With the WNBA draft slated for April 13 at 7 p.m., staff writer Matthew Kren and campus correspondent Mariana Dominguez debate which round UConn senior Saniya Chong will be drafted in.
Kren: Senior Saniya Chong is coming off the best year of her career averaging 8.3 points, four assists and three rebounds on 47.1 percent shooting from the field. The increase in her stats across the board came as a result of playing heavy minutes while leading heavily in the fourth quarter and being thrust into the starting job with Moriah Jefferson graduating following the 2016 championship. This year’s WNBA draft features a loaded class that could go 20 players deep, hampering Chong’s chances of being picked in either the first or second round. Coupled with the fact she was not invited as of one of the 10 players to be invited to the draft and the lack of buzz around her, I believe Chong will be picked in the early to mid-third round.
Dominguez: While it is true that this year's WNBA draft features a loaded class, Saniya Chong has proved herself worthy of being drafted late in the first round to early in the second round. Chong was fourth in the nation this year in assist/turnover ratio and has demonstrated this year that when her confidence is high she is dependable. She did not play many minutes in previous seasons mainly because the “big three” were around. It would be hard for most players to be a starting point guard with Moriah Jefferson as a senior on your team. The reason there is not much buzz around Chong is because of the strength of the first few picks such as Kelsey Plum and Alaina Coates. This does not mean teams are not looking at her for a little later in the draft. With Chong's confidence at an all-time high this season, teams would be missing out by not choosing her early.
Kren: The 10 players attending the draft are sure-fire first round picks, which leaves only two spots left in the first round. Those two picks will most likely be either Chantel Osahor from Washington, who is listed as high as the 10th pick in some mock drafts or Alexis Peterson from Syracuse who has been talked about being picked in the top five. This means Chong will have to beat out 12 players in the second round, including Alexis Prince from Baylor and Leticia Romero from Florida State, who each also have first round potential. Chong was not one of the three seniors named to the WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-American team, nor was she one of the 23 seniors named in honorable mention as the lack of big numbers and accolades hurt her chances of being a top round pick.
Dominguez: As a senior Chong has proven she is steady under pressure, a quality well suited for the WNBA. Chong is able beat out players from the second round because she would be a great sixth woman for any team. She makes smart basketball plays and is much better defensively. She would bring a spark off the bench to any team. Chong could do especially well with the Sparks who have the eleventh pick of the first round or the Indiana Fever or Chicago Sky who have the eighth and ninth picks of the second round. All of these teams could use a point guard to come off the bench and provide energy. All of these teams also have veterans who could be mentors or leaders to Chong for her rookie season.
Kren: In regards to bench scoring, there are much better volume scorers such as Tori Jankoska from Michigan State or Karlie Samuelson from Stanford who can provide several WNBA with as the first woman off the bench. While I hope I am wrong and Chong gets drafted early in the second, I am nervous teams will go with flashier guards such as Brittney Sykes from Syracuse or Makayla Epps from Kentucky, who can provide more consistent scoring and playmaking than Chong.
Dominguez: Chong may not be a big volume scorer but many of the best guards in the WNBA are not. I would compare Chong to former UConn player Renee Montgomery. During her time in Connecticut, Montgomery averaged 13.3 points per game and 42.2 percent from the field. In the league Montgomery has proved herself to be a valuable player who defends well and provides energy. While I don’t think Chong will be as high a pick as Montgomery, who was drafted fourth overall, I think she displays similar qualities to her that are just as valuable as volume scoring.