Former UConn women's basketball players embracing shared connection on the Storm – Hartford Courant

Catching up with the UConn women’s basketball players in the WNBA – Hartford Courant

The 2022 WNBA season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to get up to speed with your favorite former UConn stars.

Though are 19 Huskies in the league, good for well over a tenth of the players, though a few are injured or have things keeping them from playing at the start of this year.

Here is a look at every UConn player in the WNBA with one thing you need to know about each entering this season.

Of all the UConn players in the WNBA, Bird certainly has the biggest storyline this season. After hearing “one more year!” chants in the 2021 playoffs, the 41-year-old guard decided to return for his 19th season in the league. With four championships and the league’s all-time assist record, Bird’s legacy has been well cemented for some time now. It is expected that this will be her final season, but Bird has been open about how much she’s still grappling with the decision. Bird has said doesn’t want this year to be about her, but her career is without a doubt something to be celebrated.

After spending the 2021 season with the Washington Mystics, Charles is teaming up with fellow former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Kia Nurse in Phoenix. The 6-foot-3 Charles will look to build on an impressive campaign last year, in which she led the WNBA in scoring with 23.4 points per game — the highest scoring output of his career — and also averaged 9.6 rebounds (fifth in the league ) and 2.1 assists while shooting 36.9% on 3-pointers.

Collier announced in November that she and her fiance Alex Bazzell are expecting a baby girl, due in May. As such, the 6-foot-1 forward will miss the start of the 2022 season. Last year, Collier averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.

Dangerfield was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2020 after averaging 16.2 points, 3.6 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game, but her production went down in 2021 when Layshia Clarendon joined the Minnesota Lynx and took some of her minutes. Dangerfield still managed to put up 7.7 points, 2.8 assists and 2.0 rebounds last season, but she’ll look to earn more time on the floor and bring her production back up in 2022.

Dolson is fresh off a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky, but she’s with a new team this season. In February, Dolson signed with the New York Liberty, where she figures to play a prominent role down low. The 6-foot-5 center averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds for the Sky in 2021, starting 15 of 24 regular-season games.

Hartley enters her ninth season in the WNBA as one of the most experienced players on a very young Indiana Fever team. As of Thursday morning, the franchise had seven rookies and five other players with three seasons or less under their belt. Though she is new to the franchise and played sparingly over the last two seasons due to a knee injury, Hartley will likely be looked to as one of the leaders for her squad on and off the floor throughout the season.

Hayes was one of the best 3-point shooters in the WNBA last season. She made 40.5% of her attempts from beyond the arc, just one of five players in the league to shoot at least 40% from long range, while averaging 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Hayes, a 5-foot-10 guard, will look to build upon that campaign under new Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright.

Jefferson enters her third season with the Dallas Wings and her sixth overall in the league (she missed 2019 with a knee injury, which also nagged her throughout 2020). The 5-foot-6 guard shot an impressive 46% from 3-point range last season, which marked a career-high; continuing that accuracy from long range could set her apart in 2022.

After being selected 19th overall by the Los Angeles Sparks in this year’s draft, Nelson-Ododa turned heads with a dominant performance in her first preseason game. The 6-foot-5 forward/center recorded 15 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks against the Sparks. It’s hard to gauge much from preseason contests, but if that showing was any indication, Nelson-Ododa could shock the league as a sleeper of this rookie class.

Nurse won’t be active for the start of the season, as she is in the process of rehabbing a torn ACL she suffered during the WNBA Finals last October. Earlier this month, new Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said Nurse is progressing well through treatment. While she didn’t have an exact target date, she made it clear she won’t bring back Nurse until she is ready, Nygaard was hopeful to have the 6-foot guard back around midseason.

Samuelson enters the 2022 season with the Sparks, her fourth team in as many years after being traded from the Seattle Storm in exchange for fellow former UConn star Gabby Williams and the No. 9 pick in the 2022 draft. Samuelson had the best statistical year of his career across the board with the Storm in 2021, averaging 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 45.6% from the field and 35.1% from deep.

Stevens is back fully healthy for the start of the 2022 season. She began 2021 on a minutes restriction after suffering a knee injury the season prior but went on to average 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in the playoffs as the Sky won the title. Stevens, a 6-foot-6 forward/center recently participated in Team USA camp in Minneapolis for the first time in five years, which should give her confidence entering this season as well.

There were rumors over the offseason that Stewart was going to sign with the Liberty, but she instead agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Storm. Stewart has been one of the most dominant players in the league since she was drafted and that should only continue this season after she averaged 20.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 2021. The 6-foot-4 forward was easing her way back into training camp after undergoing a minor preventative Achilles procedure last October but will be good for the start of the season.

Stokes enters her first full season with the Las Vegas Aces after splitting time last year on the Liberty. She was waived by the Liberty in June 2021 but established a role for herself with her tough style of play in Las Vegas while averaging 1.5 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game. Stokes resigned with the franchise this past February and now will play under new coach Becky Hammon.

Diana Taurasi became the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer in her 13th season, passing Houston Comets great Tina Thompson, who set the former mark of 7,488 points over 17 seasons. Taurasi’s achievement is especially impressive because she spent many offseasons playing abroad, taxing her body year-round. Since then, she has seemingly put the record out of reach with 9,174 career points after the 2021 season.

(Tim Clayton/Corbis//Getty Images)

Taurasi is hungry to add a fourth WNBA championship to her belt after coming up just shy last season when the Mercury fell to the Sky in the finals. Taurasi talked in the preseason about how she has had to adjust her daily life to keep playing at age 39. There haven’t been too many signs of aging yet though; she still produced at a very high level during a 2021 campaign in which she averaged 15.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Walker is on her third team in as many years since entering the WNBA, with the Dream this season. The 6-foot-1 forward averaged 4.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game off the bench for the Mercury last year. Now she’ll be tasked with carving out a new role for herself in Atlanta.

Westbrook was drafted 21st overall by the Storm in this year’s draft, putting her in a locker room with plenty of other former UConn stars to help with her transition to the pros. On a loaded roster, it’s unclear how much of a role Westbrook will have in her first season, but her versatility at the guard position should give her a shot to have an impact off the bench.

Christyn Williams was the first Husky off the board in the 2022 draft, but she won’t be playing this season. Williams suffered a season-ending injury in training camp with the Washington Mystics. The organization removed Williams from the training camp roster online, but head coach Mike Thibault said in the announcement of her injury that Williams remains part of the Mystics family and has their full support.

Gabby Williams makes her return to the WNBA after a controversial suspension kept her out of the 2021 season. She has sent shockwaves overseas since her departure from the league, leading France to a bronze medal at the Olympics and earning EuroLeague Final Four MVP honors earlier this month. Now with a pack of Huskies on the Storm, Williams is ready to reintroduce herself to the league in her true position on the wing.

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