The WNBA Players Who Are Rocking It On And Off The Court
Professional basketball is back, and the WNBA, just like its male counterpart, is ready to begin play after a long hiatus. In what promises to be the most unique season on record, these women are ready to hit the ground running — and then some. With so much going on, let’s focus on what matters most: the amazing stars of the WNBA, and in particular, what they’ve all been up to lately.
1. Gabby Williams
Born in Sparks, Nevada, Gabby Williams went to Reed High School, where she was a standout basketball player. As just a sophomore, she averaged a double-double. By her senior year, she averaged 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists per game, before a season-ending knee injury put her out of competition.
Drafted by the Sky in 2018, she is spending her third year in Chicago. For the start of the season, Williams will be rocking a custom pair of sneakers in tribute to the late Gigi Bryant. The WNBA star teamed up with artist/designer Justin Davis, who airbrushed a Mamba logo along with a portrait of Gigi on a pair of Williams’ Kobe edition Nikes.
2. Alanna Smith
Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Alanna Smith is one of four Aussies currently playing in the WNBA. She was the fourth pick in the 2019 draft, but she sat out half of her rookie season because of an ankle injury. The Phoenix Mercury will rely heavily this year on the 6-4 forward to fill their front court. Their hopeful starting power forward, Jessica Breland, has elected to sit out the 2020 seasons for health reasons.
Before her WNBA career started, Smith starred at Stanford University, where she was an All-American her senior year. She’s in elite company as one of the only women’s college basketball players to register 1,600 points, 150 three-point field goals, and 200 blocked shots. Smith also features regularly in international play representing her home country, Australia.
3. Kaila Charles
At just twenty years old, Kaila Charles is entering her first WNBA season after last playing for the University of Maryland. In high school, she led Greenbelt, Maryland’s Roosevelt High to a 72 and 5 record over three years, including two state championships. For her senior year, she changed high schools, attending Riverdale Baptist, where she led the team to the championship game.
When she graduated, Charles was considered the 25th best high school player in the country. After a stellar two years in college, she joined the Connecticut Sun, where she will fill the backup guard position. She was one of a trio of WNBA rookies to sign an endorsement deal with Under Armour during the off-season.
4. A’ja Wilson
Hands down one of the most talented players in the WNBA, A’ja Wilson has been a basketball star since she first started playing as a young girl. When she graduated from high school in 2014, she was the number-one rated player in the country. Wilson elected to stay in her home state and attend the University of South Carolina.
The Las Vegas Aces will be relying heavily on Wilson to lead them further in the playoffs this season. But recently, Wilson has made waves in the news off the court for penning a powerful op-ed to black girls, and getting candid about some of her experiences growing up in the South.
5. Monique Billings
A native of Riverside, California, Monique Billings went to nearby Santiago High School, where she was a four-year letterman on the basketball team and also participated in the high jump. She went to college at UCLA, where she led the Los Angeles team to the Sweet Sixteen, or semi-finals, in the women’s NCAA tournament.
Billings’ team, the Atlanta Dream, hope that they can count on her for consistent performances this year. In the season’s opening game, she led the team in scoring with thirty points, also a career high for her. Her scoring will need to continue to improve on the team’s 8-26 record from last season, which was the worst in the league.
6. Katie Lou Samuelson
Katie Lou Samuelson was born into a basketball family. Both of her parents played professionally in Europe, and her two older sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, both played collegiate basketball at Stanford University. When Katie Lou graduated from basketball powerhouse Mater Dei High School, she was one of the best players in the country. This star player elected to go to the University of Connecticut.
There, she racked up virtually every accolade imaginable, including two ACC Player of the Year Awards, a Gatorade National Player of the Year Award, to coincide with winning the national championship in 2016. She was the fourth pick overall for the Chicago Sky, but was traded to Dallas last year after a poor rookie season. She will be looking to make a serious impact during the 2020 season, specifically focused on increasing her scoring and rebounding efforts.
7. Kristine Anigwe
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Kristine Anigwe eventually moved with her family to Phoenix, where she attended Desert Vista High School and became an American citizen when she was seventeen years old. Before entering her junior year of high school, she accepted a scholarship offer to play at the University of California.
In 2019, Anigwe was drafted by the Connecticut Sun before being traded shortly afterward to the Dallas Wings. She starts out the 2020 season with the Los Angeles Sparks, where she will fill a backup role at the forward position. In her first outing, she notched four points and three rebounds.
8. Napheesa Collier
When Napheesa Collier was growing up in Missouri, her father taught her the importance of upholding the family name. Her paternal grandfather Gershon was a former ambassador and diplomat, and briefly served as the chief justice of Sierra Leone. He played an instrumental role in helping the country gain its independence from Britain in 1961.
Granddaughter Napheesa has fulfilled her familial duty, becoming the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 2019. After averages of 13.1 points per game, and 6.6 rebounds, the Lynx will be looking for Collier to fill an even bigger role during her sophomore effort.
9. Betnijah Laney
At just ten years old, Betnijah Laney was already playing basketball, largely influenced by her mother who also played. After attending Smyrna High School in Smyrna, Delaware, Laney went to Rutgers University. There, she was a key fixture at the point guard position all four years.
She was selected as the seventeenth overall pick in the 2015 WNBA draft, but has been shuffled around the league in large part due to a torn ACL that she suffered in 2016. After a brief stint in the Israeli basketball league, she is joining the Atlanta Dream, looking to return the team to prominence after it had suffered one of its worst seasons last year.
10. Victoria Vivians
Starring for Mississippi State and leading her team to back-to-back national championship appearances, Victoria Vivians was then drafted by the Indiana Fever. With the Fever, she had a stellar rookie year, advancing to a starting role for the last 26 games of the 2019 season. After playing overseas in Israel and going down with a torn ACL, Vivians’ contract was suspended, reinstated for the 2020 season.
Prior to getting injured, Vivians was averaging nearly nine points and three rebounds for Indiana. She doubled her output in both categories playing for local Israeli team Maccabi Ashdod. In 2018, Vivians and her teammate Kelsey Mitchell combined to record the most 3-pointers ever made (135) by a WNBA rookie duo.
11. Kelsey Plum
On February 25, 2017, Kelsey Plum made NCAA Division I women’s history, recording her 3,397th point to make her number-one on the all-time scorer’s list. She also happened to previously own the record for most points in a single season, and happened to notch an incredible 57 points en route to 3,397.
After winning a host of different awards in college, including the John R. Wooden and Nancy Lieberman awards for player of the year, Plum was drafted number one overall by the San Antonio Stars. As of May 2020, Plum has signed a two-year contract extension to play for the Las Vegas Aces, worth $350,000.
12. Jordin Canada
Growing up in Los Angeles, California, Jordin Canada graduated from Windward High School. She chose to stay close to home and attend UCLA. While on campus, she led a team that was consistently ranked among the top twenty-five in the nation. Canada left UCLA as the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and the school’s all-time leader in assists.
During her rookie season, Canada played the backup point guard role on a team that swept the Mystics in the national championship. Between her rookie and sophomore seasons, she increased her scoring output by nearly fifty percent. Canada is currently being groomed to take the reigns from WNBA superstar Sue Bird, who is entering her seventeenth WNBA season.
13. Skylar Diggins-Smith
Skylar Diggins-Smith is one of the best basketball players to have ever played in the state of Indiana. A four-year varsity player at Washington High School in South Bend, her 2,790 point record sits third on her state’s all-time scoring list for high school girls.
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, where she finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer, Diggins was selected third overall by the Tulsa Shock. She married longtime boyfriend Daniel Smith and changed her name in 2017. Last year, Diggins-Smith sat out the season while pregnant with the couples’ first child. After spending the off-season playing with Team USA, she will lace up for the Phoenix Mercury during the 2020 season.
14. Candace Parker
There’s not much that WNBA superstar Candace Parker hasn’t accomplished on the court. The two-time league MVP, championship winner, and Olympic gold medalist is entering her thirteenth season in the league, and unlike others who have opted out of the season, she’s been looking forward to it.
In an interview before the start of the season, Parker said that whichever team makes it through the shortened season, under strict quarantine, while combating a global pandemic, deserves an exclamation point, not an asterisk. The 6’4″ forward said that she’s happy about the shortened schedule, and not being cramped on commercial flights between games. Unlike the NBA, the WNBA does not have team chartered flights, and often flies coach.
15. Kia Nurse
Another product of the University of Connecticut, Kia Nurse is coming off of a breakout season. Last year, the New York Liberty point guard was second on the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game. She also was selected to her first WNBA All-Star game.
Ontario-born Nurse made headlines off of the court as one of three women to sign to the Jordan brand during the off-season. These are their first three female athletes. Signing with Michael Jordan includes the bonus of getting any model shoe you want for free, so what is her favorite shoe? Nurse said you’ll typically catch her rocking Jordan I’s because they go with any outfit. However, on the court, she’s rotating between the unreleased Jordan XXXIV’s and the Westbrooks.
16. Kiara Leslie
After three years at the University of Maryland, and sitting out one due to injury, Kiara Leslie transferred to North Carolina State as a graduate student. There, she excelled on the court as well as in the classroom, earning a spot on the ACC-All Academic team. In game play, she was a consistent scorer for the Wolfpack, who made it to the second round in the NCAA tournament.
Leslie had tough competition growing up in Holly Springs, North Carolina. She has four older brothers, one of whom, CJ, plays overseas in the Saudi Premier League. She is expected to be a key contributor in her rookie season with the Mystics. In her WNBA debut she scored seven points in just fourteen minutes.
17. Leilani Mitchell
Standing at just 5’5″, Leilani Mitchell is one of the shortest players in the league. The dual Australian-American citizen went to high school in Washington state. She was a four-year starter on the varsity basketball team at Kennewick High School, where she led the team to a state championship in 2000.
She starred at both Idaho University and Utah before embarking on a twelve-year stint in the league mostly with the Phoenix Mercury and New York Liberty. She is starting her season with the Washington Mystics, who waived her over the summer. Most recently, she’s been playing in the WNBL in Australia, where she keeps a home with her wife and newborn son.
18. Aerial Powers
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Aerial Powers attended Detroit Country Day High School, whose list of notable alumni include actor Robin Williams, and notable NBA players Chris Webber, Shane Battier, and JaVale McGee. She led her team to four consecutive regional championships before heading to Michigan State University.
A consistent performer for her entire WNBA career, Powers is known off the court to be the league’s most serious gamer. She is an NBA 2K and Apex Legends fanatic, and has built quite a following on social media. Powers, who brings her PC monitor with her when she travels, said that she wants to challenge the image of being a gamer. She hopes to show it can be a healthy hobby, not just for people sprawled out on the couch eating potato chips.
19. Tayler Hill
Acquired by the New York Liberty prior to the start of the season, Tayler Hill was recently waived by the team, and will likely play overseas this year, but she makes the list as a player who’s likely to return to the WNBA. In six years in the league, she averaged nine points and two assists per game.
Like most of the league’s best players, Hill played overseas during the off-season. From 2016 to 2017, she played in Israel after coming off her two best seasons, where she averaged close to sixteen points per game. Prior to turning pro, Tayler Hill set the state record for scoring in Minnesota and starred at Ohio State.
20. Sue Bird
One of the most recognizable female athletes on the planet, Sue Bird is one of the best to ever play the game. At 40, she is currently the league’s oldest player, but is looking in as good of shape as ever, and ready to lead the Storm to another championship run this season.
In limited minutes, she averaged over ten points per game last season. During the past few months, she’s been working out hard, with the added bonus of quarantining with her athletic significant other. She’s been keeping in shape by working out with girlfriend Megan Rapinoe, who is a star on the US women’s soccer team.
21. Elena Delle Donne
Elena Delle Donne had to get used to her unusual height from a young age. When she was three years old, a passerby in the mall remarked that an eight-year-old should not have a pacifier in her mouth. As an adult, Delle Donne has used her 6’6″ height to become one of the WNBA’s most prolific scorers.
Off of the court, Delle Donne has mostly elected to stay home during the off-season to take care of a younger sister who suffers from cerebral palsy and autism. She has also openly spoken out (and had to miss games) due to a lifelong struggle with Lyme disease. The upcoming season will be her most challenging yet, as she’s been unable to opt out of the season with pay, and must maintain her health in order to avoid serious illness.
22. Nneka Ogwumike
Born in Texas to Nigerian parents, Nneka Ogwumike’s first name means “mother is supreme” in Igbo, her parents’ native language. Both Nneka and younger sister Chiney attended Stanford University, and now play on the Los Angeles Sparks together. Off the court, the older Ogwumike has earned the trust and respect from her peers to be elected president of the WNBA’s Player Association.
Her job will be made more difficult this year, as the season begins in the midst of widespread social unrest. Nevertheless, the 6’2″ forward, who plays much bigger than her size, will be looking to be a key contributor for a Sparks team that is expected to go deep in the playoffs.
23. Bria Hartley
Growing up in Long Island, New York, Bria Hartley credits playing against her two older brothers in their childhood driveway for making her tough. She was a four-year varsity player at North Babylon High School, and just last year was inducted into the Long Island Sports Hall of Fame.
In college, she led UConn to an insane 144 and 11 record and four final fours. A dual French-American citizen, Hartley represents team France in international play, and also has played both in Hungary and in Turkey during the WNBA offseason. Averaging close to nine points and four assists per game, Hartley is hoping to take the Liberty into the playoffs, where she has been known to increase her scoring output.
24. Glory Johnson
Glory Johnson was a standout at the University of Tennessee, recording 38 double doubles during her career there. After playing four years in college and earning her degree, she was taken as the fourth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA draft. Over the course of a six-year career in the league, she is nearly averaging a double-double and is considered one of its best forwards.
Prior to the start of the 2020 season and upon arrival in Florida, Johnson tested positive for COVID-19. She will have to wait for clearance from physicians before rejoining her teammates. Internationally, she represents team Montenegro, and has become naturalized as a Montenegrin citizen. She has played for two different teams in Russia, as well as in China and Turkey, during the off-seasons.
25. Satou Sabally
Satou Sabally was born in New York city to a Ghanaian father and German mother. She spent time growing up in both her parents’ native countries, where she was discovered at nine years old by a local basketball coach. The coach had Sabally play in youth leagues as the only girl on teams in her area.
This year will be Sabally’s rookie year in the WNBA. She arrives as one of the most highly touted newcomers, and as has been noted, also ranks as one of the best players in the league by NBA 2K’s standards. In her debut, she recorded eleven points and four rebounds, showing signs of a promising professional career to come.