COLUMBIA — Staying or going?
Monday’s deadline for Alexis Jennings to submit her name for the WNBA Draft drew near with no definite word.
South Carolina’s rising senior forward had not talked to coach Dawn Staley about her plans by 9:30 p.m. Monday, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Jennings had until midnight to submit her name for the April 12 draft, but even if she did, she could change her mind over the next 10 days provided she does not hire an agent.
Jennings said after the Gamecocks’ Elite Eight loss to Connecticut a week ago that she had not made up her mind about her future and wanted to concentrate on finishing school. She is on track to graduate in May and could try for a WNBA roster spot, or pursue a professional career overseas.
Jennings played two years at Kentucky and sat out USC’s 2016-17 national championship year after transferring. She was the Gamecocks’ second-leading scorer and rebounder this season and if she were to return for her final year, she would be an integral part of USC’s team on each end of the floor.
Without her, USC would only have three true forwards on the roster — Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Lele Grissett and LaDazhia Williams. Herbert Harrigan is ready to step into a starting role and Grissett showed great potential at the end of the year while Williams, slowed by a leg injury in the preseason, never got going this season but was considered a Top-50 prospect out of high school.
The 6-foot-3 Jennings is currently not projected to be picked on one WNBA mock draft site, but listed on another as a projected second-rounder. The draft will have 36 selections.
Due to the small roster size in the WNBA (12 teams with 12 players each) and the high rate of returning players, it’s no guarantee that every draft pick will make the team next season. Of last year’s final 24 players drafted, only nine made a roster.
There is always the lucrative overseas market, which WNBA players also partake in during the offseason. Several former USC players — including Aleighsa Welch, a senior who was drafted by the WNBA but did not make a roster — are playing well in foreign countries.
If Jennings leaves, the Gamecocks will have 11 players for next season and four open scholarships.
NOTE: There has also been no word on the plans of rising fifth-year senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore. Cuevas-Moore missed the entire season with a knee injury and just had surgery in February, but could elect to leave school and begin her pro career.
If she and Jennings depart, the Gamecocks will be down to 10 players and have five scholarships to give.