From Rookies to Veterans: Former Huskies excel in the WNBA

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Dallas Wings guard Katie Lou Samuelson, left, pushes the ball up the court in front of Las Vegas Aces center A’ja Wilson (22) during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Several former Huskies opted out of the 2020 WNBA season to fight for social justice, including Renee Montgomery, Tiffany Hayes and Maya Moore while others, such as Tina Charles, opted out for medical reasons. As the WNBA consists of more UConn players than from any other university, there are a remaining 16 alums that are continuing with the season as planned.  

Crystal Dangerfield, a recent graduate in her rookie season, proved herself in the league as she a guard for the Minnesota Lynx. Averaging 18.1 points and 3.5 assists per game, she earned the Rookie of the Month honor at the end of August. Dangerfield rejoined her former UConn teammate of three years, Napheesa Collier, and the two complemented one another on the floor during the Lynx’s matchup against the LA Sparks. Dangerfield and Collier were a dynamic duo in putting an end to the Spark’s nine game winning streak, with Dangerfield contributing 21 points in her 24 minutes of play behind Collier’s 25 points. Dangerfield is in the running for Rookie of the Year, while Collier is a favorite for Player of the Year. 

Collier hasn’t missed a beat as she leads her team across the board in all areas, closely followed by Dangerfield in some areas. 

When thinking of Collier in her time at UConn, you cannot forget the likes of Katie Lou Samuelson as the two went through their college careers together and were huge assets to the Huskies’ roster. Traded from the Chicago Sky to the Dallas Wings, Samuelson is still getting acclimated to her new team. Although no longer a starter, she assists her team in even the most subtle ways when she is on the floor. 

As Collier serves to be the familiar face on her team for Dangerfield, Kia Nurse is the same for Megan Walker, as she, like Dangerfield, navigates her rookie season. Nurse is amongst the leaders for the Liberty, as they attempt to turn this season around, with currently only two wins under their belt. 

With UConn being known as the basketball capital of the world, it is expected that the program attracts some of the best players in the country, which explains why so many enter the league. Who can forget the four consecutive National Championships that the Huskies obtained from the 2013-2016 NCAA tournaments? 

Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart blocks a shot by Indiana Fever center Natalie Achonwa (11) during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Breanna Stewart, who was amongst the only three Huskies to experience a National Championship all four years in college, continues to prove to be a reliable player for the Seattle Storm. Stewart did not play last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon in her right ankle prior to the start of the season, yet she bounced back fierce with a specialty on the defensive end for rebounds while also leading her team in scoring and blocks. With Sue Bird out on injury, Stewart was sure to help her team secure a win against the Chicago Sky, ending the game with 21 points and being a force on defense. Stewart is a versatile player who penetrates the floor on offense, finding opportunities to put points on the board, whether doing so herself or putting her teammates in a position to do so. 

The greatness that these players achieve does not stop at what they were able to achieve at UConn, but it continues in their professional careers. From rookies, like Dangerfield and Walker, to veterans of the league, like Stewart and many others, these Huskies continue to excel. 

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