Nancy Mulkey: The Next Women's College Basketball Megastar?

Bleacher ReportContributor IIIMay 20, 2013

Courtesy Jason Fochtman/Houston Community Newspapers
Courtesy Jason Fochtman/Houston Community Newspapers

Women's college basketball has seen its share of "bigs" throughout history. Many of whom helped define the sport as we know it today. 

Lusia Harris of Delta State was the first and only woman officially drafted to the NBA. Cheryl Miller received the honor of being the first player in the University of Southern California basketball history to have their jersey retired. 

Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo were among the first players to play in the WNBA. Leslie was also the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game. 

Years later came the legendary collegiate career of Brittney Griner. 

From her rare size to the statistics she accumulated, there is no questioning what Griner did for women's basketball. 

Most speculated we would never see a player like Griner again. But with the recent emergence of 15-year-old Nancy Mulkey, that may not end up being true.

Ironically, there are several similarities between Griner and Mulkey. 

For starters, Griner is approximately 6'8". Mulkey is 6'9" and is said to be still growing. In a story similar to New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, she grew almost nine inches in a two-year time period. 

Griner and Mulkey started their high school athletic careers off playing volleyball. Basketball came a bit later. 

Griner played high school and collegiate basketball in Texas. Mulkey moved from Bowling Green, Ky prior to her freshman year of high school and currently attends Cypress Woods in Texas, where she will be a sophomore in the fall. 

I highly doubt any player wants to spend their entire career being compared to others. Just look at the long-lasting "Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant: Who is better?" debate for example. 

There are also those players who do not want to be in the spotlight on a constant basis. Yet when hype is built around your name and potential, all eyes will stay on you. 

Unfortunately, Mulkey will learn fast that this is the way things work in the world of sports. 

Griner alone was the type of player who made Baylor seem impossible to defeat. Hence why Louisville made the successful decision to key-in on her during the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Therefore, she has set the bar really high for a women's basketball player to come in and produce a similar (if not better) impact on the sport. 

The "Griner Effect" is likely one of the reasons that drew University of Texas basketball coaches to see Mulkey before she ever played a game for Cypress Woods.

Then there is the fact that Baylor and Texas A&M women's college basketball teams have won championships recently. UT has not won a championship since 1985. The closest the Longhorns have come to another championship is a Final Four appearance in 2003. 

Schools like UT are searching for a star in a sport that is often dominated by the "elite," such as UCONN, Stanford, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Baylor.

Women's college basketball has always seen the top recruits sign with those same elite schools. As a result, you end up with the same schools—barring an upset—advancing to the Final Four every year. 

There are now several schools breaking that trend.

Despite being a few years away from making a college decision, this is why women's college basketball coaches are likely viewing Mulkey as a must have prospect in 2016. 

Her decision to sign with a school outside of the norm may help lead to other highly recruited players doing the same. 

Of course there is always a risk involved in becoming excited about a player's potential entirely too early. They could not live up to expectations either later in their high school career or upon enrolling in college.

So far Mulkey is a work in progress. She averaged 9.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game as a freshman, which not exactly considered dominate numbers. Still a solid season nonetheless. 

She does, however, have three more seasons to improve on those averages.

Mulkey also received and accepted an invitation to attend the 2013 USA Basketball U16 national team trials.

 Her high school coach Virginia Flores believes there is more to Mulkey's game. Flores considers the 15-year-old "fundamentally sound" for someone her height. 

After all, her mom, Dolores, is Georgia Tech's school record-holder in scoring average (18.9), career field goal percentage (59.3) and blocked shots (245).