Not World Champions Yet: WNBA Players Still Have the World Cup to Conquer 

A look at what it’s going to take for this year’s WNBA Champions to become World Champions.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

A couple of hours after winning her first WNBA Championship, Kelsey Plum posted a picture of herself with her teammate Sydney Colson captioned “World Champs.” A few minutes later the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Twitter Account retweeted Plum’s post, saying, “Not just yet.” 

Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, and Chelsea Gray all have a WNBA Championship and a Commissioner’s Cup Championship with the Las Vegas Aces this season, but will they pick up another title with USA Basketball and be crowned the true “World Champions” during the Women’s Basketball World Cup this month? 

Here’s a breakdown of all the WNBA players that stand in their way on the quest for another title. 

Ezi Magbegor of Australia dribbles the ball during the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup match between Australia and France (Photo by Pete Dovgan/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Australia

The 2020 Olympics were a disappointment for the Opals. The team lost two group stage matches to Belgium and China, and even though they made it through to the elimination round of the tournament, they were sent home packing by the United States during the quarterfinal game. The Opals now have a chance to redeem themselves on home soil. As the country with the second-most WNBA players on its roster, this team is dangerous and poised to make a deep run in the tournament.


While nearly every player on this Australian roster has some level of WNBA experience, the name that will be on most basketball fans’ minds during this tournament is Lauren Jackson.

Six years after retiring from professional basketball and 12 years since her last appearance at a World Cup, Lauren Jackson is back in green and gold. There are not very many players in the world who have the experience that Jackson brings to the squad. She is a two-time WNBA Champion, three-time WNBA MVP, four-time Olympic medallist, and has won several other league championships in Spain and Russia. 

Alongside Jackson are Sami Whitcomb (New York), Bec Allen (New York), Ezi Magbegor (Seattle), Steph Talbot (Seattle), and Kristy Wallace (Atlanta). Fellow Opals Cayla George (Phoenix, Dallas), Tess Madgen (Phoenix), and Anneli Maley (Chicago) have all had stints in the WNBA, but have played the bulk of their basketball in Australia. 

Sami Whitcomb is a wild card for this team. Whitcomb is an efficient shooter (most Liberty fans remember her five consecutive three-pointers earlier this season), can move the ball well, and can also crash the boards when she needs to. Fellow Liberty teammate Bec Allen is also excellent from beyond the arc. Ezi Magbegor had a breakout year with the Seattle Storm, playing nearly 10 more minutes per game than in previous seasons, and improving in every statistical category. If Sandy Brondello decides to play big, teams are going to have a difficult time finding a response to both Jackson and Magbegor. 

A chronic knee injury kept Jackson from ending her career with the Opals on her own terms, and now she has the chance to help her team accomplish something special on home soil during this year’s World Cup.

Belgium

Belgium managed to record a third-place finish in their first-ever World Cup appearance in 2018, and it would be very impressive if the team managed to go two-for-two and medal at this year’s World Cup.

The team is led by Emma Meesseman. The 2019 WNBA Finals MVP and champion has captained Belgium to two bronze medals at EuroBasket (2017, 2021). Meesseman was an All-Star for the Chicago Sky this year and was easily one of the most consistent players on the roster, particularly during the playoffs. Meesseman is joined by Sky teammate Julie Allemand, who demonstrated her ability to hit big shots off the bench over the course of the season. The only other player on the Belgian roster with WNBA experience is Hind Ben Abdelkader. Abdelkader played in 14 games for the Indiana Fever in 2018 where she averaged 10.2 minutes and 2.1 points per game.

Belgium has been investing in its young players and put together a squad to compete at GLOBL JAM this past summer. With talented athletes like Becky Massey peaking at the right time, Meesseman, Allemand, and Abdelkader have a chance to repeat their podium success during this year’s tournament.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Jonquel Jones is undeniably the star of the Bosnian team. In 2018, Jones asked to be released from the Bahamas national team in order to compete for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and her impact was immediate. She scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in her debut against Russia, and helped her team qualify for EuroBasket 2021 where she went on to set an all-time record for most rebounds in a single EuroBasket game (29 points and 24 rebounds).

Since Jones joined their ranks, Bosnia and Herzegovina has secured their best Eurobasket results—upsetting the continent’s top teams such as Spain and Belgium. Jones played another fantastic season of WNBA basketball, and after experiencing a heartbreaking loss in the WNBA Finals against Las Vegas, she now has a chance to make a splash on the international stage. This could be a very memorable World Cup debut for Jonquel Jones and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Canada

Kia Nurse is back. The Canadian international missed a year of basketball after tearing her ACL during the 2021 WNBA Playoffs, and her teammates have missed her. Despite being ranked No. 4 in the world, Canada crashed out of the 2020 Olympics in the group stage of the tournament, and the team has their eyes set on a podium finish during this year’s World Cup.

Kia Nurse, Natalie Achonwa, and Bridget Carleton pose during media day (FIBA Website)

Minnesota Lynx teammates Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton are also featured on Canada’s roster. The Lynx’s season completely turned around after Achonwa returned from her hamstring injury in June, and as captain of the Canadian squad, she will be looking to be a difference maker on this team as well. While Kayla Alexander is not currently in the WNBA, she has been putting up huge numbers in France and is a fantastic scorer and rebounder. As well as being vocal leaders on the court, Nurse, Achonwa, Carleton, and Alexander will be acting as mentors to Laeticia Amihere (South Carolina), Phillipina Kyei (Oregon), and Taya Hanson (Oregon) who are still in college and will be making their World Cup debuts. Amihere won a National Championship with South Carolina last season while Phillipina Kyei and Taya Hanson won gold at GLOBL JAM this summer (Taya Hanson also won gold in 3×3 Basketball at the Commonwealth Games), so this mix of veterans and rookies is going to be really fun to follow over the next couple of weeks.

China

Thanks to an unbeaten record at the qualifying tournament in February, FIBA has listed China as No. 3 in its official power rankings, behind the defending champions and host nation. China finished 5th during last year’s Olympics, and the team is looking to build on that performance.

The Chinese squad features two WNBA players. Han Xu was a star for the New York Liberty this past season, and Chinese basketball fans will be hoping to see her success carry forward into the World Cup. At just 22 years old, Xu averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game this season for the Liberty. While Xu was drafted in 2019, she took two seasons off from the WNBA to compete for China, playing at the Tokyo Olympic Games as well as winning a silver medal at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup. Xu also was a crucial part of China’s World Cup qualifying, averaging 13 minutes, 9.7 points, and 3 rebounds per game. 

Interestingly, Xu will be competing for a starting center spot against the Chicago Sky’s Li Yueru. Yueru was a rookie in the league this year, and while she was not regularly featured in Chicago’s rotation, she believes that the experience helped her grow in confidence. Yueru has already been practicing with the Chinese team for several weeks as the organization concluded that it would be best for her to leave the Sky before the season concluded to ensure that she would be in top playing form. 

France

It has been a difficult week for French basketball fans after news broke that Marine Johannès would not be available for this year’s World Cup after she picked up an injury this past week, but the French team is in good hands with a mix of veterans and young stars. The team finished in third place at the 2020 Olympics and is currently ranked 8th in the world.

A name that most WNBA (and UConn) fans will recognize on this roster is Gabby Williams. Williams played a key role with the Seattle Storm this season and was named to the 2022 All-WNBA Defensive Second Team. Williams made her debut for France at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she had a standout competition. She averaged 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds throughout the tournament, with a 17-point performance in France’s bronze medal win. 

The French team also has a WNBA Champion on their hands. Iliana Rupert was drafted by the Las Vegas Aces as the 12th overall pick of the 2021 WNBA Draft, and averaged 13.7 minutes, 3.8 points, and 2.3 rebounds for the team during their championship run this season.

Finally, a name that WNBA fans might want to become familiar with is Marine Fauthoux. Fauthoux was selected by the New York Liberty as the 29th overall pick in the WNBA Draft, but ended up staying in Europe to continue her basketball career where she was named the Euroleague Young Player of the Year. Fauthoux was a teenage phenom at the 2020 Olympics, scoring 12 points in just 13 minutes in France’s bronze-medal, and most recently captained France to a second-place finish at GLOBL JAM

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico just cracked the top-ten in FIBA power rankings, and they have a chance to climb further in world rankings if they manage to come away from this tournament with a win or two.

Jennifer O’Neill is the player with the most WNBA experience on this squad. She played 13 games for the Minnesota Lynx in 2015, and has since signed training camp contracts with the Connecticut Sun (2016) and Seattle Storm (2017). While Arella Guirantes was drafted as the 22nd overall pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2021 WNBA Draft, she did not make the final roster that year.

Mya Hollingshed, Arella Guirantes, and Isalys Quinones are pictured for Puerto Rico (FIBA Website)

The most interesting face on this roster is Mya Hollingshed. Hollingshed was drafted 8th overall by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2022 Draft, but was waived prior to the start of the season. The former Bluff balled out in her last year at Colorado, receiving first-team All-Pac-12 honors with impressive averages of 14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. Hollingshed will be looking to help her team pull off some upsets over the course of the World Cup, and this tournament might be the perfect opportunity for her to impress WNBA scouts and convince a team to take a chance on her.

Serbia

Serbia may be ranked 8th in FIBA’s power rankings, but this team knocked Canada out of the group stage of the 2020 Olympics and finished the competition in 4th place. 

The lone player with WNBA experience is Yvonne Anderson. Anderson played 11 games for the Connecticut Sun this season where she averaged 9.2 minutes and 3.2 points per game. She will be looking to help propel her team out of the group stage at yet another international tournament.

Yvonne Anderson and members of the Serbian team pose during media day (FIBA Website)

Finally, while Japan doesn’t have any active WNBA Players on their roster (Rui Machida is not listed on Japan’s roster), you can’t count them out of the competition. The team pulled off some big upsets during the 2020 Olympics and worked its way to a second-place finish ahead of France, Canada, and Australia.

Yes, the United States are the favorites to win this tournament, but nothing is guaranteed. This is a very different Team USA than what we have seen in previous years. Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, and Chelsea Gray will not be available for USA Basketball’s first game, and they will need to hit the ground running if they want to lift another trophy this year. Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray probably wouldn’t say no to a chance at an MVP trophy that is slightly bigger than the ones they have collected from the WNBA this season.


The action is already underway. Check out the FIBA Women’s World Cup website for a full schedule of games.

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