Jackson State’s Ameshya Williams-Holliday drafted by Indiana Fever, ending WNBA’s drought of HBCU gamers — Andscape

Dozens of Ameshya Williams-Holliday’s closest associates, household, coaches and former teammates gathered in her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, on Monday evening with hopes of watching her be a part of the WNBA. Neither they nor the anxious 6-foot-4 Southwestern Athletic Convention (SWAC) Participant of the Yr from Jackson State College was dissatisfied.

The Indiana Fever chosen Williams-Holliday with the twenty fifth total choose, making her the primary girl drafted from a traditionally Black faculty and college (HBCU) since 2002.

“It simply felt superb,” Williams-Holliday mentioned after the draft. “I stored smiling. I simply stored smiling, I simply had quite a lot of tears of pleasure. It was loopy.”

Projected by scouts as a third-round choose, Williams-Holliday nonetheless doubted that she would really hear her title referred to as on Monday evening. In spite of everything, solely 5 HBCU gamers had beforehand been drafted to the WNBA: Denique Graves (1997), Karen Wilkins (1998) and Andrea Gardner (2002) of Howard, Amba Kongolo of North Carolina Central (2002) and Jaclyn Winfield of Southern (2002).

“I used to be nervous the entire time,” mentioned Williams-Holliday. “Nicely, I’ve been nervous since I wakened.” 

Watching the draft unfold together with her household and associates by her aspect, Williams-Holliday felt her nervousness develop as the primary spherical got here and went. Similar with the second spherical. Moments earlier than the beginning of the third and remaining spherical, she felt like she had a knot in her abdomen. Then, her agent referred to as to tell her that the Dallas Wings, Phoenix Mercury and Fever had been all haggling for her companies. When ESPN flashed the ticker on the backside of the display screen asserting the primary choose of the third spherical, she fell silent.

“I obtained the cellphone name earlier than I noticed it on the display screen. … I had a Zoom name with Dallas and I used to be imagined to have a follow-up name with Indiana. After which one other workforce referred to as my coach, however I form of figured Indiana was going to choose me. However I nonetheless wasn’t positive. So, it nonetheless shocked me.”

5 years faraway from almost quitting basketball for good, the middle completed one thing lower than 1% of all NCAA ladies’s basketball gamers can boast about. Williams-Holliday’s draft choice not solely made waves throughout ladies’s basketball circles, but it surely additionally caught the attention of different HBCU athletes, together with Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, an alum from South Carolina State who additionally is aware of how troublesome it’s for many gamers to get drafted out of an HBCU.

In addition to being the SWAC Participant of the Yr, Williams-Holliday can also be the back-to-back SWAC Defensive Participant of the Yr, and averaged 19.2 factors, 11.4 rebounds and a couple of.7 blocks for Jackson State this season. She led the SWAC in 4 statistical classes: factors, rebounds, blocks and subject aim share (57.8), and recorded 22 double-doubles, tying for sixth nationally.

For Jackson State head coach Tomekia Reed, watching Williams-Holliday get drafted was a dream come true. Earlier than the draft, Reed went viral in social media for a passionate speech she made after Jackson State’s loss to LSU within the first spherical of the NCAA event about breaking down doorways for gamers at HBCUs.

“We’re really going to run with this [draft selection] and run with this so far as we are able to. This offers us a chance to recruit these high gamers within the nation. Again within the day, they mentioned, ‘We don’t need to go to HBCUs since you guys can’t get gamers drafted.’ Nicely, now, what’s the excuse?” Reed mentioned. “This affords us the possibility to essentially exit and get nice gamers to return into our program. This offers us leverage now.”

Ecstatic that Williams-Holliday was in a position to finish the WNBA’s 20-year HBCU draft choose drought, each Reed and Williams-Holliday hope that it gained’t be almost as lengthy earlier than the subsequent HBCU participant is chosen.

“It means rather a lot to me [to get drafted],” mentioned Williams-Holliday. “I’m simply glad I stored making historical past and the folks that can come behind me [have the opportunity] to simply hold that historical past going. Something is feasible. I believe it [being drafted] opens up quite a lot of doorways. I believe it doesn’t matter what faculty you go to, you continue to can do it. You simply gotta hold working arduous. Hold pushing. By no means quit.”

Added Reed, “This can be a door that’s been knocked down. She’s going to create alternatives for different gamers behind her, not simply at Jackson State, however in our HBCU neighborhood.”

Williams-Holliday was the Fever’s sixth of the workforce’s seven draft picks on Monday and can battle for an official roster spot in coaching camp in Could. Final season, the Fever completed with a league-worst 6-26 report. The workforce is seeking to rebuild to make its first postseason look in 5 seasons and Reed believes the Fever are a fantastic touchdown spot for her former middle to make her presence identified.

“She doesn’t have any stress,” mentioned Reed. “She is in a scenario like when she got here in right here at Jackson State [in 2019] after simply having a child, to a program that was struggling and she or he fully took over. She fully helped this program change into what it’s at present. She is aware of find out how to take over a program. There’s just one option to go and that’s up, and she will be able to definitely assist that program, make some nice strikes when it comes to success.”

Mia Berry is the senior HBCU author for Andscape and covers all the pieces from sports activities to student-led protests. She is a Detroit native (What up Doe!), long-suffering Detroit sports activities fan and Notre Dame alumna who randomly shouts, “Go Irish.”

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