Monday, April 16, 2012

WNBA Draft: Could VCU's Hurt join Q in New York?

All along we've considered it a dream scenario - VCU's Courtney Hurt not only being a first-round draft pick, but getting selected by New York and being reunited with ex-Rams star Quanitra Hollingsworth. The two played together at VCU for one season in 2008-09, a year that saw the Rams advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Now that the draft is set for Monday (2 p.m., ESPN2), it appears as though Hurt is in the mix of players that could land in New York. The question now is, will Hollingsworth be there if Hurt gets there? According to this report, Hollingsworth either has or is set to acquire Turkish citizenship and will play for Turkey during this summer's Olympic Qualifying Tournament June 25-July 1 in Ankara, Turkey. The top five teams in that 12-team tournament advance to the London Olympics. The report suggests that Hollingsworth would train with the Turkish team in preparation for qualifying and miss at least the start of the WNBA season.

There's been no word from the Liberty on any of this. But on Friday, the team signed veteran forward and former Virginia star DeMya Walker. Walker was part of a WNBA championship team under current Liberty coach John Whisenant in Sacramento. The move could also bolster the Liberty's absence in case Hollingsworth isn't available.

Which brings us back to Hurt. One of the big reasons we see a potential link between the Rams star and New York is this comment from Whisenant:

"We're looking for a post that can guard and run the floor, but we need rebounds. Rebounding is critical in all basketball and the WNBA is no different. That's why big players are so critical; they're closer to the rebounding. We'll look for that."

Hurt, of course, led Division I in rebounding in each of the past two seasons. She seems to have a knack for sensing where a shot is going to come off the rim and getting to that spot before anyone else. It's a skill we think will transfer to the WNBA level. If the Liberty agree, the team might not pass her up with the No. 7 pick on the first round.

The website Swish Appeal, which has by far the most comprehensive draft coverage available, projects Hurt in this spot. If Swish Appeal's experts, analysts and numbers-crunchers see it this way, who are we to argue? Michelle Smith of ESPNW also has Hurt going No. 7 to the Liberty.

Phoenix, which has the No. 6 pick, also may be considering Hurt.

Of course, as we learned with last year with JMU star Dawn Evans, there are few certainties when it comes to the WNBA draft. Prior to the 2011 draft, everyone and their brother had the high-scoring Evans coming off the board somewhere within the first two rounds. We know how that turned out.

There isn't really a consensus on Hurt's draft position; some mock drafts have her lasting until the second round. That Hurt wasn't one of the 15 players selected to attend Monday's draft may reflect this uncertainty. Still, this shouldn't be taken as an indication Hurt won't be taken in the first round. In 2009, Hollingsworth wasn't invited to the draft party, either, and she was selected with the ninth pick by Minnesota.

If Hurt is chosen with one of the first 12 picks, she would become the ninth WNBA first-round draft pick from a Virginia college since the league began in 1997. No player from a Virginia school was chosen in the 2011 draft. This season, in addition to Hurt, we think Hampton's Jericka Jenkins, VCU's Andrea Barbour, ODU's Tia Lewis and Liberty's Avery Warley all merit consideration in the three-round draft. Warley's rebounding rate is even better than Hurt's. Also, while we suspect that Taleia Moton's lack of size and the fact that she's not a true point guard will work against her for WNBA types, we hope the sheer quality of her performance for George Mason last season makes someone think she's at least worth a look.

The all-time Virginia draft board:

1st round
2 - Monica Wright, Virginia (Minnesota, 2010)
2 - Ticha Penicheiro, Old Dominion (Sacramento, 1998)
5 - Tammi Reiss, Virginia (Utah, 1997)
7 - Tora Suber, Virginia (Charlotte, 1997)
8 - Katie Feenstra, Liberty (Connecticut, 2005; rights traded to San Antonio)
8 - Tamera Young, James Madison (Atlanta, 2008)
9 - Quanitra Hollingsworth, VCU (Minnesota, 2009)
12 - Hamchetou Maiga, Old Dominion (Sacramento, 2002)

2nd round
2 (14th overall) - Megan Frazee, Liberty (San Antonio, 2009)
3 (19th overall) - Lucienne Berthieu, Old Dominion (Seattle, 2002)
4 (16th overall) - Clarisse Machanguana, Old Dominion (Los Angeles, 1999)
4 (17th overall) - Lyndra Littles, Virginia (Connecticut, 2009)
10 (20th overall) - Nyree Roberts, Old Dominion (Houston, 1998)
11 (23rd overall) - Mery Andrade, Old Dominion (Cleveland, 1999)
15 (27th overall) - Schuye LaRue, Virginia (Los Angeles, 2003)

3rd round
3 (27th overall) - Adrienne Goodson, Old Dominion (Utah, 1999)
3 (29th overall) - Sharnee Zoll, Virginia (Los Angeles, 2008)
(30th overall) - Nare Diawara, Virginia Tech (San Antonio, 2007)
4 (31st overall) - Telisha Quarles, Virginia (Phoenix, 2003)
5 (31st overall) - Ieva Kublina, Virginia Tech (Indiana, 2004)
6 (34th overall) - Krystal Vaughn, VCU (Washington, 2008)
6 (34th overall) - Kerri Gardin, Virginia Tech (Chicago, 2006)
6 (38th overall) - Svetlana Volnaya, Virginia (Detroit, 2001)
13 (45th overall) - Tere Williams, Virginia Tech (Phoenix, 2001)

4th round (1997-2002)
6 (54th overall) - Sharron Francis, Old Dominion (Minnesota, 2002)
16 (64th overall) - Tiffany Thompson, Old Dominion (Los Angeles, 2002)

Elite draft
Prior to the WNBA's initial season in 1997, the league held an elite draft of players who had played in other professional leagues. Virginia's Wendy Palmer (9th overall) and Old Dominion's Nancy Lieberman (15th) were both 2nd-round picks.

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