March Madness: Top Millennial Basketball Players Who Went From NCAA Wins To The WNBA



Apr. 4 2024, Published 3:26 p.m. ET

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The much-anticipated 2024 Women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four games begin on Friday, with star women college players taking to the court to fight for the college championship.

One of the top current NCAA players is Iowa Hawkeyes’ Caitlin Clark, who has become a phenomenon both on and off the court this season as the NCAA women’s all-time leading scorer, hitting 3,650 career points, and selling out arenas, causing ticket prices to hit record highs. Clark led the Hawkeyes to an exciting win over rival Angel Reese and Louisiana State University to land the Hawkeyes a spot in the Final Four. Both Clark and Reese recently announced they would forego playing in their last eligible college season and would enter the 2024 WNBA draft, where Clark is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick.

As excitement for the Final Four mounts, NBA stars like Los Angeles Laker LeBron James are discussing the increasing popularity of women’s college basketball.

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“I don’t think there’s much difference between the men’s and women’s games when it comes to college basketball. I think the popularity comes in is the icons that they have in the women’s game,” James recently told Yahoo! Sports.

Sports journalist Jemele Hill recently discussed how women’s college basketball has been increasing in popularity for years. “If you look at WNBA ratings or women’s college basketball ratings, they have been exploding for at least the last seven to (10) years — or I would even say five to seven if you want a shorter window,” she told “And so, it’s been proven that people really enjoy the sport. They enjoy the stars in the sport, but they enjoy the sport itself. And I’m not completely convinced that the media understands the difference.”

As we prepare for this weekend’s games, we’ve pulled together a list of the top millennial women college basketball players who went on to play for the WNBA.

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Sue Bird, 43

WNBA star Sue Bird won the NCAA women’s tournament in 2000 and 2002 for the University of Connecticut and went on to be a record-setting player for the WNBA. She holds the record for most career assists in the WNBA, with 3,234 over the course of 19 seasons, and has won four WNBA championships and five Olympic gold medals, according to WPR. Bird has become an activist since retiring, fighting for LGBTQ rights and gender equity in sports. Bird was also one of many WNBA stars to encourage Caitlin Clark to forego her last college season and go pro.

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Candace Parker, 37

Candace Parker, a star forward, center and guard for the Tennessee Volunteers, was the first female player to dunk in an NCAA tournament game, according to Time. She led the team to their second of two back-to-back NCAA championships in 2008 and was named the Final Four most outstanding player and national player of the year twice. She went on to play for the Los Angeles Sparks, where she and her team won the WNBA championship in 2016.

Breanna Stewart, 29

Breanna Stewart is the reigning WNBA MVP, and recently announced that she is re-signing with the New York Liberty. She spent the first part of her WNBA career playing with the Seattle Storm, and when she joined the New York Liberty she saw so much success that she earned the title of league MVP for the second time, according to ESPN. Breanna Stewart played for the University of Connecticut from 2012-2016, where she led the Huskies to four straight NCAA championships and was named the NCAA tournament MVP each season, according to the University of Connecticut.

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By: Gillian Smith

Gillian Smith is a professional communicator by day and night, leveraging more than a decade in the news industry to share stories that have a positive impact on society. Gillian believes everyone has a story worth telling, and she has made it her professional mission to tell those stories in a responsible way. Gillian received a BA in journalism from Ithaca College and a Master's in Journalism Innovation from Syracuse University. She is currently the director of external communication and media relations at Suffolk University.

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