The WNBA Drafting a Player Directly from Canada?

With the U Sports Final 8 being played this week and Carleton University being crowned the champion and basketball becoming more and more of a global game, one might wonder whether any of the stars of this tournament are on the radar of any teams for the upcoming WNBA Draft. Back in 2020, Karim Mane entered the NBA Draft directly from Vanier College and was not picked, but did sign a contract and appeared in NBA games that season after some noise over the years about other men who stayed in Canada for school, but there has not been that level of discussion about women playing there. In both cases, the resources and competition available in Canada fall short of what is available in the NCAA, especially higher up at the DI level, but there are still talented players in school in Canada for a variety of reasons. Miah-Marie Langlois was a national team mainstay out of the University of Windsor and players start professional careers around the world from Canada each year. There are a number of factors besides talent that contribute to the low probability of any player being drafted directly from school in Canada.

CBA Differences

With the adoption of a new CBA in 2008, the rules for players being drafted out of Canada’s school system changed drastically. Under the 2003 CBA, internationals could only be drafted at age 20 if they were established professionals:

(c) Notwithstanding Section 1(b) above, an international player is eligible to
be selected in the WNBA Draft if she: (i) has signed a player contract with a professional
basketball team in a league located outside the United States, has played under such contract(s) for two seasons covering two calendar years, and will be at least 20 years old during the calendar year in which such Draft is held; or (ii) will be at least twenty-two (22) years old during the calendar year in which such Draft is held.

2003 CBA Article XIII Section 1

The language that is now familiar to anyone reading the current CBA was inserted into the 2008 CBA with very few other changes in this area over time:

(d) Notwithstanding Section 1(b) above, an international player is eligible to be selected in the WNBA Draft if she will be at least 20 years old during the calendar year in which such Draft is held.

2008 CBA Article XIII Section 1

This change means that internationals, players who were born and living outside of the United States and who did not attend college there before the draft of the year that they turn 20, are automatically entered into that year’s draft regardless of what kind of basketball competitions that they have played in during their careers. That is also in sharp contrast with the NBA, which does not have different age restrictions for international and American players.

Research Difficulties

One of the main issues with figuring out whether any given player is a WNBA draft prospect is how difficult it is to determine when the player is actually eligible. While there are some players who have been involved in Canada’s youth national team setup and thus have more biographical information available, birthdate is even less accessible than it can be for American prospects. Given that these players are more likely third-round options at best, it might not be worth the effort of inquiring about eligibility and instead be preferable to wait for the player to finish college and be available to sign as a free agent. Sarah Gates won the national player of the year honors as the leader scorer in the country by a big margin after averaging 27ppg on 37% shooting from distance, but it is not clear when she might have been draft-eligible. That is not unusual among the top players in college and is also the case among the top young players who are likely still available to picked this year or in the future.

Players Considered Non-International

One of the ways that a player could get draft out of a Canadian school is by not qualifying as an international in WNBA terms, meaning that they would be drafted in their age 22 year or later instead of their age 20 year. The most straightforward case would be a player who was born in the United States who then moved or went to school in Canada. Another path would be a player who might need to go to school closer to home having started college in the United States and then continuing to develop to a level where they are WNBA caliber when it comes time for their draft year. Alex Kiss-Rusk is an example of a player who participated with Canada’s senior national team after starting her college career in the United States and finishing it in Canada. With American college associations not counting the 2020-21 season towards eligibility, there could be borderline draft prospects who decide not to declare for the draft after four seasons in the United States and instead spend their fifth year studying and playing in Canada, impressing enough that a team takes a chance on them.

Foreign Students

Plenty of talented foreign players end up playing in Canada’s school system. Some of them come from countries where the American college system has not recruited heavily from in the past or were not quite high-level prospects when it came time to choose a college. Such a player being drafted could be more likely than a Canadian player being selected. Such a player could have an established profile from the time in their native country that gets past the issue of not immediately being able to figure out the player’s birth date. Amaiquen Siciliano, the Bishop’s University point guard who was named First Team All-Canadian, is from Argentina and it was easy to figure out that she was draft-eligible back in 2019. Talented internationals could also get attention in WNBA circles by drawing interest from American colleges to transfer.

Canadian Prospects

Setting foot in an American college means that an international player can no longer be drafted by the WNBA in their age 20 year. A high-level Canadian prospect could have interest in entering the WNBA at an earlier age. Rather than travel overseas to play as a professional in an unfamiliar environment and in a place where your reputation has not been established, it might make sense for a player to stay home in the time leading up to the draft. Toby Fournier is a highly-regarded recruit who is currently set to finish her Crestwood Prep tenure in 2024. Since she was born in 2005, she is currently eligible for the 2025 WNBA Draft, but that would change if she entered college in the United States. She might be in a position in the next year or so where it would make sense to enter the WNBA earlier and staying home for that year would then be an option.


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