ESPN women’s basketball analyst Rebecca Lobo admits that the 2021 WNBA Draft isn’t the strongest.
It’s also not a draft with a hyped, slam dunk superstar at the top like a Breanna Stewart or an A’ja Wilson.
“It’s not as strong,” said Lobo in a media conference call. “I think people kind of understand that this year’s isn’t as strong as maybe last year’s class and it’s not as strong as some of the classes in the next couple of years.
“[But] of course there’s really good players in this draft. And of course teams are going to be able to find players who can fit a need for them. “
One of those players is projected No. 1 pick Charli Collier of the Texas Longhorns.
Watch the 2021 WNBA Draft on Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on TSN2 and streaming on TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct.
A 6-foot-5 centre who was a First-Team All-Big 12 Conference selection in 2019-20, Collier has stood out in this year’s class with her size and strength.
As a junior this past season at Texas, she averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while shooting 51.1 per cent from the field.
“When you look at Charli, she looks like a WNBA player,” said Lobo. “You know, she’s big and strong. Has a great frame. Plays really hard. She added the three-point shot, which a stretch four needs to have now in the WNBA. She’s got a good looking stroke, she’s got decent hands.”
ESPN’s latest mock draft has the Mont Belvieu, Texas native in the No. 1 spot.
However, questions about Collier’s game emerged after subpar performances in the Big 12 championship semifinals and in the NCAA tournament, specifically against Baylor.
In three games against Baylor this past season, Collier averaged just 5.7 points and 5.0 rebounds shooting 35.7 per cent.
“I think when you see her performance against some teams in particular, Baylor, it makes you take pause a little bit but I think you also understand the system she was playing in, a dribble drive offence, what she was surrounded by,” said Lobo. “A big is in heaven when they are surrounded by shooters because it gives them space to be able to operate.”
While she performed much better in No. 6 Texas’ Sweet 16 upset of No. 2 seed Maryland with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Collier struggled again in the Elite Eight against South Carolina with just 4.0 points and 4.0 rebounds and going 2-of-10 from the field.
The Dallas Wings have the No. 1 and 2 picks in the upcoming WNBA draft as well as the fifth and seventh picks. Despite Collier’s struggles, team president and CEO Greg Bibb considers her to be in the top group of players in the draft.
“I don’t put a lot of value on specific slotting of players,” said Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb in a media conference call.
“I think that’s a really hard thing to do. I think it’s more about groupings of players and I think Charli Collier has been in that top group of players and continues to be in that top group of players.
“I think obviously there were some games this past year that I assume would be disappointing to her in terms of her performance but you have to remember, too, there are always multiple aspects to performance, it’s not just the individual output. There’s aspects relative to the opponent, there’s aspects relative to the game plan, there’s aspects relative to the matchups so I don’t really look at a particular player’s sliding from one specific spot to another, I look at them in terms of groupings. And for me, she’s in that top group.”
The rebuilding Wings took three players in the first round last year, with Satou Sabally going second overall, Bella Alarie at No. 5 and Tyasha Harris picked seventh.
Collier has the potential to be just the second Big 12 player taken first overall since the Phoenix Mercury took Brittney Griner in 2013 and the first from Texas.
“There’s a lot to like about her game,” Lobo said. “You do have questions when you see some of the struggles she may have had against certain opponents but you also understand kind of the bigger picture of what she was playing with, the system she was playing in and all of those things. Certainly a lot to like about Charli.”