Jayne Appel or Tina Charles?
You pays your money…and you takes your choice.
by Clay Kallam
Some like Appel because of her size and strength. She’s a legit 6-4, but she’s also has very broad shoulders and is more solidly built than Charles. Presumably that would help her hold up to the pounding in the WNBA, and make her a safer No. 1 overall pick.
Others prefer Charles, who’s more athletic and longer, though not quite as long. Charles has also been healthier throughout her collegiate career, and it doesn’t matter how good a player is if she can’t stay healthy.
But then again, 12 years ago, NFL fans were embroiled in a bitter debate over which quarterback should be the top pick in the 1998 draft. A lot of people argued that Peyton Manning was the right call; others were persuasive in making their case for Ryan Leaf.
Anyone who’s even a casual follower of football knows how that worked out, and Oakland Raider fans can also recall a quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick who hasn’t exactly set the world on fire – in fact, most in the Bay Area would claim that JaMarcus Russell has barely even turned up the thermostat in his depressing three years in silver and black.
But why am I talking about football? This is a column about women’s basketball, and more specifically, about which player should be the No. 1 pick in April 2010. Here’s the connection: The NFL spends millions of dollars, if not tens of millions of dollars, evaluating talent. Quarterbacks are particularly scrutinized, with scouts and personnel directors charting every single play of their collegiate careers, not to mention watching them during practice and at all-star games.
The stakes riding on these decisions are literally enormous. NFL franchises are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and successful teams are worth a hundred million more (give or take a lot of zeros) than unsuccessful ones. A hundred million dollars may not sound like a lot of money to a Wall Street banker who’s just cashed his bonus check from his bailed-out company, but even for NFL owners, it’s a sizable chunk of change.
And yet, after spending all that money, and all that time, they still get it wrong. They still make huge mistakes, they still pick the wrong player for the wrong team, while sixth round picks like Tom Brady win Super Bowl titles and MVP awards – not to mention marrying supermodels.
So when the first choice is announced in April (and by the way, it may not be the Minnesota Lynx who wind up with the pick), there’s one thing for sure: No one is sure.
Appel could come into the pros, settle down on the block, and use her array of post moves to score 15 a night for 10 years. She could use her strength to rebound, and her impressive ball skills (she was not tall as a youngster, and was always a perimeter player) to initiate fast breaks.
Or she could be just a little too slow to make anything happen in the lane because collapsing guards strip the ball. Or her knees or shoulder could give out under the strain of playing year-round. Or that strength and size that worked so well in college might be ordinary, or less than ordinary, in the WNBA.
Charles could arrive in Minnesota (or Connecticut or wherever) and simply be too quick and too relentless for most WNBA centers. She might rebound and block shots and be the winner she is for Geno.
Or she could get bumped off the block by the older, stronger players, be forced to rely on a jumper that she never masters, and find herself having a Tamika Williams Raymond career path – that is, sort of OK but nothing special.
Anyone who says she knows for sure is lying, plain and simple, because no one knows for sure. The brilliance of hindsight makes it clear that Peyton Manning was destined for greatness and Ryan Leaf was destined for small-time crime; the clarity of hindsight makes it obvious that JaMarcus Russell is going to retire young and rich. But before their careers played out, even after years of intense analysis, it was all basically guesswork.
So who’s it going to be: Jayne Appel or Tina Charles?
And you know, Amber Harris might wind up being better than either one.