The Numbers Behind WNBA Training Camp
On Sunday, some of the best players in women’s basketball gathered in 12 cities around the country for the start of WNBA training camp, which serves as the league’s pre-season. Anywhere from 16 to 22 players per team are competing to make the final 12-woman roster and, ultimately, to contribute on the court during the season.
Her Hoop Stats analyzed the rosters of all 12 teams (as of May 5), and here’s what we learned about the 221 players competing for 144 WNBA roster spots:
About half of the players are guards
We categorized players by position based on how they were listed on the roster. If a player was listed as playing multiple positions, she was only counted as the first position listed. (For example, we counted a player listed as “G-F” as a guard. Only about 10% of players were listed as playing multiple positions.) Using this method, about half of players in WNBA training camps are guards, one-third are forwards, and the rest are centers.
Some players are really tall … and others, not so much
There is nearly a foot-and-a-half difference between the shortest player in the WNBA (Dallas’ Brooke McCarty at 5–4) and the tallest players (New York’s Han Xu and Phoenix’s Brittney Griner at 6–9)! 62% of the players are 6–0 or taller, and the most common height is 6–3.
Some players are really experienced … and others, not so much
Younger players dominate WNBA training camps, with rookies comprising nearly a third of all players and more than half of players having less than four years of WNBA experience. (These percentages will likely decrease as rosters are trimmed to 12 players.) On the other end of the spectrum, 22 players (10%) have ten or more years of experience. Seattle point guard Sue Bird leads the way with 16, followed by Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson (15), Phoenix’s Sancho Lyttle (14), and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi (14). Bird (508 games played) is currently the only player ever to play in over 500 games.
On a related note, 75% of players in the WNBA were born in the 1990s, while 22% were born in the 1980s. (We could not find birthdates for the other 6 players, or 3%.) Bird is the oldest player and the only one to have been born in the year 1980, while three players — Seattle’s Ezi Magbegor, Atlanta’s Li Yueru, and New York’s Han Xu — were born in 1999. (Born on Halloween, Xu is the youngest.) Nine players are younger than the WNBA itself, which had its first game on June 21, 1997.
Teams vary in how many players they sign for training camp
Every WNBA team must submit a final 12-woman roster to the league by May 23, the day before the regular season begins. Three teams — Seattle, Minnesota, and New York — have at least 20 players battling for those 12 spots, while Phoenix has just 16. Injuries and absences are undoubtedly one reason for this: for example, Seattle’s Breanna Stewart is on the roster but will miss the season after tearing her Achilles, while Minnesota’s Maya Moore is also on her team’s roster but is sitting out this season for personal reasons. But the point still stands that some camps will see many more players cut than others, and in all camps, coaches have very tough decisions ahead as they finalize their rosters.
The league is global!
Despite being named the Women’s National Basketball Association, the WNBA has players from around the world. WNBA rosters list each player’s college team when she was drafted or, if she did not play college basketball, her country of origin. Here is a map of the country each player was drafted from (not to be confused with her nationality):
As one would probably expect, the vast majority (91%) of players are drafted out of American colleges and universities. However, 11 other countries are represented, with three (Australia, China, and Belgium) having multiple players on WNBA rosters. The 200 American-educated players represent 74 different schools, with Connecticut (20 players) and Notre Dame (10 players) being the only schools with 10 or more players on WNBA rosters.
The numbers behind WNBA jersey numbers
WNBA players will wear 38 different jersey numbers in 2019, with #1 and #3 (11 players each) being the most popular. Ten players will each wear #21 and #24. And nine players’ jersey numbers are still not listed on their teams’ rosters, so it’s still possible that a player on every team will wear one of these numbers.
The single-digit jersey numbers are the most popular, but it’s not as much of a landslide as you might expect:
The number underneath each numerical range represents the number of players with a jersey number in that range. 76 players wear a single-digit number, while 86 wear a number between 10 and 29. Those may seem like relatively small percentages of the 221 total players, but note that it’s impossible for 221 players to all wear single-digit numbers. Teammates must each have different numbers, so a maximum of 120 players can have single-digit numbers (10 single-digit numbers x 12 teams). This means that almost two-thirds of single-digit numbers (76/120) are taken across the league.
Counting down the days until the WNBA tips off
Here at Her Hoop Stats, we cannot wait for the 2019 WNBA season to begin in earnest! We’re counting down the days on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — follow us to join in the fun and make sure to tune in to CBS Sports Network, ESPN Networks, Twitter, and/or WNBA League Pass to watch WNBA games starting on May 24.