Underrated NCAA Players in the 2022 WNBA Draft
Which underrated players stick out among the names in consideration for this year's WNBA draft class.
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The 2022 WNBA Draft Lottery was held yesterday afternoon. It’s easy to name the top college players in the 2022 WNBA draft class. Rhyne Howard, NaLyssa Smith, Ashley Joens, Naz Hillmon and Shakira Austin are among the big names who could be in contention when the Washington Mystics make the first overall pick.
But in every draft there are talented players who don’t get the same attention. There are many names that come into mind when talking about underrated players but there are five that stand out.
This article addresses college players only, but there are a few international players involved in this year’s draft class that are also underrated. I am focusing on college players because I have seen them grow and evolve over their careers to become the players that they are today and am more knowledgeable about them.
These five players have had good college careers and come from Power 5 conferences schools and should be among the names considered for the WNBA Draft this year.
*All stats are from games played through December 18th.*
Mya Hollingshed, F - Colorado
Mya Hollingshed is one of the stars for Colorado. The Buffaloes are off to a hot start this season and Hollingshed is the main reason. She’s averaging 13.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game. She’s shooting 45.8% from the floor but makes half of her shots inside the arc. That’s an effective player. Not only that, she only plays less than 30 minutes per game. She’s efficient when she’s on the floor and gets the job done. Over her five college seasons, she’s remained steady from the paint at around 44.5%. Not only that, but she’s a good rebounder and has averaged around 6.5 to 7.0 rebounds per game over her college career. She’s had one double-double so far this season and has come close two more times so far. In Pac-12 conference play, she’s also been excellent and has increased her production every conference season. She had her best ever stats last conference season in which she averaged 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Her shooting efficiency as well as her ability to rebound makes her a player one should know about and still has the chance to make more noise as Colorado continues their season. She could help a team like the Atlanta Dream who was 10th last season in 2 point FG% at 45.6% and in rebounding, in which the Dream were 9th last season in total rebounds with 34.1 rebounds.
Veronica Burton, G - Northwestern
Veronica Burton has been one of the best seniors so far. She is second overall in terms of win shares and has put up big numbers so far. She’s averaging 17.6 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game and 3.7 steals per game. Her assists average is 18th overall and her steals average is sixth overall. She has increased her assists and rebounds averages over her college career. Her ability over the years to get better and to improve in assists as well as rebounds is notable. She’s been named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons and she is once again making a case for the award. Not only that, she’s increased her scoring average every single season. Her PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is 35.5 which is 26th overall. She’s also increased her 3-point shooting percentage from the previous three seasons as well as shooting better from the free-throw line this season. Burton is one of the guards who can score, rebound and defend and should be one of the top names mentioned for this year’s draft class. Burton would fit in well with the Indiana Fever because of her ability to be a playmaker as Indiana was 11th in assists per game last season. She could also help them out defensively as Indiana was 10th in the league last season in steals per game at 6.3 per game.
Vivian Gray, G - Texas Tech
Vivian Gray has had great college seasons while at Oklahoma State and at Fort Lewis in her freshmen career. Now, in her second year at Texas Tech, she’s continued to excel. She’s averaging 17.0 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. She’s had some early season injuries and has only played three games, but Gray’s proven that she can be a reliable scorer and a clutch player when needed. Throughout her career, she’s been a top scoring threat, averaging 18.9 points per game at Fort Lewis/Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. She’s proven she can score and this season is shooting at 43.1%. She’s also proven that she can be a good rebounder, as last season she averaged 8.3 rebounds per game. So far, Texas Tech has gotten off to a hot start this season, so it will be interesting to see how Gray performs in conference play and how she will play against some good teams. Gray still needs to get better defensively and has struggled shooting from three during her college career.
Ilmar’I Thomas, F - UCLA
Ilmar’I Thomas may not be known to many people, because she played for Cincinnati in the AAC, but she was consistently among the top players. She got better every single season at Cincinnati and in her senior year averaged 23.7 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. She transferred to UCLA this season and has continued her excellent play for the Bruins. This season, she’s averaging 18 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. She has scored a season-high 32 points and 9 rebounds in a game so far. She’s been very effective from the field so far as she has a field goal percentage of 59.3%. But, what is more impressive is that her two-point percentage is 63.2%! She’s shown that she’s very effective in the paint. Although she struggled in the game against UConn, she’s still been very good against UCLA’s other opponents so far. Her PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is at 31.9 which is 78th overall. She’s proven over her career that she’s an effective paint scorer at 60.2%. She’s also proven that she is a good rebounder while she was at Cincinnati and has shown some moments with UCLA. Thomas' big moments will come against conference opponents in Pac-12 play where she can show her ability to be an effective scorer and rebounder, just like when she was at Cincinnati.
Khayla Pointer, G - LSU
Khayla Pointer has gotten off to a great start in her senior season for the Tigers. She’s averaging 16.8 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists per game. She’s shooting a career high 47.1% from the field. She had a triple-double in her first game of the season and had two double-doubles as well. Against Iowa State, she was very impressive when she scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out seven assists. She’s also shooting 40.7% from three this season. She can score in the paint, from three, rebound and assist. She’s been one of the best senior guards so far and has increased her draft stock. She could help out the defending WNBA champions the Chicago Sky off the bench as a rookie because the Sky will have some open roster spots and will need to fill it with some rookie scale contracts after they deal with their big free agents on the roster.
These five players have stood out as the most underrated NCAA players in this year’s draft class and will look to continue their senior seasons for their schools and potentially make a bigger name for themselves. The WNBA draft will take place in April and we will see which of these five players make an even bigger name for themselves then.