There are 12 teams in the WNBA, which held its 3-round draft last night. Folks around these parts assumed that Jamaican-born Shereesha Richards, soon to graduate from the University at Albany as its all-time leading scorer in women's basketball, would have been selected by one of the 12 teams, particularly the New York Liberty, as Richards had played her high school ball across the river in New Jersey after emigrating from Jamaica as a youth.
Unfortunately, Richards wasn't drafted. She took the disappointment in stride, accepting the possibility of either a free agent deal with any WNBA team or playing overseas, as other players from local colleges in the home district have done.
So why was Richards given the el-snubbino?
Because, for one thing, UAlbany, which has won 5 straight America East titles, isn't enough of a marquee school to entice the Lords of WNBA, which includes Liberty owner James Dolan, who also owns Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Knicks & Rangers. Dolan, of all people, should've recognized the regional market value in Richards, who adopted New Jersey as her home, and did nothing but win at UAlbany under since-departed head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. The Lady Danes have appeared on ESPN's family of networks during their recent run of success, so there's national recognition.
But at the end of the day, Dolan and his fellow owners are guilty of ignorance because of the bias against mid-major programs such as UAlbany and its America East brethren. They'd rather stock their WNBA rosters with players from the power conference schools (i.e. Duke, Notre Dame, Connecticut, etc.), and thumb their noses at the likes of Richards. This has been going on for too long.
And it's not just the colleges in the home district, either. Many Section II players go on to to bigger programs, such as Thomas Huerter, Jr., son of a former Siena player-turned-broadcaster, who is headed for Siena next season, while brother Kevin is headed for Maryland, which now plays in the Big 10. There's no guarantee the Huerters will move to the next level, either. Their father wasn't drafted after his playing days at Siena ended.
Richards' snub serves as a cautionary tale headed into the NFL Draft in 2 weeks. Troy High grad Jordan Canzeri, finishing his senior year at Iowa, could face the same fate as Richards, ignored by all 32 NFL clubs. Yes, there have been some players from the home area who've played in the NFL, most recently Joe Vellano, who won a Super Bowl ring with New England. However, Vellano, if memory serves, was let go---twice---by the Patriots the following pre-season.
You might think the "Smallbany" mentality is confined to the music business. It isn't. That same lame mindset applies in sports, too, and that is a shame.
And, so Dolan should expect a familiar box in his office real soon. It contains Weasel ears, not just for him this time, but for his fellow owners, for ignoring talent comparable to the players coming out of Duke, UConn, and so on. This has to stop, preferably yesterday.