The WNBA finished their 2020 season in the wubble with the Seattle Storm winning their second championship in three years. A new season of women’s college basketball season is now underway. That means it’s time to begin thinking ahead to which young players will catch the WNBA’s eye for the next draft class come April.
While there is a lot of great talent on the court this year for women’s college basketball, it’s possible not all of the top prospects will be eligible for the 2021 draft. WNBA draft rules differ greatly from the NBA, requiring American players to graduate from their respective universities or be turning 22 years old during the draft year to enter. International players must be 20 years to be deemed eligible.
With that said, there are many players you should get familiar with this year because you will be hearing about them at the next level. Here is a list of seven college basketball WNBA fans should keep an eye on.
Rennia Davis, G/F, Tennessee
Davis plays with a tremendous amount of versatility. Her size and ability to handle the ball allows her to play at both the three and four positions. From running off screens to being the big in a pick-and-pop, it seems as though Davis’ upside for various sets and plays are endless. She also has an impressive ability to create space for her own shot with a go-to step-back move and deep range on her jumper.
Last season, she closed out the year, averaging 18 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Quite well rounded, Davis will be a fun player to watch this season. She truly is a complete player. If I were being knit picky, I would say she could take care of the ball a little better since she did finish the season with more turnovers than assists last year. But it was not by much, and that will not be a deciding factor for what spot she will be drafted come April 2021.
Charli Collier, C, Texas
Let me start by saying, Collier is a true junior, so to be eligible for the draft, she would need to graduate early. Though we don’t know Collier’s academic status, we do know that she is WNBA ready if she does decide to enter this year.
Standing at 6’5, she is a force to be reckoned with in the paint. But what if I told you she is even dangerous beyond the arc? Yes, that’s right, her position as a “forward/center” is accurate. Collier has no problem letting the three-ball fly, as she averaged 35 percent on 79 attempts last season. She also averaged a double-double with 13.1 PPG and 10.5 RPG while shooting 77 percent from the line.
Moving into this year, Collier is dominating. She had 44 points and 16 rebounds against North Texas and 25 points and 12 rebounds against SMU. Her only downside is the amount of time she spends in foul trouble. Collier averages 1.3 blocks per game, which isn’t her strongest stat line, and could improve. If she can tighten up her defense this year, there is not much else that is a cause for concern.
Aari McDonald, G, Arizona
Quick enough to blow by her defender from a dead stop and crafty enough to finish in the lane consistently, McDonald is the quintessential slashing point guard, and she is fun to watch. Her ability to lock down on defense also makes her an asset to any team looking to do more than merely trade baskets with their opponents. During the 2019-2020 season, McDonald packed box scores by averaging 20.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game.
With that said, to become a complete player and a greater asset to her future team, McDonald could improve upon her three-point shooting. Shooting 26.8 percent from beyond the arc, opposing teams may decide to go under screens to protect against the drive. By developing a stronger three-game, the 5’6 guard will forcer other teams to play her more honest and make her a greater offensive threat.
Evina Westbrook, G, UConn
Westbrook sat out the entire 2019-2020 season after transferring from the University of Tennessee to UConn and undergoing a few knee surgeries. But this year, watch out for the 6’0 guard to make her mark on the Huskies’ squad.
Her height allows her to see the floor and find bigs off screens or take it to smaller defenders on the drive and shoot over them. She averaged 14.9 points, 5.3 assists in her final year at Tennessee, as well as 38 percent shooting from the three. More than anything, we’re hoping to see how Westbrook performs after her various knee surgeries and a year on the bench. But if her performance this year is anything like her sophomore season as a Lady Vol, she will be a top-five draft pick in April.
Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky
Like Charli Collier, Howard is a true junior and needs to graduate early to be eligible for the 2021 draft, but she is draft ready. By far one of the most complete players in women’s college basketball this year, there are few things Howard can’t do.
Standing at 6’2 she is a big guard, with the ability to knock it down from anywhere and even grab a few rebounds along the way. Her shooting accuracy is impressive, averaging a 43.2 field goal percentage and 38.5 percent from the three. Overall she averaged 23.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG last season, and her defense raises no red flags as she can pick off a couple passes and block a shot or two per game.
The only thing that would cause me to raise a brow is that the star guard was suspended for the first two games of the 2020-2021 season “for not upholding the standards of the (Kentucky women’s basketball) program.” While her conduct off the court is no indication of the player she is, we would like to see Howard in good standing and eligible for as many games as possible this year.
Michaela Onyenwere, F, UCLA
Onyenwere hit 47.3 percent of her field goals last season thanks to a strong midrange game. The 6-foot senior forward is a presence in the paint with the ability to face up or finish back to the basket, but she is most effective driving down the lane with a strong and crafty ability to step through and glide past defenders.
Her most effective move off if she can’t get into the paint is a spin move and pull up right around the free throw line. Still, to hone her title as a threat to the defense, she will need to add additional moves to her arsenal off the dribble and get more comfortable playing on the perimeter.
Arella Guirantes, G, Rutgers
Guirantes could have entered the 2020 WNBA draft but bypassed the opportunity to return to Rutgers for her fifth year. She had a breakout season last year, leading the Big Ten in scoring by averaging 20.6 points per game. She nearly doubled her previous years’ scoring, which was 11.8 points per game.
Two things that stand out most about Guirantes’ game is her ability to create off the dribble and her physicality in the lane. She is a magician, bobbing and weaving through the lane when she gets the opportunity to square up and take a defender one-on-one. She also got to the line 191 times last year (roughly seven free throw attempts per game) and shot 79.6 percent.
I am curious to know what Guirantes’ game would look like with the ball in her hands less. Heading into the WNBA, she will most likely spend more time off the ball, so she will need to expand her game to include catch-and-shoot abilities to round out her play.
All in all these are just seven of the many talented women you should watch for this season, and especially be listening for in April 2021 during the WNBA draft.