By Dorothy J. Gentry
PHOTOS: Indiana Fever, Jackson State University
Monday night the WNBA drafted its first player from an HBCU in 20 years.
With the 25th overall pick in the WNBA draft, the Indiana Fever selected Ameysha Williams-Holiday, a 6’4 center from Jackson State University.
The Gulfport, Mississippi native is the first HBCU player drafted into the WNBA since 2002 when three HBCU players were selected: Andrea Gardner from Howard University, Amba Kongolo from North Carolina Central University, and Jacklyn Winfield from Southern University and A&M College.
Williams-Holiday is also the 2nd highest drafted HBCU player in league history. Only Howard’s Denique Graves (1997 WNBA draft; round 2, 15th overall) was a higher selection. Karen Wilkins, also from Howard was drafted in 1998.
In the WNBA’s 26-year history, only five HBCU players have been drafted.
Per HBCU Gameday: Williams-Holliday is a three-time first-team All-SWAC selection (2020, 2021, 2022) and a three-time league Defensive Player of the Year (2020, 2021, 2022). This year she became the first SWAC player since 2019 to win both SWAC Player Of the Year and Defensive Player Of The Year honors in the same season.
Interviewed last week in ESPN’s Andscape (formerly The Undefeated), Williams-Holiday – who transferred to Jackson State from the SEC’s Mississippi State – said:
“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). 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.”