Monday, April 13, 2009
Ms. Irrelevant (*) is the name I'm giving to the person drafted dead last in the WNBA Draft in any year. (I would like to think I coined the term, but I could be dead wrong about that.) The name is inspired by the NFL's "Mr. Irrelevant", the name given to the last person chosen in the NBA draft. As Rebecca of Game Notes of Doom pointed out to me "at least Mr. Irrelevant gets a trip to Disneyland - Ms. Irrelevant gets nothing."
The reason this last-past-the-post draftee got the name of Mr. Irrevelant in the NFL is that due to the size of NFL drafts and that in past years the NFL Draft has gone at least eight rounds, it was unlikely that the last person drafted would make the team, much less see any playing time. I decided to look at the various "Ms. Irrelevants" and see what had become of them.
1997: Catarina Pollini - 4th round, 32nd pick in Regular Draft, Houston Comets
Catarina Pollini actually played for the Houston Comets in their inaugural season - she just didn't play very well. With a championship team, there was little place for Pollini, who played a grand total of 94 minutes in 13 games and was significantly underwhelming. She was already 31 years old when she was drafted and when leaving the Comets would play in Italian basketball until her retirement at age 40.
1998: Monica Lamb - 4th round, 40th pick in Regular Draft, Houston Comets
Monica Lamb played three years with Houston, and was a fairly decent player in 1998 - she started 25 games and hit 54 percent of her field goals. The problem was that she was 33 years old when she was drafted, a victim of the fact that anyone who was good at anytime before the league started was likely to be drafted - those teams in the early years were virtually a Who Was Who in Women's Basketball in The 1980s and 1990s.
The decline soon began. She only played 36 minutes in 1999 due to an orbital hemorrhage when she was poked in the eye by a teammate. By 2000 she had lost her starting position, and in May 2001, she retired. Lamb now spends her time running the Monical Lamb Wellness Foundation and its associated basketball camp.
1999: Elaine Powell, 4th round, 50th pick in Regular Draft, Orlando Miracle
The two new expansion teams - the Orlando Miracle and the Minnesota Lynx - were given extra picks at the end of the four rounds. The Miracle chose Elaine Powell, and ever since, Powell has been playing in the WNBA - still active, playing for Orlando, then Detroit, then Chicago, then Detroit again. Powell was 29th in Total Career Games played at the end of the 2008 season and is 16th overall in Total Assist Percentage - not bad for someone who was picked last.
2000: Abbie Willenborg, 4th round, 64th pick in Regular Draft, Houston Comets
Willenborg was the last pick in a bloated 16-team league. Willenborg was the first of our Ms. Irrelevants never to play as much as a second in the WNBA. She's now Abbie Gutzmer and is a girls' volleyball coach at Vernon Hills High School in Illinois. She is also a mathematics teacher.
2001: Beth Record, 4th round, 64th pick in Regular Draft, Los Angeles Sparks
Record would also never make a WNBA team. She would play in Israel in 2002, scoring 20.4 ppg/7.2 rpg for Galil Elyon, and played in Turkey in 2003 and in the NWBL, an off-season women's semi-pro league in the United States. The last anyone heard of Beth Record, she was playing on a exhibition team in 2003. She stated that if her basketball career didn't pan out, she would use her sociology degree. Hopefully, that's what she's doing now.
2002: Tiffany Thompson, 4th round, 64th pick in Regular Draft, Los Angeles Sparks
A graduate of Old Domininon, her common name makes it hard to find out anything about her, as there are younger players now with the same name. The Tiffany Thompson that was drafted by the Sparks seems to have fallen from the face of the earth.
2003: Mary Jo Noon, 3rd round, 42nd pick in Regular Draft, Los Angeles Sparks
By now, the WNBA had shrunk from 16 teams to 14 teams. Furthermore, the fourth round of the draft was dropped - the fates of Willenborg, Record and Thompson might give you some indication why.
Mary Jo Noon was one of those players that disappeared. In 2003, she said that she didn't want to be remembered for just basketball. Be careful what you wish for.
2004: Kate Bulger, 3rd round, 38th pick in Regular Draft, Minnesota Lynx
There were now 13 teams, and inexplicably, one fewer draft pick in the third round. Kate Bulger, the last player selected, was more famous for being the sister of the NFL's Marc Bulger than for her non-existent WNBA career, as she was the fifth Ms. Irrelevant in a row not to make a WNBA roster. Like many of the others before her, Bulger faded away into obscurity.
2005: Heather Schreiber, 3rd round, 39th pick in Regular Draft, Los Angeles Sparks
Schrieber was the sixth Ms. Irrelevant who didn't make a team. However, she had a fallback position - she returned to the University of Texas to play Volleyball. Her sporting career at Texas ended at the end of 2005. She had hoped to coach after she finished at Texas, but I have no idea if she's coaching basketball or volleyball.
2006: Marita Payne, 3rd round, 42nd pick in Regular Draft, Connecticut Sun
With the league back up to 14 teams, this pushed Marita Payne's pick into the 40s. She didn't make the league in 2006 but was signed to a training camp contract by the Minnesota Lynx in 2008. The Australian native played basketball in Turkey in 2007 and 2008, and played for the Australian WNBL in the 2008-09 season.
2007: Kiera Hardy, 3rd round, 39th pick in Regular Draft, Connecticut Sun
The league had fallen back to 13 teams again. Hardy managed to play some preseason games for the Connecticut Sun, but never broke into a regular season roster. Hardy has played in Iceland and the Czech Republic since then.
2008: Charel Allen, 3rd round, 43rd pick in Regular Draft, Sacramento
With the Atlanta Dream joining the WNBA family, the last pick was somewhere back in the 40s and somehow, an extra pick snuck into the list, making Charel Allen pick #43 and the 2008 Ms. Irrelevant.
Even though Allen played only 49 minutes for the Monarchs, Allen finally broke the eight year streak of the last player not making the league, ending the record of ignominy among final picks.
(* * *)
So what are the conclusions?
There are only a couple of good players who have come off that last pick - Elaine Powell and maybe Monica Lamb, but Lamb was already old. Catarina Pollini might have had a good career, but one year in the WNBA was enough for her. Allen hasn't played enough to be considered "good".
The other eight out of twelve players never made it on to a WNBA team. Furthermore, those players from the first three drafts were simply not representative of the years to come, drawing on a pool of much older players.
So here's to you, Ms. Candace Byngham, formerly of Louisville, the 2009 Ms. Irrelevant of the WNBA. Here's hoping that you break the barrier and that your WNBA career is a long and happy one.
(*) - There are some who might object to me using the term "Ms. Irrelevant" due to the use of "Ms." - that I am somehow trying to promote radical lesbian communist feminism. However, that would be up the players to decide. If anyone wants to be called "Miss Irrelevant", I aim to please.