Prospects provide predictions for WNBA

Courtesy Audrey Durr

Asia Durr roots for the Atlanta Dream but gives the nod to Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky in the WNBA playoffs.

Asia Durr was in fifth grade when she started following her Dream.

That's when Durr, now a 5-foot-10 junior guard for St. Pius X (Atlanta) and the No. 1 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz 2015 rankings, appeared in a commercial for her hometown WNBA team.

In the ad, she stood on the side of the court, asking the boys if she could play. When they finally let her in, she dominated.

"I 'bowed them in the face," Durr said, using slang for elbowing her opponents. "I just scored on them every which way."

During filming, Durr met the Dream coaches, and she came away impressed. And even though they have a new staff now, she is still a fan and hopes to catch Thursday's WNBA playoff opener against Washington.

"If my schedule allows," Durr said, "I hope to be there."

But Durr isn't following her heart when asked to pick a champion. Instead, she predicts the Chicago Sky will take the title over the Los Angeles Sparks.

"I think Elena Delle Donne is going to take over," Durr said. "I don't think [Candace] Parker can guard Delle Donne.

"Parker is good, but I don't think she can do the moves Delle Donne can do."

Delle Donne, the 6-foot-5 rookie who finished fourth in the league with an 18.1 scoring average, is popular with many elite high school basketball players in the nation.

Lauren Cox, a 6-4 sophomore forward for Flower Mound (Texas), said she doesn't really have a favorite team but roots for Delle Donne.

"I like watching her play because she's so versatile," Cox said. "I try to do some of the stuff she does, playing inside and out."

De'Janae Boykin, a 6-2 junior forward for Charles H. Flowers (Springdale, Md.), shared a nearly identical sentiment.

"She's versatile, similar to me," Boykin said. "I look up to her."

Add Te'a Cooper, a 5-8 junior point guard from McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) and a North Carolina recruit, to the Delle Donne fan club.

AP Photo/Damen Jackson

Forget Mike. Many high school stars today want to be like Elena.

"I like all the mismatches [the Sky] create," she said. "Not many people can stop Delle Donne."

Look west to find other popular picks -- and popular players. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner of Phoenix join Delle Donne at the top of the list.

Jaime Nared, a 6-1 senior wing from Westview (Portland, Ore.), said she's a Lynx fan, but she believes the Mercury will win it all.

"Diana Taurasi is too good to be stopped, especially during the playoffs," she said. "I think she will take over.

"Brittney Griner brings an inside presence. She attracts people because it's hard to stop 6-8. And that will allow Diana to be free and not be double-teamed as much."

Sabrina Ionescu, a 5-10 sophomore guard from Miramonte High (Walnut Creek, Calif.), is staying true to her California roots and picking the Sparks to win it all.

But if she had to pick one favorite player in the league, she'd look at the Phoenix roster.

"I like Diana Taurasi because she has such a well-rounded game," Ionescu said. "She's smart, a good leader, she can shoot and she's a good point guard."

Conversely, Gabby Green, a 6-1 senior point guard for Saint Mary's College High School (Berkeley, Calif.), is Phoenix fan because of Taurasi and Griner but thinks Minnesota might pull it off.

"I'm excited to see who will win this year," she said. "I think probably Minnesota. I like how they all play together.

Crystal Dangerfield, a 5-5 sophomore guard from Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), also is picking the Lynx to win their second title in three years, because of Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus.

"Growing up, those are girls I looked up to," Dangerfield said. "I was supposed to get a Minnesota jersey for my 15th birthday (in May), but I never got it."

Like Ionescu, Sierra Calhoun, a 6-0 senior wing for Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) and a Duke recruit, is a Sparks fan.

"They have so much talent," Calhoun said. "Candace Parker is such a good player. Kristi Toliver -- I really love her game. And Lindsey Harding is a tough guard with a high basketball IQ."

Despite her allegiance to the Sparks, Calhoun isn't ready to predict that Los Angeles will win its first WNBA title since 2002.

"It's a toss-up right now," Calhoun said. "A lot of teams are doing well. Chicago is a great team with Delle Donne and Epiphanny Prince. The Lynx has a great [group] with Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus."

No matter who wins, Calhoun knows it will be a fabulous display of basketball.

"A lot of the girls' crossover [dribbles] are better than some of the guys in the NBA," she said. "The girls are really athletic. The game is evolving with the ballhandling, and it's getting more interesting. It's just as exciting as the NBA."

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