April 10, 2011 in Sports

Vandersloot, Bjorklund await WNBA fate with draft on Monday

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Courtney Vandersloot
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

There was a little too much magic in the recently completed basketball season for Courtney Vandersloot’s next dream to come true.

The All-America point guard who led Gonzaga to the Elite Eight should be a first-round draft pick in Monday’s WNBA draft, but after what she accomplished her stock has probably risen too high to get drafted by the Seattle Storm.

Seattle, the reigning champion, picks last among the 12 teams and no one expects the 5-foot-8 Kent, Wash., native to be around that long.

“There’s a part of me that always wanted to go to Seattle,” Vandersloot said. “I didn’t know how it works, I just figured I could choose Seattle. It would be great to play at home and I idolized Sue Bird. I thought it would be great to play with her.”

Angie Bjorklund, who is also projected to be drafted, had a little less specific dream for a professional career.

“Going to Tennessee was my ultimate dream growing up,” the University High School graduate said. “If I can keep playing something I love and get paid for it, I’m all for it.”

Spokane native Briann January, the sixth overall pick by Indiana in 2009, expects to see both of them.

“Both of them have the work ethic it takes to compete,” she said. “If you’re willing to work hard, they both have the talent to hang with the women in the league. I see both of them being great players.”

January, who graduated from Lewis and Clark and played at Arizona State, was hoping the Fever might land Vandersloot.

“It would be great to have her on my team, but she definitely upped her stock during the tournament. Everybody saw what she had,” said January, who visited with Vandersloot at the women’s Final Four in Indianapolis. “She might have got bumped out of our range. I think we have the ninth pick.”

After become the first player in NCAA history to accumulate 2,000 points and 1,000 assists, Vandersloot was electric in the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament run, averaging 30 points and 10 assists, setting the NCAA single-season assist record in the process.

“It’s not hard for anyone to see she’s one of the great guards in college basketball,” Tulsa general manager and coach Nolan Richardson said recently in a national conference call. “We haven’t decided in what direction we’re going to go with our seventh pick, and there’s no question there’s certainly quite a few (point guards) out there and she’s one of them.”

Vandersloot, who received numerous honors during the whirlwind of the Final Four, is ready to find out more about her future.

“(The WNBA) is not really televised enough and talked about enough to know each team individually,” she said. “There are probably teams I’d fit in with better than others, but I don’t know that. I’ve heard everything from three to eight is a possibility.

“I’m just really excited to get it over with and find out where the heck I’m going.”

Bjorklund, who set the Tennessee record with 305 3-pointers in her career, is projected to go later in the three-round draft.

“Whatever happens happens. I’m just going to play it by ear,” she said. “I definitely love basketball and would love the opportunity to play, but I haven’t heard much about it.

“I’ve talked to a couple of old teammates and coaches who have been through the process and I have an agent now. Everything’s working out. It all happened quickly, but I have to stay focused on school and graduate – first things first.”

“There’s no question Bjorklund will be drafted,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “When you have a player to put the ball in the hole at the rate that she can from the 3-point line, there’s certainly value there. The specialist nature of her game will probably put her in the latter-mid part of the second round.”

“I’d actually put her in the end of the first round,” Richardson said.

“The people I have spoken to have her as a late second-rounder, early third round,” Pam Ward, an ESPN analyst said in the teleconference. “There are some concerns about defense.”

Bjorklund would be the fourth Greater Spokane League player to get drafted.

Stacy Clinesmith, from Mead and Santa Barbara, was a second-round pick in 2000. Emily Westerberg, from Central Valley and ASU, was a third-rounder in 2007. Clinesmith played three seasons; Westerberg elected not to play professionally.

Vandersloot would be the second Bulldog drafted. Tulsa took Vivian Frieson in the third round last year.

Reeve all but said in the conference call Minnesota would take Connecticut star Maya Moore with the first pick.

Tulsa also has the second pick and the expected choice is 6-foot-8 Australian teenager Liz Cambage. However, Cambage has indicted she isn’t interested in playing for Tulsa but Richardson said that wouldn’t affect his decision.

From there, because Minnesota also has a second first-round pick at No. 4, the draft, dominated by point guards and size, is a guess.

Three point guards are expected to go in the top 10: Vandersloot, Danielle Robinson of Oklahoma and Jasmine Thomas of Duke. Jeannette Pohlen, who played the point for Stanford but is considered more of a shooting guard, is also a potential first-rounder.

One rumor has a team trading into the top four to get Vandersloot. Several projections have her going No. 8 to the Atlanta Dream and another has her going to San Antonio at No. 6. One that projects all three rounds has Bjorklund as the Chicago Sky’s second-round pick.

“I was texting with Courtney a little earlier, I’d like to play with her,” Bjorklund said. “She averaged 10 assists. I told her I’d try to get her five more.”


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