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Cal Basketball

Anigwe Drafted By Connecticut With Ninth Overall Pick In WNBA Draft

April 10, 2019
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NEW YORK – Add “WNBA Top-10 Draft Pick” to the laundry list of accolades for Kristine Anigwe. Just days after being named the 2019 Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year, Anigwe was one of 12 players invited to the WNBA Draft, held at the Nike Headquarters in New York City. Anigwe did not have to wait long to hear her named called, drafted by the Connecticut Sun with the ninth overall pick, tying Brittany Boyd and Layshia Clarendon for the highest draft picks in program history. Anigwe becomes the eighth player in Cal women's basketball history to be taken in the WNBA Draft and the Bears' sixth in the last seven seasons. 

The full results from the 2019 WNBA Draft can be found here. 

The first four-time All-American in Cal women’s basketball history, Anigwe was named the Naimsith National Defensive Player of the Year after a remarkable senior season in which she led the nation in rebounding at 16.2 rebounds per game and tallied more total rebounds than any other player –male or female – in NCAA basketball this season, spanning Divisions I through III. The 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a four-time All-Pac-12 selection, Anigwe also proved to be an unstoppable force on the offensive end of the floor, ranking ninth in the nation in scoring at 22.5 points per game despite drawing double- and triple-teams nearly every night. 

The all-time leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker in Cal women’s basketball history, Anigwe will be teaming up with another Golden Bear great in Clarendon, who was traded to the Sun midway through the 2018 season. Clarendon was named a WNBA All-Star in 2017 and a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA World Championships this past summer. The Sun’s roster also features former Stanford standout Chiney Ogwumike, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

“I am excited and I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” Anigwe said. “It will definitely be an adjustment, but going to a place that I know believes in me and with coaches that I know believe in me will make it easier. I see myself just becoming a better person on the court and off the court, and just growing with great leadership from players like Chiney and Layshia, and the rest of my future teammates. I’m really excited. I’ve never been on a team like this before where I know some of the players going in and that’s a blessing. You can look at young players from the last few years and the way that they’ve really been embraced by the veterans and been able to succeed. Going into a league and into a team that really embodies the idea of women backing women is really exciting and really cool.” 

A 6’4” center/forward, Anigwe finished the 2018-19 season averaging 22.5 points per game and 16.2 rebounds per game on the season, the first Division I women’s player in 30 years to average over 22 points per game and 16 rebounds per game over the course of the season. Only two other women in the 38 seasons of Division I women’s basketball  -  Patricia Hoskins (1986-87, 1988- 89) and Wanda Ford (1984-85, 1985-86) – have averaged as many points and rebounds per game in a single season as Anigwe did to close out her Cal career. 

Anigwe also proved to be the model of consistency, posting a double-double in 32 of her 33 games this season. Anigwe had a streak of 33 consecutive double-doubles from her final game of the 2017-18 campaign through Cal’s win over North Carolina in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, tied for the second-longest double-double streak in Division I women’s basketball history. Former Oklahoma standout and Piedmont-native Courtney Paris is the only player with more double-doubles in a row than Anigwe. 

A finalist for the 2019 Lisa Leslie Award as the top center in the nation, Anigwe closes her time in Berkeley as Cal’s all-time leader in career points (2,591 points), rebounding (1,404 rebounds), and blocked shots (205 blocks). She ranks third in Pac-12 history in career rebounds and fourth in career scoring, joining Chiney Ogwumike as the only player in conference history in the top five in both categories. 

Anigwe and the Sun begin training camp on May 5 before opening the regular season at home on May 25 against the Washington Mystics. Led by 2017 WNBA Coach of the Year Curt Miller, Connecticut went 21-13 last season, before losing to the Phoenix Mercury in the Second Round of the WNBA Playoffs. 
 

“[Kristine is] one of the elite rebounders in the game of basketball,” Miller said. “[She’s] a physical presence. We’re really, really excited. It couldn’t be a better scenario for us.”

For more information and updates on the Golden Bears throughout the season, follow the team on Twitter (@CalWBball), Instagram (@CalWBball) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CalWBball).

Cal All-Time WNBA Draft Picks

2019

Kristine Anigwe Round 1 (9), Connecticut Sun

2018

Mikayla Cowling Round 3 (33), Connecticut Sun

2015

Brittany Boyd Round 1 (9), New York Liberty

2015

Reshanda Gray, Round 2 (16), Minnesota Lynx

2014

Gennifer Brandon, Round 2 (22), Chicago Sky

2013

Layshia Clarendon, Round 1 (9), Indiana Fever

2010

Alexis Gray-Lawson, Round 3 (30), Washington Mystics

2009

Ashley Walker, Round 1 (12), Seattle Storm

Discussion from...

Anigwe Drafted By Connecticut With Ninth Overall Pick In WNBA Draft

ClayK
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Anigwe was an interesting pick for Connecticut, as they already had a logjam in the frontcourt, but it appears "best available player" won out, as the Sun don't have any obvious holes.

Anigwe will compete for playing time with

Jonquel Jones: Jones is a very athletic 6-6 post who, as I recall, had injury issues last year, but still averaged 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20.5 mpg. She is 25, and just entering the prime of her career. The advantage for Anigwe here is that she and Jones are similar players -- long, rangy and not physical when compared to WNBA centers. Note, however, that Jones is a career 43.9% from three-point distance so for Anigwe to fit in, she needs to become a consistent three-point threat.

Chiney Ogwumike: Ogwumike has been dogged by injuries, but she is an elite player. She's listed at 6-4, but I don't think she's quite that tall. Last year, she averaged 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 25.5 minutes (WNBA plays 40 minutes games) on 60% shooting. If healthy, she is a legit WNBA starter and borderline all-star. She turns 27 this year.

Alyssa Thomas: Thomas cannot shoot, but she is a wonderful player. The fact that she's not a good shooter means she has to play the four (she's a legit 6-2, it appears, a little small for this position), but she's still very effective (10.3 and 8.1). They do play her at the three but at their best, she's in the frontcourt with Jones or Ogwumike. If she could shoot at all, she'd be an Olympian.

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Ideally, Thomas has learned to shoot and can play the three, so Anigwe is the backup for Jones and Ogwumike this year, but she must beat out ...

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Morgan Tuck: Tuck is a classic tweener, listed at 6-2 but closer to 6-0, who swings between the three and four. She's a good shooter and a UConn grad (which counts for the Sun), and will be 25 this year. She can't really guard small forwards, and is small for the four, but she's a very smart player and appears to have overcome a knee injury that hampered her early in her career.

Brionna Jones: Probably 6-2, very strong inside, but not as good as Anigwe. To give you an idea of how tough the league is, Jones was picked eighth overall in 2017 and if Anigwe makes the team, will be cut this year.

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Also in the mix is

Bria Holmes: Holmes was hurt last year, but is a very good small forward. If she plays the three, then Thomas has to play the four, and Anigwe's chances for minutes go down accordingly. Though Holmes' statistics are not impressive, she made a quantum leap in the second half of the 2017 season and showed herself to be have WNBA starter potential.

In short, don't expect Anigwe to have an immediate impact on the WNBA -- in fact, she needs to play well in training camp or she could wind up not making the roster.

R90
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ClayK said:

Anigwe was an interesting pick for Connecticut, as they already had a logjam in the frontcourt, but it appears "best available player" won out, as the Sun don't have any obvious holes.
Trades are aways a possibility.
puget sound cal fan
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With the description of her frontcourt competition, it appears the Sun is looking for a big, who can play a true 4 on offense and defense in the WNBA. Kristine appears to fit that role, as well as sometimes being able to slide over and play the 5 depending on the match-ups. I really look forward to Anigwe's match-up with Breanna Stewart of the WNBA Champion Storm.
concordtom
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Great review, Clay!
wbbilluminati
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I remember watching a bit of Jonquel Jones play and was stunned by her abilities away from the basket. At times she looked like a 6'6" Seimone Augustus!

She's long, blocks/alters shots, athletic, and led the league in rebounds in 2017 with 11.9 per game. She can also really shoot (not just spot up shots when left open) and she can put the ball on the floor.

I was baffled to see she was coming off the bench only a year later and only logging 20mpg. I didn't think injury, but rather attributed it to the return of Chiney Ogwumike, because she played in all 34 games. But some type of injury would make sense for the decrease of her roll.
ClayK
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The Sun just had too many 4/5 players. They play much better with Alyssa Thomas on the floor, but she pretty much has to play the four -- so Chiney and Jones battle for minutes. Most WNBA teams are only going to keep four posts, but maybe Connecticut will go with five ...

ClayK
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With Chiney Ogwumike forcing her way out of Connecticut and to L.A. to play with her sister -- though they might get moved to Dallas as a package deal for Liz Cambage -- Anigwe's path to the roster got a lot smoother.



willtalk
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ClayK said:

With Chiney Ogwumike forcing her way out of Connecticut and to L.A. to play with her sister -- though they might get moved to Dallas as a package deal for Liz Cambage -- Anigwe's path to the roster got a lot smoother.




It would have to be a package deal involving a major return for LA, involving other teams and players along with draft picks in order to free up cap space for LA . If La was not amenable to trading Nneka straight up they certainly wouldn't trade the both of them for Cambage unless they got a big haul in return. Which would involve more than just a straight up trade between Dallas and LA.

Chiney wanting out is just another example of players not wanting to be stuck in Connecticut. She was just a player who had the leverage to force the team to trade her. She threatened to quit and focus on her TV broadcasting career. There were some past players who played badly on purpose just to get traded.
BearBint
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https://sun.wnba.com/news/sun-acquire-first-round-pick-from-los-angeles-sparks/

wvitbear
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Not a good thing for women's bball.
oski003
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How is it that the best high school basketball players are lining up to play basketball at Uconn but the best WNBA players won't play there?
ClayK
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I've never been there, but apparently Uncasville is three hours from pretty much anything, while at UConn at least you're living in a big college town ... and of course you're going to school now and again, and are surrounded by people your own age.

Uncasville offers almost nothing outside of the job that would attract or even interest WNBA-level talent, so a lot of players really don't like it there -- and the list of players who have forced their way out is long.

At a certain point, an elite women's basketball player needs time off from her year-round schedule, and so it is a viable threat (as it was with Chiney) to just sit out the season and forgo the $90,000 or so, the logic being that a summer's rest will translate into extending the European career by a year, which generates more income than the WNBA.

But spending a summer in L.A. and getting paid for it is a different thing entirely ...
wbbilluminati
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Wow, I honestly think this means Kristine starts right away as a rookie!

That said, I think Kristine has a long way to go toward reaching her full potential. She needs to expand and develop her repertoire of skills, not just adding shooting range, but footwork, hook shots, counter moves, etc. near the basket need to get more sophisticated.

With Chiney and Kalani Brown added to the Sparks's roster, one might wonder if they're moving on from the possibility of superstar post Liz Cambage who was rumored to be heading there?

Regarding making the roster, I once read that it's extremely rare for a team to cut a 1st round draft pick from the final roster, regardless if they underperform in training camp, just because. And I subsequently noticed this to be pretty true over the past few years.
puget sound cal fan
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I'd hate for Kristine to get screwed over by the Suns.
ClayK
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It will be very difficult for Anigwe to beat out Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones and start as a rookie. Those two are probably Connecticut's best players, and Thomas cannot play the three because she cannot shoot at all.

Still, Anigwe has a good chance to find minutes as a backup, though note that last year's first-round pick, Brionna Jones, is thinking the same thing.
stu
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ClayK said:

Thomas cannot play the three because she cannot shoot at all.
It would require a ton of skill development but I can imagine Kristine someday playing the three. I think she has all of the physical tools.
ClayK
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One of the issues for Anigwe and Thomas at the three is the defensive end, where they could -- and would -- be matched up with a three-point shooting six-footer who's much quicker. You'd think "Oh, well that's a mismatch on the other end," but it really isn't because then the four and five, the team's best post players, don't get to post up.

It's much harder to work a mismatch on the block on the offensive end than it first appears. For one thing, one of the other defensive bigs can usually sag deep into the lane to help because the player she's defending is not a threat from 15 feet.

In Connecticut's case, Jonquel Jones, at 6-6, can shoot threes, but the other post defender (guarding Brionna Jones or Thomas, say) would just hang out near the rim.
stu
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ClayK said:

One of the issues for Anigwe and Thomas at the three is the defensive end, where they could -- and would -- be matched up with a three-point shooting six-footer who's much quicker.
Do you think Kristine is quick enough to be able to learn effective perimeter defense? Years ago Gennifer Brandon was a big who in addition to being a monster on the boards could defend everywhere on the court.
ClayK
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It's very unlikely that Anigwe can consistently defend on the perimeter at that level. She probably could have in the Pac-12, but the WNBA players are very, very good, and the coaching is excellent.

One aspect of the problem is that to master perimeter defense she has to play perimeter defense, and no professional team has the luxury of watching Anigwe try to figure it out for a year or two and get torched on a nightly basis during the process.

willtalk
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ClayK said:

It's very unlikely that Anigwe can consistently defend on the perimeter at that level. She probably could have in the Pac-12, but the WNBA players are very, very good, and the coaching is excellent.

One aspect of the problem is that to master perimeter defense she has to play perimeter defense, and no professional team has the luxury of watching Anigwe try to figure it out for a year or two and get torched on a nightly basis during the process.


You beat me to it with your response. Even if Anigwe were quick enough ( which is doubtful ) it still would not be feasible. If she had any hope of ever playing the wing in the pro's, she should have been transitioned in college. The reason that DeCosta did not see so much court time with Baylor this season was because she was being transitioned to the perimeter. Offensively she is excellent and much better than the player in front of her ( Di Di Richards ), but she needed experience dealing with guards defensively. DeCosta is very quick, which is why she is being transitioned, however, being quick is not enough. Baylor could afford to transition her ( they were loaded in the post ), but a professional team simply can not. They are working with limited roster space.
Teams might sometimes tolerate lesser defenders at the wing if they are lights out 3pt shooters like KLM in Seattle. But she does not get very much playing time. The Sun did not draft Anigwe to become mediocre wing at best. The drafted her for her post play.
ClayK
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Not a good sign that Anigwe got only 5:12 yesterday, and from the box score, didn't do much with it. Her main competitor, meanwhile, last year's No. 1 pick Brionna Jones, was 4 for 6 with 5 rebounds in 14:34.

The other frontcourt possibility (to back up starters Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones) is Morgan Tuck, who's a bit undersized, but is a UConn player who can shoot threes. Tuck played 17:06.

Still, I would suspect Anigwe will make the final roster unless Emma Cannon somehow beats her out -- but it never looks good to cut your first-round pick.
annarborbear
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Not much you can tell from an initial pre-season game in which a combined total of 30 players from both teams saw action on the court. KA did have a positive plus/minus (+7) for the few minutes that she had. The Sun could have also been trying to showcase the other players hoping to trade one of them to somebody else. I would say give it at least five to six games to see what is going on.
HoopDreams
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ClayK said:

One of the issues for Anigwe and Thomas at the three is the defensive end, where they could -- and would -- be matched up with a three-point shooting six-footer who's much quicker. You'd think "Oh, well that's a mismatch on the other end," but it really isn't because then the four and five, the team's best post players, don't get to post up.

It's much harder to work a mismatch on the block on the offensive end than it first appears. For one thing, one of the other defensive bigs can usually sag deep into the lane to help because the player she's defending is not a threat from 15 feet.

In Connecticut's case, Jonquel Jones, at 6-6, can shoot threes, but the other post defender (guarding Brionna Jones or Thomas, say) would just hang out near the rim.
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