Nneka Ogwumike was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks with the No. 1 pick in the Women’s National Basketball Association draft today, after leading Stanford University to at least the semifinals of college basketball’s year-end tournament the last four seasons.
Shekinna Stricklen of the University of Tennessee went second to the Seattle Storm, the first of three Lady Volunteers taken in the first round. The University of Notre Dame’s Devereaux Peters went to the Minnesota Lynx with the third pick.
The New York Liberty selected Kelley Cain with the seventh pick. Cain, a 6-foot-6 center who set a school record with 113 blocks during the 2009-10 season, skipped her senior year at Tennessee because of knee injuries, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
The draft was conducted without college basketball’s player of the year, Baylor’s Brittney Griner, who announced this month that she would return to the Bears for her senior season. The 6-foot-8 center averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game this season as Baylor went 40-0 and captured its second National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament title.
Ogwumike led the Cardinal to the Final Four of the NCAA women’s tournament each season she played. The 21-year-old forward averaged 22.5 points and 10.2 rebounds this year, as Stanford lost in the semifinals to Baylor.
Stricklen, who played all five positions at Tennessee, was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for the 2010-11 season. Peters averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game this season for the Fighting Irish, who lost in the NCAA tournament finals to Baylor.
The Sparks (15-19) won the draft lottery in November after posting the league’s fourth-worst record last season. The Tulsa Shock (3-31) finished at the bottom of the 12-team league, and selected Tennessee’s Glory Johnson with the No. 4 pick.
The 2012 WNBA season will start May 18 with a game between Ogwumike’s Sparks and Stricklen’s Storm, a potential match-up of the draft’s first two selections.