As history has proven, the draft is where championship teams build their core. Including Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, seven of the players taken No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft between 2001 and 2013 have won at least one title.
So last September, when the Storm was awarded the top pick for the second straight year, fans in Seattle already had something to look forward to in 2016.
That No. 1 pick will be unveiled on Thursday, when the draft takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The Storm also has a third-round selection (26th overall), but its second-round pick was dealt to Minnesota last year as part of the Monica Wright trade. Here is a look at some of the top prospects around the nation, as well as local products from schools in the Northwest, listed alphabetically.
Rachel Banham, University of Minnesota: Named to the AP All-American first team this year, Banham has been one of the most prolific scorers in the nation throughout her career. Banham started every game she played at Minnesota, including her freshman year, when the 5-9 guard averaged 16.1 points per game. Her 28.6 points per contest this past season ranked second in Division I and earned her Big Ten Player of the Year honors. With 3,093 career points, Banham is the conference’s all-time leading scorer and ranks sixth in NCAA history. She dropped 60 in a win over Northwestern this year, tying the NCAA single-game record and earning Kobe Bryant’s respect in the process.
Moriah Jefferson, University of Connecticut: Also an AP first-team All-American, the 5-7 Jefferson is a two-time winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s top point guard. She tallied at least 100 assists in three straight seasons, and in 2015-16, her 2.83 assist to turnover ratio ranked seventh in the country. Jefferson also averaged 2.6 steals per game and earned the Defensive Player of the Year award in the American Athletic Conference. She was a major part of UConn’s four straight national titles, guiding the Huskies to a 151-5 record during her career.
Tiffany Mitchell, University of South Carolina: Mitchell was the leader of the most successful class in South Carolina history. This past season, the Gamecocks became just the second SEC team to finish 16-0 in regular-season conference games. South Carolina was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but fell to eventual runner-up Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Mitchell, a 5-9 guard, poured in 14.9 points per game as a senior en route to an AP second-team All-American selection. As a junior, she earned SEC Player of the Year honors and won the Dawn Staley Award, given to the best guard in the nation.
Aerial Powers, Michigan State University: Powers has the skills to back up her awesome name, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest in basketball history. She averaged 21.8 points and 9.2 boards per contest as a redshirt junior in 2015-16. A member of the AP All-American third team, the 6-foot forward is Michigan State’s all-time leading scorer (1,817 points) and fourth in career rebounds (937). This marks the second straight year that two players left college early for the WNBA draft, as the Storm’s Jewell Loyd and the Wings’ Amanda Zahui B did so in 2015. Powers had redshirted the 2012-13 season after suffering an Achilles injury in a preseason practice.
Breanna Stewart, University of Connecticut: One of the most versatile players in the history of the college game, Stewart set numerous individual records to go along with her team’s unprecedented success. The 6-4 forward is the only player to be named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player in four consecutive NCAA tournaments. Nobody else in the women’s game has won three AP Player of the Year awards. Stewart’s senior year stat line: 19.4 points per game, 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists (second on team), 3.4 blocks (seventh in nation), 1.8 steals, 2.45 assist to turnover ratio (16th in nation), 57.9 field-goal percentage (ninth in nation), 42.6 three-point percentage and 83.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Morgan Tuck, University of Connecticut: Tuck was UConn’s second-leading scorer this year with 13.7 points per game. The 6-2 forward is especially dominant in the paint, but Tuck has also proven to be a capable outside shooter. She shot 32.2 percent from deep this past season, including four three-pointers in the semifinal win over Oregon State. Along with Powers, Tuck could have stayed for her senior season but opted to forgo her final year of eligibility. She was granted a medical redshirt for the 2013-14 campaign due to knee surgery that caused her to miss all but eight games.
Jillian Alleyne, University of Oregon: Although her season was cut short by a torn ACL suffered in February, Alleyne made the AP All-American third team after averaging 19.0 points and 13.6 rebounds per game (second in nation). She ranks second on Oregon’s all-time scoring list (2,151 points).
Lia Galdeira, Washington State University: Last summer, Galdeira decided to leave Washington State one year early and begin her pro career overseas. The Hawaii native scored 20 points per game for the Cougars in 2014-15 and led the Pac-12 with 105 steals.
Ruth Hamblin, Oregon State University: Hamblin is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the conference. She owns the Pac-12 record for career blocks, and her 3.5 per game this past season ranked fourth in the nation. Hamblin has also played for the Canadian Women’s National Team.
Talia Walton, University of Washington: Walton improved her game as the season went on, scoring 21.8 points per game in the NCAA Tournament as the Huskies made a run to the Final Four. A product of nearby Federal Way High School, she is Washington’s all-time leader in blocked shots.
Jamie Weisner, Oregon State University: A native of Clarkston, Wash., Weisner shared this year’s media version of Pac-12 Player of the Year with Alleyne. She averaged 17.3 points per game for the conference champion Beavers and was one of the nation’s best three-point shooters at 44.3 percent.