- Nancy Lieberman, Basketball analyst / Writer
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About 12 hours before Janel McCarville was selected first overall in Saturday's draft, a handful of WNBA general managers still weren't convinced the Minnesota center deserved to be the top pick.
McCarville has tremendous upside. The 6-foot-4 center has been the best passing post in the college game for the past two seasons, which included a trip to the Final Four in 2004. Her versatility, size and and footwork are also pluses.
But McCarville's defensive liabilities make her an intriguing pick.
McCarville's step-throughs and countermoves are tremendous assets, but she remains a mystery defensively. With all due respect to the two-time Kodak All-American, I expect McCarville to have a tough time against quicker, better-skilled and more-experienced post players in the WNBA. She will really struggle to guard the big, legitimate 5s at the next level, such as Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie and Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith.
Of course, McCarville's only 22 years old and will continue to work on her game. Last season, for example, she took her game a little further away from the basket, and Charlotte will work with her to improve on both sides of the ball.
And McCarville should have plenty of time to adjust. I can't think that Charlotte will play McCarville and Tammy Sutton-Brown together. Rather, because both are low-post players, I picture McCarville as a back-up to Sutton-Brown, an All-Star in 2002 who started all 34 games last season, averaging 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 47.3 percent from the field. Sutton-Brown also ranked second in blocks per game (2.1) and eighth in defensive rebounds per game (4.4).
Obviously, time will tell if McCarville ends up being as successful. But Charlotte did get one of the most dominant players in college basketball and a proven winner. Unlike last year with Diana Taurasi, there just wasn't a clear-cut favorite for No. 1. Tan White, Mississippi State's 5-7 guard, was really the only other legitimate candidate for the top pick. Kara Braxton might have been the runaway favorite had she played all four years at Georgia without the suspensions.
Nancy Lieberman, an ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. Contact her at www.nancylieberman.com.
Offensively, Janel McCarville is a must-have. But on the other side of the ball, the Minnesota center isn't as proven.