Cal Women's Basketball: Will Anigwe Be Cal's Highest WNBA Draft Pick Ever?

Photo by Rob Edwards/KLC Fotos

Bears star expected to be drafted early on Wednesday despite her struggles in her final game

Four questions arise regarding Kristine Anigwe’s draft status heading into Wednesday’s WNBA draft?

---Where do the most reputable projections expect the Cal star to be taken in the WNBA draft?

---Did Sabrina Ionescu’s decision to stay at Oregon for another year affect Anigwe’s draft status?

---How much did the final game against Baylor hurt Anigwe’s draft positioning?

---Will Anigwe be the highest pick ever for a Cal player in the WNBA draft?

Anigwe, a 6-foot-4 low-post player who leaves Cal with virtually every significant school record, saw her draft status rise through the 2018-19 season. Barely a first-round pick in many mock drafts back in January, she has risen to the top six overall selections on most of those projections. Her rebounding is the chief reason for her rise, as she led the nation by a wide margin by averaging 16.2 boards a game while averaging 22.5 points this past season.

This season Anigwe was a second-team AP All-American and the national defensive player of the year, and her athleticism and work ethic despite her limited offensive game are likely to make her an early first-round pick. WNBA scouts no doubt can see that she has the ability to expand her offensive game as she matures as a pro.

Here is where Anigwe is expected to be taken in the projections of six sites:

ESPN.com: first round (4th overall) to Chicago

Associated Press (based on a poll of WNBA general managers): first round (4th overall) to Chicago

Draftsite.com: first round (6th overall) to Minnesota

SB nation: first round (4th overall) to Chicago

Highposthoops: seventh-best WNBA prospect in the class

Bleacher Report: first round (9th overall) to Connecticut

So Anigwe seems certain to be taken in the first round, with most expecting her to be taken in the first half of the 12 first-round picks.

Ionescu was widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick if she entered the WNBA draft, but when she announced on Sunday that she would return to Oregon for her senior season, things changed for some prospects. It seems Anigwe wasn’t one of them. Associated Press and Highposthoops never included Ionescu in their projections, so they had nothing to alter, and ESPN and SB Nation had Anigwe as the No. 4 overall pick both before and after Ionescu’s decision.

The only change came at Draftsite, which had Anigwe as the No. 11 overall selection immediately before Ionescu’s decision, but moved Anigwe up to No. 6 overall when Ionescu dropped out of the picture.

Bleacher Report had not updated its mock draft as of Monday.

It all seems to be falling in place for Anigwe. But there is one reason for hesitation – that game against Baylor. The most recent game always leaves the most lasting impression on scouts and general managers, and Anigwe had her worst game of the season in the 39-point loss to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. She went 4-for-17 from the field for 13 points, a season-low five rebounds and four personal fouls while going up against Baylor’s 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown and 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox. The Baylor frontcourt is the kind of frontcourt Anigwe is likely to face at the next level, so the obvious question is whether this was an indication of how Anigwe would fare in the WNBA.

Howard Megdal of Highposthoops ranked Anigwe as the No. 7 WNBA prospect in the class. Nonetheless he had this reservation: “I’d point out, however, the 4-for-17 from the field against Baylor, just five rebounds. I remain concerned that a lot of her overwhelming production came from a physical edge she won’t have at the next level.”

None of the sites was influenced by that one game, though, as Anigwe proved her value in the 32 games before that. As the Bears’ only consistent offensive threat, Anigwe was double- and triple-teamed all season, and she won’t face that kind of defensive pressure in the WNBA.

That leaves one question: Will Anigwe be the highest WNBA pick ever for a Cal player?

The answer is likely to be, yes.

The highest WNBA pick for a Cal player was ninth overall, which was the selection spot for Brittany Boyd in 2015 and Layshia Clarendon in 2013. Anigwe is likely to be picked several spots ahead of them and will no doubt be the fourth Cal player taken in the first round.

A list of all Cal players drafted by the WNBA:

2018 – Mikayla Cowling, third round (33rd overall)

2015 – Brittany Boyd, first round (9th overall)

2015 – Reshanda Gray, second round (16th overall)

2014 – Gennifer Brandon, second round (22nd overall)

2013 – Layshia Clarendon, first round (9th overall)

2010 – Alexis Gray-Lawson, third round (30th overall)

2009 – Ashley Walker, first round (12th overall)

2000 – Sophie Von Saldern, fourth round (49th overall)

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