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Saturday, June 22, 2024

WNBA Franchise Expansion Could Help HBCU Players Make A Breakthrough

The WNBA’s expansion is making headlines, and for prospective HBCU basketball players, it could spell exciting opportunities.

In a recent announcement, the league revealed plans to introduce a new franchise in Toronto, marking a significant stride towards its growth. Set to commence play in 2026, this expansion will elevate the total number of WNBA teams to 14.

“Bringing a WNBA team to Toronto represents an important milestone for our league as we continue to expand domestically and outside the United States,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. 

“With Larry Tanenbaum’s distinguished record of leading successful sports franchises and Toronto’s appeal as a dynamic, diverse city that cares deeply about the game of basketball, we are confident that this new team will thrive as a first-class WNBA organization and become a great source of inspiration and support for the Toronto-area community and across Canada.”

Since its inception in 1997, the WNBA has been a premier platform for women’s basketball talent. However, players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have faced challenges in securing spots on league rosters.

2024 Angel Jackson Jackson State 3rd-12-36 Las Vegas Aces
2022 Ameshya Williams-Holliday Jackson State 3rd-1-25 Indiana Fever
2002 Andrea Gardner Howard 2nd-11-27 Utah Starzz
2002 Amba Kongolo North Carolina Central 4th-8-56 Phoenix Mercury
2002 Jaclyn Winfield Southern 4th-11-59 Utah Starzz
1998 Karen Wilkins Howard 4th-8-38 Phoenix Mercury
1997 Denique Graves Howard 2nd-7-15 Sacramento Monarchs
Every HBCU player ever selected in the WNBA draft via NCAA.com.

Despite standout performances, such as those by recent draftees Ameysha Williams-Holliday and Angel Jackson from Jackson State, making it to the opening-day roster has proven elusive for many.

“Today is a game-changing day not only for women’s basketball but also for sports in Canada,” said Tanenbaum.  “This franchise will be Canada’s team, and we are so excited to unite the country and inspire pride and passion in fans from coast to coast.”

Adding the Toronto franchise signals a turning point, offering renewed hope for HBCU players seeking to break into the league. While success is never guaranteed, the expansion creates a more favorable landscape, presenting increased opportunities for representation and recognition.

For HBCU supporters, this expansion signifies more than just the growth of the WNBA—it symbolizes a potential shift in the game’s dynamics, paving the way for greater inclusion and visibility for their players on the professional stage.

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