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College Standouts Compete for Spots in the WNBA
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published April 15, 2021

UCLA forward Michaela Onyenwere (21) averaged 19.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season (NCAA photo)

The WNBA Draft will take place on April 15 and the nation’s top talent will be vying to be one of the 144 players in the league.

Due to the small number of teams and roster spots, becoming a WNBA player is challenging for stand-out college players. Due to salary caps, some teams will only have 11 players. Transitioning into the pro athlete lifestyle can also be a difficult journey.

“Every one of these talented players are about to embark on a whole new journey in a league that is exceptional from top to bottom,” said Indiana Fever head coach, Marianne Stanley. “It is challenging, the rigors are there and you have to have not only talent but you have to have a big heart and you have to want to compete.”

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March Madness was a showcase for teams and players that went overlooked. A prime example is Arizona senior guard Aari McDonald. She scored 20.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season. Helping the Wildcats reach the NCAA Championship game gave franchises plenty of opportunities to see her skills in clutch situations.

Arizona guard Aari McDonald (2) led her squad to the NCAA Championship game (NCAA photo)

“I think Aari McDonald is an exceptional player who has gotten better each year,” said Dallas Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb. “I think she is a player who has a knack for playing her best in the biggest games.”

Texas center Charli Collier is projected to be the top pick in the Draft. Collier averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this season. She was also on the 2020 All Big-12 First Team along with being on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll in Spring 2019 and Spring 2020. ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson mentioned how Collier “looks like a WNBA player.”

“She’s big and strong, has great frame, plays really hard, she added the three-point shot,” Robinson said. “She’s got a good-looking stroke, she’s got decent hands.”

While March Madness helped make certain players more attractive, it could also damper the stock of strong players whose teams had early exits. Despite forward Michaela Onyenwere leading the UCLA Bruins to a 17-6 overall record, the squad was defeated by Texas in the second round. For Minnesota Lynx general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve, looking at the players performance throughout their career is important.

Texas center Charli Collier (35) averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game (NCAA photo)

“You can get a little more excited when it’s on the biggest stage and a player really rises up,” she said. “It can’t just be a one-time thing, you have to see those attributes throughout.”

While this year’s Draft pool houses several skillful and talented players, sophomore and freshman players will further grow the WNBA. With so much talent on the college level, the league could possibly do an expansion.

“I certainly think that the talent could support an additional two teams in the very near future,” said former WNBA player and analyst Rebecca Lobo. “We’re gonna have some really high-level talent, young talent available in the course of the next two years.”

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Categories: Basketball | Sports
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