Who’s Number One??

By Matt Stout
Updated: April 4, 2009

CONNECTICUT — Rebecca Lobo spoke on the WNBA’s Pre-Draft conference call Wednesday as one of two analysts who could help provide some answers.

Even she couldn’t escape asking a few questions about this year’s senior draft class.

“Who goes where?” said Lobo, now with ESPN. “Who is Atlanta going to take with No. 1? Some people would say that you have to take (UConn’s) Renee Montgomery even if you don’t necessarily need a point guard or you have to take (Louisville’s) Angel McCoughtry or you have to take (Maryland’s) Marissa Coleman. What is going to happen at that top of this draft?

“I think this is the first time in quite a while that you have a few players who are mucking things up,” Lobo added, “and making it not an obvious choice up top.”

It’s one of several question marks surrounding this year’s draft, which opens at 3 p.m. this Thursday with the Atlanta Dream picking first overall in Secaucus, N.J. (ESPN2).

Though this year’s class likely won’t approach the depth and star power of last year’s — which included MVP Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Candice Wiggins — the combination of several versatile stars, tightening rosters and smaller training camps should make for an interesting start to the league’s 13th season.

Include the Connecticut Sun in that as well.

Choosing at picks 10, 17 and 36, the Sun don’t have nearly as many holes to fill as they did following last offseason when they remade their roster and owned two first-round selections.

And they hope the free agent signing of 25-year-old Latvian star, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, will address their most glaring need of a pure outside shooter.

But in the first round, they face an interesting decision: To draft the best available player, a common strategy at that point in the draft, or go after frontcourt help, which they tried (unsuccessfully) this offseason in the pursuit of free agents Lauren Jackson and Tina Thompson.

The Sun ranked in the top five in the league in rebounding last season, and they boast one of its premiere forwards (Asjha Jones), consistent veterans (Tamika Whitmore) and promising young post-players (Sandrine Gruda). But outside of Gruda, no one on their roster stands above 6-foot-3, and this draft provides several frontcourt options.

“I think Connecticut might be looking to get a little more size inside,” Lobo said. “They did a good job last year with the posts that they have, but they don’t have a ton of size.”

Some players aren’t expected to be available when the Sun pick, most notably Oklahoma star Courtney Paris.

But in a draft caked with mystery, it is possible Rutgers’ 6-foot-4 center Kia Vaughn, Duke’s 6-foot-5 Chante Black, and Paris’ sister and teammate, the 6-foot-3 Ashley, could be on the board. Others like the 6-foot-4 DeWanna Bonner (Auburn) and 6-foot-1 Ashley Walker (Cal) may also be available.

Vaughn and Black, particularly — two post-players who prefer playing in a transition game — said Wednesday that Connecticut seems like the best fit for them.

“I’ve seen them play a few times,” Vaughn said of the Sun. “And speaking with (Rutgers) coach (C. Vivian) Stringer, they are a running team and everyone knows I’m a post who likes to run.”

Vaughn, above all, is an interesting prospect. Inconsistent during her senior year and never Rutgers’ top scoring option, she came alive in the NCAA tournament to average 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.

“Where will she be drafted? What number will be the open debate, I believe,” said Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer, who drafts at No. 11. “I think she’s moved up from where she was at the start of the season. Will she be there at 11? I don’t know the answer of that one.”

The consensus is two-fold: She has her best basketball ahead of her, and she may have played her self out of the Sun’s reach.

“She will be a better professional than she was a collegiate player,” ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman said.