While there is a pool of talented candidates in the 2023 WNBA Draft, some of the biggest stars of the 2022-23 college basketball seasons are not eligible, including Iowa guard Caitlin Clark and LSU forward Angel Reese -- the stars who led their teams to the 2023 NCAA Women's Tournament championship game.
If you're wondering, you're not alone. Even NBA star LeBron James — who was drafted straight out of high school in 2003 — has been confused about the rules.
I’m sitting here after watching the WNBA draft the other day and wondering WHY THE HELL do those young ladies have to stay in school for 4 years before being able to go pro??!!! I’m CONFUSED 🤔— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 13, 2022
One-and-done is common for men's college basketball players heading to the NBA, but the rules are different for women trying to turn pro. The NBA has a 19-year-old age limit rule that requires players entering the draft to be one year removed from high school. Paulo Banchero only played one season at Duke and was 19 at the time he became the No 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith, the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, were also 19 years old at the time.
Meanwhile, the WNBA official rules require players to be 22 years old the year of the draft. The other option according to the rules is to have already graduated from a four-year college or university, or graduate during the three-month period following the draft.
For an international player -- who the WNBA defines as a player who was born and resides outside of the United States -- the rule is that she has had or will have her twentieth birthday during the calendar year in which the draft is held. That wasn't always the case as the youngest WNBA player to ever get drafted was Australian Lauren Jackson at 17 years old as the No. 1 overall pick in 2001. She played with the Seattle Storm until 2012 and was a two-time WNBA champion as well as a three-time WNBA MVP.
Clark was the National Player of the Year and put up historic numbers through her junior season, including a record 191 points the NCAA Tournament -- a single NCAA Tournament record for men's or women's women's basketball. Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder described Clark as the most "phenomenal basketball player in America." Meanwhile, South Carolina's Dawn Staley said Clark is changing the way basketball is being played.
But Clark was born January 22, 2002, which means she is 21 years old and therefore doesn't have the option to declare for the WNBA Draft yet, even if she could easily be the No. 1 pick. Reese -- who set a single-season NCAA record in double-doubles and lifted LSU to the program's first ever national title and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player along the way -- also has to wait as she is a sophomore turning 21 on May 6. Both will be eligible for the 2024 WNBA Draft.
South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston was the 2022 National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year when the Gamecocks lifted the 2022 NCAA Tournament trophy. However, she was not eligible for the draft that year. The 21-year-old college senior -- who'll be 22 in December -- declared for the 2023 WNBA Draft and is expected to be the top pick.