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Draft day for MSU women

 

Adam Minichino

 

STARKVILLE -- Chanel Mokango is ready for anything today. 

 

The only problem is the Mississippi State senior doesn''t know when it will happen. 

 

Mokango and 13 other college players will be in Secaucus, N.J., at 2 p.m. today for the WNBA draft (ESPN2). The broadcast then will shift to ESPNU and NBATV for the second and third rounds. 

 

Mokango, a 6-foot-5 center will join Connecticut''s Tina Charles and Kalanna Greene, Stanford''s Jayne Appel, Middle Tennessee State''s Alysha Clark, Nebraska''s Kelsey Griffin, LSU''s Allison Hightower, Iowa State''s Allison Lacey, Kansas'' Danielle McCrary, Florida State''s Jacinta Monroe, San Diego State''s Jene Morris, Oklahoma State''s Andrea Riley, Oklahoma''s Amanda Thompson, and Virginia''s Monica Wright. Each player hopes she is selected with one of the 12 first-round picks. 

 

"I am excited to be asked to be there," Mokango said. "I really don''t know much about it. I just know they invited me." 

 

The Connecticut Sun own the first pick and are expected to select Charles, a 6-4 center from the two-time defending national champion Huskies. 

 

While Mokango waits to hear her name called in New Jersey, classmates Armelie Lumanu and Alexis Rack will be in Mississippi awaiting news of their fate. The senior guards also are expected to be two of 36 players selected in the three-round draft. 

 

Mokango said she received the invitation Friday. She planned to leave Wednesday for New Jersey with MSU assistant coach Greg Franklin. She said she was surprised to be asked to attend the draft. 

 

Mokango said she hasn''t looked on the Internet to find any of the mock drafts for today''s event. A mock draft by DraftSite.com has Mokango being picked sixth by the Washington Mystics. 

 

"Anywhere they draft me is fine with me," said Mokango, who set the school record with 180 blocked shots and was named twice to the SEC All-Defensive team. This season, she was third on the team in scoring (11.3 points per game) and first in field goal percentage among regulars (47.2 percent), rebounding (7.2), and blocks (79). 

 

Lumanu and Mokango, who are from Kinshasa, Congo, transferred from Southeastern Illinois College and made a significant impact in their two years in Starkville. Lumanu also doesn''t have a team in mind. Her only concern is getting a chance to play at the next level. 

 

"I don''t know much about the league," Lumanu said. "A Congolese girl (Mwadi Mbeka, who plays with the Los Angeles Sparks) talked to us about practice. I don''t think the way they practice is the same way we practice. We''re just going to have to make the coach trust you." 

 

Lumanu, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was second on the team in scoring (12.4 ppg.), rebounding (7.1), and assists (129), and first in steals (87). The 5-9 guard played every position except center this season. 

 

None of the players has hired an agent. Each player said she would consider an opportunity to play overseas if the chance presents itself. 

 

Rack will be en route to Jackson tonight for the presentation of the annual Howell/Gillom Awards for the best college basketball player in Mississippi. She won the award last season. 

 

DraftSite.com has the Indiana Fever picking Rack with the No. 23 overall choice in the second round and the Seattle Storm selecting Lumanu with the No. 34 pick in the third round. 

 

Rack, a 5-7 guard, paced the Lady Bulldogs in scoring at (17.6 ppg.) this season. She led the team with 105 3-pointers and 148 assists and was second on the team in steals (70). 

 

For her career, Rack, a first-team All-SEC pick by the league coaches and a second-team pick by the Associated Press this season, finished as the program''s No. 3 all-time leading scorer with 1,756 points. She owns the program record for 3-pointers made (340) and attempted (1,057) in a career and made in a season (108). She also set the SEC mark for 3-pointers made in a season. 

 

Rack is confident she is capable of playing in the league, but she is realistic about her chances. 

 

"It is the team you go to," Rack said. "If the team we get drafted by is full of guards and we get picked in the second or the third round, we''re going to get cut, unless we just go out and be way more outstanding. It depends on the team, but it doesn''t matter. It is going to be fun." 

 

Lumanu, Mokango, and Rack played integral roles in helping MSU (21-13) advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program''s history. 

 

The players said their three games in the NCAA tournament helped their draft prospects. They said the fact that all three games were on television helped expose their skills to a wider audience. 

 

"I think we were just playing to win," Mokango said. 

 

Said Rack, "We were playing team ball. There was no individual stuff. We just made sure we had everybody''s back." 

 

Mokango more than held her own against MTSU''s Clark and FSU''s Monroe in the NCAA tournament.  

 

Against Clark, who led the NCAA in scoring at 28.3 points per game, Mokango helped limit Clark''s touches and held her to 17 points while scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.  

 

Against FSU, Mokango had 20 points, nine rebounds, and four blocked shots, while Monroe had 11 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks. 

 

Mokango also had 19 points (9-of-11 shooting) in an 87-67 upset of All-America center Jantel Lavender and Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Lavender had 17 points. 

 

Rack, who is busy completing her degree in chemistry, said she received a message on Facebook from former MSU All-American LaToya Thomas. She said Thomas instructed her to make sure she is comfortable with the agent she selects and to do her research. She said she is excited about the opportunity to start something new, which she said will be like her freshman year in high school and in college again. 

 

She said the difference will be she or her teammates won''t be the "big dog," or the go-to player and that all of the draft picks and free agents will have to prove themselves. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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