Who’s Got Next: The Best Post-First Round College Prospects

After taking you through my first round predictions, there are so many prospects still to discuss (some of whom have first round potential themselves!). 

With that said, I present to you, in no discernable order, the crop of next-best prospects likely to be taken in the 2023 WNBA draft. As you enjoy the college basketball season, keep your eyes on these young women, who are sure to dazzle and amaze. 

Enjoy!

 

Jordan Horston, Tennessee

Compelling Stat: Horston was third in the country in usage rate (34.4 percent) and seventh in block percentage among guards last season.

Best Fit: Lynx, Fever, Sky, Mercury 

 

Horston may very well go in the first round (plenty of Twitterfolk have all but confirmed to me she will), as she is most certainly one of the premier players on one of the country’s best teams. There is a whole lot to like about her game, and there aren’t a ton of holes. The rumors out of Knoxville this offseason were that she increased her vertical leap and overall athleticism, and, so far, she has put the country on notice. With nearly 15.0 points per game (PPG) this season on a career-high 46.6 percent shooting, Horston has picked up where she left off last season. If she can continue to grow her game and stay healthy this season, Horston could very easily slide into the first round.

 

 

Zia Cooke, South Carolina

Compelling Stat: Cooke has started all of her games at South Carolina, never missing a game.

Best Fit: Storm, Mercury, Sparks, Lynx

 

This workhorse is exactly the kind of X factor the Gamecocks need to repeat. While all eyes will rightfully be on Aliyah Boston, Cooke has quietly been the steadying presence head coach Dawn Staley values. Staley said earlier this offseason that they want Cooke playing more point guard, and Cooke seems all for the promotion. In eight games this season, Cooke is averaging a career-high 2.1 assists per game (APG). If Cooke can continue her scoring ways, while adding more crooked numbers to her assist totals, her game should translate incredibly well at the next level.

 

 

Celeste Taylor, Duke

Compelling Stat: Taylor is one of 25 players to have at least 1.8 steals per game (SPG), 5.5 rebounds per game (RPG), and a defensive rating of 83 or better last season.

Best Fit: Wings, Aces, Sky, Fever

 

Many questioned if Taylor could continue her strong career when she transferred to Duke; she has all but silenced her critics. Last season, her first in Durham, Taylor led the team in several prominent statistical categories. This season, she’s averaging a career-high 2.3 steals per game (SPG). Taylor is a fierce defender, a capable thief, and an all-around turnover creator—all things coveted in the W. Given how she has started, look for Taylor to continue her fine season for the Blue Devils on her way to a selection in April’s draft.

 

 

Lauren Park-Lane, Seton Hall

Compelling Stat: Park-Lane is one of two players (the gifted Caitlin Clark being the other) to average at least 18.0 PPG, four free throws made per game, and 6.5 APG last season

Best Fit: Dream, Mystics, Storm, Sparks

 

Continuing with our theme of diminutive but highly-skilled point guards, Park-Lane is an outstanding player for the mid-major Pirates. Park-Lane is a bucket and uses her quickness and explosive agility to get quick scores. She was named to the preseason Nancy Lieberman Award watchlist, a prominent place to be and recognition of her contributions to women’s basketball. With her assist prowess and improving shooting ability (a career-high 43.2 percent field goal percentage so far this season), any point-guard-needy team (hello, Seattle) should look to snag Park-Lane on draft day.

 

 

Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State

Compelling Stat: Sheldon is the only player last year to average at least 19.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.5 RPG, and shoot over 50 percent per game last season. This season, Sheldon has the most steals per game and steal rate in the country.

Best Fit: Sun, Sparks, Lynx, Dream

 

One of the best leaders in all of college basketball, Jacy Sheldon is back to cement her legacy as one of the best Big Ten basketball players of all time. Responsible for almost 40 percent of the Buckeyes’ points last season, Sheldon returns to a team hungry to advance deeper into the tournament, proving to their doubters and nation alike that they are a legitimate program and deserve our respect. This year, she’s been proving it on the defensive end, becoming an incredible defensive pest with her stealing ability. She’s 28th in the country in defensive rating on the young season. If there’s a WNBA team out there looking for a quality, mature player who does a little bit of everything, then Sheldon should be their pick.

 

 

Stephanie Soares, Iowa State

Compelling Stat: Soares is second in the country in block percentage this season. 

Best Fit: Sun, Lynx, Wings, Dream

 

With our own Rachel Galligan calling it first, Soares has gotten plenty of national attention of late. Soares has played incredibly well for the Cyclones since coming over from the NAIA league. Her defensive quickness, high IQ, and soft touch at the rim make her a key contributor for this Iowa State team. If she can learn to play a bit more to her size at the rim offensively, Soares will surely…soar…up the draft board to a possible first round selection in April. 

 

 

Abby Meyers, Maryland

Compelling Stat: Meyers led the Ivy League Conference in scoring last season.

Best Fit: Wings, Mercury, Fever, Mystics

 

A skilled, offensive weapon, Meyers transfers from Princeton back home (she’s from Potomac) to Maryland, a program pivoting from losing a couple of its key contributors. A newly-named captain, Meyers looks to pick up where she left off last season—as a top-flight scorer and a deep shooting threat. Given their lack of size, the Terps will likely play faster this season with Meyers, who worked on her ball handling all offseason. This season, Meyers has been as advertised, averaging 14.2 PPG and a career-high 43.2 percent from distance. While I think she’s done enough to earn a respectable draft spot, I also believe teams will want to see how she competes in a loaded Big Ten conference this season.

 

 

Laeticia Amihere, South Carolina

Compelling Stat: Since joining the NCAAW, Amihere has the most total career blocks (107) for a player who has started in four games or less.

Best Fit: Lynx, Storm, Mercury, Aces

 

While her numbers won’t jump off the page, Amihere hereself sure will. Her 6’4” frame gives her all the quickness and recovery speed needed to block any would-be scorer. With her defense solidified, her offensive game has developed slowly across her career. Staley should certainly help develop Amihere, making her a decent enough WNBA prospect, even if she is taken later in the draft.

 

 

Grace Berger, Indiana

Compelling Stat: Berger was sixth in the country last year in percentage of two-pointers taken compared to the rest of the team’s field goals (68.9 percent).

Best Fit: Sun, Sky, Mercury, Liberty

 

One of the more intriguing players (and no, not because she plays for my alma mater), Berger could go in either direction in the upcoming draft. A tough, gritty guard who does not shy away from contact, Berger is the heart and soul of the Hoosiers, who are looking to build on their recent half-decade of success under head coach Teri Moren. Berger is made in the DeMar DeRozan model—a killer midrange shooter who can also take you off the dribble and bury crafty shots at the rim. That should be compelling enough for any team who loves a more old-school style approach (is she not a perfect Connecticut Sun player?), but without much of a three-point shot (career 28.5 percent from distance), some teams may shy away from her to find a more contemporary type of scorer. With a potentially serious knee injury likely keeping her out until well into 2023, it’s possible her stock could slip a bit further.

 

 

Quinesha Lockett, Toledo

Compelling Stat: Lockett was top 10 last season in players who had at least 1.5 SPG, a defensive win share of at least 2.5, and a usage percentage of at least 30 percent.

Best Fit: Sky, Storm, Aces, Dream

 

One of the more fascinating and down right good mid-majors in the country, the Toledo Rockets are led by senior Quinesha Lockett. A preseason Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year watchlist member, Lockett is set up for what should be an incredible swan song. Lockett’s defensive game is right there in her name—a lock-down defender who knows how to use her defensive tenacity and convert it into scoring on the other end. Lockett is an all-around sound player that any team would be very content to snag in the middle of the draft.

 

 

Shaylee Gonzales, Texas

Compelling Stat: Gonzales is one of only 10 players in the country last year with an offensive win share of at least 7.0 and a defensive win share of at least 2.5.

Best Fit: Storm, Mercury, Wings, Sparks

 

Another prolific scorer (over 1000 points at BYU), Gonzales joins a Texas program well on the rise and ready to challenge for the national spotlight. As indicated above, Gonzales makes significant contributions on both sides of the court, and even with her numbers being somewhat lower than her career norms for the injury-ridden Longhorns, many people are predicting a very big season from her. Should that prophecy come true, it would surprise no one if she were to sneak into the back end of the first round. 

 

 

Jessika Carter, Mississippi State

Compelling Stat: Two seasons ago (2020-2021 was her last played season), Carter was fifth amongst players with at least 1.4 blocks per game (BPG), 8.5 RPG, and 80+ percent of player’s points that were two-pointers

Best Fit: Lynx, Wings, Dream, Sun

 

After taking last season off to attend to a variety of off-court issues, Carter is back and ready to dominate college basketball again. Two seasons ago, she was a force to be reckoned with, obliterating opponents  in the paint on both ends of the floor. Of the top 100 players based on block percentage in the 2020-2021 season, Carter was in the top 15 for rim percentage, which equals two-point percentage on offense plus block percentage on defense. Carter has been customarily dominant this season, currently 13th in BPG, tenth in defensive rating, and 11th in defensive win shares per 40 minutes. The preseason Lisa Leslie Award watchlist member should be a good bet to find her way onto a WNBA team.

 

 

Tamari Key, Tennessee

Compelling Stat: Key was second in block percentage last season and has the most games (three) with 10.0 points and 10.0 blocks since entering the NCAAW.

Best Fit: Lynx, Sun, Dream, Mercury

 

One of the only pure centers likely to enter the draft from the college ranks, Key has the potential to be, well, a key to a team’s frontcourt for years to come. A strong finisher at the rim, the anchor to any defensive scheme, and a punisher on the glass, Key is setting herself up for a huge senior season to show teams that the small-ball era of hoops may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Look for a team in need of size (might Minnesota come calling?) and a strong defensive presence to call her name on draft night.

 

 

Alexis Morris, LSU

Compelling Stat: Morris finished in the top 16 of players who averaged 15.0 PPG, 1.5 SPG, an offensive rating of at least 112, and an offensive win share of at least 4.5.

Best Fit: Fever, Aces, Lynx, Storm

 

The Queen of Adaptation, Morris is a rare breed, as she’s transferred each year she’s played collegiate basketball. Returning to Baton Rouge for an encore, Morris is primed to take charge of an up-and-coming program under head coach Kim Mulkey. As a “lead by example” kind of a player, Morris has always let her game do the talking. That game has spoken volumes, as her ability to jive with recent portal addition Angel Reese has the high-scoring LSU team a must-watch product every night. Morris is one of the better leaders you’ll find in the game, so a WNBA team looking for polish and a solid contributor should look no further than this guard.

 

 

Dorka Juhasz, UConn

Compelling Stat: Juhasz was in the top 15 of forwards who have at least a 110 offensive rating, a 80 or better defensive rating, a usage rate of at least 20 percent, a win shares per 40 minutes of at least 0.25, and a defensive win shares per 40 minutes of at least 0.10.

Best Fit: Mercury, Wings, Mystics, Sparks

 

See Also

The only graduate student on my list, Juhasz returns with “an extra fire” after a wrist injury against NC State in the Elite Eight last season prematurely ended her season. A solid contributor and team favorite, Juhasz comes into her final season ready to help this team win and win a lot. As the new second frontcourt starter, Juhasz has great recognition of her role and is ready to contribute in innumerable ways. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been healthy, as she’s been out for all but two games this season with a broken thumb. Nevertheless, a player with Juhasz’s attributes would be a solid, if unspectacular pro at the next level. Look for a team to find its bench mob captain, energy ignitor, and solid secondary contributor right here in Juhasz.

 

 

Diamond Battles, Georgia

Compelling Stat: Battles was fifth among players last season with at least 2.1 SPG, 3.4 APG, and who shot at least 36 percent from three-point range.

Best Fit: Sparks, Wings, Mercury, Aces

 

Like many players on this list, the UCF transfer does a little bit of everything for her team. Already a preseason All-SEC selection, Battles is sure to bring her creativity and motor to the Lady Dogs. Averaging career-highs 15.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 4.1 APG, and she’s become one of the most important contributors to this Georgia team. Combined with her defensive prowess and facilitation skills, Battles could be a coveted bench piece on the right pro team. 

 

 

Starr Jacobs, UT Arlington

Compelling Stat: Jacobs is one of four players to average at least 2.0 SPG, 7.0 free throws attempted per game, and at least 15 two-pointers attempted per game last season.

Best Fit: Aces, Mercury, Sky, Storm

 

Remember her name, because Starr Jacobs could very likely become a star in the WNBA (you knew I was going to, don’t be mad). Setting the record for most PPG in program history, Jacobs is back for a repeat performance for the Lady Mavs, but this time hoping to take them farther than they’ve ever gone before. Jacobs has spoken recently about the motivation from last season’s tournament loss, so look for her to shine brightly and help her team win another conference championship. So far this season, her numbers have dipped some, but it’s that drive to be and get better that makes her such an intriguing prospect.

 

 

Leigha Brown, Michigan

Compelling Stat: Brown was top 30 last season in players who had at least 14.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, and a usage rate of at least 28 percent.

Best Fit: Mystics, Sparks, Aces, Wings

 

The Wolverines come into the season needing to answer who will fill in at point guard and who will take over for Naz Hillmon. With those two vexing questions, it’s comforting for their fans to know that returning players like Brown are here to provide the Wolverines with some much needed consistency. It’s more of the same from Brown this season, who is such an incredibly smart player, one who understands her role well and leads this team. Brown can shoot, score, pass, and rebound, all with average to above average success, so look for her to contribute on a nightly basis. Her turnovers could use some work, but look for a WNBA team to find a nice home for Brown (at least through training camp) come next season.

 

 

Victaria Saxton, South Carolina

Compelling Stat: Saxton was in the top 20 of players who averaged at least 1.0 BPG, 3.0 offensive rebounds per game, and shot at least 50 percent from the field last season.

Best Fit: Liberty, Aces, Mercury, Storm

 

A player who’s been getting some of the recognition she deserves (Preseason All-SEC Second Team), Saxton is a name to remember, as she can offer some of the best offensive rebounding numbers of any of the prospects here. Her defensive game is tight; her ability to flow through Staley’s offensive schemes is impressive, whether starting or coming off the bench. This consummate pro may not make a WNBA team next season, though, and if not, don’t be surprised if she bounces between different clubs on hardship contracts because of her savvy and mistake-free game.

 

 

Charisma Osborne, UCLA

Compelling Stat: Osborne was fourth among players last season who averaged at least 3.75 APG, 2.0 three-pointers made per game, and a free throw percentage of at least 87 percent.

Best Fit: Dream, Sparks, Mercury, Storm

 

Osborne is the walking epitome of the Will Smith Empty Room meme, as she’s the only starter left in the Bruins’ locker room this season. If any player was to return, Osborne is a good one, as she led the team in PPG and APG last season. The lone Preseason All-Pac-12 team selection from the Bruins, Osborne has her work cut out for her as she weaves five freshmen into the mix. Head coach Cori Close said the lineups would be interchangeable, so that leaves Osborne with an amazing chance to showcase her leadership and skills. Osborne can score at all three levels and will look to be a facilitator, helping the youngsters acclimate more easily into the team’s offense. So far this season, she’s ninth in the country in offensive win shares and tenth with 3.3 total win shares. Keep a close eye on her all season, as her intangibles could very well make her a fine fit on almost any team.

 

 

Taylor Mikesell, Ohio State

Compelling Stat: Mikesell is the only player in the country last season to average at least 18 PPG and 3.5 three-pointers made per game.

Best Fit: Dream, Mystics, Sparks, Mercury

 

Mikesell has had an interesting journey since entering college in 2018. Migrating from Maryland to Oregon and finally settling at Ohio State, Mikesell’s game has evolved effectively over time. The one constant has been her three-point game—outside of a down year in Oregon (and with only seven games this season at 38.5 percent), she has averaged over 40 percent from distance each year. Because of that, her offensive contributions are impressive, and she is a vital player to stretch the floor for Kevin McGruff’s offense. Look for teams to take Mikesell to help solidify their distance shooting. 

 

 

Sedona Prince, Oregon (Injury Honorable Mention)

Compelling Stat: Prince was in the top 25 of players who shot at least 53 percent from the field and averaged over 1.0 BPG

Best Fit: Lynx, Sun, Sky, Dream

 

Don’t feel too bad for Oregon sans Prince—they have two massive bigs that will fill in well enough without her. It is, however, okay to feel sad for the “heartbroken” Prince, as the elbow injury she suffered will keep her out all season. The silver lining here is that she’s already declared she will go pro, which should be much to everyone’s delight. The 6’ 7” Prince’s blocking pedigree is acclaimed, and although she doesn’t score much, her elite offensive rating speaks to her capacity to play well within head coach Kelly Graves’ system. She’s also a person who knows how to use her platform well, infamously calling attention to the weight room accommodations disparity between the men and women’s tournaments in 2021. For her size, she could certainly work on her rebounding ability, which, coupled with her injury might drop her down some draft boards, but Prince should bounce back just fine and be a solid contributor in the W in no time.

 

 

All stats through 12/3. Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Her Hoop Stats. Class and position courtesy of ESPN.com.

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