In a pre-draft conference call, four WNBA Head Coaches/Executives along with ESPN Analysts Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson answered questions from the media about prospects leading up to the 2021 Draft on April 15. Robinson and Indiana Fever Head Coach Marianne Stanley spoke on former Syracuse Orange women’s basketball player Tiana Mangakahia’s draft stock and her potential as a professional player.
Stanley opened her statement about Mangakahia praising her courage to come back to basketball after beating Stage 2 breast cancer in 2019.
“First of all, the fact that Tiana came back and stuck with it, says a tremendous amount about her character and the kind of grit and fight she has inside her,” Stanley explained.
Mangakahia dealt with injuries last season and saw a slight decrease in production numbers, but still led the nation in assists and assists per game during the year. Stanley explained that coaches don’t just look at one season of play, they look at the ‘complete body of work’.
“You don’t base your decisions or your evaluations on one game or one season or one set of circumstances,” Stanley explained. “You kind of look at everything in its totality and she’s somebody who understands how to play this game. Clearly, she has a love for the game and has a huge heart and all those things are valuable.”
“I think Tiana is a fantastic talent,” Robinson stated when asked about Mangakahia. “You don’t lead the nation in assists in consecutive seasons unless you really have a high-level understanding of the game. I think what we probably didn’t talk about enough this season was just kind of a toll that it (cancer) took on her body and on her ability to come back and really play at a high level. I don’t think that what we saw with this season is the full picture of what Tiana is really capable of. And I think she will continue to kind of work her way back into form and the way we saw her play earlier in her career.”
A big storyline surrounding this draft class is the level of talent amongst the prospects versus the existing talent in the WNBA. Lobo noted on the call that this group is not as strong as the 2020 class.
“I think for Tiana you know if she wants to play she’s gonna be like all these other first-year players coming in and fighting for a spot on the team,” Stanley added. “I think all of us have alluded to the fact that this is going to be a tough year for many players to actually make a roster. All of us have full rosters of players, so it’s coming in with the mindset coming in with energy and fight and a skill set that allows you to compete because that’s what it’s about competing with the very best in the world.”
Overall, Mangakahia’s strongest trait on her stacked resume is her undeniable commitment to the game.
“I think she’s somebody whose passion and love for the game, and her skill set gives her a chance,” Stanley concluded.
“There is an understanding that she’s still kind of working her way back, but she’s a fantastic talent and I think she would have an opportunity to get into camp and prove what she could do,” Robinson added.
Multiple mock drafts predict Mangakahia going to Stanley’s Fever at No. 24 overall in the second round, including Winsidr and The IX. ESPN currently projects the Australian native to go #27 overall (Round 3, Pick 3, Atlanta Dream). The WNBA Draft will take place on April 15 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.