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Originally published Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Percy Allen

Candace Parker is better than what NBA is offering

Let's get this out of the way. If Candace Parker were a man, she'd be the most hyped professional basketball player ever. Bigger than anyone in...

Seattle Times NBA reporter

Let's get this out of the way. If Candace Parker were a man, she'd be the most hyped professional basketball player ever. Bigger than anyone in this summer's star-deficient NBA draft class.

Think about that for a second.

And if she were a man, you'd already know this and stories like these would be unnecessary.

But Candace Parker is not a man and even in 2008 — 36 years since the inception of Title IX — the most dominant player in women's college basketball and the No. 1 pick in Wednesday's WNBA draft still needs an introduction.

So here it is in a nutshell.

Two NCAA championships. Two tourney Most Outstanding Player awards. Two Player of the Year awards. Three-time All-American. Academic All-American of the Year. And a spot on the 2008 Olympic team.

On the court, the 6-foot-4 ex-Tennessee Volunteer has it all. A three-pointer. A midrange jumper. Spin moves and a killer crossover. Behind-the-back passes and between-the-legs passes. A low-post game. Soft touch around the rim. A drop step. Dribble drives, defense and dunks.

And she can play all five positions with attitude and intensity.

Off the court, the savvy 22-year-old has a Madison Avenue smile. Charisma and street cred. A slam-dunk title. A spot in People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People. A sports-marketing degree coming in May. A supportive family. A fiancé, Shelden Williams, who plays for the Sacramento Kings and an older brother, Anthony, who plays for the Toronto Raptors.

If only Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love had her Q rating and résumé.

The three freshmen have yet to declare for the NBA draft, but once they forgo their college eligibility, they're arguably the best players in a class devoid of Hall of Fame potential. There might be a few All-Stars in the mix and maybe a franchise player, but it seems obvious that college basketball's best player will play for the Los Angeles Sparks next season.

"She'll add value to the endemic sponsors who want to leverage her professional career for the sale of sport-inspired shoes and apparel," said Paul Swangard, managing director of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. "She's a potential once-in-a-generation type of player.

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"This is a gal who beat men in a slam-dunk contest when she was in high school," he continued. "She's got an urban-legend appeal ... and she may have the ability to transcend her sport. She has the opportunity to be relevant to people whether they are WNBA fans or not."

Aaron Goodwin, the agent who signed LeBron James and Sonics rookie Kevin Durant, looks as if he'll skip the NBA draft this year and focus on Parker. Negotiations are expected to begin with Gatorade, Nike and Adidas.

Still, there are varying opinions on whether the highest paid female endorsers, such as tennis star Maria Sharapova, golfer Michelle Wie and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick, can pitch products as effectively as their male counterparts to the coveted 18-to-34 male demographic.

"If men are making the decisions about what's going to be on TV ... and if we're appealing to the male demographics, the Budweiser drinkers if you will, then I would say probably no and Candace won't have the ability to maximize her potential like say Beasley," said William Sutton, a professor and associate department head at DeVos Sports Marketing program at the University of Central Florida.

"But if we're at a point where women in sports are controlling marketing decisions, then I would say yes.

"No matter how good you are or what sport you're are in, it's all about the platform. Candace Parker, right now, has a presence, but no platform."

Over the next couple of months we'll hear a lot about Beasley, Rose and Love as they jockey for the top position in the draft, while Parker proves who's really the No. 1 pick.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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