Women’s basketball is one of the most challenging sports for college recruiting, allowing only 3.9% of female athletes to play at the collegiate level.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) currently houses 12 teams containing 12 roster spots each. These limitations on roster availability makes it almost impossible for college basketball stars to make it to the pros.
The budget in the WNBA is a massive contributor to the league’s expansion problem. Following the 2021 season. the WNBA fanbase continues to grow, recording the highest viewership since 2008. However, this still is not enough to expand the teams in the WNBA, let alone pay more than 12 players on each team. In fact, most teams only play with 11 due to salary cap restrictions.
Raina Perez was a standout player at North Carolina State. After a tremendous season and guiding her team to this year’s NCAA Final Four, Perez entered the WNBA draft. Perez went undrafted. However, Seattle Storm’s coach Noelle Quinn sought to sign Perez as a free agent.
Perez played one preseason game against the Los Angeles Sparks, and was cut short before the regular season began. As she began training for the professional leagues in Europe, she was asked to come back to the Storm to play two games as a replacement player. She was cut again shortly after that.
The journey of Raina Perez is a perfect example of how challenging it is to play in the WNBA. The rosters can’t afford to take on many rookie contracts for their rosters, and it shouldn’t be this way.
Perez now plays for Fuerza Regia in Monterrey, Mexico and is still planning on eventually playing in Europe.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert has acknowledged this issue and claims that growing the league with more teams is the best solution.
The team expansion could take years, and could impact the league’s future. Younger generations of talented college basketball players might view the WNBA as an unachievable goal, making them turn the other way.
The WNBA has been working to gain more support with American fans, but this can be very difficult considering how popular men’s sports are. Solutions to this problem could include a more flexible salary cap, a developmental league similar to the NBA’s G league, and allowing new players to remain with teams for practice.
To keep this league intact, the WNBA needs to find a way to provide more to young players like Perez.