Thursday Night in New York City, the Women’s National Basketball Association held their annual draft.
Tyler Scaife was drafted 20th overall (8th pick in 2nd Round) by the Phoenix Mercury, fitting because she is the 20th Rutgers player to be drafted to the U.S. women’s highest professional circuit. Only one other Rutgers player has ever been drafted by Phoenix and that worked out pretty well. After being selected second overall in 2006, Cappie Pondexter was named one of the top 20 players in league history at the 20th anniversary celebration.
The Mercury finished 3rd in the west in 2017 despite featuring the league’s two most recognizable stars, Diana Taurasi (possible the greatest of all-time) and Brittany Griner, also a former 1st overall pick. Despite playing full winter seasons in the Russian league and pulling double duty in the WNBA during the summer, both Taurasi (17.9 ppg) and the 6’9” Griner (21.9 ppg) did their part. After that there was a huge drop off as only one other player averaged double figures, and the lack of depth was exposed in the Western Conference finals when Phoenix lost for the second straight year to the L.A. Sparks (featuring Essence Carson). The Mercury acquired an extra pick, ending the day with four picks in the three round draft: Marie Gulich from Oregon State, Scaife, Raisa Musina from Russia, and Imani Wright from Florida State. The infusion of talent will hopefully get them back to the promised land, having last won the WNBA title in 2014.
Tyler came to Rutgers as the 9th highest rated prospect coming out of high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The number one rated point guard in her class played in the McDonald’s All-American game before impressing as the AAC Freshman Player of the Year, Rutgers’s only season in the conference. She raised her scoring average as a sophomore and then to 17.2 points per game as a junior. Before her senior year, news broke that Scaife would miss the season for medical reasons. Though publicly referred to as minor, the open heart procedure clearly impacted the team on and off the floor. Without her, the team had the worst season in program history.
Scaife returned to the Scarlet Knights for the 2017-2018 season as a redshirt senior after missing 2016-2017 due to the injury. The 5’9” guard showed no ill effects and was even better than before, averaging 19.4 ppg and garnering 1st team all Big-Ten honors. Tyler ended her career second in Rutgers program history with 2,233 career points and hit a game winning shot in the Big Ten tournament to get Rutgers by Purdue. The Knights fell to eventual champion Ohio State despite Scaife’s one-woman scoring barrage in the first half to keep it close in her final career collegiate game.
The WNBA season begins with one game on May 18 with the Mercury in action. Phoenix will host the Dallas Wings at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
RVision put together a nice highlight video for Scaife prior to the event in the tweet below: