Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, April 14, 2017

WNBA Draft 2017: Temple's Fitzgerald Taken by Indiana in the Second Round

(Guru’s note: This report will be updated during Friday)

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK -  Temple's  second and third all-time women's basketball scorers behind Philadelphia Sports Hall of Famer Marilyn Stephens are about to become training camp teammates in the WNBA.

Senior Feyonda Fitzgerald became the fourth Owl in the history of the women's program to be picked  in the draft when she was made the eighth choice in the second round and 20th overall by the Indiana Fever Thursday here night.

That means she is now on the same team as Candice Dupree, the former Temple great she passed this season when Fitzgerald finished with 1,824 points ahead of Dupree (1,698), who was dealt to Indiana several months ago after becoming a multi-all-star in Phoenix with the Mercury.

The mega-deal also involved the Connecticut Sun along with Phoenix.

Dupree went to the then-expansion Chicago Sky in 2006 as the sixth overall pick of the first round before later moving on to Phoenix where she helped the Mercury become WNBA champions.

Fitzgerald, a native of Norfolk, Va., is a month removed from a disappointing finish to her collegiate career when Temple fell short by one point to eventual Elite Eight participant Oregon in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

However, she can now bask in the glow of becoming the second pick out of the program who was a recruit of Tonya Cardoza following Shey Peddie, who was a second round pick by Chicago in 2012.

Ironically, both picks were made by new Indiana coach Pokey Chatman, who was let go by the Sky after last season. She replaced Stephanie White who return to the colleges last winter taking the opening at Vanderbilt.

Fitzgerald was not one of the ten invitees here by the WNBA in terms of likely first-rounders so neither she nor coach Tonya Cardoza were on the scene at Samsung 837, the glitzy high-tech showcase in Manhattan's meat packing district by the High Line Park, when the picks were made.

The selection may look as a surprise to persons here using the handout draft guide since an oversight managed to have Fitzgerald omitted among the list of prospects.

However, there were indications in recent days that the Big 5 player of the year who gained several postseason accolades and all-American mention was a draft target of the Fever.

Dupree played for Dawn Staley, coach of the new NCAA champion South Carolina squad that had three players taken here in the first round.

Kamesha Hairston was the other Temple draft pick, taken by then-Connecticut coach Mike Thibault as the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 draft who also played for Staley, who also was recently named USA Women's Olympic coach for 2020.

Peddie never made an opening day roster. Several other Temple players who were not drafted have played with WNBA teams.

Chatman took one of the most honored collegians from the area in 2013, picking former Delaware superstar Elena Delle Donne second overall, and in 2015 made Rutgers’ Betnijah Laney of the state of Delaware a second round pick.

Fitzgerald averaged 17.3 points per game and 7.3 assists this past season in leading the Owls to a second-place finish behind Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference and a first NCAA appearance since 2011.

She is the first Big 5 player drafted since Saint Joseph’s Natasha Cloud went in the second round of the 2015 draft to Washington and since has become a Mystics mainstay and will enjoy Delle Donne as a teammate after the Wilmington native was dealt in a major offseason trade to Washington.

Indiana didn’t have a first round pick but added Stanford star Erica McCall as the 17th overall selection ahead of Fitzgerald since the Fever had three picks in the second round.

Fitzgerald set season (232) and career (635) records for assists.

“It was another opportunity to see a good point guard,” longtime Fever general manager Kelly Krauskopf said of the move to Fitzgerald. “You can never have enough of those and we were excited to get her. She’s a scoring point guard, but she averaged seven assists a game.

“She creates for herself and she creates for others. There was clearly an admiration for her skillset so far as scoring and handling the ball. She has a high IQ and we’re excited about bringing her to camp.”

“We’re ecstatic,” Chatman said of her overall haul. “When you’re sitting in the second round so many things can go so many different ways.

“Fitzgerald, she’s putting them up and she’s averaging seven assists a game. Plays for a fine coach who coached at Connecticut so you know the pedigree is there and just to stay in line with the type of players who have made Indiana successful.”

One is former Arizona State star Briann January, who has also dealt with injuries.

McCall was a surprise to not have gone in the first ten.

“They fit the image of an Indiana Fever basketball player in terms of their motor and energy,” Chatman  said of the four choices who also include former Florida player Ronni Williams and former Miami star Adrienne Motley. “It also shores up some of the core players and also competing to make us better.”

Added Krauskopf, “We were looking for some of the spots to fill. We were looking for some backup help in our training camp in our post area. And some backup help in guard area. All these players are talented players. All of them bring something to the table.

 “Camp is going to be competitive but it’s the WNBA. There’s only going to be 12 roster spots. There’s only 12 teams. There’s a lot of talent out there but we’re really happy with the mix of players that we got.”

 Training camps open a week from Sunday on April 23 and the 21st WNBA season begins May 13.

The Fever will host Washington in a preseason game on May 2, visit the Dallas Wings in another preseason game on May 6 and open the regular season on May 14 at the Seattle Storm.

Should Fitzgerald make the roster, the Fever visit Washington on June 11 at 3 p.m., and don’t visit the seaboard again until July 30 at Connecticut. They don’t visit New York until August 8, and then back at Washington on August 12.

 

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