moore, Nebraska: 5-9 point guard from Tacoma, Wash. Led Big Ten in assists to turnovers ratio, avg. 15.1 points, had 195 assists, 60 steals, shot 38.2 percent on three-pointers.
Layshia Clarendon, California: 5-9 guard from San Bernardino, Calif. Led Bears to first 30-win season as senior. ... Avg. 16.4 points, had 100 assists in 25 games, 61 steals, all-Pac-10 first team.
Angel Goodrich, Kansas: 5-4 point guard from Glendale, Ariz. ... Native American. ... All-time assists leader at Kansas, all-Big 12 first team, led conference with three steals per game, second in assists per game (245 total). ... Avg. 14.1 points.
Brittany Chambers, Kansas State: 5-8 from Jordan. All-state volleyball player four times. ... All-Big 12 first team three times, avg. 21 points, had 281 rebounds, 122 assists and 46 steals as senior.
Chelsea Poppens, Iowa State: She is 6-2 and from Waterloo, Iowa. ... Had 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in college career. Has most offensive rebounds in school history. ... Ave. 13.4 points as senior, had 290 rebounds.
So who will the Lynx take? I like Sugar Rodgers. She can pass and wreak havoc on defense. And has good size. But she will probably be gone. ... My next choice would be Lindsay Moore because she takes care of the ball so well and is such a good thrree-point shooter.
Hope that helps you, Lynx. I'm sure coach Cheryl Reeve will follow my advice. Thanks, you say? You're welcome.
The WNBA draft is coming up Monday. And Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was on KFAN on Tuesday morning to talk about it.
"I enjoy drafts ... a lot of preprations go into it," Reeve said.
This year is different, though, the Lynx don't have a No. 1 pick or even a high pick. They have the last pick in the first round, No. 12, because they had the best regular-season record in the WNBA.
"It is what you want as a franchise," Reeve said. "Not to have high draft picks."
The Lynx have four picks in the three-round WNBA draft. After No. 12, they also have the No. 14 pick -- the second pick of the second round -- Nos. 24 and 36.
The one big change in the Lynx lineup for this season will be in the post. Former Gopher Janel McCarville replaces Taj McWilliams-Franklin, now a coach with the New York Liberty. Mama Taj, at 42, retired.
"Janel has been on our radar for a couple of years ... and we have an opening," Reeve said. "She brings toughness, rebounding and she is a tremendous passer."
The bigger change, though, will be in the league. Every team besides Phoenix will have to figure out how to scheme for 6-8 center Brittney Griner of Baylor. The Mercury has the No. 1 pick in next week's draft and will take her.
"She will change the way we have to play," Reeve said. "It is her shot-blocking that is really disruptive."
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said his NBA team might draft Griner. Reeve's response to that is, "If Mark really wants to help us, he would put a [WNBA] franchise in Dallas."
The league recently announced a long-term TV deal with ESPN, which Reeve calls a big shot in the arm for the WNBA.
"We go from two, three teams in the black," Reeve said, "to, with TV and the sponsorship deals, to more than half the teams in the league profitable."
About half the teams have major jersey sponsorship deals, which are worth on average about $1 million per season. The Lynx don't but, with their recent success -- a WNBA title in 2011 and a a runner-up finish in 2012 -- are one of the more profitable WNBA teams of late.
Success in the regular season is not a good thing for WNBA teams when it comes to the league's draft.
The Lynx had the best regular-season record in the WNBA last season and didn't make any trades to move up, so they are picking last, No. 12 in the first round.
They also have three other picks, two in the second round, Nos. 14 and 24, and one in the third, No. 36.
Phoenix has the top pick in the draft and will take 6-8 center Brittney Griner of Baylor.
Chicago and Tulsa have the next two picks. And there are two other players available who could have immediate impact: 5-9 guard Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame and 6-5 forward Elena Delle Donne of Delaware. They will probably both be gone by the time Washington's No. 4 pick comes along.
So who else is there. The Lynx have put up a list of 15 players to watch on their web site, in alphabetical order.
Besides the Big Three, here are the other prospects the Lynx list:
6-4 C Kayla Alexander, Syracuse ... 17.9 pts., 7.8 rebs. per game
5-7 G Alex Bentley, Penn St. ... 14.1 pts., 3.5 assists
6-3 F Carolyn Davis, Kansas ... 15.8 pts., 6.6 rebs
5-11 G Kelly Faris, Connecticut ... 10 pts., 5.6 rebs.
6-3 F Tianna Hawkins, Maryland ... 18 pts., 9.7 rebs.
5-10 G Taylor Hill, Ohio State ... 21.1 pts., 2.9 assists per game
5-9 G A'dia Mathies, Kentucky ... 16.1 pts., 4.5 rebs.
5-9 G Lindsey Moore, Nebraska ... 15.1 pts., 5.7 assists per game
6-2 F Karisma Penn, Illinois ... 19.2 pts., 9.6 rebs.
5-11 G Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown ... 22.9 pts., 4.1assists
6-1 F Markel Walker, UCLA ... 10.6 pts., 7.2 rebs.
6-2 F Toni Young, Oklahoma St. ... 16 pts., 10.1 rebs.
Lynx have lost center Taj McWilliams-Franklin (retired, coaching with NY Liberty), traded guard Candice Wiggins (to Tulsa) and decided not to re-sign guard Erin Thorn.
Only sure thing they added is C Janel McCarville. ... So they could be looking for guard help at Nos. 12 and 14. Especially a guard who can shoot threes.
The Lynx have announced that they have signed guard Jacki Gemelos.
Never heard of her?
Well, she hasn't played in the WNBA yet.
Gemelos, 25, was selected by the Lynx in the third round (31st overall) of the 2012 WNBA Draft.
A 6-foot guard averaged 11.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in nine games as a senior for Southern Cal before suffering a season-ending knee injury, resulting in her fifth ACL reconstruction in six years.
As a junior, Gemelos appeared in all 37 games (28 starts), averaging 12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 30.6 minutes per game. She made 52 three-pointers and shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc to lead the Pac-10.
Is she Candice Wiggins replacement off the bench when the team needs a three?
Candice played at Stanford, so she was from California, too.
Gemelos, as a high school senior at St. Mary's, averaged 39.2 points, 8.9 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. She was a McDonald’s All-American, a WBCA All-American, Miss Basketball of California and the 2006 National Player of the Year by MaxPreps and Scout.com.
Sounds like she is definitely worth a look in training camp, which starts next month. Big question with Gemelous, obviously, is how her knees hold up.
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