Naz Hillmon, the most decorated player in Michigan women’s basketball program history, is now a professional.
Hillmon was drafted No. 15 overall by the Atlanta Dream in the 2022 WNBA draft Monday night — the highest pick in program history — the crowning achievement following one of the most dominant seasons by any Michigan basketball player, male or female.
“It means the world just to continue to represent my university, it just shows the progression of where we were and where we’re going to,” Hillmon said in her post-draft news conference via Zoom. “I just see our team continuing to go forward and shoot for the stars.”
Hillmon, a four-year star for the Wolverines, became the first player in program history to earn All-America honors, doing so in 2021 and 2022 while averaging a double-double combined across the past two seasons.
“I think a lot of what has to do with me averaging a double-double is my motor,” Hillmon told ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “Crashing the glass and doing anything I can to help my teammates.”
She was named to the All-Big Ten first team in each of her four seasons — the only player to do so in program history — and is also the only player, man or woman, to record 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a Michigan career .
Hillmon was the focal point of a Michigan team that just wrapped up the best season in program history. The Wolverines came just short of a Big Ten title, finishing half-a-game behind Iowa and Ohio State who split the championship, but made a deep run in the postseason.
The senior had 24 points and 11 rebounds in an opening-round win over American. She followed that up with 27 points and 11 rebounds in a round-of-32 win over Villanova, put up 17 points and 10 rebounds in a Sweet 16 victory over South Dakota and finished her career with 18 points and 11 rebounds in an Elite Eight loss to 1-seed Louisville, the furthest UM has ever gone in the NCAA tournament.
Hillmon averaged 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds in her senior season, was named the Big Ten Player of the Year as a junior and is the program leader in rebounds (1,063), double-doubles (52) and free throws made (487).
Hillmon said Monday that her mother and father were a big reason she made it this far.
“(My mom) was also a rebounder, she was feisty and aggressive, I watched some film on her and just that tenacity is what I bring to my game,” Hillmon told Rowe. “(My dad) is my best friend, one of the people who keeps me calm and sends me text messages before games to make sure I’m in the right head space.”
That seemed to work in her collegiate career. Hillmon set a program scoring record when she dropped 50 points in a victory over Ohio State in January 2021. She was named Sixth Player of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019 before being unanimously named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2021 .
One of the winningest players in program history, Hillmon now joins the Dream who went 8-24 last season and said she hopes to emulate what she was able to do during her time in Ann Arbor
“I think we saw that with Michigan where as my years went on we were able to win and be more successful, have some firsts and that’s what I’m looking to do in Atlanta,” she said. “Obviously it’s a little different, it’s a franchise, it’s not college basketball, but I know I’m willing to take on that challenge and I hope I’m in there long enough to help turn the program around.”
Hillmon is now the only Michigan basketball player in the WNBA and the first Wolverine drafted since Tabitha Pool (23rd overall) in 2005. Kysre Gondrezick, who played her freshman season for Michigan before transferring to West Virginia, plays for the Chicago Sky and was drafted No. 4 last season.
It is a bit of a tougher road for second-round picks to make rosters in the WNBA than those selected in the first round. One of the concerns about Hillmon was her size, playing the post at just 6-foot-1, and her lack of outside shooting. Hillmon didn’t shy away from those questions on Monday.
“Everyone has their opinion on things,” she said of why she fell in the second round of the draft. :I know there’s things I need to get better at because of my size which s something I can’t change. But I can change my skillset and continue to build off of that.”
As much as Hillmon said she’s going to work on developing her game, she also said she’s not going to deviate from being herself and believes that will help her be successful.
“I’m going to do what I do best, that’s my motor, getting up and down the floor, grabbing rebounds and doing the little things,” she said. (Doing what) I can to make sure I’m putting out something you can’t teach and that’s that energy and intensity.”