UT with SEC-best six on WNBA rosters

Lady Vols in WNBA / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The WNBA tips off its 24th season on July 25, and as the new campaign begins there will be six former Lady Vols on rosters around the league.

The total of Tennessee alums in the league is tied for first among SEC schools with South Carolina. That mark also ties for third among all college basketball programs, with only UConn and Notre Dame having more players currently on WNBA rosters.

LVFLs in the WNBA include Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen (Atlanta Dream), Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky), Isabelle Harrison (Dallas Wings), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) and Mercedes Russell (Seattle Storm).

All-time, 48 Lady Vols have gone on to play in the WNBA. A total of 42 of those Tennessee products were taken in league drafts, including 17 first-rounders and three No. 1 overall selections.

Due to the COVID-19 global health crisis, the league’s season will take place in Bradenton, Florida, at IMG Academy, the Official Home of the 2020 WNBA season, and will include a 22-game schedule for each of its 12 teams. The schedule is highlighted by 24 national telecasts across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, including 12 doubleheaders during the first half of the season. Additionally, CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network will offer 40 telecasts, including 11 doubleheaders and a tripleheader.

This year will mark the first time that CBS will broadcast a game on the CBS Television Network. The remaining games will air on CBS Sports Network. Other games slated for NBA TV, as well as games available on WNBA League Pass, will be announced in the coming weeks. Regular-season play is currently scheduled to conclude on Saturday, Sept. 12, and be followed by a traditional playoffs and Finals format.

Parker is Tennessee’s most experienced WNBA veteran and enters her 13th year in the league with L.A. as a five-time WNBA All-Star forward, two-time league MVP and 2016 WNBA Finals MVP.

Last season, the 6-foot-4 standout came back from injury to start 22 games and produce an average of 11.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. She tips off the 2020 season against the Phoenix Mercury on July 25 at 3 p.m. ET with fans being able to watch on ABC.

Stricklen is the second-most experienced UT player in the WNBA, heading into her ninth year as a pro. She was originally drafted second overall and spent three seasons with the Seattle Storm, played five years with the Connecticut Sun and now embarks on her first season with the Atlanta Dream by taking on the Dallas Wings on July 26 at 5 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.

Last season, Stricklen started all 34 games for the first time in her career. The 6-2 guard/forward averaged 9.0 ppg. and 1.9 rpg. while playing 23.7 minutes per contest. She knocked down a career-high 76 three-pointers in 199 attempts.

Johnson begins her eighth season in the league and reunites with former Lady Vol teammate Stricklen in Atlanta after playing the last four years with Dallas. How fitting that she opens her career in ATL against her former team.

In 2019, the 6-3 two-time WNBA All-Star forward saw action in 28 games and started in 19 of those. She averaged 7.3 ppg. and 5.1 rpg. while making a career-high 35 three-pointers for the Wings.

Harrison, meanwhile, embarks on her fourth season in the league and second year in Dallas. After sitting out the 2018 season due to medical reasons, the 6-3 forward bounced back in 2019 by starting 29 of 33 games and averaging 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds.

As mentioned, Harrison and the Wings will face off against Johnson, Stricklen and the Dream in a game that should draw keen interest from Lady Vol fans.

In Chicago, DeShields blossomed into a WNBA All-Star for the first time in 2019. UT’s 17th and most recent draft pick begins her third year with the Sky when they play the Las Vegas Aces at 3 p.m. on July 26 in a game televised by ABC.

Last season, DeShields started all 34 games, averaging career bests of 16.2 ppg., 5.5 rpg. and 2.4 apg. for the Sky. She also had career highs for steals and blocks, and managed to shoot the identical percentage from the free throw line in 2019 (117-140, 83.3%) as she did in 2018.

Russell is back for season three with Seattle. The 6-6 center stepped into a starting role in 2019, getting the nod in 30 of 34 contests. She averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. Those were all career bests.

The Storm will open the 2020 slate on July 25, appearing in the WNBA season’s opening game at noon ET vs. the New York Liberty.

-UT Athletics

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