Apr 10, 2023; New York, NY, USA; Taylor Mikesell poses for a photo with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being drafted thirteenth overall by the Indiana Fever during WNBA Draft 2023 at Spring Studio. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As 2.5 million record viewers watched the 2024 WNBA draft on Monday, April 15th anticipating where collegiate superstars Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso and others would find teams and homes, many fans are beginning to discover just how difficult it is to keep a roster spot on a WNBA team. According to NCAA reports, there is a 0.9% chance of collegiate women’s basketball players turning into professional players and with the limited 144 WNBA roster spots, this many times leaves ripe talent on the sidelines or pursuing basketball outside of the United States.

Furthermore, statistics from the 2022 WNBA draft demonstrate that the odds of making a WNBA roster as a second-round pick (25.2%), third-round pick (3.9%) or by going undrafted (6.5%) are vastly low. For example out of the 2023 WNBA draft class which included Aliyah Boston going to the Indiana Fever as the overall number one pick, 10 out of the top 12 first round picks are still actively playing in the league at this point in 2024. However, as you move towards the second and third round picks these odds decrease dramatically as players were waived and/or picked up by multiple teams across a season.

For example, Taylor Mikesell, a standout guard from Ohio State was drafted as the first pick in the second round of the 2023 WNBA draft to the Fever. She was waived from the Fever after completing training camp and signed with the Atlanta Dream before being waived again after a short six game stint. Currently she is in a training camp contract with the Los Angeles Sparks, but only time will tell if she secures and maintains a roster spot through the 2024 season.

Iowa power forward and the yin to Caitlin Clark’s yang in the 2023 NCAA regular and tournament season Monika Czinano was drafted in the third round and the 26th pick overall in the 2023 WNBA draft. Czinano however, never made it out of training camp and has most recently been playing in Eurobasket’s Hungary -A Division for TFSE-MTK Budapest.

In another example, Abby Meyers, a guard from Maryland and the overall 11th pick in the 2023 WNBA draft to the Dallas Wings is not on a current WNBA roster. After not making the Wings team after training camp in 2023, she served a short stint with the Washington Mystics before being waived once again. Despite the lack of success in the WNBA initially, Meyers has secured a roster spot and most recently a 2024 championship within the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) with the London Lions.

Zia Cooke (University of South Carolina) the 10th pick to the Sparks in the 2023 draft and Rae Burrell (University of Tennessee) the 9th pick to the Sparks in the 2022 draft were released from their rosters following training camp. Both players were picked up throughout their rookie season on hardship contracts and are now current members of the Sparks roster for the 2024 season, but these two examples continue to show that even the most elite rookies from historic and winning programs can struggle to make the transition to the professional level within the WNBA.

Further demonstrating just how difficult it is to remain on an active roster long-term, 2020 number three overall draft pick Lauren Cox from Baylor played less than 15 games in the 2020 season for the Fever, was waived from the Fever after 11 games in the 2021 season, before finishing the season with 15 games for the Sparks only to be waived again for the 2022 season. She was signed in 2023 to the Connecticut Sun but was waived shortly after the season began.

Stories like Mikesell, Meyers, Czinano, Cooke, Burrell and Cox are a dime a dozen in the WNBA. Even some veteran players have had unlikely paths into the WNBA due to the limited number of roster spots and competition to play at the elite professional level. Shey Peddy, now with the Connecticut Sun was drafted 23rd overall in the 2012 draft to the Chicago Sky but did not make her debut in the league until the 2019 season with the Washington Mystics. Layshia Clarendon, a veteran now with the Sparks has been in the league since 2013 but has seen their fair share of the carousel of the league having played for five different teams despite earning All-Star honors during the 2017 season.

As the WNBA enters its 28th season and with more press, attention, and audience than ever before, especially due to this most recent draft class of collegiate powerhouse names, WNBA fans new and old will have to reckon with the fact that some of the players drafted might not be around for the first games of the season taking place.

This is the reality that the league is grappling with as it continues to grow; the talent pool is continuing to push the game and popularity of the sport forward with announcements of expansion teams on the horizon (most recently the Bay Area was awarded the 13th team for the league beginning play in 2025). But the league and its expansion will take time, meaning roster spots are coveted and hot commodities among the women’s basketball world’s most talented.

About Allison Smith

Dr. Allison Smith is a former Division I and II softball student athlete who is now an assistant professor of sport administration who studies and writes about the current state of women in sport. Outside of writing about women in sport, Allison has taught sport management and marketing courses for over ten years at various undergraduate and graduate programs. Follow Allison on Twitter @allisonbsmith15.