February 11, 2024 

Prospect Pulse: What do WNBA scouts think of Utah’s Alissa Pili?

'She’s big, strong and agile; I had no idea she was that mobile'

Welcome to the second edition of Prospect Pulse, a biweekly column covering draft prospects in 2024 and beyond. We aim to provide a comprehensive blend of intel from WNBA talent evaluators, our in-house prospect evaluations, analytics, and on-court perspectives from players.

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Today, we’re looking at the WNBA prospects for Utah forward Alissa Pili, recapping recent performances in “prospect world,” and more.

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Scouts’ take on Pili

Pili is having the second-most efficient scoring season (63.4% effective field goal percentage) over the last 15 college seasons, according to Her Hoop Stats. This is even more impressive when you consider that she was the fourth-most inefficient scorer in the Pac-12 (36.8%) as a junior at USC in 2020-21.

Pili is one of the most unique players I’ve ever scouted. At her listed height of 6’2,1 she is built like a battering ram and moves like a tap dancer. Pili is strong, quick, light on her feet and extremely deliberate with her angles, making it nearly impossible for defenders to contain her on drives. 

“She reminds me of Charles Barkley a little bit,” WNBA Talent Evaluator 1 told The Next. “She uses her strength, power and physicality to cover up for her lack of [height].”

And in the words of my Locked On Women’s Basketball co-host Em Adler, “Pili is the best finisher in WNBA draft history, and I have no qualms about saying that.”

Pili began to raise eyebrows as a serious draft prospect after her 37-point performance on 15-for-23 shooting against Kamilla Cardoso and South Carolina on Dec. 10.

“I didn’t give her enough credit [as a draft prospect] until I saw what she did against South Carolina,” WNBA Talent Evaluator 1 said. “Once I saw that game, I was like, Wow, just wait a minute. She’s big, strong and agile; I had no idea she was that mobile.”

Pili has also become an elite shooter, especially as a pick-and-pop threat out of ball screens. Over her two seasons in Salt Lake City, the 22-year-old forward has made 41.9% of her catch-and-shoot 3s (67 of 160) on 2.9 attempts per game, per Synergy Sports.

“Offensively, she is really, really talented,” WNBA Talent Evaluator 2 told The Next. “She is a great 3-point shooter. I think Utah’s program has a very modern shot diet, which could project well to her understanding of the WNBA game.”

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If basketball was like football or soccer and players could specialize on one side of the ball, Pili would be an automatic lottery pick. However, she’s undersized for the post position, doesn’t have tremendous length or verticality as a rim protector, is an inconsistent help defender, and doesn’t profile as a player you want defending guards and wings. 

“I think you need to have a vision of how she works defensively in a system,” WNBA Talent Evaluator 2 said. “That’s where we probably lean on our coaching staff to understand how she may or may not fit.”

Through 12 games in Pac-12 play, Pili is averaging a measly 0.5 blocks in 29 minutes per game. 

“She’s one of those players that is able to do a lot of things at the college level, but as WNBA talent evaluators, it’s trying to measure it up and see what will [translate] to the next level,” WNBA Talent Evaluator 3 told The Next. “That will decide where she gets picked in the draft.”

Overall, Pili’s combination of strength, speed and 3-point shooting may be enough to overcome her size at the next level. The Anchorage, Alaska, native is a prospect WNBA organizations will consider as early as the mid- to late first round.

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Recently in ‘prospect world’

Notable performances, storylines and notes from the last couple weeks from a 2024 WNBA Draft perspective:

  • Stanford big Cameron Brink has averaged 20.0 points, 14.3 rebounds and 7.0 blocks over her last three games. That’s not a typo: SEVEN blocks to only 2.3 fouls per game. Stanford faced No. 9 UCLA, No. 10 USC and Washington over that stretch.
  • Virginia Tech guard Georgia Amoore has recorded 10 or more assists in four of her last five games, including 14 assists to only two turnovers in a 76-63 win over Virginia on Feb. 1.
  • Australian wing Isobel Borlase is the youngest prospect on The Next’s preseason draft board at 18 years old. She scored 10 points on 44.4% shooting from the field in 14 minutes in a blowout win over Germany in the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. 

Borlase plays alongside Brianna Turner, Stephanie Talbot and Jocelyn Willoughby for the WNBL’s Adelaide Lightings. This season, Borlase is averaging a team-high 15.7 points on 48.7% shooting from the field and 25.6% shooting from 3.

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Games to watch

Thursday, Feb. 15: South Carolina at Tennessee (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

  • 2024 prospects to watch: Rickea Jackson, Jewel Spear (Tennessee); Te-Hina Paopao, Cardoso (South Carolina)

Friday, Feb. 16: Colorado at Utah (8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

  • 2024 prospects to watch: Pili (Utah)

Sunday, Feb. 18: Virginia Tech at Louisville (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

  • 2024 prospects to watch: Amoore (Virginia Tech)

Thursday, Feb. 22: Iowa at Indiana (8 p.m. ET, Peacock)

  • 2024 prospects to watch: Caitlin Clark (Iowa)

Thursday, Feb. 22: Utah at UCLA (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

  • 2024 prospects to watch: Pili (Utah); Charisma Osborne (UCLA)

  1. Utah’s team site lists Pili at 6’2, but she’s likely two to three inches shorter. In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) on Feb. 6, she said she is “6’2 on the roster, 5’11 on a good day.” ↩︎

Written by Hunter Cruse

Hunter Cruse covers the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Draft for The Next.

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