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The problem in overlooking Taylor Mikesell in the WNBA Draft

The Ohio State guard’s final NCAA season should help draft stock, not hurt it

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The WNBA Draft, and making it in the United States’ top women’s basketball league, is tough business. As of April 6, 112 players put their name in for draft eligibility for one of 36 draft spots. That means 76 won’t be drafted at all. Then, for the 36 lucky players who hear their name called, over half aren’t likely to make their team.

Odds are certainly stacked against any player that takes a chance on the draft, but former Ohio State women’s basketball guard Taylor Mikesell shouldn’t be overlooked for one of those few spots.

In current mock drafts, Mikesell’s name won’t come up in the first round. After the surefire picks like South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston, likely the first overall pick, Maryland’s Diamond Miller and Tennessee’s Jordan Horston, it gets a bit foggy though.

It’s likely that Mikesell goes in the second or third rounds. However, there’s evidence to support Mikesell going higher. In the 2023 group of draftees, Mikesell is the most dangerous shooting guard available.

Whoever gets Mikesell doesn’t simply get a player who tied the Buckeyes’ postseason record of seven made three-point shots in a game, in the last game of her career in the Elite Eight, but a deep threat the likes of a Courtney Vandersloot or Kelsey Mitchell.

Last season, Mikesell was number one overall in all of NCAA women’s basketball in long range shooting, going 47.5% from beyond the arc. It wasn’t an odd outlier year either. In three of the four seasons Mikesell played in the Big Ten, two years with the Maryland Terrapins followed by her final two with the Buckeyes, Mikesell sat atop the league in shooting from deep.

What puts a shadow on Mikesell’s draft stock is the 22-23 season. In the guard’s final year, Mikesell was third in the conference with a still impressive 41.4% efficiency from beyond the three-point line. It put Mikesell at 22nd best in the country, the guard’s lowest in four seasons of starting at least 30 games.

Looking at the guard’s output directly, it’s less than last year’s numbers, sure. Putting additional perspective on it though, Mikesell performed her best this season because of the environment in which she accomplished it.

For two years, this year especially, Mikesell was the Ohio State Buckeyes. The guard joined the Scarlet & Gray before the 21-22 season, coming into a team where the scoring identity was focused on shooting. To put it bluntly, all the team had was shooting.

The post play for the Buckeyes suffered a massive blow following the 20-21 season. Ohio State lost forwards Dorka Juhasz and Aaliyah Patty to the transfer portal. That’s 11.1 and 5.8 rebounds per game lost in an offseason.

In the 21-22 season, nobody on the Buckeyes grabbed more than five rebounds a game. Due to the size of the program changing, Ohio State shifted to a more pressing side on defense and offensively its 5-out offensive set meant the Buckeyes were going to hurt teams from deep.

Mikesell thrived, hitting that top three-point shooting efficiency level that topped the NCAA, even hitting 50% shooting late in the season, and sixth best overall field goal percentage for the Big Ten at 48.2%. The guard accomplished it with a quick release that started with extra practice in high school that Mikesell took to the NCAA level, often times shooting alone an hour and a half before games tip.

This season though, it was difficult all-around for the Buckeyes. Sure, making it to the Elite Eight doesn’t necessarily show a team struggling, but the reason Ohio State made it that far was in large part because of Mikesell.

Fellow guard Jacy Sheldon, who led the Scarlet & Gray’s scoring in the 21-22 season, missed 23 games of the regular season. Also, point guard Madison Greene, who stepped in to start during Sheldon’s absence, suffered an injury on Dec. 20 that took her out the remainder of the campaign. So, without a top post presence or a fellow consistent shooter, Mikesell received the brunt of the attention.

With at least one player glued to Mikesell all game on offense, with or without the ball, the guard still shot over 40% from long range. Also, Mikesell added more point guard duties to her repertoire and increased her assists and steals per game. Mikesell’s 2.3 assists this year is the second best of her career.

Back in Mikesell’s first two years of college basketball, with the Terrapins, her 3.3 assists as a freshman and 2.3 as a sophomore per game were good or better than Mikesell’s Ohio State years. However, that was in a team with three future members of the WNBA.

This year, Mikesell had those assists mostly through lowerclassmen stars in forwards Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry. Each dynamic young player on Ohio State benefited from Mikesell. McMahon’s blistering runs to the basket were made easier with Mikesell getting additional attention on defense.

Defensively, Mikesell has room for improvement. When Mikesell goes from perimeter to defending a player going into the paint, the guard doesn’t do well against players prone to going to the rim. At the WNBA level, it doesn’t get any easier but the offensive work outweighs the need for the defensive improvement.

Also, looking at the work ethic of Mikesell in her shooting, applying that to her game in other areas only strengthens her as a pick in the draft. When Mikesell tied that program record with seven three-point shots in the NCAA Tournament, the guard did it injured. The toughness and commitment to the game can leak into other competencies.

Overall though, the dip in offensive stats aren’t a bad thing. Even with a lower three-point efficiency this season, Mikesell still led all shooters in the NCAA who took at least 250 shots from deep.

That and the context of how Mikesell scored this season makes Mikesell’s 22-23 season the best of her career. Look at Boston in South Carolina as a similar example.

The national champion Boston averaged double-doubles in her sophomore and junior seasons. In the forward’s final year though, she had her “worst” year since coming into college. Boston averaged 13.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. A decline of 3.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Nobody is holding that against Boston. There aren’t talks of Boston’s draft stock slipping after looking at the game footage. The forward faced double, triple and sometimes quadruple coverage when she got the ball anywhere close to the paint.

While they play two different positions, and have different games altogether, they were both still impactful even with the added attention. On Monday, April 10th, when the WNBA Draft starts on ESPN, Mikesell should be afforded similar grace.