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The Dawn Of A New Era In Women’s Basketball.

Star power has always been a major problem for the WNBA, and it is not the players' fault.  The NBA has always had stars who combine their on-court talent with charisma and personality. Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman were superstars on and off the court because of their on-court personalities. The ladies themselves cannot be blamed because they shouldn’t have to act a certain way to command attention from the fans and media.  The next wave of girls coming into the league will change this dramatically, and it can be seen in everyone one of them every time they play.


Many basketball fans wonder why the WNBA hasn’t been able to garner the attention of an NBA regular season, and the reason could come down to multiple factors. From 2024 and beyond, we are about to witness a massive paradigm shift in the next decade that will change women’s basketball forever. There are a number of  very special girls who are about to be drafted, and they will turn  the WNBA into the literal female counterpart of the NBA instead of what it is today. 


The current generation of talent inside the women’s NCAA basketball circuit will revolutionize the professional game for the next 10-20 years, and completely change the world’s perception of Women’s basketball. It begins with the biggest name in women’s college basketball today, and that is undoubtedly, Caitlin Clark for the Iowa Hawkeyes. At only 22 years of age, Caitlin has accumulated wealth in the millions because of her numerous NIL deals and spectacular performances. Host of ESPN's First Take, Stephen A. Smith, is on record saying she has to the potential to be arguably the greatest women's basketball player of all time with comparisons to Stephen Curry.


Everyone is waiting to see what she will do in the WNBA, and multiple mock drafts have her as the number 1 overall pick. On December 10th, 2023, the WNBA had its Draft lottery to determine the order of the 2024 draft. The Indiana Fever were given the #1 pick, and sports publications on social media immediately started posting photoshops of Clark wearing the Fever jersey. After reaching her goal of 3,000 points this year, it only enhanced the spotlight on her in the sports world. It increased her hype even more, especially because she is the only college player ever to accomplish the goal. 


Many people are unaware that Clark could choose to stay if she wanted and it wouldn’t be a bad decision. She could dominate the NCAA for another year, and add on to her already historic career. Clark is regarded as a legend in college basketball, and she already has more money than some of the women in the WNBA. There are a multitude of reasons for that, and with the help of her star counterparts, they can change the monetary issues in the WNBA forever.


Revenue and jersey sales have always been a problem for the WNBA, and this is due to the lack of star power inside the league. Star quality is measured in many different ways when captivating the attention of the masses. One person can fill up an entire arena, and a major part of it is the off-court personality. 


The women who are about to be drafted in the years to come are already stars in college. Clark was mentioned first because she is undoubtedly a generational talent, and she has put on unprecedented performances since arriving at the University Of Iowa in the fall of 2020. The NCAA has another generational talent, and it is very exciting because she is four years younger than Clark, with arguably the same level of potential. JuJu Watkins has taken the world by storm, and at just 18 years old, she is one of the best female basketball players already.


In October of 2022, she signed an NIL deal with Nike, and she can be seen on TV commercials, merchandising, and their various marketing campaigns. The USC administration also does an excellent job of promoting their star talent.  This is a product of her marketability and superstar potential. She has always branded herself well even in high school, and her performances do most of the work. The scoring leader for the Trojans averages 27 points per game, and produces a highlight every night on the court.  


There are a lot of women in the WNBA who haven't even signed to one endorsement deal and they are professional athletes. The WNBA needs her because of her charisma, and the franchise-changing potential that she possesses. She will be a bonafide superstar wherever she goes, and she already has a massive fan base which will generate national revenue for her team. When a person captivates the masses the way Watkins has, The public will follow them forever to witness their extraordinary world-class talent regardless of destination.


She will be drafted into an era of the WNBA where there will be multiple girls who are going to change the game in their respective ways. By the time Watkins is drafted, players like Paige Bueckers will be waiting for her in the league. 


Bueckers is one of the hottest prospects in women’s basketball today, and she has been on the world stage for a long time now. She garnered major attention during her time in high school because of her confidence and flare on the court. Paige arrived at UConn in 2020, and she has become a staple for the Huskies during her tenure. 


After beginning her freshman year with 20 points per game, it was clear that Bueckers would lead the pack for the next few seasons.  After three seasons in Connecticut, Her career collegiate averages are 18.3 PPG, 4.7 AST, and 4.6 RPG. She is very cerebral and has showcased a very impressive shot IQ while at UConn. Her career percentages are 44.8% from three and 53% overall. In actuality, her percentages are absurdly high making her one of the best shooters in the 2024 Draft. 


She tore her ACL before the 2022-2023 school year started and her rehab process went very well. The Husky family were behind her every step of the way, and the support motivated her to get back on the court.  The world stage of the WNBA will boost her exposure and her humble personality will always attract new fans. 


A lot of Paige’s success can also be accredited to her star partner, Aaliyah Edwards, who is one of the best forwards in college basketball. She is in her senior year, and Aaliyah has developed nicely throughout her tenure at UConn. Edwards could be considered a ‘late-bloomer’ in terms of production, and she began her freshman year with 10 points per game along with 5.7 rebounds. 


During her sophomore season, she regressed to 7 points per game despite starting 26 out of 36 games. The media accredited this to a multitude of factors such as her contribution to the 2021 Olympics that summer. A quick turnaround was required and she didn't get the rest her body needed for the Huskies 2021-2022 school year. In the summer before her junior year, she unlocked her innate potential by adopting Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality”, and implemented it into her training regimen. Bryant passed away on January 26th, 2020 and the legendary shooting guard had an influence on millions of people including Aaliyah. She would watch highlights and interviews inside the locker room before her games for inspiration. 


That summer, her off-court preparation turned her into an official star in college basketball. Former Huskies Veteran, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2022 WNBA Draft resulting in more playing time for Aaliyah and she took advantage. She improved to averages of 16.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.4 AST, 1.1 STLs and 1.2 blocks. She gained more confidence in her offensive game and developed more on the defensive end.  Her field goal percentage is sitting at 59.4% and its a result of the discipline that she has on the court. 


Edwards really put herself on the map during the 2023 Big East Tournament. She averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds per game during the tournament to carry her injury plagued team every night. The Huskies pack took home the tournament trophy, and Aaliyah was awarded Big East Tournament MVP rightfully so. Just like Bueckers, she has separated herself amongst the other girls at her position. 


Her body is WNBA ready, and the shot IQ will help her have a smooth transition after draft night. Most mock drafts have her in the top 5 of the 2024 WNBA draft alongside Bueckers, and she does belong with the upper echelon. The name “Aaliyah Edwards” will be included in the biggest stars of the next generation in women’s basketball like fellow post players, Cameron Brink, out of Stanford. 


Brink is a 6’4 Center/Forward with incredible upside, and she has shown that she is something special while playing for the Cardinals. She is a great shot blocker with her instincts on defense, and intimidates alot of the offenses in the PAC-12 with her ability to cover ground due to her footwork. Brink is also a very high level rebounder in the paint, and she has the ability to step out to the 3-point line as well. Her two-way play is some of the best in all of her conference, and some would say she is the best forward-center in Women’s college basketball. 


Ever since her arrival at Stanford, her potential was obvious even in her freshman year. Brink’s imposing physicality causes a lot of problems for her opponents especially in the way she uses her size. Her footwork also helps her guard multiple positions, and she is taller than most girls on the court resulting in multiple blocks per game. Her block average has revolved around three per game since her freshman year. Now during the 2023-2024 season, she is averaging 17.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.2 AST, and 3.5 BPG. As of January 24th, She is the #2 block leader amongst the PAC-12 right under the Portland Pilots Defensive star, Lucy Cochrane. 


Brink is averaging almost 20 and 10 along with her high block rate, putting her in a different realm than most of the girls in college basketball right now. She is also a star off the court as well, and a major part of it is how she carries herself. People who don’t watch basketball will think she is a fashion model due to her build and looks. Her instagram is filled with luxurious wardrobes and garments displaying her love for fashion. This gives her the opportunity to become a star in the worlds of sports and fashion simultaneously. Her instagram has almost half a million followers and she just turned 22 years old on December 31st, 2023.


It is the final year of her stanford tenure, and she is projected to be the #2 pick which is currently held by the LA Sparks. It will be surprising if she isn’t drafted within the top-3. A player like Brink being in the same age group (18-22) as generational talents such as Clark and Watkins, is indicative of the change that's about to take place in all of women’s basketball. Multiple women in the 2024 draft have all been hailed as generational talents, and the entire top 5 to 10 picks have the ability to become stars alone.


Stars like Hailey Van Lith and Angel Reese are collegiate superstars and their decision to team up this past summer has resulted in one of the best duos in all of basketball right now. They can be seen as the counterparts to Bueckers and Edwards. Van Lith was the centerpiece of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team for three years, and she made a huge name for herself during her tenure. Her competitive fire can be seen on the court, and she is one of the best pure scorers in the draft. 


Van Lith is very dynamic with her speed and uses it to get to her sweet spots on the court. Her free throw shooting is very consistent, making her a big threat when defenders try to apply contact on her. Her most notable trait is her killer instinct in the clutch and she thrives in big moments. Her final season with the Cardinals, she averaged 19.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.2 AST, 1.5 STLs leading the entire team in scoring. The cardinals regressed after being #2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference during the 2021-2022 season with a 29-5 record, and during the 2022-2023 season their record was 26-12, enticing her to enter the transfer portal.  


Van Lith is expected to be drafted in the top-10 and she deserves it. WNBA teams should want her for the potential she possesses on the court and her popularity off the court as well. Lith has a signature look in the way she styles her hair in braids, and the WNBA had her attend the 2023 WNBA All-star weekend to take pictures with fans. She was sitting with Cameron side-by-side, and its easy to tell that they are very close. They even did their USA Basketball Media Day together, and their friendship is mutually beneficial since they’re both great players. The training sessions between them will always be intense especially after they are both drafted and become WNBA level stars for their respective franchises.


Now in her senior year she's the starting point guard for the LSU Tigers, and as of January 24th, the girls are an absolute powerhouse. They are 17-2 without a single loss in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and they are ranked #2 under the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks who have won 17 games in a row. The two teams have yet to face off this season, but the Gamecocks have decimated their competition so far this season. They’re scheduled to play each other on January 25th, and it is one of the most highly anticipated games this season. Van Lith and Reese will have to put up big numbers in order for the Tigers to take the 0 of the Gamecocks.


Reese has had an amazing year so far and its business as usual on the court. She is averaging 20 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.3 AST and 2.0 STLS while shooting a consistent 50% from the field. Compared to her historic last season, her numbers have varied in certain categories. Her free throw percentage has increased to 74% from 70%, but her block average dropped from 1.6 to 0.7 this year. She is still one of the best players in all of NCAA Basketball, and she is certainly the biggest star off the court in all of Women’s College Basketball. Her level of celebrity has increased to superstardom. 


Reese has almost 3 million followers on Instagram, and her pictures showcase her modeling for the brand Fashion Nova on occasion. She is literally one of the most popular female athletes on the planet and she isn’t a professional yet. Her NIL deals have accumulated millions of dollars at the young age of 21, and she is signed to some of the most popular brands in food and entertainment. She is under contract with Playstation, Raising Canes, Mcdonalds, Wingstop, and Amazon. 

 

One of the biggest stories last year was her rivalry with Clark during the 2023 NCAA Championship. They were two of the best young hoopers in basketball facing off on the world stage. Even though Clark had 30 points, The Hawkeyes were defeated 102-85 resulting in the Tigers winning the championship. The rivalry between Angel and Caitlin took center stage, and Reese made a gesture to Clark pointing to her ring finger showing off before the game was over. The word “extreme” is an understatement when describing Caitlin’s competitiveness, and at the end of the game, Reese began taunting her resulting in the infamous picture. 


Caitlin had taunted other opponents throughout the tournament, and the Tigers were aware of this, enticing Angel to give her a taste of her own medicine. The WNBA needs moments like this to attract more eyes every season. Imagine if the 2023 NCAA championship were the WNBA finals, and Clark’s supporting cast performed better for a closer game. Reese versus Clark is going to be a constant narrative once they’re both drafted, and their rivalry alone will increase the ratings as they face off throughout the years. The stars have aligned for all of these girls to be inside one draft together, and the 2024 draft is just the beginning. 


The 2025 draft will feature players like Aneesah Morrow, Olivia Miles, and Talia Von Oelhoffen who are all gifted athletes. The 2027 draft is headlined by Watkins, and she has separated herself from the rest of her competition in the PAC-12 ,but her potential rival plays in the Southeastern Conference. Mikayla Williams was the former #1 ranked High School basketball player in ESPN’s rankings before Watkins surpassed her. They’re both 18 years old and it will be interesting to see how they develop side by side. 


Sports critics will say that Watkins has more potential based on what they have shown so far in their collegiate careers, but they have different dynamics in the way their teams operate. Williams plays alongside Reese, Morrow, and Van Lith at LSU. It's remarkable that she can share the ball with those three, and still bring home 16 points a night as a freshman. Playing with other stars will have an impact on her individual stats, and Watkins is the main option of the Trojans.  Their both projected to be the #1 and #2 picks in the summer of 2027 so everyone will have their eyes on them. 


Literally all of these girls have the potential to be stars. They will change the WNBA forever because of the revolutionary talent they will bring. The possibilities of legendary rivalries are endless, and the girls have the personalities to captivate the masses. Their storylines will inspire many generations of female athletes to come, and their impact will be felt around the world. They will all team up to represent Team USA in future Olympics games for the next decade , and the roster will literally be an ensemble of the best girls in the world. The dawn of a new era in women’s basketball is on the horizon, and fans are going to love every second of it. 


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