After three UConn women’s basketball players were taken with the first three picks of last year’s WNBA draft, this year will be a little different. Senior guard Saniya Chong has a chance to hear her name called Thursday night when the draft begins at 7 p.m. Daily Campus Sports Editor Dan Madigan talked with freelance writer and women’s basketball extraordinaire Howard Megdal to get a glimpse of how Chong might perform at the next level.
DM: What do you think is Chong’s best skill, and how will that skill translate in the WNBA?
HM: She has several translatable skills; among them is her ability to take care of the basketball and passing. But the separator for Chong may be defense. Per Synergy, she was third in the country in defensive points per possession. Between her three-point shot and defending, she presents unique skill sets to WNBA teams.
DM: Do you think Chong is underrated due to being the shadows of Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier at UConn?
HM: Well, I don’t think it’s that so much, but rather how infrequently she got to play over her first three seasons, mostly due to the presence of Moriah Jefferson. At most other schools, she’d have played more, and right away. Of course, the tradeoff is that she’d have missed out on getting to develop under Geno and his staff.
DM: Will her draft stock be affected (in a good or bad way) by her play in the NCAA tournament this season?
HM: I’d have said universally good based on her play heading into the Final Four. In the Bridgeport Regional, I had her on the all-region team. Will teams be scared off by her decision late in the Mississippi State game? It’s hard to use one play against anyone, but as Geno pointed out, she doesn’t have a large body of work to mitigate it.
DM: Is there a current WNBA player that has a similar style of play to Chong?
HM: Not really; not with the defensive piece. Briann January and Brittany Boyd are closest in terms of outcomes, but they get there in very different ways (strength and speed, respectively). This is something she has going for her: an in-demand skill set and UConn pedigree.
DM: Where do you think Chong will end up being selected in the WNBA draft?
HM: I’d expect somewhere in the second round.
DM: How does she fit into that team? Will she make the roster?
HM: Oh, impossible to say which team takes a shot at her. I’ll say this: I think her UConn background gives her a better chance than most second round picks to stick.