Two weeks after leading the Maryland women’s basketball team to the Final Four for the first time in eight years, senior forward Alyssa Thomas is set to learn where she will be playing professionally when the WNBA draft takes place Monday night at Mohegan Sun casino and resort in Uncasville, Conn.
The Terrapins’ career leader in scoring and rebounding is a potential lottery pick and could be selected as high as No. 3 overall. Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike is the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall by the Connecticut Sun, and Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims has been linked to the Tulsa Shock with the second selection.
The San Antonio Silver Stars, with the No. 3 pick, and New York Liberty are the final lottery teams. The Washington Mystics, meanwhile, have the No. 6 pick as well as two third-round picks (Nos. 30 and 32 overall). Barring a major surprise, they will not be in the running to choose Thomas, who is among a dozen top prospects invited to attend the draft.
“Everything is happening so fast,” Thomas said during a telephone interview from Connecticut, where her family will join her on draft night. “It’s the end of the season, but now it’s time to get ready for the pros and just moving on to the next level.”
Other players in the mix to become lottery picks include Connecticut center Stefanie Dolson and Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride. Dolson, at 6 feet 5, was named national defensive player of the year and had 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in the Huskies’ 79-58 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA championship game April 8 in Nashville.
McBride scored 19 of her game-high 28 points in the first half during the Fighting Irish’s 87-61 win against Maryland in the national semifinals. The 5-11 first-team all-American figures to play either shooting guard or small forward in the WNBA.
“You don’t have a [Brittney] Griner or [Elena] Delle Donne in this draft, but you have throughout the first round really good players,” Mystics second-year Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault said. “I think the consensus is pretty sure that in either order, one or two, it’s going to be Ogwumike and Sims just depending on what Connecticut decides is best for them.”
Thibault indicated the Mystics’ strategy is to choose the best player available rather than drafting for need. Washington finished 17-17 last season, compiling more victories than in the previous two seasons combined, and made the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after hiring Thibault to take over front office and coaching duties.
Among Thibault’s most recent moves was adding combo guard Kara Lawson from Connecticut in a three-team deal that also included the Atlanta Dream. Washington traded Matee Ajavon and the 18th pick to the Dream for Alex Bentley and the 32nd selection. The Mystics then traded Bentley to the Sun for Lawson.
Among Thibault’s first moves when he came to the District was to sign free agent point guard Ivory Latta. The six-year veteran from North Carolina helped stabilize the back court and was the catalyst behind the biggest single-season turnaround in franchise history.
“I don’t know that the draft pick will make an impact as far as taking us to the next level,” Thibault said. “I think it gives us depth.
“I think more than that we need the players that we currently have to be improved from a year ago.”