For 2nd straight year, player declares early for WNBA draft
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — For years, women’s college basketball players never really entertained the idea of leaving early to turn professional.
But for the second straight season at least one player is entering the WNBA draft rather than staying in school. Michigan State’s Aerial Powers made the announcement Monday a year after Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. did it. Powers is expected to be taken in the first round.
“This was not an easy decision to make, but I want to thank Coach (Suzy) Merchant and all the coaches and support staff, my family and all of my teammates. I have enjoyed every second of being a Spartan,” Powers said. “Now I look forward to the next chapter of my basketball career.”
Washington’s Kelsey Plum and Baylor’s Nina Davis were two other high profile players who could have chosen to go pro, but both decided to stay in school as Monday’s deadline came and went.
It’s easy to understand why they stayed since the money just isn’t there yet for pros in the women’s game. The top four picks in the WNBA draft make just over $50,000 and they sign non-negotiable, three-year deals. Getting a degree and enjoying the college experience has tended to be much more valuable to young stars. There is money overseas, but it’s rare when players fresh out of college can make a lot of money quickly playing in Europe or Asia.
Part of the reason for UConn’s dominance over the past 20 years has been the fact that players don’t leave early. Imagine how good Kentucky’s men’s basketball team could have been if all those players who left early for the NBA had stayed.
“When you have really good players and they stay for all four years it’s that much more difficult to beat them,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Even if Diana Taurasi or Maya Moore or Breanna Stewart had wanted to leave after their freshman year, they couldn’t. The WNBA has strict rules about who can be drafted early, including a requirement that the player reach the age of 22 during the calendar year of the draft. That applied to Powers, who missed the 2012-13 season after tearing her Achilles tendon during her freshman year.
UConn star Morgan Tuck, who could return for a fifth season after missing most of her sophomore season with an injury, said she would announce her plans after the national championship game Tuesday night. The WNBA allows players in the title game 24 hours to decide once the game ends.
Tuck was asked about it on the stage and paused without answering the question. Stewart jumped in and said: “It’s a secret.”
If Tuck does decide to enter the draft, that would make four players in the past two years to leave early.
New WNBA President Lisa Borders doesn’t see this as a trend — yet.
“Trends take more than a year or two to really develop,” she said. “Let’s revisit this again a few years down the road and then see where we stand.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who watched UConn beat Syracuse 82-51 on Tuesday night, said he doesn’t see it becoming common, as it is in the men’s game.
“My preference in the NBA is that these young men spend more time in college,” he said. “It’s a little different when you are talking about some of these women who are a little bit older when they are coming out.”
Loyd, who was the league’s rookie of the year last season, was happy with her decision.
“It was the best thing for me to do,” she said in February at the USA Basketball training camp. “I don’t regret my choice at all.”