Former UConn women’s basketball players in WNBA: Here’s what you need to know

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

As the WNBA season begins Friday, the UConn women’s basketball program will be well-represented throughout the league.

There could be as many as 20 former UConn players participating in the 2022 season, whether playing on a roster or working behind the scenes on team staff.

From longtime veterans and first-time WNBA champions to rookies and surprising roster cuts, here’s a team-by-team breakdown of where former Huskies stand as the WNBA season starts:

Atlanta Dream

Last season: 8-24

2022 opener: Saturday at Dallas

Roster: Guard Tiffany Hayes (remains overseas as Wednesday) and forward Megan Walker

Hayes begins her 10th season in Atlanta while Walker will join her third new team in as many seasons. After being selected No. 9 overall as a junior in the 2020 draft by New York, Walker played 18 games for New York during her rookie season. Last year, she played 29 in Phoenix while starting seven and averaging 4.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game. Atlanta picked up Walker through waivers during the offseason.

Team Staff: Renee Montgomery (part-owner and vice president)

After 11 years playing in the league (including two WNBA titles), Montgomery retired in 2021. She continues to be an analyst for the league and ESPN while also managing co-owner and vice president responsibilities for the Dream.

Dallas Wings

Last season: 14-18

2022 opener: Saturday against Atlanta

Roster: Guard Moriah Jefferson

This summer will be Jefferson’s fourth year in Dallas but third active season after sitting out 2019 with an injury. She averaged 5.4 points, 2.5 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 28 starts last year.

Los Angeles Sparks

Last season: 12-20

2022 opener: Friday at Chicago

Roster: Forwards Katie Lou Samuelson and Olivia Nelson-Ododa

Samuelson was traded to LA from Seattle in exchange for fellow ex-Husky Gabby Williams during the offseason. Nelson-Ododa was selected by LA with the No. 19 overall pick in April’s draft and survived training camp cuts to officially earn a spot on the team’s opening day roster. She put up impressive preseason numbers and is currently tied for No. 4 in the league averaging 5.0 assists.

Phoenix Mercury

Last season: 19-13

2022 opener: Friday against Las Vegas

Roster: Center Tina Charles, and guards Kia Nurse and Diana Taurasi

Charles was added to the Mercury this offseason and will help manage the post while the franchise remains without Brittney Griner, who is detained in Russia. Nurse spent the offseason recovering from an ACL tear in her right knee she suffered during last season’s playoffs. The Mercury, with the future Hall of Famer Taurasi as its centerpiece, will attempt to get back to the finals after falling to Chicago for the title last fall.

Chicago Sky

Last season: 16-16, 2021 champions

2022 opener: Friday against Los Angeles

Roster: Forward-center Azura Stevens

Stevens begins her fifth year in the league after helping the Sky win its first title last season by averaging 7.4 points, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game.

Indiana Fever

Last season: 6-26

2022 opener: Friday at Washington

Roster: Guards Bria Hartley and Crystal Dangerfield.

This is Hartley’s first season in Indiana, yet she’ll be looked at to immediately lead as the team works through a rebuild this season. The nine-year veteran played just six games last season for Phoenix after recovering from a torn ACL in 2020.

Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, was waived by Minnesota Tuesday. She was out of work for two days, signing with the Fever Friday.

Minnesota Lynx

Last season: 22-10

2022 opener: Friday at Seattle

Roster: Forward Napheesa Collier

Collier is pregnant with her first child and because she is expected to give birth in May, she will miss the beginning of the 2022 season. She signed a multi-year contract extension with the Lynx on May 2.

Seattle Storm

Last season: 21-11

2022 opener: Friday against Minnesota

Roster: Guards Sue Bird and Gabby Williams and forward Breanna Stewart

While Bird has not publicly confirmed this season is her last, the 41-year-old is expected to retire after the 2022 campaign. Seattle remains centered around its big three in Bird, Stewart and Jewell Loyd. The Storm picked up Williams in an offseason trade with Los Angeles for Samuelson.

UConn senior Evina Westbrook was waived by Seattle Wednesday afternoon. She was one of two rookies left in training camp after earlier cuts. Westbrook was drafted No. 21 overall by the Storm and had an impressive preseason performance last week.

Connecticut Sun

Last season: 26-6

2022 opener: Saturday at New York

Team Staff: Jennifer Rizzotti (president) and Morgan Tuck (Director of Franchise Development)

Rizzotti, the former Hartford coach, took over the franchise’s president role last April. She will make her 3x3 debut later this summer in the FIBA 3x3 World Series as Team USA’s head coach. Tuck retired from playing in 2021 after five years in the league. She was initially drafted by Connecticut in 2016 as the third overall pick.

Las Vegas Aces

Last season: 24-8

2022 opener: Friday at Phoenix

Roster: Center Kiah Stokes

Stokes begins her seventh year in the league, playing with Las Vegas after getting waived by New York in June 2021. She averaged 1.5 points and 5.4 rebounds and Las Vegas — under first-year coach Becky Hammon — re-signed her over the winter.

New York Liberty

Last season: 12-20

2022 opener: Saturday against Connecticut

Roster: Center Stefanie Dolson

Dolson had a successful 2021, first winning Olympic gold with Team USA in 3x3 basketball’s Summer Games debut before winning her first WNBA title with Chicago in the fall. Dolson, who grew up about two hours north of New York City, signed with the Liberty in the offseason.

Washington Mystics

Last season: 12-20

2022 opener: Friday against Indiana

In recovery support: Christyn Williams’s rookie season came to an end three days into camp after suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice. Washington has yet to release a timeline on her return but said the current UConn senior will have access to the team’s support and recovery resources this summer.