The 2022 WNBA season has tipped off, and there is plenty of Notre Dame representation. Not that this should come as any surprise given that they all played under Muffet McGraw. Hopefully one day, Niele Ivey will have just as many of her own former players competing at the pinnacle of professional women’s basketball. For now, McGraw’s legacy is far more apparent.
With nine former Irish players in the WNBA and a few of them even teammates, there’s a very good chance you’ll find one of them on a given night if you decide to flip on a random game this season. Maybe you happen to be a fan of a particular team that has Irish blood on it. In that case, congratulations for hitting the jackpot!
Don’t be so quick to write these athletes off just because it’s women’s basketball. It’s just as thrilling to watch them as it is male athletes, and you’re only hurting yourself if you refuse to watch solely based on gender. Now, with that out of the way, here are the former Irish players to look for:
Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 14: Guard Arike Ogunbowale #24 of the Dallas Wings handles the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Sparks at Los Angeles Convention Center on May 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Ogunbowale is legendary in South Bend for her last-second Final Four heroics in 2018, and she’s on her way to becoming a WNBA legend, too. In 2021, she was named MVP of the All-Star Game and made the All-WNBA Team for the second straight year. Hopefully, she can continue to make her mark on history in her fourth season with the Wings, who signed her to an extension in the offseason.
Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – MAY 06: Guard Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 of the Phoenix Mercury posts up on guard Kelsey Plum #10 of the Las Vegas Aces during the second quarter at Footprint Center on May 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Aces beat the Mercury 106-88. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Diggins-Smith is in her third season with the Mercury and ninth in the league. In 2021, in addition to winning an Olympic gold medal, she earned her fifth All-Star selection and fifth appearance on the All-WNBA Team. Her 17.7 points a game were second on the team to Brittney Griner.
Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MAY 06: Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm shoots against the Minnesota Lynx during the second half at Climate Pledge Arena on May 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Loyd has begun her eighth WNBA season, all of them with the Storm. She is coming off an Olympic gold medal, her third All-Star Game and her second time on the All-WNBA Team. She averaged 17.9 points a game, placing second on the Storm in that category.
Kayla McBride, Minnesota Lynx
Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride (21) is shown during the second half of their WNBA basketball game against the Atlanta Dream Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
McBride is entering her second season with the Lynx and ninth in the league. She has started all but three games during her career and every game since 2018. There’s good reason for that as she’s averaged double figures in scoring every year.
Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces
Las Vegas Aces’ Jackie Young (0) dribbles past Phoenix Mercury’s Tina Charles (31) during the second half of a WNBA basketball game Friday, May 6, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
The former top overall pick is entering her fourth season with the Aces. Her scoring have increased steadily every year, and there’s no reason to think that will change anytime soon. She further proved her worth last year by winning Olympic gold in the new 3-on-3 competition.
Marina Mabrey, Dallas Wings
Dallas Wings guard Marina Mabrey (3) in action during a WNBA basketball game against the Atlanta Dream, Thursday, May 27, 2021, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Mabrey is in her third season with the Wings and fourth in the league. Her scoring has increased steadily every year, and she gets plenty of playing time despite coming off the bench for most of her career. Here’s hoping that continue to be the case.
Natalie Achonwa, Minnesota Lynx
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MAY 06: Natalie Achonwa #11 of the Minnesota Lynx defends Briann January #20 of the Seattle Storm at Climate Pledge Arena on May 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Achonwa’s eighth season is her second with the Lynx. Although she’s averaged double-digit scoring only once during her career, she continues to play a key role. She’s important enough that she played on the Canadian team during the Tokyo Olympics.
Brianna Turner, Phoenix Mercury
Phoenix Mercury forward Brianna Turner (21) passes the ball during a WNBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)
Turner is entering her fourth season with the Mercury. She has made the All-Defensive Team in the past two seasons, starting every game during that time.
Jessica Shepard, Minnesota Lynx
Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, right, drives past Minnesota Lynx forward Jessica Shepard during a WNBA basketball game, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Seattle. The Storm won 97-74. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Shepard is in her third season with the Lynx. She’s already off to a great start in 2022. She made her first career start in the season opener while accumulating nine points and 12 rebounds.