WNBA draft preview: Jones projected as first-round lock

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Women's basketball senior forward Jonquel Jones is projected to be a top-five WNBA draft pick in April. As the spotlight has brightened around her, Jones has had to think more about her identity and how to be herself when more and more people are watching.

Less than a month after her final collegiate basketball game, senior forward Jonquel Jones is still in midseason form and improving her game daily.

While most women’s college basketball players finish their athletic careers as seniors and move on with their academic and working lives, Jones is ready to make it to the highest level of her sport.

The WNBA hosts its annual prospect draft this Thursday, and Jones is projected to be a lock as a first-round selection. The Freeport, Bahamas native, with a 6-foot-6-inch frame and solid jump-shooting ability, has a unique skill set rarely seen in the women’s game. Based on analysts’ projections and statistics from the season, Jones could be picked as early as seventh overall — sending her to the Washington Mystics.

Jones said during a conference call with reporters from around the country last week that she was intrigued by the possibility of staying in the area if she was selected seventh.

“If I do stay in D.C., it would be a blessing and I would really enjoy that. I went to high school in the DMV and then also being able to stay in the area that I went to college, it would be a blessing for sure,” Jones said.

During her three years as a Colonial, Jones left her name in the record books – coming in third in school history for total rebounds with 961, fourth all-time in points per game at 15.4 and in fifth place all-time for blocks with 177.

In her final two years, Jones led GW to back-to-back Atlantic 10 championships and became the first Colonial to receive consecutive Associated Press All-American awards.

Jones said she is ready to continue her career, wherever it takes her. She said she is not worried about her draft position, but instead excited to find her new role and continue to improve.

“[After the draft] I’ll just be excited to finally know where I’ll be and to get the staff and the personnel, everybody within the organization that I’ll be working with hopefully for a long period of time. Understanding what the coaches want from me, where they see my game improving, what they need from me and how I can get better myself as a professional,” Jones said. “Celebrating the moment but also understanding that you want to do it for a long time, so it takes consistency and it takes that attitude and willingness to grow and mature.”

Nearly all of the WNBA coaches have considered Jones because of her versatility as a player and success in college.

Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller has been evaluating her talent over the past month, he said on the call. He added that she is unique in her skills, and her size sets her apart from other players.

“Jonquel is a tremendous stretch four with great size that can give you some minutes at the five,” Miller said. “There are not very many people with her skill set in the league that she can play so well on the perimeter with her passing, shooting and driving ability. She is very intriguing to all of us.”

Analysts and WNBA writers differ on exactly where Jones will end up, but the consensus is that she has enormous potential and will be selected between picks five and nine in the first round.

Here is how the beginning of the draft is likely to shape up:

Pick No. 1-2: For these two picks, Seattle and San Antonio are more than likely going select UConn senior forward Breanna Stewart and senior guard Moriah Jefferson. Stewart received the AP player of the year award and is placed at the top of everyone’s draft boards. She is all but signed off to go to Seattle. Jefferson was the Huskies point guard and is both smart and quick enough to start in the WNBA.

Pick No. 3-4: These two picks both belong to the Connecticut Sun. The Sun’s coaches have consistently said they want to build up their back court with their draft prospects. There have been rumors that Connecticut might stay local and select UConn junior forward Morgan Tuck. Regardless, Jones is unlikely to end up playing for the Sun.

Pick No. 5: Dallas could use some offense down low and the automatic threat that Jones brings on the glass could help their already solid rebounding squad. If the Wings do not select Jones, it is likely because either Tuck or Michigan State forward Aerial Powers is still on the board, and they are leaning toward a more traditional player.

Pick No. 6: Los Angeles at number six is the first place that seems plausible for Jones to land. Star forward Candace Parker is the Sparks leader, so it could be a good option for Jones to build experience and learn from one of the best. Still, the Sparks have a solid front court and are not expected to pick a forward.

Pick No. 7: This pick belongs to the Washington Mystics, where Jones would only have to travel a short way from GW to play. The team has strong guard play but has struggled lately because of a lack of talent inside the paint. Jones’ possible immediate impact on the Mystics, as well as her local presence, makes Washington the most likely team to select her.

Pick No. 8: The Phoenix Mercury hold the eighth pick and could also use some size to give their star player, center Brittney Griner, some time off the court. If Jones is still on the board, it is likely they will select her.

Pick No. 9: The Indiana Fever holds the ninth pick and is looking for guard play. Jones does not appear to be someone they are targeting, but this far into the draft, her talent over the past three years should be too much to stop them from picking her up. Indiana could be the last option for Jones, even if she ends up sliding down the board.

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