Just 15 of 36 drafted players appear on WNBA opening day rosters to start the 2023 season. With 144 roster spots available among the 12 teams, a number of college stars were waived before the season began.

Here are five of the most notable rookie free agents, and how they can find themselves in the WNBA in the future.

Abby Meyers, No. 11 pick

The Dallas Wings surprised everyone when they opted to take Meyers with the 11th pick on draft night. The guard wasn’t projected to be a first round pick in mock drafts, and while the Wings clearly saw something in Meyers, it wasn’t enough to land her a roster spot.

Meyers shot 38.8% from the 3-point line in her final collegiate season, and the Wings were in search of shooters. Another big strength is her basketball IQ – Meyers transferred to Maryland from Ivy League powerhouse Princeton.

Fit criteria: If Meyers winds up on a roster, expect it to be a team that needs a backup guard or a shooting lift.

Taylor Mikesell, No. 13 pick

The Indiana Fever kept three of their five draft picks on roster: Aliyah Boston, Grace Berger and Victaria Saxton. While Mikesell, an Ohio State product, was waived on May 17, the guard likely was an attractive prospect for the Fever because of her shooting abilities.

Mikesell made her mark in college as one of the top 3-point shooters in the country. The 5-11 guard was the best pure shooter in the draft, knocking down 41.4% of her attempts as a senior.

Fit criteria: Mikesell can play spot minutes for a team with dominant bigs that needs shooters to space the floor.

Alexis Morris, No. 22 pick

Morris wasn’t on a lot of draft boards until the NCAA Tournament, when her play helped LSU win its first national title. Her 21 points and 9 assists in the championship game over Iowa showed that Morris can perform well under pressure. But after being drafted by the Connecticut Sun, Morris was waived after one preseason game.

Morris is undersized at 5-6, but her ability to score in the midrange helps the LSU product combat the height disadvantage. She is also a good decision maker who can spearhead an offense.

Fit criteria: Any team that finds itself thin at the point guard or shooting guard spot due to injuries may target Morris. Her size is a concern for defense, but she can hold her own on offense.

Brea Beal, No. 24 pick

The Minnesota Lynx kept Diamond Miller (No. 2 pick) and Dorka Juhász (No. 16 pick), but South Carolina’s Beal was waived on May 16. Beal was a key piece for the Gamecocks on their championship team in 2022 and a four-year starter. She’s experienced competing at the highest level college basketball has to offer.

Defense is Beal’s strength, and she often found herself tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player. At 6-1 with length and strength, she could be called on to do the same in the WNBA

Fit criteria: Beal’s offense is a work in progress – she was a dominant scorer in high school but wasn’t called on to do the same in college – so the team that picks her up will likely have a plethora of scorers. But anyone who needs defense, particularly an on-ball defender, should look to Beal. (Just ask Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley.)

Monika Czinano, No. 26 pick

Czinano more than held her own for Iowa, but basketball is changing at the WNBA level. Traditional bigs, unless they have size like the 6-7 Brittney Griner, are going away. Czinano doesn’t have a versatile skill set, which is why she didn’t go until the third round to the Los Angeles Sparks.

Still, the 6-3 post possesses toughness and efficiency around the rim – she made 67.1% of her attempts during a five-year college career.

Fit criteria: Czinano won’t be a primary option in the WNBA, but she can be a backup post on the right team. If she’s picked up, it will likely be with a team that has bigs who can stretch the floor, allowing Czinano to play off them in the paint.

Other draftees who were waived:

  • LaDazhia Williams (No. 17 pick, LSU)
  • Madi Williams (No. 18 pick, Oklahoma)
  • Elena Tsineke (No. 20 pick, South Florida)
  • Kayana Traylor (No. 23 pick, Virginia Tech)
  • Destiny Harden (No. 27 pick, Miami)
  • Taylor Soule (No. 28, Virginia Tech)
  • Jade Loville (No. 33 pick, Arizona)
  • Ashten Prechtel (No. 34 pick, Stanford)
  • Brittany Davis (No. 36 pick, Alabama)

This year’s WNBA draft class features a stacked lineup, led by Aliyah Boston and South Carolina’s “Freshies.”

The Gamecocks’ freshmen from the 2019-20 season are now primed to enter the professional ranks.

Boston is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Indiana Fever, and her teammates could follow closely behind her. Brea Beal, Laeticia Amihere and Zia Cooke all are potential first-round picks, with Beal and Amihere going in the top 12 in the latest mock draft from ESPN, while Cooke is in the top 12 in the most recent mock from Just Women’s Sports.

All four were part of a senior class at South Carolina that went 129-9 during their careers, advancing to three Final Fours and winning the 2022 national championship. 

“We wanted to be the best class to ever come in. I feel like we did that,” Beal said following the team’s Final Four loss.

Boston, Beal and Cooke were four-year starters. Beal hit career-highs in shooting 3s this season, at 38 percent. Cooke, meanwhile, had a career-best season this year with the Gamecocks, averaging 15.4 points per game. She won the Ann Meyer Drysdale Award this year as the best shooting guard in the country.

And if you ask Cooke, their time together isn’t done. 

“It’s not over, we’ve got so much success in front of us,” she told ABC 25 Columbia. “All of us. I think this was just a chapter of our life that we were able to spend together. And now we’re all gonna all divide off and go our separate ways. But I just know there’s greatness that’s going to happen throughout all of us and I can’t wait for us to get back together.”

It’s the little things that make Brea Beal special.

It’s also the big things.

It’s the small action of taking two steps down the block to aid Aliyah Boston in a triple team. And the big commotion caused by blocking not one, but two Hailey Van Lith jump shots in the first quarter.

It’s the blink-and-you-might-miss-it impact Beal has had all season for South Carolina.

Against Louisville on Friday night, Beal made her mark in every way imaginable, finishing with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals to help the Gamecocks to a 72-59 win and a place in the national championship game Sunday.

“She’s so underestimated,” coach Dawn Staley said. “She’s so unassuming. Her personality makes it easy for people to overlook her. Except the people who know what she does every single day.”

A lot more people know now.

Going into the Final Four game, Van Lith, Louisville’s star guard, was averaging 21.5 points in the tournament. Beal, who often draws South Carolina’s most difficult defensive assignment, was tasked with guarding her.

Down 5-0 to start the game, Van Lith started to work on Beal, setting her up for a stepback jumper. The South Carolina junior blocked the shot, and then fielded a pass on the other end from Aliyah Boston for a layup.

Beal was able to limit Van Lith to nine points on 4-for-11 shooting with her relentless defense.

“It’s just the mentality to have every single game,” she said. “You can’t just turn it on and turn it off when you choose to.”

Beal blocked another Van Lith jumper before the quarter ended, but the Louisville sophomore still found ways to make an impact. With 1:50 left in the first, Van Lith drove and dished to Olivia Chochran, who finished a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Van Lith came up with the rebound and Emily Engstler scored on a layup to cut the South Carolina lead down to 15-10.

It was that kind of game. South Carolina would create distance, and Louisville would string together high-energy plays to ensure the Gamecocks were never too far out of reach.

“Louisville did an extremely great job just competing,” Staley said. “We could never put them away because of their fight and their competitiveness, and their ability to hang in there and score and turn us over.”

With 25 seconds left in the first half, Louisville’s fight was apparent. The Cardinals had been down nine, then ahead three, then tied. Going into the final possession, they trailed South Carolina 32-28.

Boston caught the ball in the paint and was swarmed by three Louisville defenders. She faked the shot, and then the ever unassuming Beal stepped to the hoop. Boston dumped the ball to her, and Beal finished to give the Gamecocks a six-point lead going into the half.

While Beal was a quiet impact player, Boston’s performance was much, much louder. The National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds and four assists.

“She’s really good,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of Boston. “I mean, it doesn’t take me to tell you what she’s good at. I’ve got a 6-year-old at home that can sit here and watch the game and be like, ‘Damn, she’s good.’”

Engstler was the catalyst for Louisville, keeping the Cardinals within striking distance. When she fouled out with 4:56 left in the game, and her team trailed by nine points, the deficit only grew.

A few minutes later, with the victory sealed, Boston and Beal subbed out and were met with cheers from the South Carolina crowd. No doubt they were cheering for Boston’s monster performance. But they were also cheering for Beal because, as Staley says, those who watch her every day know what she does for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina is one game away from a national title, in no small part because of Brea Beal.

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.