#WNBA: Opening Day Features 22 Pac-12 Players

SAN FRANCISCO – The WNBA’s 25th season tips off tonight and 22 Pac-12 women’s basketball alumnae represent the Conference on the opening-day rosters of the league’s 12 franchises.

Rookies Aari McDonald, Michaela OnyenwereKiana Williams and Aleah Goodman will team up with some familiar Conference faces on their respective squads. McDonald, the 2021 Pac-12 Player of the Year and No. 3 overall pick out of ARIZONA, is on an Atlanta Dream roster that also features UCLA’s Monique Billings. Billings averaged career-highs in points (8.5) and rebounds (8.5) last season, her third in the league.

Onyenwere, who went sixth overall to the Liberty after becoming the only two-time Associated Press All-American in UCLA history, heads to a New York roster littered with Pac-12 pros. CALIFORNIA’s Layshia Clarendon is in her second season with the Liberty and is coming off a season in which she averaged a career-high 11.5 points per game, while the Golden Bears’ Reshanda Gray was added to the roster via a hardship exemption this morning. She was previously with the franchise in 2019 and played 10 games for Las Vegas in 2020. OREGON’s Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 overall selection in 2020 and NCAA triple-double record holder (26), is making her much-anticipated return to the court after an injury-shortened, three-game rookie campaign. After four seasons in Seattle and two WNBA titles, WASHINGTON’s Sami Whitcomb was dealt to New York in February. She had career numbers nearly across the board in 2020, averaging 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

Elsewhere around the league, Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard is in her second year with the Chicago Sky and Washington’s Kelsey Plum, the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, is returning to the floor for the Las Vegas Aces after missing the 2020 season due to injury. Satou Sabally, the Dallas Wings forward and No. 2 overall pick in 2020 out of Oregon, is coming off averages of 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds in her debut season and Stanford’s Alanna Smith is in her third season with the Phoenix Mercury.

Williams went from one championship team to another, and after leading STANFORD to the program’s first NCAA title in 29 years, the WBCA All-American begins her professional career with the reigning WNBA champion Seattle Storm. Williams joins a pair of Bruins on the Storm roster in Kennedy Burke, who is in her first season with the franchise after playing her first two years in Indiana, and Jordin Canada, who put up averages of 7.9 points and 5.5 assists per game last season, her fourth in the league.

A third-round pick of the Connecticut Sun, OREGON STATE’s Goodman was initially waived on Tuesday, but re-added to the roster earlier this morning via a hardship exemption and will be with the team for tonight’s season opener. The Beaver was the NCAA’s second-most accurate 3-point shooter last season (.490). Along with Goodman in Connecticut, ARIZONA STATE’s Briann January will play her 13th professional season with the Sun.

Another WNBA roster stacked with Conference veterans is in Washington, as the Mystics have four Pac-12 players on their roster. In her 13th year in the WNBA, UTAH’s Leilani Mitchell is in her second season in the nation’s capital. She averaged 9.5 points and a career-high 5.4 assists for the Mystics in 2020. Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne made the team after signing a training camp contract in February. She previously appeared in five games for the Minnesota Lynx in 2019. Stanford’s Erica McCall was traded to Washington from Minnesota in February and OREGON STATE’s Syndey Wiese is the newest Mystics member. Wiese was traded to Washington from the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday. In 2020, she averaged a career-high 6.8 points and shot a personal-best 50.5 percent from the field, including the league’s fourth-best clip from deep (.472).

In Los Angeles, Stanford’s Ogwumike sisters have been reunited again. The 2016 WNBA MVP and current WNBPA President, Nneka Ogwumike enters her 10th professional season with the Sparks. She averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds a year ago and was fourth in the league in field goal percentage (.569). After sitting out the 2020 season, Chiney Ogwumike re-signed with the franchise on Feb. 25. The WNBPA Vice President and do-it-all television and radio personality with ESPN averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in her previous season with the Sparks (2019).

The WNBA season kicks off with four games tonight beginning with New York hosting Indiana at 4 p.m. PT (NBA TV) followed by Connecticut at Atlanta at 4:30 p.m. PT (Twitter), Phoenix at Minnesota at 6 p.m. (CBS Sports Network) and Dallas at Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. PT (Facebook). There’s a doubleheader on ABC on Saturday, with Washington hosting Chicago at 10 a.m. PT and Seattle hosting Las Vegas at noon PT.

Player School WNBA Team
Jillian Alleyne Oregon Washington Mystics
Monique Billings UCLA Atlanta Dream
Kennedy Burke UCLA Seattle Storm
Jordin Canada UCLA Seattle Storm
Layshia Clarendon California New York Liberty
Aleah Goodman Oregon State Connecticut Sun
Reshanda Gray California New York Liberty
Ruthy Hebard Oregon Chicago Sky
Sabrina Ionescu Oregon New York Liberty
Briann January Arizona State Connecticut Sun
Erica McCall Stanford Washington Mystics
Aari McDonald Arizona Atlanta Dream
Leilani Mitchell Utah Washington Mystics
Chiney Ogwumike Stanford Los Angeles Sparks
Nneka Ogwumike Stanford Los Angeles Sparks
Michaela Onyenwere UCLA New York Liberty
Kelsey Plum Washington Las Vegas Aces
Satou Sabally Oregon Dallas Wings
Alanna Smith Stanford Phoenix Mercury
Sydney Wiese Oregon State Washington Mystics
Kiana Williams Stanford Seattle Storm
Sami Whitcomb Washington New York Liberty

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