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Gabby Williams returns to WNBA after prioritization uncertainty

(Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Gabby Williams is back with the Seattle Storm, after the team announced Monday that she had agreed to a deal for the 2023 WNBA season.

To make room on the roster for the veteran forward, Seattle waived Arella Guirantes last week.

“We are excited to have Gabby back with us,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said in a release. “Her veteran leadership and work ethic adds so much value as we continue our development this season. Gabby’s offensive versatility and ability to play and guard multiple positions will make an immediate impact, adding another level of scoring and boost to our defense.”

A 2018 WNBA draft lottery pick, Williams has spent significant time playing overseas, setting her on a crash course with the WNBA’s prioritization rule that went into effect this season. While other leagues have adjusted their seasons to accommodate the clause that requires players to report to their WNBA teams before the start of the regular season, the French league did not.

Williams’ contract, however, was suspended by her club, ASVEL, before the league’s May 19 deadline, allowing her to maintain her eligibility to play in the WNBA this summer.

As a WNBA free agent this past offseason, Williams had to “fully complete” offseason play before the WNBA season began, but did not need to report to a team. If she had been under contract, she would have needed to report her team by the start of hte regular season.

Prior to that, Williams’ WNBA status remained up in the air. Her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, had said that the WNBA season was “an option for Gabby, but not a certainty.” Williams had suffered a concussion during the French league semifinals and did not compete for France during June’s EuroBasket to recover from the injury, according to French publication L’Equipe.

It wouldn’t have been the first time Williams missed a WNBA season due to overseas commitments. In 2021, the Chicago Sky placed her on the full-season suspension list while she fulfilled her French national team duties.

“I would love to return to the WNBA,” she told reporters following the 2022 season. “But what’s best for my career, what the WNBA decided to do with players like me, it’s complicated.”

On Monday, Williams expressed her excitement to be back with the Storm.

“It feels so good to be back in Seattle!” she said. “I’m really excited to be able to join the team again and I can’t wait to get started. I’m just so ready to get back to work with the girls and the staff and look forward to finishing the season strong.”