Jaeschke at the Draft: Predictions and Projections

I watch and follow a ton of sports—NU athletics (obvi), the NFL, the NHL, Major League Baseball, UFC, even the occasional MLS game.  What I don’t follow is the WNBA. Besides the fact that there are only so many hours in a day to devote to sports, I pretty much only get excited about basketball if it involves Northwestern.

But hey, how often does an NU basketball player gets drafted to play in the highest professional league? Answer: not quite as rare as an NU bowl victory, but pretty rare. On the men’s side, you’d have to go back to Evan Eschmeyer in 1999, and before that, Billy McKinney in 1977.  Cue old-timer reminiscing.

On the women’s side, Amy Jaeschke, an honorable mention AP All-American and owner of several NU career records, has a great chance this year to be the first ever Wildcat drafted by a WNBA team. The draft is being held next Monday (set your TIVOs for 3 p.m., ESPN), and maybe it’s just me and the Jaeschke family, but I think the prospect of seeing her name called is pretty cool.

However, as I searched through the interwebs to find any info on the draft and the other college players in Jaeschke’s class, so that I could properly hype up her WNBA potential, I found almost nil. But I am nothing if not an enterprising sort, so I asked the WNBA directly for some information, and the league’s communications director, Ron Howard, was able to get me in touch with Minnesota Lynx head coach and GM Cheryl Reeve. I was also able to get a comment from Chicago Sky assistant coach Jeff House. Many thanks to those fine folk and their communications staffs for the access.

Reeve, whose team owns four of the top 14 picks in the draft, including the No. 1 pick overall, said she’s followed Jaeschke pretty closely in BigTen play, and she also has ties to NU head coach Joe McKeown, whom she served under as an assistant at George Washington for five years in the early ‘90s. 

Here is everything you need to know about the WNBA draft as it relates to Amy Jaeschke.

To cut to the chase, Reeve projects Jaeschke to be selected in the second round of the draft, which matches this mock draft projection I found on the internet. In fact that mock draft predicts that Reeve will select her with the first pick of the second round, 13th overall. This other mock draft has the Chicago Sky taking her with the third pick of the second round, 15th overall. Not sure how reliable those sources are.

For obvious reasons, Reeve did not tip her hand as to whether she will in fact choose Jaeschke, and anyway, besides the top two picks, which appear to be foregone conclusions (more on that later), drafts are always an unpredictable crapshoot.

Jaeschke earns strong marks from scouts for her well-rounded game. Standing 6’5", she clearly has the size to be an effective center, but her game isn’t limited to post play, as she can step out and knock down outside shots, as well, making 32% of her three-point attempts this past season. For the season, she averaged 21.4 points and 9.0 rebounds in 36.1 minutes per game.

"I really like Amy Jaeschke's game and have enjoyed watching Northwestern dramatically improve the last couple of seasons," Reeve told me. "Amy possesses a unique skill set for someone of her size. At 6'5, her ability to score on the interior, coupled with her shooting range to the three-point line, is something we as scouts of the college game don't see very often."

The concerns about her game revolve around speed. Jaeschke doesn’t appear to be the fleetest of foot, and Reeve said the WNBA is trending towards quick, agile centers. Also impacting Jaeschke’s draft position is the fact that the draft pool appears deep in frontcourt players.

"The aspects of the pro game that Amy, along with other bigs in the draft, will have to adapt to are the speed and physicality of the WNBA," Reeve said.

The Chicago Sky’s assistant coach Jeff House had this statement about Jaeschke: "Amy averaged over 20 ppg and nearly 10 rpg, while shooting 50% from the field and 78% from the line, all facets of her game that will translate well at the pro level. Amy is an intimidating defensive specialist because of her ability to block shots (over three a game) and defensive rebound. Amy also holds the low block with authority and can finish in traffic."

As for the rest of the draft, Connecticut forward Maya Moore,  whose team was upset last night in the semifinals of the Final Four, will be the no-brainer first overall pick. The 6’0" AP player of the year has some pundits calling her the best women’s basketball player ever, and Time magazine even wondered if she could play in the NBA.

Reeve said the Lynx aren’t going to trade the first pick, and even though she wouldn’t flat out say she was going to pick Moore, she did say, "This franchise is extremely excited about the prospects of a very, very talented player from the University of Connecticut."

The second pick figures to be 6’8" Australian center Liz Cambage…except her pulling an Eli Manning/J.D. Drew prima donna act on the Tulsa Shock, who hold the No. 2 draft slot, could put a wrinkle in things. Cambage recently told the Australian press that "I don’t want to play for Tulsa," and, in fact, she’d rather be drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks, who hold the No. 5 pick – "I've always liked the Lakers. I think I'd look good in purple and yellow." 

It’ll be interesting to see what Tulsa head coach and GM Nolan Richardson (yes, he of Arkansas Razorbacks fame) does with his pick, though it doesn’t sound like he’s inclined to trade it just to give Cambage what she wants.

Overall, Reeve said the draft is deep in talent, but lacking in franchise players, beyond Moore.

Besides Jaeschke, the other top BigTen prospects are Ohio State center Jantel Lavender (projected to go very high in the first round) and Iowa guard Kachine Alexander (possible second or third round pick). Jaeschke’s high school teammate at New Trier, Deidre Naughton, a guard who played at DePaul, could be a late pick in the draft.

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