Inside Awak Kuier's journey to the WNBA
And how her overseas experience will help her adjust to the league
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Awak Kuier, 19, is the second-youngest player, after Australian star Lauren Jackson, to be drafted in the WNBA. Like Jackson, it will be Kuier’s international play that can give her an edge in her first season of the WNBA.
As the season gets underway with training camp beginning on April 25th Kuier will begin to make her transition to America. There are a few factors that could make that transition a little easier than it would be for most.
Kuier’s family is from South Sudan, and due to the civil war, her family moved to Egypt where she was born. Her parents then moved to Finland for a better environment and education. It was in Finland where her love for the game grew.
“My older brother used to play so I used to play against him. And I just started to like the game a lot. And then I started in the club and fell in love with the game,” the 6’5 center said on a Zoom presser with media this week.
Because of the movement throughout her childhood and her current play in the Italian professional league with Ragusa, she is used to playing from home. President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Bibb said this experience is one of the things he likes about her the most.
“Based on where she grew up in Finland and their basketball system she left home really young a number of years ago and has basically played basketball away from home the last four or five years,” Bibb said.
Her basketball journey away from home will continue with the Dallas Wings as the No. 2 overall pick. Generally, the biggest adjustments for rookies is building strength and the pace of the game.
Kuier is no stranger to playing against WNBA players as she has had the opportunity to play against some of them throughout her international play. That experience, her offensive versatility, and her defensive focus could help her make an immediate impact on the league. International play and WNBA play are different, however, with the skills that Kuier has honed and looks to improve on she can help the Wings this season.
“In Italy, I play the 5, 4, and 3. So it's like, I do a little bit of everything. I'm a very defensive player; I like to defense a lot. And I feel like that's something that is going good for me,” the Finnish native said.
Kuier has had a link to the WNBA through her Ragusa teammate and Dallas Wings forward Isabelle Harrison. The four-year veteran has been able to inform her about the city and the Wings organization. Kuier is the first Finnish player to be drafted into the WNBA bringing more international representation. With her being the first she has already started to break barriers and can be an example for others for her country.
“When I was playing in Europe, there was a lot of kids that were already looking up to me. So for me to play in the WNBA. It's just it brings me a lot of joy that I can be a role model to a lot of Finnish kids. So it's really amazing,” Kuier said.