- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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CLEVELAND -- The two most talked about college players leading up to Wednesday's WNBA draft might not even be in the pool of potential draftees.
Tennessee's redshirt sophomore Candace Parker has said she will not be entering it, although technically she would be eligible. That's because she's scheduled to get her degree from Tennessee in the same calendar year as this draft. Also eligible is LSU junior Sylvia Fowles -- thanks to the fact that she will turn 22 in this calendar year.
While Parker's draft status has been discussed by multiple media outlets for several months -- she confirmed to USA Today's Dick Patrick earlier this month that she was not entering this draft -- Fowles' hasn't received the same media attention.
There's zero doubt, especially with the way she has played in this NCAA Tournament, that Fowles could step into the pro league and make an immediate impact. That's a given for Parker as well.
But, as provided by Stacey Osburn, the NCAA's associate director for public and media relations, the NCAA's rules state: "An enrolled student-athlete in basketball may enter a professional league's draft one time during his or her collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his or her intention to resume intercollegiate participation within 30 days after the draft."
So, obviously neither Parker nor Fowles can or even need to "test" the market, the way some men's players do if they aren't sure if they'll be picked. If college players aren't drafted and don't sign with an agent, they can go back to their school if they so choose. Clearly, Parker or Fowles would be drafted.
The question remains as to whether the WNBA's salaries -- not even in the same galaxy as the NBA's -- are really a good enough lure for a player to give up any time in college.
Fowles is now sure to face the question Saturday as the Final Four teams meet the media. For some people, it might be considered a distraction. But at this point with everything LSU's players have been through, little if anything is going to "distract" them.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Graham Hays contributed to this report.