International Names to Know for 2023 WNBA Draft

One of the headlines of the 2021 WNBA Draft was six players under the international designation being selected. The combination of a talented group of prospects available and a small number of college players entering in the year that the draft required declaration by all college players led to history. The 2022 WNBA Draft snapped back a little far in the other direction as there were fewer players with a reasonable chance of being drafted and the two that were selected ended up falling far past any reasonable approximation of where they fell in the prospect hierarchy. This international class is not the strongest, especially with some of the names set to be available in the next few years, but being able to draft younger players, especially in the late rounds, is a good value proposition after the surefire college prospects are off the board.

Women who were born in 2003 outside of the United States who are not residing there at the time of the 2023 WNBA Draft and have never exercised intercollegiate eligibility there are eligible for this and only this draft. Our list will range from players who will almost certainly be drafted to players who are longshots, but have had interesting paths to this point. Positions, nationality in terms of current national team leanings, and current club teams with country indicated if it is not the first nationality listed are included for each player.

Shaneice Swain, SG, Australia, Canberra Capitals

It has been an incredibly rough season for Canberra, but all of the struggles have given Swain a ton of opportunities to showcase herself ahead of her chance to get drafted. Her scoring ability has been evident in her expanding role and the question marks about her range at this point in her career have been answered pretty well. A team wanting to pick her will probably prefer for her to continue to develop before attempting a WNBA career and how she feels about that plan would have some impact on her stock in either direction as Australians tend to be more reliable in terms of interest in playing in the league. A trend around the world is taller guards trying to shift primarily to point guard and there have been indications that she has some interest in that move in the long-term even if her decision-making at this time does not quite warrant the switch. Another winter season spent with a team at the state level that is willing to give her those responsibilities like last year could help her add more to her game before trying to make the jump in a later year.

Maia Hirsch, C, France, Villeneuve-d’Ascq

An emerging story late last season, Hirsch became a scoring threat down the stretch in Charnay’s failed bid to remain in the top division in France. After showing that she belonged at this level, she signed with Villeneuve-d’Ascq, which has a recent history of staying competitive while giving plenty of opportunity to talented youngsters. As was expected, she is not getting the same amount of playing time, but she is adjusting to her role and getting playing time at the continental level. Not playing at the youth national team level last summer means that there is no recent comparison to other players her age so she is falling a little under the radar again, but the footage available is showing her steady development in areas besides pure scoring. As one of the youngest prospects in the draft, there is plenty of room for her to round out her game even though this is the year that she is either drafted or becomes a free agent. A team late in the draft could definitely see some value in taking a gamble on her that they do not need to see a payoff for until later down the line.

Claudia Contell, PG, Spain, Jairis

Few clubs have a more comprehensive long-term plan for bringing through young players than Valencia right now and Contell is one of the first emerging stars to participate fully in this process. The team is busy competing for trophies at all levels so she was only been getting spot minutes there and playing as many games as possible with Paterna, the team that they have an affiliation with in the second division. Having proven herself at that level, but still not ready for heavy minutes with the big club, she headed to Jairis, a team newly promoted to the top division. As expected, she is getting solid minutes and opportunities there, but team struggles have made them add more experienced players to the mix. While she has had a better chance to show her scoring ability at this level, there is some belief that her future is at point guard and that has not quite been as clearly demonstrated, although she did grab MVP honors during the last European U20 championship even competing against players born a year earlier and being born very late in her year. With how teams perceive internationals now still up in the air, how likely she is to be picked is unclear, but she will head into the draft as one of the prospects with the clearest pedigrees.

Txell Alarcon, SG, Spain, Araski

When it comes to international players, there are plenty with significant experience at a high level before the draft and Alarcon fits in that category. This is her third season playing rotation level minutes in Spain’s top division as she burst on the scene as a confident shooter for Promete after playing the season before that in the second division. There was certainly excitement that she would take that to another level last season, but that did not quite happen and the team ended up with problems that led to them withdrawing from the league for this season even though they had maintained their position based on record. She signed with Araski to stay at this level for another campaign and she had a promising start there, but she has cooled off a bit again. While she was solid at the youth national team level over the summer, she definitely had the opportunity to showcase herself more at that level against players her age. As a long-standing prospect, a team could take a chance late under the expectation that all of the of the competition that she faces will continue to sharpen her skills in the next few years.

Sokhna Fall, SF, Senegal, Gran Canaria (Spain)

The Canary Islands have been a haven for young basketball players from all over the world in recent years and Gran Canaria has a history of being a place for potential future draftees like Fall. She is originally from Senegal and this is her third season at the top division level in Spain after playing with the team during their promotion season. She showed flashes of what she could do last season as she took on a bigger role in the rotation. The team did not quite have the most organized start to their season, relying heavily on even younger players and that means that she has spent most of the campaign shouldering significant responsibilities. The team has brought in more established professionals over the course of the season so she may not continue to get so many minutes, but she has definitely already played her way onto the scene. She has increased her range this season, which is a promising sign for the future where she will be able to contribute as a 3-and-D wing at her size when there was a concern that she would fall more into being a combo forward best suited for power forward without the height to play it at the highest level.

Vanesa Jasa, SG, Latvia, Riga

The year before the draft tends to be a big one for prospects making decisions about the trajectories of their careers. For some players, it is the last time that college can be an option while those heading straight to the professional path have choices between competition level, playing opportunities, and contract terms. Over the course of her club career, Jasa had been establishing herself at home in Riga, earning more playing time and showcasing herself with good games against strong international competition. The historic team could not make arrangements to reach the same level of budget this season and withdrew from continental play with a less strong roster. Jasa opted for the Spanish league and Ibaeta and the early returns were inconsistent. As a result, an agreement was reached to loan her back to Riga for the rest of the season. While there is still time for her to make the impact that was probably expected when she made the move, even after a tough start, it is hard to see her path back to the fringes of consideration that she sat at before the season started.

Kati Ollilainen, PG, Finland, Helsinki Basketball Academy

Young players in Finland have a unique opportunity that is not common elsewhere in Europe as there is a team in the first division that brings in prospects from around the country and gives them minutes and opportunities, something that is harder to fight for on rosters with more experienced players and solid foreign players. Now in her fourth season with the team, Ollilainen is a leader, showing playmaking and shooting skills in a system that is showcasing both guard positions as she set the league record for assists in a game. She already has a team lined up for later in the year, having signed a Letter of Intent to attend Wyoming, which is why her draft availability is an interesting thought experiment in regard to the rules. There are a number of current college players worthy of WNBA consideration who turned 20 during the year that they enrolled in college, theoretically making them undrafted as internationals, but nobody has clarified the rules for recent cases. If she was drafted and then started college, it would put into play a rare portion of the CBA for allowing the team to keep her rights over time.

Post-College Players

While this is not a particularly large category for this draft class in terms of even more remote possibilities of being selected, it does seem important to mention the possibility that players who are neither international or just finishing their college careers could be drafted as well. Seven players falling under this grouping have been drafted in the past, but with the WNBA’s current draft declaration rules, there were plenty of players who were eligible for the 2022 Draft by falling in this category and that should be the case for a couple more years before returning to more normal levels.

Players who were age-eligible or education-eligible for the 2022 Draft and had remaining college eligibility at the declaration deadline who did not renounce it by that time and left college and no longer have eligibility either due to professional play or not having a remaining redshirt are automatically available for selection. Some of those players might not even be aware that they are in this draft or were not in the last draft class. The other group of players in this category is individuals born in 2001 qualifying as non-internationals who have never been education-eligible for a draft and who are no longer college-eligible due to professional play.

Aquira DeCosta, PF, United States, Shawnee State [NAIA], Alvik (Sweden)

There has been plenty of excellent reporting on everything that DeCosta has been through since starting her college career, but the story since then has been the start of her professional career. A highly regarded recruit before enrolling at Baylor, the last college where she was rostered was NAIA school Shawnee State last season, but she did not play. 2022 would have been the first WNBA draft that she was eligible for and she still had college available to her, but she instead started her professional career later in the summer in a local league for post-college players. Her performances there got her an interesting first overseas gig in Sweden with Alvik. From the start there, she has shown all of the attributes that led to all the excitement for her future, leading the league in scoring and rebounding with her hustle and athleticism. The league may not be at the same level as others in Europe, but it is good place to start an overseas journey and success there is a definite stepping stone to other countries. There would definitely be some value in a WNBA team picking her late in the draft and bringing her to training camp even as a longshot. She is still undersized for her skillset, but there are definite benefits to having a player who can bring hard work and defensive intensity into the setting. Either way, this season has demonstrated that even with everything that has happened in the last few years, she is now on track again to have a long, successful basketball career.

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