July 22, 2023
Locked on Women’s Basketball: Ticha Penicheiro, the intersection of highlight culture and statistical production
'This was the greatest passer of all time'
It’s time for another installment of our WNBA Retrospect series at Locked on Women’s Basketball! The series reviews old game film, news reports, stats and more to determine who has been the best prospect in the history of the WNBA. Last week, Hunter Cruse, Em Adler and Lincoln Shafer discussed the 1998 No. 1 overall pick, Margo Dydek. This week, they discuss the No. 2 pick in that draft, Old Dominion point guard Ticha Penicheiro.
In her four years at Old Dominion, Penicheiro, a 5’11 guard from Portugal, recorded 1,304 points, 939 assists and 591 steals. She led her team to the 1997 NCAA championship game; was a two-time Kodak All-American; and became the first international player to win the Wade Trophy, a national player of the year award.
“The immediate conclusion I had within less than a quarter of watching Ticha,” Em says on the podcast, “was that this was the greatest passer of all time. And I’m not sure it’s particularly close. … She has one of the best floor games and just general basketball IQs I think I’ve ever seen.”
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Later in the episode, the co-hosts grade college-era Penicheiro on the 20-80 scale they developed to evaluate WNBA prospects. Those numbers translate to: 20 — draftable; 30 — WNBA reserve; 40 — rotation-caliber; 45 — top-end backup; 50 — average starter; 55 — above-average starter; 60 — All-Star caliber; 70 — All-WNBA caliber; 80 — MVP candidate. Here’s Lincoln’s grade and reasoning:
“She’s an out-of-this-world passer of the basketball. The thing that stood out to me the most is her misdirection — using head fakes, hand fakes, throwing the ball where the defense and her both aren’t looking. But to me, the scoring is a problem. And I think I’d end up somewhere in the range of a 45 or a 50 … because she’s so obviously bringing a ton of value in certain areas and so obviously limited in other areas that are holding her back from reaching an MVP or all-league level of player.”
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Penicheiro went on to play 15 WNBA seasons, the first 12 for the team that drafted her, the Sacramento Monarchs. She averaged 6.1 points, 5.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. She was a four-time WNBA All-Star and was named one of the top 25 players in league history in 2021.
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