April 4, 2021
WNBA or bust: WNBA names college players who have opted into the 2021 Draft
At least 52 college players are vying for roster spots in a league ripe for expansion
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
The WNBA announced on Saturday a list of NCAA women’s basketball players who have opted in as candidates for April 15th’s WNBA Draft. In response to the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to all winter sport athletes due to COVID-19, all players who wanted to be considered for the 2021 WNBA Draft were required to notify the league by April 1st and renounce their remaining NCAA eligibility. The list therefore includes seniors and graduate students who are choosing to enter the draft instead of playing in college for an additional year.
Notably, the list released today does not include any players who are competing in the Final Four. Those players have 48 hours from the conclusion of their last game to opt into the draft.
High-profile players on the list include Texas junior Charli Collier, who announced on March 7th on Twitter that she would forgo her senior season (therefore surrendering up to two years of NCAA eligibility) to declare for the draft. Collier is widely expected to be the No. 1 pick by the Dallas Wings.
Baylor senior DiDi Richards and graduate transfer DiJonai Carrington, who were key to the team’s run to the Elite Eight this season, are also on the list. Tennessee senior Rennia Davis, Arkansas redshirt senior Chelsea Dungee, Louisville senior Dana Evans, Rutgers redshirt senior Arella Guirantes, Oklahoma State senior Natasha Mack, and UCLA senior Michaela Onyenwere are among the others.
The WNBA has 144 roster spots available across 12 teams. Many of these roster spots are already filled by elite veterans. As the talent in the league continues to grow, so does the competition for roster spots. This past week, Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma said he would support a one-and-done rule that would allow women’s college basketball players like his freshman superstar and AP Player of the Year Paige Bueckers to join the WNBA after their freshman seasons. (Currently, players must have graduated college or be on track to do so during the calendar year of the draft, turn 22 years old during the calendar year of the draft, or be four years out of high school to be eligible.) This type of rule change could make a roster spot even more elusive in the future.
It has also been rumored that a Philadelphia WNBA franchise may be on the table, which may indicate that the league is hoping to expand soon. The WNBA has had 12 teams since 2009, when the Sacramento Monarchs franchise folded. The most teams the WNBA has ever had at one time was 16, from 2000-2002.