Sunday, June 13th, 2010 at 2:24 pm  |  14 responses

Don’t sleep on the WNBA

If you need reasons to watch, here they are…

by Clay Kallam

So I’m talking to a guy who runs a scouting service for college coaches looking for high school girls to recruit–and he says he never watches the WNBA.

I didn’t pursue the reasons why, because he looked like one of those purists who hates the NBA, and thinks the college game is the pinnacle of the sport. I don’t need to go into that argument, and try to convince someone that just playing hard doesn’t necessarily equate to good basketball–after all, the girls on my high school team play pretty hard, but I still wouldn’t recommend that a random basketball fan pay $5 to watch us play.

But regardless of his reasons, it is simply foolish for anyone associated with women’s basketball to not pay attention the WNBA–and here a few reasons why:

1) It’s the best women’s basketball league in the world. The Euroleague, which brings together the top club teams from all the European countries, has some pretty good players, but they’re spread across a lot of teams, and the limitations on the number of Americans on each roster definitely dilutes the talent.

And though the WNBA doesn’t have all the top Euros, due to its relatively low salaries, there’s no doubt that the 11-woman rosters in the W are deeper and better than their counterparts in Europe, or anywhere else.

Which means, simply, that anyone who wants to know about what the best women’s basketball looks like needs to watch the WNBA. (It is true, however, that the coaching isn’t the best in the world–the best coaches, for the most part, follow the money and thus are in the NCAA.) A professional or semi-professional worker bee in women’s basketball, regardless of level, must be familiar with the WNBA.

There is one problem: On TV, the WNBA doesn’t look nearly as good as it actually is. To truly appreciate the level of play, it’s almost a necessity to be in the first few rows of a WNBA game–and then the strength, size, skill and physicality of the players becomes impossible to ignore.

Unfortunately, not many people can do that, and so when, for example, a talent evaluator used to watching high school players from the second row of the bleachers sees a WNBA game on TV, or from 40 rows up, it’s very hard for him to grasp how good the players really are.

2) It sets the standard. Those young players with serious ambitions in the sport absolutely must watch the WNBA, because there they’ll see what they must do to compete at the highest level. A 5-11 high school power forward may be all that in 3-D in summer basketball, but it won’t take many viewings of the WNBA to realize that there’s a very limited future for 5-11 power forwards–and that transitioning to the three sooner rather than later is an excellent idea.

More lessons: Smaller guards (anyone 5-9 or smaller) clearly must make three-pointers, and post players (6-3 or taller) must learn to love contact, and preferably initiate it.

A perceptive reader will note that most girls won’t make the WNBA – but first, who’s to say what 14-year-old will and what 14-year-old won’t. Angel McCoughtry was barely recruited out of high school, and was the top overall pick in the 2009 draft. Equally important, the best college players are preparing for the WNBA, and those are the players that young hopefuls will be playing against throughout their high school years.

So knowing the WNBA means knowing the competition, and that’s very valuable information, especially to someone who’s trying to evaluate high school talent.

3) It is crucial for the future of the sport. Because the WNBA is by far the most visible American professional team sport for women, it attracts young athletes into the game. Why would any great young female athlete choose lacrosse as her top sport? Sure, there are scholarships here and there, but there’s no money in it after college, and no fame or glory.

With the WNBA on TV most Tuesday nights in the summer, it’s pretty clear that there’s a future in women’s basketball, and a future that includes not only a salary, but national TV exposure. But should the WNBA disappear, all of a sudden that motivation disappears, and no longer is basketball more attractive than volleyball, softball, soccer, lacrosse or water polo.

So anyone who cares about women’s and girls’ basketball needs to pay attention, acknowledge and promote the WNBA, if only for the good of the game.

And what they’ll find, as they watch the league more and more, is that it can stand on its own as quality basketball, worth watching for its own sake–and played at a much higher level than NCAA teams can ever dream of.

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  • http://All33sports.blogspot.com Aznballa3

    They need to get more of the games on tv first. They need to draw people in. NCAA womens UConn games; those are incredible.

  • bnets

    I LOVE the Women`s Basketball. Mostly a Storm, and Fever fan

  • http://www.RidleyScouting.com Kent Ridley

    WNBA is good basketball overall. I use it as a teaching tool for both my boys teams and girls teams. Shows what good passing and shooting can do instead of the 360 dunks, shuffling feet and post point celebrations of the pro league for men.

  • http://www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com Tarzan Cooper


  • Mike

    For the average fan no matter what the sport the athleticism and power of the athletes is always more apparent up close than on television. This is true even in bowling and billiards.

    Notwithstanding that the quality of the play in the WNBA continues to climb year by year. I dare say that some of the top players in the WNBA could earn an active roster spot in the NBA if they were allowed the opportunity to.

    I can’t wait for Elena Delle Donne who was a freshman to start playing in the WNBA.

    Elena Delle Donne (born September 5, 1989) is an American college basketball and volleyball player at the University of Delaware.

    Delle Donne was a high school basketball player at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware. She led Ursuline to three straight Delaware State Championship titles and was ranked as the number-one overall high school recruit by Scout.com.[1] She was the first and only student at Ursuline so far to score 2,000+ points during her high school career. Delle Donne is 6’5″ and set the girls’ high school national record for consecutive free throws made (80) in 2005–2006.[2]

    Following her senior season in high school (2007–2008), Delle Donne received a basketball scholarship from the University of Connecticut. On August 16, 2008, Delle Donne announced she would not accept the scholarship due to burnout, and instead decided to enroll at the University of Delaware and join their volleyball team as a walk-on.[3]

    On June 2, 2009 Delle Donne announced that she would play basketball for the Blue Hens in the 2009-10 season as a redshirt freshman.

    Delle Donne had a very productive freshman season. She averaged 26.7 points per game, the third-highest of all Division I women’s basketball players.[11] She scored 54 points against James Madison on February 18, 2010, which was the highest single-game point total by any Division I female basketball player that season.[12] She was named the CAA Rookie of the Week six times, and the player of the week once during 2009-10.[13]

    She was voted the CAA’s “Player of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year” in women’s basketball by CAA coaches, sports information directors and media. This was the first time a player had won both awards in one year since Old Dominion’s Lucienne Berthieu did so in 1999. No men’s player has ever won both awards in the same season.[14]


  • Ace

    @Mike nice shout out to EDD, now only if she was on a better team than UD right now. Do you see her entering the draft in 2011 with Maya Moore? @Clay I really liked your second point b/c Alysha Clark who got cut by SAN is a perfect example of the 5-11 power forward becoming a thing of the past in the WNBA. If she had been a 3 or a 2 she might have stayed on the team.

  • the_baller20

    Thank you, thank you. I’ve been waiting for an article like this for years. I am myself an aspiring 14 year old who would one day like to play for the WNBA or in the Euroleague. I am so grateful that you wrote this article, Clay! I hope that now people, especially men, will have a better understanding that Women are just as good as anybody and better.

  • Pat Riot

    Here is another good reason to watch.

  • Ace

    Oh please Pat Riot like there aren’t air balls and turnovers in the NBA. Oh look a clip of NBA bloopers go figure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIwLl2pIcgU

  • Pat Riot

    @Ace- I love that video. I love bloopers regardless of the sport. I treat every sport the same. If you mess up, I’m going to laugh.

  • Ace

    @Pat Riot then you must love the World Cup.

  • Coach AC

    I coach high school girls basketball and have been lucky to coach some good players. I hope the WNBA doesnt fall because I would love to see these girls, and more upcoming girls push to make it to the professional level. I really think that the WNBA should move games to smaller venues and charge a little less more, then more people would come and it wouldnt look as empty…I agree with the article above though, you have to actually be there to appreciate it and take it seriously…

  • Teah

    Thank you for posting this. I love watching the WNBA! I am a big supporter of womens basketball and I’m a player myself. I tell people who don’t watch or support WNBA to watch it before they just automatically down talk the sport.

  • olddirtyphil

    I’m all about the WNBA.