The 2022 WNBA Draft was filled with all sorts of awesome stories, but perhaps none better than Ameshya Williams-Holliday going No. 25 overall to the Indiana Fever. In the process, the Jackson State star became the first player selected from an HBCU in 20 years.
That alone is an impressive accomplishment, but Monday night was also the culmination of an impressive five-year journey for Williams-Holliday. Originally recruited to play at Mississippi State, she quit basketball in 2017 because she no longer enjoyed the game. After a few years and the birth of her son, Jace, she returned to the court in 2019 with Jackson State.
There, she became a star, winning the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Award three times, and the SWAC Player of the Year Award this season. Boasting a 7-foot-2 wingspan, the 6-foot-4 center dominated in the paint, averaging 19.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game this season.
On paper, numbers like that would make her a surefire draft pick. In practice, the lower level of competition in the SWAC meant it was no guarantee.
"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 earlier this year. "People think [HBCUs] can't compete with other top institutions [or] a Power 5 school, but that's not true. 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. Since I chose to go to an HBCU, I don't know where I'll be drafted [or] if I will be drafted."
Late on draft night, Williams-Holliday finally got the call. The Fever selected her with the first pick of the third round, as the No. 25 pick overall. She got to share the special moment at a party with friends and family in Gulfport, Mississippi.
With the 25th pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, the Indiana Fever select…— Michael Dugan (@MDuganWLOX) April 12, 2022
Ameshya Williams-Holiday, from Gulfport, Mississippi. (West Harrison/Jackson State). pic.twitter.com/AhxN4kdrNK
"I came in smiling and they knew I had some good news cause I kept smiling," Williams-Holliday said. "I just couldn't stop smiling. I'm grateful, I'm thankful and I just want to thank everybody that helped me through this journey and kept pushing me to keep going and never give up."
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Williams-Holliday will now report to training camp with the Fever, which begins later this month. While it may be an uphill battle for her to make the roster as a third-round pick, there are a few factors that give her a chance. First and foremost, she's a hard-working, defensive-minded player who fits the culture that interim GM Lin Dunn is trying to create in Indiana. Plus, Indiana is in rebuilding mode and has just four guaranteed contracts on the books, which means, unlike many teams, they will have plenty of roster spots up for grabs in camp.