When the Fab Four arrived on campus, they were going to change Cal's culture. Prior to their arrival, Cal had had 12 straight losing seasons and hadn't been to the NCAA tournament in 13. Since then, the Fab Four and Coach Boyle have led the team to 4 straight winning seasons, 4 straight NCAA tournaments, and this year, to Cal's first ever Sweet 16 in women's basketball.
Cal celebrating their win over Virginia and into the Sweet 16.
The Fab Four consists of Ashley Walker, Devanei Hampton, Shantrell Sneed, and Alexis Gray Lawson. Three of them will graduate this year - two of them with the possibility of playing in the WNBA - and one will stay on to provide leadership for our fantastic incoming class of recruits.
More than enough has been said about Walker and Hampton. These two pillars were a huge reason for the success of Cal women's basketball team over the past four years and they deserve all the accolades and acclaim they've received. In fact, they deserve more!
Both of them have a more than good chance of being drafted in the WNBA draft. The draft will be held in Secaucus, New Jersey, on Thursday, April 9th. First round will be televised on ESPN2 HD from 12-1 PM PST and after that, ESPNU HD and NBA TV will televise 2nd and 3rd round from 1-2:30 PST. It will also be broadcast on ESPN360.com.
Before we get into the WNBA draft, a shout out to Shantrell Sneed. Sneed ends her last season averaging 2.2 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. In a way, she is an unsung hero of the team. She has done everything asked of her and been a steady presence in the paint. Sneed was an invaluable member of our posts, especially given the string of injuries to other post players. Last year, she stepped it up and filled in for Dev, playing in 25 games and 15 Pac-10 games, shooting a 48.7 field goal percentage. This remarkable number only increased this year to a 50.9 field goal percentage. Without her hard work and effort, it is unlikely that we would have had such great seasons the past two years.
Thanks for a wonderful four years and best of luck in the future!
Walker: "THIS ... IS ... CAL!"
The WNBA draft is an odd beast. GMs pick on a weird combination of past results, recent performance in the last NCAA tournament, potential, and need. The first round - especially the first 5 or so picks - are usually picked solely on ability and merit than need. These are the potential game breakers - for example, last year, it was Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, and Candice Wiggins - that you cannot pass on. Picking on need in these spots is a waste; generally, if teams aren't interested in the potential game breakers, they will trade down. After that, the first round is picked on a combination of both ability and need. Second round on it's mostly based on need.
Second, the WNBA is a ridiculously hard league to get into. Something like only 1% of the college basketball players will make it in the league and almost everyone was a star of their former college team. The professionals are faster, stronger, and savvier; they defend much better as well.
Last note, the WNBA recently cut rosters by one down to 11. Borderline rookies will find it harder to make it onto a team. On the other hand, cost cutting means if rookies can show they are equal to a veteran in production, whereas in the past, the experience of a veteran was more valuable, now, it's quite possible that teams would prefer rookies due to their lower pay grade. The combination of factors means teams are much less willing to take on "projects" that might pan out in 2-3 years, which might hurt Hampton's chances of sticking onto a team.
Walker is a player who you know will bring energy and intangibles. She has improved noticeably every year, which speaks well of her work ethic and and dedication. She also gives 100% in games. Her recent spurt of 3 pointers shows her growing range. She can play both face up and back to the basket. When face up, she's agile and has decent ball handling, which allows her to get to the cup and the free throw line. She doesn't leave points on the table as she's a very good free throw shooter. Additionally, she has a knack for predicting and positioning herself for rebounds.
However, her height makes her undersized for a 4 in the W and she's not consistent or comfortable enough on the perimeter to be a 3. In the post, her moves are a bit limited as she only has one major post move, that being the spin move. Despite her range, her shot is very deliberate. Developing a jump shot and slightly faster release will help her a lot.
Walker is one of the more polished PFs to come out this year and there have been successful undersized PFs in the league. Charde Houston is a good, recent example as she put up very good numbers last year for the MN Lynx as a rookie.
I'm inclined to rank her late first round but I've seen her from anywhere from being picked 4th to 13th. Her production and abilities are enough to put her into the first round but after that, it'll just depend on the teams' ranking of their needs and it is probable that the teams in mid first round will be looking for guards and wings first.
Hampton is a hard one to figure out. She has decent height and the athleticism for her position. As a former Pac-10 POTY, it is obvious she has or at least had the raw talent and skill to succeed in the WNBA. She's also very strong and has developed some range.
The biggest problem is her record of injuries, especially with respect to her knee. It's a shame because Hampton was so dominant in her sophomore year. Injuries and subequent rehab have kept her from getting the numbers and performance she could have gotten. Even now, she is just starting to regain her form and it is unknown as to what plateau she can now reach. The only other con is that sometimes, she allows emotional frustration to spill over into her play and leads her to pick up some unnecessary fouls.
Hampton will probably be picked mid second round to third round. She would be an absolute steal in the third round. Barring injury, her potential for growth is ridiculous. As mentioned above, teams are less likely to take on projects and will want rookies that can contribute right away. She definitely has the ability to succeed in the league, but she needs to come out strong if she wants to stay on a team.
Click on Draft Order if you want to see the potential teams Walker and Hampton might be going to.
A quick and dirty list of other notable posts in the draft include: Courtney Paris, Ashley Paris, Christina Wirth, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Chante Black, and Kia Vaughn.
As a reminder:
WNBA Draft - Thursday, April 9th, 12-2:30 PM PST
TV: ESPN2HD 12-1 PM PST, ESPNU HD and NBA TV 1-2:30 PM PST