June 11, 2023

SHSU Houstonian Online

Read all latest news headlines from USA, UK and around the world, get today's breaking news and live updates on politics, elections, business, sports, economy,​ …

Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark, and the WNBA's Talent Conundrum

Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark, and the WNBA’s Talent Conundrum

DALLAS – Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese have probably played off each other for a very long time.

The two stars who led Iowa and Louisiana to the NCAA women’s basketball championship game on Sunday — a first for both teams — are some of the best players in the country, with some of the most lucrative marketing deals among college athletes.

They were at the top of the impressive 2020 recruiting list that achieved atmospheric heights in women’s college basketball. Reese ranked second in the cohort graduating from high school, behind Connecticut’s Paige Bakers. Clark is ranked fourth with Stanford’s Cameron Brink third.

All four of these players will likely be household names after college. They’ve already achieved a significant level of individual fame, and once they make it to the WNBA, they’re gearing up for long professional careers.

They are among the lucky few.

Opportunities in basketball for many female athletes peak in the Final Four. The lights have seldom been brighter, and beyond the trophy awaiting its winner on Sunday is the newly available earning potential for the ladies of distinction. Players across the country who lack the star power of Reese or Clark can still make money within their own fan bases.

But after Sunday, when many college athletes are looking to advance their careers up the professional ranks, they will face a ruthlessly crowded job market.

The WNBA gets into trouble every spring, when hundreds of women compete for 144 spots in the world’s most prestigious professional women’s basketball league. Only 36 players have been drafted, and perhaps half of those may have made WNBA rosters by the time the season begins.

Now, the problem is compounding as the talent pool in women’s college basketball deepens.

That talent was evident in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which showed the parity that women’s college basketball has historically lacked. Sunday’s title match will be the third ever without a top-seeded team, with Reese and Clark turning their matches into personal showcases as their teams build the championship runs.

See also  2022 NCAA Baseball Arch: Men's College World Championship results, schedule

Clark led 41 consecutive points, and her semifinal victory came over tournament opponent, South Carolina. Nicknamed Bayou Barbie, Reese was a scoring and rebounding machine all season as Louisiana State drew record crowds even before the tournament.

Even with setting records for the sport Attend the game And watching TV is still a high barrier to getting into the WNBA, as there are only 12 teams. In last year’s draft, only 17 players made the team’s Opening Day roster.

Without a developmental league like the G League in the NBA, players who factored heavily in the 2023 championship’s biggest moments and most important wins, like LSU guard Alexis Morris and Iowa center Monika Czinano, may have to play professionally outside of the WNBA.

“We’ve got all these people growing and perfecting their craft, and there’s nowhere for us to go in the United States,” said UCLA coach Corey Close. “It’s really sad that those are the conversations we’ve had with our league and that our college game is so healthy, vibrant, and growing.”

Expansion seemed like the easy solution, and there were many calls for the WNBA to add more teams. But the league, which was funded in part by the NBA, moved slowly in expansion due to financial concerns. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league wants to add Two to three teams in the next two to four years.

But the expansion of the WNBA could cause other problems, in the minds of some college coaches.

“It needs to expand,” said Arizona coach Adia Barnes, “but right now, a lot of the college kids aren’t good enough.”

Barnes feared that a major expansion would “weaken” the league and thus do more harm than good. Nor would a small two-team expansion solve the problem of college players struggling to stay in the league; She said that these teams will likely add experienced players from overseas, rather than rookies out of college.

See also  Final Four Predictions for 2022: KS vs. Villanova, Duke vs. UNC Selection, March Madness odds, Briefs

The variables players have to consider when deciding whether to enter the draft have never been greater. Athletes can access the Transfer Portal as a way to easily move between college teams. Next year will be the last season that athletes can take advantage of the fifth-year play option given to them by the NCAA due to the pandemic. Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia has also changed the calculus about how far and where players want to go.

Perhaps most importantly, college athletes can now earn money using their name, image, and likeness, a category widely known as the NIL. Many players can make more money from collections and endorsements as collegiate athletes than they can make from a WNBA salary alone; The base salary for the rookie this season will range from $62,285 to $74,305 depending on the draft round. Clark and the Boykers are said to have marketing deals worth $1 million each, and this year’s championship game has featured several TV commercials with college basketball players.

There’s also the issue of travel, which has been a hot topic in the WNBA. WNBA commercial players fly.

“A lot of players are trying to save for their fifth year,” said Maryland coach Brenda Friese. “They understand the opportunities they have in college and it’s really, really competitive in the league, and you’re probably going overseas.”

Clark and Reese will be eligible for the WNBA draft next year. The Beckers, who is out this year with a knee injury, and Brink, whose team lost to Stanford in the second round of this year’s tournament, are now eligible but said they will return for another year of college. Each of these four players will have played in a national championship game, and will be among the top picks in the draft whenever they decide to go. But many of the teammates they helped lead to won’t carry the same ring.

See also  MLB 2023 rule changes expected to be voted on Friday: pitch clock, shift limitation, and bigger rules

Central Iowa, Chinano scored 18 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in Friday’s game against South Carolina and was a vital component in Clark’s success. She could have left for the WNBA after last season but she didn’t, and she is expected by most experts to be a late second or third round pick in this year’s draft, which comes out on April 10. A draft championship game — and maybe a title — under her belt.

“Deciding to come back was the easiest decision I’ve ever made, quite frankly. I would be an idiot if I left this show and left this family,” Czenano said Friday. “I knew we had something to prove, but I was going to do it no matter what. I was going to come back with no expectations whatsoever.”

Close, the UCLA coach, said she has had difficult conversations with her players about realistic next steps after college.

Close often consults her WNBA teammates about the state of the league, and one coach has been candid about what life could be like for UCLA star protégé Karisma Osborne, who announced for the draft this season, if she made the roster.

“Does Charisma want to make more money, stay in college, get massages, fly a charter, pay for everything, have a paid nutritionist and trainers?” Close said, quoting the coach. “Or does she want to have none of those things and fly southwest with us?”

Talia Mensburg Contribute to the preparation of reports.