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UConn in the WNBA: 2022 season preview

16 former Huskies made an opening day roster in the league.

2022 WNBA Pre-Season - Seattle Storm v Phoenix Mercury Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2022 WNBA season tips off Friday evening, with eight of the twelve teams in action for opening night and the remaining four teams starting their seasons on Saturday. 16 former Huskies are currently on WNBA rosters to start the season.

Seattle Storm: Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Gabby Williams

Sue Bird is entering her 20th and final season as the Storm’s point guard. She’ll be alongside former Huskies Breanna Stewart and Gabby Williams, who Seattle acquired in a trade for Katie Lou Samuelson during free agency.

Seattle managed to keep its big three of Bird, Stewart and Jewell Loyd intact during this year’s free agency. If Stewart is healthy, the Storm should be title contenders for Bird’s final season. The addition of Williams also brings the Storm a versatile option on the wing. Williams is coming off a strong EuroLeague season, where she was named the MVP of the Final Four, and could be poised for a breakout season in the league.

Phoenix Mercury: Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Kia Nurse

The Mercury join the Storm in having three Huskies on their roster, tied for most of any team in the WNBA. In one of the biggest moves of 2022 free agency, Phoenix added Tina Charles to the frontcourt after she spent the previous two years with the Washington Mystics. Taurasi returns in Phoenix’s backcourt along with many of the key pieces that helped the Mercury make their run to the Finals last year. Kia Nurse is also back in Phoenix but is still recovering from an ACL injury and will not factor into the Mercury’s plans at the start of the season.

Of course, much of the Mercury’s season will be impacted by the absence of Brittney Griner, who is being detained in Russia. The entire league will honor her until she returns home safely.

Los Angeles Sparks: Katie Lou Samuelson, Olivia Nelson-Ododa

Olivia Nelson-Ododa’s impressive performance in training camp and preseason landed her a spot on the Sparks’ opening day roster. With Los Angeles placing center Amanda Zahui B. on the full-season suspended list, it seems likely Nelson-Ododa should stick on the roster despite the Sparks need to make an additional cut once temporarily suspended players return.

One of those temporarily suspended players is Katie Lou Samuelson, who is still competing abroad in the Spanish league finals before joining the Sparks. The other side of the Gabby Williams trade landed Samuelson back in her hometown and after coming off a solid season with Seattle and another strong performance overseas, she could be a key piece with the Sparks this season.

However, you’ll have to wait a little longer to see either Husky suit up for Los Angeles. Samuelson still in Spain for the next week or two and Nelson-Ododa temporarily out with a hip injury.

Atlanta Dream: Tiffany Hayes, Megan Walker

Tiffany Hayes’ ninth season in the league last year was off to a great start before she went down with an injury. Had she not gotten hurt, she likely would have been named a league All-Star in been in the conversation for all-league teams if her performance continued at the same level. Hayes is back again with the Dream this season and with a rather young and inexperienced roster around her, she’ll have an opportunity to have another big season.

The Dream also picked up Megan Walker during the offseason as an addition to their frontcourt. Walker hasn’t found much success in the league in her first two season with New York and Phoenix, but there should be amble opportunity for her to earn playing time in Atlanta.

New York Liberty: Stefanie Dolson

In one of the other biggest free agency moves involving former Huskies, Stefanie Dolson landed in New York after winning a title with the Chicago Sky last season. She fills a need for the Liberty in the post and while New York is not a title contender, it’s made a quick turnaround from a team that won just two games in 2020. Last season, the Liberty made the playoffs and Dolson could help take them to the next level in 2022, where they’d aim to win a postseason game.

Chicago Sky: Azura Stevens

Stevens is the only Husky left on a Chicago Sky roster that not long ago featured four UConn players. While the Sky did lose Dolson and Diamond DeShields from last year’s championship team, they did well in free agency and expect to be in the title picture again this season. Stevens averaged nearly 20 minutes per game in Chicago last year and should figure to be a key piece in the lineup again this year.

Dallas Wings: Moriah Jefferson

Jefferson’s career has been plagued by injuries but last year, she started 28 of the 29 games she played in with the Wings. If Jefferson can stay healthy this season, she will Dallas’ top point guard alongside Ty Harris. The Wings once again have a young team with plenty of opportunity for minutes to go around.

Las Vegas Aces: Kiah Stokes

Stokes is currently still playing overseas and will join the Aces once her current playing commitments are complete. She joined Vegas midway through last season and played significant minutes down the stretch for the Aces. Vegas does not have much depth at the center position, which could be a good opportunity for Stokes.

Indiana Fever: Bria Hartley

Bria Hartley landed in Indiana via trade during free agency this year as one of the few veteran players on the Fever’s rookie-heavy roster. Hartley missed most of last season with the Mercury due to injury but is back and currently playing overseas. She will join the Fever when she returns. Indiana will likely fall at the bottom of the league standings this season, but there should be plenty of opportunity for minutes.

Minnesota Lynx: Napheesa Collier

Napheesa Collier will remain on the Lynx roster this season and just signed a contract extension with Minnesota. However, she is currently pregnant and is due to give birth in the coming weeks. Whether she will play this season is still uncertain.

Free agents

Additionally, Crystal Dangerfield and Evina Westbrook were both waived during training camp, but will have the opportunity to be picked up by teams throughout the season should teams look to make roster changes or sign hardship waivers for unavailable players. Christyn Williams will also miss the 2022 season due to a knee injury suffered during training camp with Washington Mystics.