Sports

WNBA mock draft 2024: Clark still projected No. 1 pick

A surefire 2024 WNBA draft lottery pick went off the board Friday when UConn guard Paige Bueckers announced she will return to college next season.

While we await the decisions of two other lottery locks who have a season of college eligibility left — Iowa guard Caitlin Clark and Stanford forward Cameron Brink — it’s worth noting where Tennessee forward Rickea Jackson stands.

She missed eight games in November and December with a leg injury but has played every game since Dec. 19 and now projects to be the No. 3 pick in the draft. Jackson is the highest player on ESPN’s draft board who has no college eligibility left. She exercised the COVID-19 waiver from 2020-21 to play this season, her fifth in college and second at Tennessee.

If players such as Clark and Brink return to school, Jackson might be the No. 1 pick by the Indiana Fever. If so, she would be the third Tennessee player — following Chamique Holdsclaw in 1999 and Candace Parker in 2008 — to be selected No. 1 overall in the WNBA draft.

Jackson is averaging 18.9 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Lady Vols (16-9). Her mobility and versatility at 6-foot-2 should allow her to play different positions and defend at a high level in the WNBA.

Trades since our most recent mock draft in January have shaken up the order of the first round. The Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm, who missed the playoffs last season and were slated to pick third and fourth via December’s lottery, traded their first-round picks.

Now the Los Angeles Sparks will pick twice in the top four — at Nos. 2 and 4 — while the Chicago Sky move in to pick at No. 3. The Sky also will pick at No. 8.

Here is the latest look at the first round, noting which players have another season of eligibility due to the COVID waiver.

Iowa | point guard | 6-foot-0 | senior

Clark set both the NCAA women’s hoops career scoring record and Iowa’s single-game record on the same night, with 49 points vs. Michigan on Feb. 15. She also had 13 assists, so the game was a microcosm of her college career. Clark, the Division I leader in scoring (32.8 PPG) and assists (8.5 APG), is an offensive machine the Fever would love to have in Indianapolis. (Could return to college for 2024-25.)

Stanford | power forward | 6-foot-4 | senior

With franchise stalwart Nneka Ogwumike having left for Seattle in free agency, the Sparks are in reconstruction mode. Drafting another Stanford star can help. Brink — who averages 17.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and a Division I-leading 3.6 blocks — has a pro-ready game and the ability to help reenergize the Sparks. (Could return to college for 2024-25.)

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1:59

Jackson speaks on Lady Vols’ progress in win over Vandy

Following an 86-61 win over Vanderbilt, Rickea Jackson highlights Jasmine Powell’s leadership and credits Tennessee’s continued improvement.

Tennessee | power forward | 6-foot-2 | senior

Some might have been surprised Jackson returned for a fifth season in college, as she was a projected early first-round pick last season, too. But the Lady Vols are glad she did. Jackson’s offensive game is likely to expand at the pro level, especially as she shoots the 3-point shot more.

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1:39

Three players score double digits in South Carolina’s win

No. 1 South Carolina defeats Georgia 70-56 behind Kamilla Cardoso’s 16 points and 16 rebounds.

South Carolina | center | 6-foot-7 | senior

Cardoso is a powerful player who could form a strong young inside combo with Brink. That would give the Sparks two of the best rim protectors currently in the college game. Cardoso is averaging career highs in points (14.1 PPG) and rebounds (10.1 RPG) for the No. 1 Gamecocks. (Could return to college for 2024-25.)

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1:46

UConn goes on 32-0 run against Xavier

UConn breaks the game open in a big way with a 32-0 run vs. Xavier between the first and second quarters.

UConn | power forward | 6-foot-3 | senior

The Wings, coming off a WNBA semifinals appearance, have a good roster construction to continue their success. Another 3-point shooter might be a bigger need, but a post of Edwards’ caliber — she’s averaging 18.1 points and 9.2 rebounds — is not something Dallas likely would want to pass up. (Could return to college for 2024-25.)

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3:49

Angel Reese racks up 27 points, 19 boards in LSU’s victory

Angel Reese has a big 27-point game for LSU in its win over Alabama.

LSU | power forward | 6-foot-3 | senior

The Mystics franchise is in transition mode. Guard Natasha Cloud left in free agency for Phoenix, and forward/guard Elena Delle Donne is taking an indefinite break after Washington gave her the core designation. There have been questions about how Reese’s game will translate at the pro level, but her rebounding and defense in particular are talents the Mystics might want to invest in. (Could return to college for 2024-25.)

Australia | small forward | 6-foot-3

The Lynx don’t have an obvious hole on their roster, so it’s likely they will look for the best player available — even if it’s someone who needs time to develop. That could be the case with the 19-year-old Puoch, who is averaging 7.6 PPG and 4.5 RPG for the Southside Flyers in her native Australia.

Utah Utes | power forward | 6-foot-2 | senior

Chicago made a trade to get a second pick in the first round, which the Sky hope contributes to their franchise rebuild. It’s possible they could go with a guard with this pick. But they also might opt to bet on Pili’s offensive skills as a forward who can score in many different ways.

Virginia Tech | point guard | 5-foot-6 | senior

Amoore could help provide a 3-point shooting boost and additional playmaking ability for the Wings. She’s on the small side but has a lot of skill. She has made 65 3s this season for the Hokies and is averaging 17.8 PPG and 7.5 assists per game. (Could return to college for 2024-25.)

Ohio State | shooting guard | 5-foot-10 | senior

After an injury-plagued 2022-23 season, Sheldon has been strong. In her fifth season, she leads the Buckeyes with averages of 17.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.1 steals. She projects as one of the top defensive guards in the draft.

UCLA Bruins | shooting guard | 5-foot-9 | senior

Like Sheldon, Osborne is a fifth-year player who should be able to contribute on the defensive end, which is what the Liberty need. She is also averaging 15.0 points and 4.2 assists.

Virginia Tech | center | 6-foot-6 | senior

It’s been hard for many pure centers to find their way in the WNBA right out of college, which is why Kitley’s first-round prospects have been questioned. But her consistency as a scorer (22.9 PPG) and rebounder (11.8 RPG) in her fifth season — plus the fact that the Dream might be looking for depth at center — could work to her advantage.

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