This year’s World Cup has a number of players who find themselves drafted next year or in the future. While most countries tend to rely on their more experienced players, more young players than usual are going to be expected to contribute in this tournament. Teams listed with players’ names are for the upcoming season and the year is the earliest in which the player can be eligible to be drafted.
Ezi Magbegor, C, Melbourne Boomers (Australia), 2019: The clear favorite to be the top international player in this draft class, Magbegor had a difficult decision about whether or not to delay her WNBA dreams by attending college. By opting not to do so, she immediately put herself in position to be drafted in the first round next year. This will be the first big chance to see her on an international stage since then as she will be watched closely over the next few months before teams make a decision on where she stands relative to the older college players that she will be competing with for draft position.
Alanna Smith, PF, Stanford, 2019: A mildly surprising inclusion into the Opals roster that qualified for this event last year, she ended up putting up several big scoring outputs. Smith was asked to play a bigger role in her last college season as she was able to better show off her versatility as a forward. The team this year has a need for a forward and getting named ahead of more established players is worth noting again.
Bridget Carleton, SG, Iowa State, 2019: Canada has relied on a number of veterans over the past few cycles, but with some of them hitting retirement, new faces are being called upon to step up in their place. A contributor at the youth team level, Carleton has improved in each season in college and there is no reason to suggest that she will not be among the top scorers from power conference teams this year. While she did not shoot particularly well last year in qualifying for this event, she may find herself coming off the bench with the task of dialing it up from distance again.
Shay Colley, SG, Michigan State, 2019: Colley is not likely to be in this year’s draft as a year sitting out due to transfer gives her two more college seasons, but she was given a prominent role off the bench last summer as they qualified for this tournament. As a multi-dimensional guard, she fits well with her teammates here and at Michigan State, but she will has some development ahead of her to establish herself as a professional.
Han Xu, C, Xinjiang (China), 2019: It has been clear for several years that there would be a Chinese player in consideration for the 2019 draft. More recently, the emerging opinion is that there should be two. Han has been more under the radar than her fellow young post player, playing at the school level last year, but her play this summer, starting with preseason games against WNBA teams, may lift her higher as a prospect. Of the two, Han has better defensive tools, and while her offensive game is nowhere near as refined, has still shown some ability to knock down jumpers. The big jump in competition will provide evaluators a better opportunity to see what she might be able to do in the future before the club season, when she will regularly be matched up against WNBA players.
Li Yuan, PG, Shandong (China), 2020: The youngest player in the tournament, Li has earned her spot with a solid summer for the team throughout the training process. While she has been off the club radar since playing up an age group at the last U19 World Championship, she will have plenty of chances to be evaluated for future potential before anyone has to make a decision. While she will not be the primary creator on the court with the team’s experienced wings, there could still be a role here for her with the guard mix still up in the air.
Li Yueru, C, Guangdong (China), 2019: Li has been considered a prospect for the upcoming draft since breaking out at the youth national team level and then making an early splash at the professional level. Accustomed to getting her chances even with more experienced teammates, she will get the chance to show what she can do even with more experienced teammates contributing. Her post game is fairly polished and she is not the type of player to back down from a challenge, but this will be the start of her needing to answer questions about her long term prospects on a global scale, especially if athleticism is a concern.
Eleanna Christinaki, SG/SF, no club, 2019: Known for a turbulent college career at both Florida and Maryland, Christinaki was actually eligible for the last draft if she had decided to leave school sooner. Teams taking late round chances on talent alone could do far worse. Her exact professional destination is unknown at this point, making this tournament extra important for her if she wants to start out on a bigger stage, but she will have to pick her moments on a roster filled with veterans.
Mariella Fasoula, C, Vanderbilt, 2019: National team play is the only time that anyone has seen Fasoula in action recently after sitting out the last season to transfer. While she is eligible for next year’s draft age-wise, it seems more likely that she plays out her college career at this point. This will be another good chance to see what she can do, but how she plays for a new school will be a bigger factor in how teams see her in the future, especially since she is unlikely to contribute anything other than defense and rebounding with more established scorers on the roster.
Monica Okoye, SF, Iris (Japan), 2019: Japan’s rise in basketball has led to a shift in development as young players are now hitting the professional ranks earlier instead of spending their time in the university league. While that has exposed players to higher level play, most are not ready to contribute immediately and Okoye falls in that category. Teams are unlikely to see anything soon that would make them pull the trigger next year, but sustained skills development as she shifts down positions and the faith shown in her by naming her to this team could see her be a notable player down the road.
Kitija Laksa, SF, South Florida, 2019: Latvia was finally able to call on a full strength squad again last summer and were rewarded with a place in this tournament. Laksa’s shooting helped them at critical times as her role with this team is likely to be different than what evaluators see in her college games given the experienced playmakers on this roster. College play will likely determine her WNBA potential, but this will be her opportunity to be a bigger name on an international level.
Digna Strautmane, SF, Syracuse, 2020: Having just finished her first year in college, it may be a while before anyone thinks about her pro potential, but Strautmane’s impact internationally before and after she arrived in school means that she will always be a player to watch. A versatile forward, she will not be called on to score as she as she did at the youth national team level, but she could certainly fill in at a variety of roles when she is needed the most. Three more years of college development could make her a totally different player by the time 2021 rolls around although she can be picked in 2020 based on age.
Isalys Quinones, PF, Dartmouth, 2019: She is likely to be drafted higher than anyone else in this article in 2019, but that will probably come in the Puerto Rican League Draft. A California native, Quinones has improved each season in college. With the national team needing depth in the post to supplement their guard-oriented play, she helped them to reach this stage and make history. While she may not be a WNBA prospect, she can certainly have a long career professionally if she chooses to pursue it as the Puerto Rican League will be waiting.
Yacine Diop, SF, Louisville, 2019: A key part of Pitt’s brief resurgence, Diop has opted to spend her last college season at Louisville, where evaluators will be able to see her alongside other prospects on a regular basis ahead of the draft. It will be a good opportunity for her to show that she can continue to demonstrate her scoring prowess with improved efficiency. While there are a number of established players on this team, there is a role for her here, which will help her become better known around the world after relative obscurity, something that should help her throughout her professional career.
Park Ji-Hyun, SF, no club, 2020: After a player was drafted from South Korea in the latest draft and played immediately, could there be another one soon? Like the last young phenom in the country, Park has been fast-tracked to the senior national team, earning her spot with a productive summer. There will be plenty of time to evaluate where she stands compared to other prospects, especially as she makes the jump from the scholastic level to the professional level at home. The commitment to expanding her skillset beyond creating for herself bodes well for her future as one of the best Korean players and the opportunity to expand that globally.
Ilayda Guner, C, Istanbul University (Turkey), 2019: Coming off an excellent summer at the youth national team level, Guner earned a spot on this roster as she has been slowly integrated into the senior setup recently. She may not get much time to show what she can do here, but the more youthful approach taken by Istanbul University recently should afford her the chance to play big minutes in the coming year.