All Scores

At home with the Aces: What they love about Las Vegas

A’ja Wilson and the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces lead the charge into the WNBA semifinals. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas is known for its gaudy casinos, lavish shows and over-the-top atmosphere.

One of the most-visited cities in the world, the Nevada hotspot offers a prime attraction for tourists: The bustling Strip, which features more than 30 casinos, including Mandalay Bay.

Inside the resort and casino, past a nightclub, restaurants, poker tables and the vibrant lights of ringing slot machines, is Michelob Ultra Arena – home of the Las Vegas Aces.

With their up-tempo style of play and high-octane offense, the Aces reflect the city they call home. With a WNBA-high 90.4 points per game, the Aces spend four months of the year bringing another brand of flashy excitement to the Strip.

When they leave the court, though, Sin City’s basketball team retreats to a much quieter way of life.

“If I’m relaxing on a day off, I’m probably not leaving the apartment,” Sydney Colson said with a laugh.

If she does venture out, Colson usually spends her free time shopping or going to see a movie – but it has to be something worth seeing on the big screen to get her to journey to a theater.

“I want to go see the new Jordan Peele movie ‘Nope,’ and ‘The Woman King’ with Viola Davis,” Colson said. “Action-type stuff, I want to see on the big screen.”

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Kelsey Plum is another player who knows the comforts of home well. She missed the 2020 season with a torn Achilles, and that coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic kept her indoors.

Now, Plum is taking advantage of her health – both on the court and off. But like Colson, she keeps things relaxed.

For locals, Las Vegas is entirely different than it is for tourists. 

“All the people who come here stay on the Strip, and that’s great, but I haven’t been on the Strip in years,” Plum said. “I mean, I play here, but I don’t really stay here. So, (if you live in Vegas), it’s chill. There’s a great energy, and a lot of cool people here.”

When she has the time, Plum likes to explore the city via food. Trying out restaurants off the beaten path is her favorite thing to do in Las Vegas.

“I recently went to this place called Thai Curry, and it was really good,” she said. “It was in a strip-mall type place. I got pad Thai and curry, and it was awesome.”

Rookie Aisha Sheppard is new to the WNBA and to Las Vegas. She still likes to venture out to the more crowded parts of town, mostly to indulge in her favorite hobby – shopping.

The rookie didn’t get to experiment much with fashion in college, so now she loves the art of a tunnel fit.

“My style is very versatile,” she said. “I have a couple of different signature pieces, but then I can also go to H&M and just wear a regular outfit and I can still make it my own.”

Her favorite purchase to date is a pair of Off-White sunglasses. The glasses were a splurge, which Sheppard said she doesn’t normally do. And though she’s explored places like Caesars Palace to look in shops, walking the Strip is also something the rookie doesn’t do. 

Instead, like Colson and Plum, she prefers to hang out in the more relaxing parts of the city.

“It’s kind of the calm before the storm, and the calm is everywhere outside of the Strip, or downtown,” she said. “And then in the Strip then you’ll run into a little bit of that chaos.”

Being a resident, Jackie Young said, is like “not even living in Vegas.” At least not in the stereotypical Sin City style.

(Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The craziest place Young goes? TopGolf.

It’s one of her favorite activities to do in the city, and while she won’t go as far as to say she’s good at it, Young said she can get some distance on the ball when she swings.

TopGolf is an activity the Aces sometimes do together. Young couldn’t pinpoint the best player on the team, but she was quick to call out her least-skilled teammate.

“A’ja is the worst,” she said with a smile.

Wilson is good at a lot of things – and she has brand new Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player trophies to prove it – but the Aces star admitted that her talents do not extend to TopGolf.

“That is a true statement,” Wilson said with a laugh. “I am in last place when it comes to TopGolf. It is not my thing.”

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Vegas, though — Vegas is her thing.

This is Wilson’s fifth year in the WNBA, and all of those have been spent with the Aces. She has great affection for both her team and for the city in which she plays.

“My favorite thing about living in Vegas is there’s always something to do,” she said. “But yet if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to do anything. You can still chill. You can go out by the pool, you could just stay in your house and go or just people watch. I think that’s the beautiful thing.

“I love living in Las Vegas.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.