There have been only five HBCU players drafted by the WNBA in its 25-year existence: Denique Graves (1997), Karen Wilkins (1998), Andrea Gardner, Amba Kongolo and Jaclyn Winfield (all 2002). Gardner, the 27th pick in 2002, had brief stints with Seattle, San Antonio and Washington before heading overseas. Winfield played in three preseason games for Utah before being waived.
Asheika Alexander last spring became the first HBCU player to sign with the Minnesota Lynx, but she didn’t make it through training camp.
“There are a ton of women’s basketball players in the HBCU community either still in college or are recent graduates that are more than qualified for a shot to play in the WNBA,” Jarrett Hoffman recently wrote for HBCU Sports. He told the MSR last week he finds it puzzling that a women’s pro basketball league, whose majority players are Black, have such a dismal record in HBCU players being drafted or playing in the W.
“I love the WNBA and I want better for the WNBA,” admitted Hoffman. “I don’t think there’s a single sports league that better covers race, politics…human decency. But having said that, how was it…there’s only two women [from HBCUs] that have even stepped on the court, neither started nor played big minutes.”
The NCAA in 2020 said that Division I women basketball players have a less than three percent chance of getting drafted into the WNBA, and that approximately 13% of draft-eligible players are from the Power Five conferences. There are only 36 draft slots annually.
Apparently, these odds are even greater for Black college players.
“I have no problem with [a player] going to training camp, and if you don’t fit, that’s fine,” said Hoffman. “Two things that can happen—if you give someone an opportunity, we’re either going to take the ball and run with it, or they’re just going to drop the ball.”
He pointed out eight HBCU players either still in school or out that should get a shot at making a WNBA roster: Angel Golden, Bethune-Cookman; Daisa Harris, Livingstone; Chanette Hicks, Norfolk State; Kyaja Williams, Bowie State; Ay’Anna Bey, Benedict; Ameshya Williams, Jackson State; Shareka McNeill, Virginia Union/North Carolina A&T; and Shakyla Hill, Grambling State, now playing overseas.
Hoffman said he’s impressed with the feedback his January 12 article has generated. “I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be,” he said, adding that he wanted to create a discussion on the subject of no HBCU players in the WNBA.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.