The 2015 WNBA Draft will be remembered primarily as the year underclassmen went 1-2.
Yes, the men have been doing it since the 1970’s (think Moses Malone, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, etc.) But the women? Not so much. The last player to declare early, according to the New York Times, was Naperville’s own Candace Parker, who was selected first by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008.
But by that time, she’d been Ms. Basketball Illinois (twice), led back-to-back championships with the Tennesee Lady Vols, earned an Olympic gold medal, and had been SEC Player of the Year.
Notre Dame junior Jewell Loyd, who dazzled at Illinois’ Niles West High School, dismantled her unflappable coach with a last-minute declaration. She went to the Seattle Storm at #1.
With less fanfare, the University of Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B was selected by the Tulsa Shock with the second draft pick.
Both the Storm and Shock finished the 2014 season with 12-22 records, neither making the playoffs in the Western Conference.
“I was shocked when Jewell told me she that was leaving. It was just about an hour after the championship game,” “So it was a real blow, it was a bad day. We’re incredibly disappointed, in so many ways.”
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, to local media, after Jewell Loyd’s last-minute decision to enter the WNBA draft.
Personally, I don’t like it. Yes, they’ll both be 22 years old, and could indeed make a big impact on the game. Tulsa’s struggled since their move from Detroit, and the Storm’s aging lineup hasn’t been able to come through.
In the short run, Loyd will have ample opportunity to learn the up-tempo pro game under the tutelage of Sue Bird. And there’s no question Loyd’s 19.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season will help a moribund offense. Zahui B, averaged 18.8 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game last season for the Golden Gophers, and stands to pair well with Notre Dame graduate Skylar Diggins (one of the ‘Three-T0-See’ of the 2013 draft).
But I hate that Loyd did this in lieu of another chance at a national title (with three McDonald’s All-Americans coming in as teammates), a possible Naismith or John Wooden Award, and most importantly, a degree from the University of Notre Dame. Yes, she’s struggled with dyslexia and had rumors flying that she and McGraw didn’t get along or see eye-to-eye, so leaving probably seemed like a good option after Notre Dame’s third appearance in the NCAA Finals in four years.
But she stopped short of doing everything her college career could have offered her.
By contrast, Zahui B.’s lived on her own since she was 15, and traveled the world with team clubs. The University of Minnesota’s women’s basketball program wouldn’t likely have made a run at the Final Four, so staying wouldn’t have earned her many more medals or accolades. She’s mature for her years, and being paired with Loyd’s former teammate Diggins can only improve her game.
In the end, I think this move will hurt Loyd the most. She told the New York Times, via a blog on the Players Tribune, that “turning pro was the first step toward being able to make business investments and support philanthropic endeavors.”
I really hope she has a good set of advisors, especially on business matters. She doesn’t have millions to lose in WNBA money, but endorsement deals and European opportunities are ahead of her.
She also says she plans to complete her degree someday.
But what kind of example does that set for future generations? It’s not like she could make Derrick Rose-sized money by coming out early.
McGraw said as much just before the draft.
“I think it’s a really bad decision for women, especially to try to leave early,” McGraw said. “They’re not making the money that the men make. They’re going to make less than $50,000 in the league. To get your degree, especially from a school like Notre Dame, it’s just mind-boggling that anybody would choose to leave early.“