One of the major stories from last year’s draft was the six players under the international designation that were selected. With draft prospects playing all around the world during the WNBA offseason, it is no surprise that talent evaluators are looking everywhere for players that they can pick. While last year’s group was historic for a number of reasons, this year’s international group does not have the same level of headlines attached to it, but there will certainly be international players selected again. Teams will also continue to be weighing up options for later round picks as the right international pick can certainly pay off in that portion of the draft. The age difference between international and non-international prospects, especially with college players getting to choose another year of eligibility, will see some teams take risks on younger players with the potential to develop beyond older draft candidates. In the same manner as in past years, we are providing a comprehensive list of 2002 born players who have retained international status, covering players who will almost certainly be picked to players who are more likely on the edge of consideration. There will also be interest in non-internationals no longer in college who are auto-eligible for the 2022 WNBA Draft without the need to declare, but a list of notable players who qualify under that path will be covered in a separate article. Player names are followed by position, the country that the player is currently representing, and their club team with country listed if it is different than the one that the player represents on the national team level.
Sike Kone, PF, Mali, Gran Canaria (Spain)
Only one other player with international status representing an African national team at the time of the draft has been picked and it was a decade ago, but Sika Kone figures to be considered the top international prospect in this draft. She is from Mali, but has spent her professional career in the Canary Islands of Spain and this is her third straight season with Gran Canaria. She helped them achieve promotion to the top division in her first season, continued to be a contributor in steering them to safety last season, and then had the team built around her this season as some of the more experienced players went elsewhere. It has been a tough battle for her although she has continued to put up strong numbers for a team that is trying to string together enough wins to stay in the league. She was also fantastic over the summer for her youth national team and was relied on as a contributor with the full national team and she will have three more chances to show what she can do at that level before the draft. The WNBA figures to be a path that can help her grow in stature on the international stage so she should be a reliable pick compared to most internationals. It remains to be seen where her offensive game will end up outside of scoring near the basket, especially playing against taller players, but she plays consistently hard on both ends and figures to at least have a role rebounding and defending at a higher level. The team that picks her will probably have to operate under the expectation that we will come over before she is fully ready to contribute and that committing to developing her will pay off over time.
Jade Melbourne, PG, Australia, Canberra Capitals
A year ago, she was not on the draft board at all, but Jade Melbourne is now one of the players who will almost certainly be picked. At that time, she had already signed her Letter of Intent to attend Arizona State starting this season. Then the WNBL season started in Australia and roster needs suddenly gave her the opportunity to take the initiative for her team and she became one of the revelations of the season. Those results led her to opt against college and turn professional, putting her in contention for this draft. The teams may be stronger this season, but early indications are that she will continue to take any chances that she is given to show her scoring ability. She also had a productive summer with the youth national team and then a chance to play with the senior team when player availability left them fielding a younger than usual team in the continental championship. Given that she views herself as a point guard, she will need to continue to develop the rest of her game to contribute at the highest levels, but she has the attributes to be an effective lead guard or a scoring option off the bench. The question that teams will have to ask is how to handle her rights if they draft her as more players are not accepting being stashed and choosing to start their clocks as soon as possible and she is probably ideally not a rostered player yet.
Gemma Potter, SF, Australia, Dandenong Rangers
Another player who was not expected to be part of the draft pool, Gemma Potter was a freshman at UCLA a year ago, unable to actually play for the team because she and several other players who were not enrolled in-person classes were not permitted to enter the United States. Having already lost the season, she ultimately decided to turn professional. Given this unusual set of circumstances, it is not entirely clear that she is actually eligible for this draft, but our site’s sources indicate that, barring an unexpected objection, her not actually being able to play allowed her to retain her international status. Unfortunately, her tough year continued with an injury suffered during the national youth championships that could leave her not playing a competitive game before the draft and, as a result, her camp might not actually oppose her instead being considered non-international and being in the draft pool in 2024 instead when she would figure to be back on track with her development and in a better position to be drafted and then brought over immediately. If she is in this draft class, teams will definitely be interested in investing a late round pick on hoping for her to return to the form that made her a highly regarded versatile wing prospect. Canberra has her on their roster with the hope that she will be available for them late in the season.
Reka Dombai, SF, Hungary, Gyor
Compared to other international players in this draft class, Reka Dombai has been on radar for this moment for a lot longer period of time and there has been plenty of curiosity about how she would develop leading up to this point. Hungary has focused a lot of effort into creating opportunities for young players in their local league and in recent years have had a number of prospects that were on the fringe of what would be a big recognition of their efforts for this generation, but none have been picked yet. Those opportunities meant that she was the primary option on her team at a young age, finishing 3rd in the league in scoring as a 16 year old in a league that has its fair share of number of WNBA players. This is now her third season with Gyor after moving clubs as she has continue to adapt to being a key player alongside more experienced players and she has shown development even without reaching the same counting stat threshold. She had one big chance to show what she could do on the global stage against players her age with Hungary hosting the U19 world championship and she had a good tournament, but perhaps not to the level that would have cemented her prospect status, though she demonstrated a solid level of versatility.
Julia Boros, SG, Hungary, BEAC
The player who greatly improved her stock for this draft at the last U19 world championship was Julia Boros as she led the hosts to a medal and was voted to the team of the tournament. With an impressive number of makes beyond the arc and showcasing an ability to do a little bit of everything, there was an expectation that she would build on a solid first season with BEAC and take the minutes that were available to her to continue a developmental leap. When the club season rolled around in Ujbuda, that track was not exactly followed and instead her counting stats and percentages have taken a hit even with the chance to be a key player on a team firmly in the middle of the standings. There is still plenty of time in the second half of the season for her to find her stroke and her scoring ability in general, but after moving from the edge of the radar to a player whose upcoming season was looked at with some anticipation, she is back more in the out of draft consideration range with more interest in where she could be a few seasons down the line.
Eden Zipel, SF, Israel, Hapoel Rishon Lezion
An effective scoring wing, Eden Zipel is one of a number of emerging talents from Israel as the younger generation has seized the opportunity from increased minutes and look to form a new core for a national team guaranteed a spot back at the continental stage. Last season, her club team dealt with roster issues all season long and relied on her and other local players to provide stability during import changes. This season, they have found a strong trio of imports and she is an effective fourth option behind them as they have gone from battling relegation to possible championship favorite. That typical roster construction does make it hard to evaluate local talent as the imports are high level, but do tend to match up with each other, leaving locals on locals most of the time with the capacity for the top ones to take advantage in the right matchups. She is starting to build a bigger role at the senior national team level, but is still a little bit away from an impact there. While she has put up scoring numbers while given the volume to do so, there is still a lot of room to work on the efficiency front, especially when it comes to shooting from long range, although she has also shown promise as a secondary playmaker.
Serena Kessler, SG, France, Tarbes Gespe Bigorre
Long considered a future national team-level player, Serena Kessler may be one of the most promising players in this draft class, but she faces quite an uphill battle to actually being picked. After being a solid player in the second division with the national academy team, she headed to Tarbes last season for top league experience, only to lose most of the season due to injury. While she recovered enough to participate in the world championship with France’s U19 team late in the summer, it was clear that she was not at her best yet and did not show what she could do. After getting into rhythm for another month, she had a very promising start to the club campaign before suffering what could be another season-ending injury. The nature of the draft means that she is either picked this year or becomes a free agent and there will be little opportunity to convince a team to make a pick, although a team could gamble at the end on her getting back on track over time. Given her injury history, there will be concern about whether she can reach the ceiling that had been projected previously since shooting ability has not generally been a key part of her game.
Pauline Astier, SG, France, Bourges
Not necessarily considered the biggest long-term prospect, it seems disrespectful not to include Pauline Astier on this list considering that she has generally been trusted with rotation level minutes on one of the best teams. That solid experience at Bourges should allow her to continue to make an impact on a high level, but she has not had much chance to be a team’s primary option. That changed over the summer with youth national team experience at the world championship and she took on a much bigger scoring role than usual and showed some ability to create as a secondary playmaker. Even with the likelihood of a lot of available footage for her between now and the draft, it is not clear that there is a path for playing her way up draft boards, but she is the kind of player who can continue to carve out a role for herself and become a solid contributor at the European level or elsewhere once she hits the prime of her career.
Kamila Borkowska, C, Poland, Arka Gdynia
Late round picks can be efficiently used on international players that have the room to develop over time before they are ready for WNBA action and Kamilla Borkowska definitely fits into the category of player who might be able contribute quite a bit in a few years. Listed at 6’7″, she has the tools to be an effective center at a higher level, especially with teams looking to have at least one center who can offer defensive resistance against other taller centers and she has displayed reasonable mobility as well. While she is getting consistent minutes with Polish powerhouse Gdynia, not many of those have been with the result on the line so there will be some reading into a limited sample size of high stakes situations, although she did also feature for the senior national team this year. Out of the players that seem to fall into the gamble category, she seems the most likely to be a free agent target in the future if she goes undrafted so it would not be a surprise if a team near the end of the draft used their final pick on her.
Magdalena Szymkiewicz, SG, Poland, Arka Gdynia
Around the world, leagues balance a variety of priorities and realities instead of simply attempting to be the strongest competition possible. Amid the pandemic and its continuing effect on team budgets, the Polish league adopted rules that gave young players more minutes and Magdalena Szymkiewicz is one of the players that is taking advantage of the situation. She is not getting time in continental play, but has a bigger role in the domestic league, and is learning to assert herself in a group of veterans. Over the summer, she did get to play at the youth national team level and had several strong performances with her team relying on her to take the lead in the scoring department. While she is starting to put up numbers in league play, she is still more on the fringe of draft consideration right now. With the likelihood that she will continue to play a lot of minutes over the next few seasons as a lot of competitors for those minutes have opted for the college route or moving to other leagues early, it seems more likely that continued development over time will determine whether she is a factor on the continental or global levels.
Sude Yilmaz, SF, Turkey, Galatasaray
Long considered one of the top prospects in her birth year, Sude Yilmaz has certainly been among the players where questions arise about the right development path for players at a critical time in their youth. She displayed potential at an early age and then got to a point where she was good enough to be needed on the roster, but not at the level that would earn her consistent minutes on a team with high-level aspirations. Given mostly cameos and playing with more established teammates, she just has not had the chance to show what she can do in the same way that she might on a different team. The fairly limited youth national team scene last summer after not having any competition the year before also did not present much opportunity to impress. Her team has struggled to have its full roster on the court at the same time so her minutes have ticked up recently without much to show in terms of counting stats. Previous perceptions of potential do sometimes play into draft decisions, but it seems more likely that she will continue on a path to being a solid role player at the local level.