No player from a historically Black college or university has been drafted into the WNBA since 2002. On Monday night, that finally changed.
Ameshya Williams-Holliday, a senior center out of Jackson State University, was selected in the third round, 25th overall, by the Indiana Fever, making her the first HBCU player to be drafted into the WNBA in 20 years.
“It’s an honor, a dream come true and a blessing to be able to be a part of history and to be able to open doors for our HBCU community,” Williams-Holliday said in a statement to CNN. “Being a trail blazer feels amazing, but there is so much more to accomplish.”
A three-time Southwestern Atlantic Conference defensive player of the year, Williams-Holliday was also player of the year for the 2021-22 season.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to continue my career on the next level and most importantly to continue to be a great example for my son Jace and my younger siblings and for the kids in my community,” she continued. “I want every HBCU athlete to never lose hope and to know anything is possible.”
In the 26 years since the WNBA’s founding, only five players from an HBCU have ever been drafted into the league.
Three were in 2002: Andrea Gardner from Howard University, Amba Kongolo from North Carolina Central University, and Jacklyn Winfield from Southern University and A&M College.
The two other HBCU players drafted were Denique Graves in 1997 and Karen Wilkins in 1998, both from Howard University.
But in 2022, there are no players from an HBCU in the WNBA.
“I think if I was at a Power 5 school, it would be a different story of me being drafted or trying to get my foot in (the WNBA),” Williams-Holliday said in an interview last week with ESPN’s Andscape.
“People think (HBCUs) can’t compete with other top institutions (or) a Power 5 school, but that’s not true,” she said. “I think we deserve to be on the same level. I do think if I was still at Mississippi State, I would be a first-round draft pick.”