Why teams should not overlook Walker, Raca, or Richards in the 2021 WNBA Draft.
By Alex Holmes
On Thursday night, 36 young women will hear their names called during the 2021 WNBA Draft (7 P.M. ET, ESPN) and each player will take one step closer to realizing her professional basketball dream. Once drafted, players will vie for one of 12 spots on a WNBA roster.
Typically the college All-Americans, along with the occasional up-and-coming international superstar, garner the most attention on mock draft boards leading up to the big event. This year is no different and most mock drafts have Charli Collier (Texas), Awak Kuier (Finland), and Aari McDonald (Arizona) as the projected top picks. However, there are three names that could easily fly under the radar on WNBA scouting reports. Let’s make the case for why teams should take a chance on Jasmine Walker, Ivana Raca, and DiDi Richards on draft night.
Jasmine Walker, F, Alabama
The 6’3” forward from Montgomery, Alabama quietly had one of the best seasons in the NCAA during the 2020-2021 season. Walker averaged 19.1 points per game and 9.4 rebounds in a rugged SEC. She finished fourth in the SEC for her scoring average and sixth in rebounds per game. Walker is a two-time All-SEC performer, including First Team honors this past season.
Over her career, Walker recorded 21 double-doubles, but just to put her continued improvement and dominant senior campaign into perspective, 12 of those double-doubles came this season. Although she was left off the AP’s All-America teams and did not even receive Honorable Mention, Walker is peaking at the right time and you can expect her name to be called late in the first round.
Ivana Raca, F, Wake Forest
Unless you are familiar with ACC basketball, then this name might sound new to you. But for those who have kept up with the conference, you are probably wondering why the 6’2” Raca is not receiving more attention. The fiery Serbian is a two-time All-ACC selection, capped off by All-ACC First Team honors her senior year. She is coming off a 2020-2021 season where she averaged 16.7 points per game and grabbed 9 boards per game, good for fourth and fifth in the conference.
Raca led Wake Forest to their first NCAA appearance since 1988. Throughout the season, she played a high volume of minutes (36 minutes per game) while consistently producing points and extra possessions for her team.
Raca’s thin stature may give the impression she is undersized—her 10 double-doubles on the season beg to differ. Raca is deceptively efficient on the low block and has a great touch around the rim. She can shoot the ball at all three levels and had one of the most dangerous triple-threat stances in the college game.
Raca is hoping to be the first Wake Forest player drafted into the league since Dearica Hamby was selected in 2015. She may not be called until late in the second round, but do not count her out.
DiDi Richards, G, Baylor
Of the three players on this list, Richards leaves college as the most decorated, highlighted by the 2019 National Championship. Although she is not known for her scoring output, Richards proved to be one of Baylor’s key players her last three seasons in Waco thanks to her high basketball IQ and tooth-and-nail defense.
Richards will go down as one of the best on-ball defenders in the college game, and her 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award will back that claim up. She earned Big 12 All-Defensive Team accolades her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. One of the most remarkable traits about Richards is her versatility. At 6’2”, most teams would have played her at forward, but Baylor needed a point guard her senior year and Richards stepped up to the challenge. Richards led the Big 12 in assists per game and had the highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference.
Richards’ value to her team was arguably the most evident in the Elite Eight game against UConn—Baylor was up by nine late in the third quarter when she had to leave due to injury. UConn’s 19–0 run followed to take control of the game.
Her size, athleticism, and savvy basketball knowledge should translate well in the physical WNBA. Richards is projected as a late second round pick on most draft boards.
The 2021 WNBA Draft is slated for Thursday, April 15, at 7 P.M. ET on ESPN. The Dallas Wings have the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5, and No. 7 picks in this year’s draft. Atlanta and Indiana hold the No. 3 and No. 4 picks. The full order of all three rounds of the WNBA Draft is available here.