July 10, 2020 

Tracking the pro careers of six 2018-19 NCAAW stars

Whether or not they were taken in the 2019 WNBA Draft, these players maintained the excellence they achieved in college in their first pro seasons abroad

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.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

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. 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.

For players coming from colleges without much (if any) WNBA presence, the pressure to stick in a league that can feel hostile to everyone, even seasoned veterans, is immense. But not making a WNBA roster right out of college isn’t the end of the world when, literally, the rest of the world is open for players to make their mark in the pros.

Two of these players were their schools’ first-ever draft picks, one was their second-ever and three weren’t drafted at all. All of them were record-breakers during their college careers, but none of them have gotten past a WNBA training camp. But that roadblock didn’t end up mattering, because their talent didn’t dampen once they left their college superstardom behind.

This is how the pro careers of six college standouts began after their 2019 graduations:

Shakyla Hill

After becoming the first player in Division I basketball to notch two quadruple-doubles — one in each of her junior and senior seasons at Grambling State — Hill signed with Serbia’s ZKK Kraljevo for the 2019-20 season, which went on to win the league title.

Would turning pro dampen Hill’s penchant for quadruple-double magic? Turns out, absolutely not. On January 25, 2020, Hill recorded the first quadruple-double in ZLS League 1 (Serbian women’s league) history, less than a year after her final college quadruple-double. She also added three triple-doubles for good measure: two in Adriatic League play, and one in ZLS League 1.

Naturally, Hill was named ZLS League 1 Guard of the Year and Import Player of the Year and landed a spot on the All-Serbian First Team.

Jess Kovatch

The most prolific scorer in Saint Francis U and Northeast Conference history, Kovatch’s 2,874 career points saw her finish 18th all-time in Division I women’s basketball. This effort was aided by 472 career 3-pointers, the second-most in NCAA history upon her graduation. She was named NEC Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019 and made a series of national watch lists throughout her career.

After not being selected in the 2019 WNBA Draft, Kovatch signed with Germany’s Saarlouis Royals, where she averaged 14.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game and amassed a team-high 52 three-pointers (third in Damen Basketball Bundesliga, the top German league).

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah

Northwestern’s master rebounder — she ranked 16th in the country and third in the Big Ten in 2018-19 — only saw her WNBA career last a few days of training camp, but her Wildcats career was more than worth the opportunity to have that experience. Kunaiyi-Akpanah was also an All-Big Ten First Team pick and the second player in Northwestern history to grab 1,000 career rebounds.

For the 2019-20 season, Kunaiyi-Akpanah signed with Italy’s Pallacanestro Vigarano, where she averaged 8.3 points, a Serie A1-high 15.7 rebounds and was second in the league in steals at 2.3 per game. That standout play led to her being named to the All-Italian A1 Honorable Mention Team and the All-Imports Team. In May, she signed with Belgium’s Basket Namur Capitale for 2020-21.

Morgan Bertsch

The 2019 Big West Player of the Year out of UC Davis, Bertsch finished her college career with 2,422 points — the most of any Aggies basketball player, men or women — and set many more school records in categories including games played, blocks, free throws and scoring average. She was taken 29th overall in the WNBA Draft, UC Davis’ first-ever pick, but the Dallas Wings waived her before the season started.

Bertsch then signed with Sparta&K Vidnoe, where she was named to the All-Russian PBL Third Team after averaging 13.2 points and 5 rebounds in Russian Premier League play (and where her 1.1 blocks per game led the team) and 14.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in EuroCup play. For the 2020-21 season, she’ll suit up for Poland’s Pszczółka AZS-UMCS Lublin.

Cierra Dillard

Dillard’s career at Buffalo was nothing short of legendary, as she set program records in career scoring average (en route to finishing second in the country in scoring in 2018-19) and single-season points, made free throws and 3-pointers — many of which were also Mid-American Conference records. During her junior season (her first with the team after transferring from UMass) she led the Bulls to their first-ever NCAA Tournament win and, subsequently, their first-ever Sweet Sixteen; then, she helped get the Bulls to the second round in 2019.

Though Dillard was drafted 20th overall, becoming Buffalo’s first-ever WNBA Draft pick, the beginning of her career ended up seeing her waived twice in a week during the 2019 preseason. For 2019-20, Dillard signed with Spain’s Mann Filter and in 13 games averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 assists per game. She left the team in January and has not yet signed for 2020-21.

Macy Miller

When her South Dakota State career ended, Miller was the career scoring leader for both the school and the Summit League. That record, and many more, helped her earn a spot on the Summit League All-Decade Team, as, surely, did leading the Jackrabbits to the 2019 Sweet Sixteen — the first time they or any Summit League team had ever gotten there.

Miller became South Dakota State’s second-ever WNBA Draft pick in 2019, and after being waived by the Seattle Storm before the season, she signed with Baxi Ferrol in Spain’s second division. In the 2019-20 season, she averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists per game.

Now, Miller is undertaking a new endeavor: returning to Brookings, South Dakota to be the Jackrabbits’ graduate assistant coach for the 2020-21 season.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.