Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Dungee, Slocum wait to hear names called
Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee (33) celebrates a basket during a game against UConn on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas women’s basketball Coach Mike Neighbors believes both Chelsea Dungee and Destiny Slocum will hear their names called in tonight’s WNBA Draft.
Dungee and Slocum helped the Razorbacks to a 19-9 finish and Arkansas’ first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015. They ranked 1-2 in scoring for Arkansas, and both earned All-SEC honors.
They both chose to turn pro, rather than take the extra year of eligibility awarded to all winter sports athletes by the NCAA because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“They loved it here, and I think there was a time they thought about [staying for another year],” Neighbors said. “But if you put yourself in their shoes, those kids have been in college for five years. It’s time. They were excited about the opportunity to go into the next phase of basketball and their lives.
“It’s just going to be fun to follow them. I’m really looking forward to the draft itself and the camps. I don’t know what travel is gonna be like, but traditionally I’ve always gone to those camps and watched them work. I look forward to being able to do that if both of those kids do get drafted and make a training camp.”
Dungee led the SEC in scoring, averaging 22.3 points per game. The 5-11 guard, who transferred to Arkansas after her freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, became the first Razorback to earn All-American honors since Shameka Christon in 2004. She was selected as an All-American by The Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
Slocum, a graduate transfer, became the first Arkansas player to go for 20 points and 10 assists in a game since Kimberly Wilson in 1996. She averaged 15 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a Razorback.
The draft will be held virtually and broadcast on ESPN beginning tonight at 6. It will consist of three rounds with 12 picks in each round.
Neighbors pointed out how difficult it is to make a WNBA roster.
“That’s the hardest league to make,” he said. “There’s only 12 teams and not every team carries 12 players with salary caps. Some of them can only carry 11 because of their roster cap and their injuries. So there’s not even 144 jobs to go around.”
Dungee is projected to be a first-round pick in four different mock drafts. Slocum is tabbed as a second-round pick, No. 14 pick overall, in the second round to the Las Vegas Aces by ESPN.
ESPN.com and CBS Sports have Dungee going to the Dallas Wings with the No. 7 pick of the opening round. The Wings traded that pick and a 2022 second-round pick to the Los Angeles Sparks for their 2022 first-round pick on Wednesday night, though. The Athletic and Bleacher Report have the high-scoring guard from Sapulpa, Okla., going to the Seattle Storm with the 11th pick of the first round.
James Wade, the head coach and general manager of the Chicago Sky of the WNBA, believes both players have a future in the league.
“I think with Chelsea you get someone who has a knack for scoring and that’s a skill that’s always gonna be valuable in our league,” Wade said on a conference call Friday afternoon. “You can always have room for a player who can get to the free-throw line and create their own shot, and you’ve seen enough maturity each year that she’s come back to play.”
Wade, the 2019 WNBA coach of the year, said Slocum has matured in her career, and getting the chance to be tutored by WNBA player Kelsey Plum, who was a graduate assistant at Arkansas this year, was an asset.
“Playing for a coach that gives them a lot of freedom and playing a WNBA style of play, I think it only helped their progression,” Wade said.
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