UConn Alumni Remain Ubiquitous Among the WNBA


UConn alumni are ubiquitous among the WNBA’s ranks.

With four former MVPs and a long list of All-Stars, the Huskies have established an unparalleled legacy of dominance in the league. That legacy, however, looks to write a new chapter. One without the league’s all-time assist leader, Sue Bird.

Bird, a four-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm and two-time NCAA champion at UConn, announced her retirement in June of last year. Following a heartbreaking semifinal loss to the Las Vegas Aces, her 19-season career came to an end.

Nevertheless, an abundance of Huskies still lay scattered around the league. Bird’s college teammate and the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi, enters her 19th season with the Phoenix Mercury. Meanwhile, a new generation of UConn talent looks to stamp their names in the record books.

Heading into the 2023 season, eight of the WNBA’s twelve teams have UConn players signed. Let’s take a look at who these Huskies are and where they’ll be playing. All individual player statistics are courtesy of Her Hoop Stats.

Connecticut Sun

Tiffany Hayes

After spending ten seasons with the Atlanta Dream, Hayes has returned to Connecticut via trade. A 2018 All-WNBA First-Team selection, the 5-10 guard has consistently been among the top players in the league, averaging a career 13.8 points per game. Atlanta has struggled in recent years, having missed the playoffs each year since 2018. Hayes now brings her talents to a Sun team that is fresh off a run to the WNBA Finals.

Following a 20-point performance in a preseason victory over the Dream on May 14th, head coach Stephanie White had this to say about Hayes.

“For us to have a veteran on the floor with her experience, you know, is just huge. I think Tip [Hayes] is one of the best to ever play in this league at getting to the rim. I don’t know that there’s anybody one-on-one that can stop her.”

Olivia Nelson-Ododa

A second-year rookie, Nelson-Ododa looks to improve on what was a solid freshman campaign with the Los Angeles Sparks. The 6-5 forward averaged 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds over 14.5 minutes per game.

Like Hayes, Nelson-Ododa arrived back in Connecticut through a trade. At UConn Nelson-Ododa was one of the premier passing bigs in the country, finishing her college career with 317 assists. Although volume scoring is not her strong point, she is a capable rim protector and a force on the glass. If she can capitalize on her strengths, she’ll be a valuable addition to this Sun team.

Dallas Wings

Crystal Dangerfield

Dangerfield’s WNBA career has been quite the adventure. Since winning Rookie of the Year with the Minnesota Lynx in 2020, she has played for three other organizations. She was released by the Lynx in 2022 and subsequently signed with the Indiana Fever. Upon being released by the Fever, she was picked up by the New York Liberty where she remained for the rest of the summer.

She enters the 2023 season signed to a two-year deal with the Dallas Wings. Among UConn’s all-time assist leaders, Dangerfield is a proficient facilitator— a skill the point guard will be much relied upon for in the Lone Star state.

Lou Lopez-Senechal

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Lopez-Senechal’s professional career has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. The team announced on May 17 that she will undergo knee surgery and is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. As a grad transfer, Lopez-Senechal had a stellar season with the Huskies, averaging 15.5 points per game on 47.6% shooting, including 44% from beyond the arc. Her three-point shooting will be greatly appreciated on a Dallas squad team that lacks true three-point threats.

Las Vegas Aces

Kiah Stokes

Although yet to have an All-Star-caliber season, Stokes has remained a consistent role player in the WNBA. She started in all ten of the Ace’s playoffs games last year, averaging 3.7 points and 7.2 rebounds a game in their championship run. The No. 11 pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft, Stokes is a steadying force on the court. She’s also one of an elite group of players who have won both an NCAA and WNBA championship.

Los Angeles Sparks

Azura Stevens

Stevens enters her first season in LA after stints with Dallas and Chicago. The No. 6 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, the 6-6 forward has had a well-rounded professional career thus far. She played a critical role in the Chicago Sky’s 2021 championship run, starting every post-season game.

Although she’s never been selected as an All-Star, Stevens’ production has been consistent and effective, averaging 10.6 points and 3.9 rebounds last season. Her length and versatility made her one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason. Landing in LA, she will help form a formidable front-court alongside 2016 league MVP Nneka Ogwumike. Stevens is out indefinitely for the start of the season with a back injury.

Katie Lou Samuelson

Due with her first child in August, Samuelson will likely miss out on the entirety of the 2023 season. Fifth all-time in scoring and second in three-pointers made at UConn, Samuelson was part of a freshman class that helped UConn win its last championship in 2016.

Like Dangerfield, Samuelson has played all over the league. Drafted third overall in the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky, she has since played for Dallas, Seattle and now LA. Her stats have steadily improved each season, averaging 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last summer. Karlie, Samuelson’s elder sister, is currently signed to a hardship contract with the Sparks.

Minnesota Lynx

Napheesa Collier

With the retirement of WNBA legend Sylvia Fowles, Collier has become the face of a young Minnesota team. Drafted sixth overall in 2019, the 6-1 forward is a two-time All-Star and was named to the All-WNBA Second Team and WNBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2020.

Undersized at the post position, Collier makes up for it with elite paint footwork and an efficient jumper. The 26-year-old played only four games last summer after giving birth to her daughter Mila in late May. The last time we saw her in full force she averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, though there may be a bit of rust to shake off considering she hasn’t played a full professional season in two years.

Dorka Juhasz

With the success Minnesota has had with Collier, it’s no surprise they took a chance on another UConn post player in Juhasz. The 6-5 Hungarian native was taken 16th overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft. Head coach Cheryl Reeve had this to say about her on draft night,

“[Dorka is] a skilled post player that can pass and rebound… she’s got good footwork. I know Chris Dailey works incredibly hard with the post players at UConn. We see real potential there.” Juhasz averaged 14.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game at UConn this past season.

New York Liberty

Breanna Stewart

A name that needs no introduction, Stewart is perhaps the best player in women’s basketball right now. The 2018 league MVP and a two-time Finals MVP, Stewart has dominated the sport on both the collegiate and professional levels.

At UConn, she lead the Huskies to four consecutive national championships and has also won two WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm. After six seasons in the Emerald City, the Syracuse native decided to head home, signing with the Liberty in free agency. The blockbuster move cemented New York as a title favorite. Stewart was the top scorer in the league last year, averaging 21.8 points per game. She is anticipated to be a front-runner in the MVP race once again.

Stefanie Dolson

In the two seasons Stewart and Dolson played together in college, they won two championships. Reunited for the first time in almost a decade, we’ll see if that good fortune continues. Heading into her 10th season in the league, Dolson is a two-time All-Star and a WNBA champion with the Chicago Sky.

One of New York’s prize acquisitions in last year’s free agency, the 6-5 forward is expected to take more of a back seat now that the front court includes Stewart and 2021 league MVP Jonquel Jones. Regardless, she will remain a key role player for the Liberty.

Phoenix Mercury

Diana Taurasi

When “G.O.A.T” conversations come up in WNBA spaces, Taurasi is always on the shortlist. Although the 40-year-old is no longer in her prime, she’s still every bit as competitive and just as capable of putting up big numbers. She had multiple 30-point performances last season to average 16.7 points a game, helping Phoenix clinch the final playoff spot.

Her efficiency has notably dropped, shooting 37% from the floor in 2022. Even so, it’s always better to have her on your team than to play against her. One of the greatest players in the history of college basketball, Taurasi helped lead the Huskies to three consecutive national titles from 2002 to 2004. Speaking to UConn’s dominance during that era, Coach Auriemma put it best, saying, “We got Diana and you don’t.”

Moriah Jefferson

According to one Diana Taurasi, Auriemma said that Jefferson is his “favorite player of all time.” The high praise comes as no shock considering she was UConn’s starting point guard during their run of four consecutive national championships from 2013 to 2016.

The No. 2 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, Jefferson had a stellar rookie season with the now-defunct San Antonio Stars, averaging 13.9 points and 4.2 assists per game. Since, she has suffered multiple knee injuries that often left her sidelined. The 29-year-old had a standout season with the Minnesota Lynx last summer, recording multiple 20-point performances and achieving the Lynx’s first-ever triple-double. Jefferson signed with Phoenix in free agency and will likely play a significant role in their success.

Evina Westbrook

Westbrook has had trouble finding a home in the WNBA. She was selected as the 21st overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft and has since been signed by Seattle, Minnesota, Washington, and most recently, Phoenix. A combo point guard and shooting guard, Westbrook plays with a certain maturity that shines through on the court. While she may not have the refined offensive skillset needed to secure a starting position, she has the potential to provide significant value as a bench player.

Seattle Storm

Kia Nurse

Nurse sat out the entirety of the 2022 season due to an ACL tear that occurred during the Phoenix Mercury’s 2021 semi-final matchup against the Las Vegas Aces. The only Canadian Husky in the league, Nurse has put together four admirable seasons in the WNBA. Throughout her career, she has maintained an average of 11.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Seattle will be her third stop in the league, after playing three seasons in New York and one with the Mercury. With the departure of Breanna Stewart and the retirement of Sue Bird, Seattle is now a fairly young and inexperienced team. Nurse brings some much-needed veteran leadership.

Gabby Williams

A couple of weeks ago it seemed that the likelihood of Williams suiting up for this year’s WNBA season was slim to none. Now, it’s a very real possibility.

Although technically still a restricted free agent, the 5-11 forward may very well re-sign with the Storm. The WNBA’s new prioritization rules state that players must have completed their overseas obligations by May 19th. Williams, a naturalized French citizen, competes in France’s national league, and it looked as though her club’s playoff run would not be finished by the WNBA’s set deadline.

Williams, however, suffered a concussion on May 9th and came to an agreement with her club to suspend her contract before the deadline, making her eligible to compete in the WNBA. Although nothing is set in stone, Seattle’s head coach, Noelle Quinn, has expressed interest in re-signing Williams. Williams, who is still recovering from her concussion, has yet to make up her mind.

The uber-athletic 26-year-old was named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive Second Team last year and averaged 7.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game for the Storm.

Free Agents

  • Tina Charles, Bria Hartley, Gabby Williams, Megan Walker, Christyn Williams

Huskies Behind the Scenes

Renee Montgomery

  • Vice president and part-owner of the Atlanta Dream

Morgan Tuck

  • Assistant general manager for the Connecticut Sun

Jennifer Rizzotti

  • President of the Connecticut Sun

The WNBA regular season tipped off on May 19th and will run through early September.

About Ethan Arcata

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