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)

Notre Dame leading scorer Olivia Miles left the final game of the regular season against Louisville with a knee injury, putting a damper on her team’s ACC regular-season championship.

The Irish’s Feb. 26 win secured the first conference title for Notre Dame since 2019. But Miles hurt her knee while diving for a loose ball in the second quarter and did not return to the game. And she will not return for the postseason, as Notre Dame announced Thursday.

The sophomore guard missed the conference tournament, and while the Irish had left open the possibility of her return for the NCAA Tournament, the team announced Thursday she would miss the rest of the season. While coach Niele Ivey said the exact nature of Miles’ injury is “undisclosed for her privacy,” she will have surgery late next week.

Other teams, including UConn and Ohio State, also have dealt with injuries throughout the 2022-23 campaign. Just Women’s Sports lays out the most notable injured players and, where possible, the timetables for their returns.

Out for season

Olivia Miles, Notre Dame

In another blow to the Irish, the team announced Thursday that their second-team All-American point guard will miss the remainder of the season. According to the school, it was decided that she would miss the NCAA Tournament, “after consulting with the medical staff and undergoing treatment and examinations by our physicians.”

No. 3 seed Notre Dame is set to face off against No. 14 seed Southern Utah in the tournament’s first round Friday.

Dara Mabrey, Notre Dame

The fifth-year guard exited her team’s Jan. 22 win over Virginia with a knee injury. She came up with a steal just two minutes into the contest, then went down holding her knee after being fouled.

Soon after, Mabrey announced that she had torn her ACL, bringing an end to her season and her college career.

“While it certainly is not the way that I wanted to go out, I’m confident that everything happens for a reason,” Mabrey wrote in a social media post. “I know I will find peace with my situation as I recover in the coming months.

“I’m ready to continue to lead my team from the sideline. This team is special, and I can’t wait to see what we can do.”

Stephanie Soares, Iowa State

The 6-foot-6 forward tore the ACL in her left knee during a Jan. 8 loss to Oklahoma.

Soares had transferred to Iowa State from The Master’s University, an NAIA school. She twice won the NAIA Player of the Year award but also tore the same ACL ahead of the 2020-21 season.

In her final year of eligibility with the Cyclones she made her case as a WNBA prospect. She averaged 14.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game through 13 games.

“This was not how I expected my season to end, but I am thankful for the opportunities I have gotten at Iowa State,” Soares said in a statement.

Paige Bueckers, UConn

The UConn star tore her ACL in a pick-up game before the season started, and an MRI confirmed that the junior would miss the entire 2022-23 season. Bueckers quickly announced that she would be returning for her senior year and not entering the WNBA draft.

This is the second injury Bueckers has sustained during her time at UConn. Last season, she missed several months with a tibial plateau fracture that required surgery. She returned to lead the Huskies to the 2022 national championship game, where they lost to South Carolina.

Bueckers, the No. 1 recruit in 2020, was named the AP Player of the Year and the Naismith Player of the Year during her freshman campaign. Last season, she averaged 14.6 points, four rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.

The 2020-21 National Player of the Year is out for the season with an ACL tear. (Khoi Ton/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Ice Brady, UConn

UConn’s bad injury luck also impacted the No. 5 recruit in the country. Brady is out for the year after suffering a non-contact injury in practice early in the season. She dislocated the patella in her right knee and underwent surgery in October.

Ayoka Lee, Kansas State

Like Bueckers, Lee watched her season end before it even began. The Kansas State center suffered a knee injury in August and underwent season-ending surgery. The senior said she will return to the Wildcats in 2023-24.

Lee has battled knee injuries for two seasons, and Kansas State initially thought they could do maintenance in the offseason to get their best player healthy enough to play.

The 6-foot-6 senior averaged 22 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest in 2021-22, setting the NCAA women’s single-game scoring record with 61 points against Oklahoma on Jan. 23.

Lauren Ware, Arizona

The junior forward, who helped Arizona to the national game as a freshman, is out for the season after injuring her knee in August.

Ware dislocated her patella in December 2021, but after missing four games she returned for the remainder of the 2021-22 calendar. She aggravated the injury during a practice in August, and while she tried to work her way back, she had season-ending surgery in November.

As a sophomore Ware started 24 of 25 games for Arizona, averaging 5.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest.

Madison Greene, Ohio State

Greene took over at point guard for Ohio State in place of injured Jacy Sheldon — until she went down with her own injury in a comeback win over USF on Dec. 20.

The redshirt junior fell to the floor holding her knee late in the fourth quarter. She left the court after several minutes and was unable to put weight on her left leg, and she will miss the rest of the season as a result of the injury.

Greene missed all of the 2021-22 season due to a knee injury that required surgery. This season, she appeared in 12 games, averaging 10.9 points and 5.0 assists per game.

Aaliyah Moore, Texas

The sophomore forward will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear, the Longhorns announced on Dec. 13.

The 6-1 forward left early in the team’s 107-54 win over Alabama State. She went down on a drive to the basket and was unable to put any weight on her leg as she left the floor.

Moore started all nine of Texas’ games before her injury, averaging  11.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest.

Texas has had an up-and-down start to the season with Rori Harmon sidelined. (Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

Returned to the court

Azzi Fudd, UConn

The sophomore exited her team’s game against Notre Dame on Dec. 4 after colliding with a teammate. While she returned after five weeks, she reinjured her knee in her second game back against Georgetown on Jan. 15, but returned for the Big East tournament.

Fudd is no stranger to injuries, as the guard tore her ACL and MCL in high school, and then missed 11 games during her freshman season at UConn with a foot injury. Prior to her previous injury, Fudd led UConn with 20.6 points per game.

McKenna Warnock, Iowa

Iowa’s senior forward injured her rib cage early in her team’s win over Michigan State on Jan. 18. She missed the Hawkeyes’ next game, an upset win over previously unbeaten Ohio State, and coach Lisa Bluder said Warnock would be day-to-day.

The senior made her return on Feb. 2 as Iowa defeated Maryland 96-82.

Kayla McPherson, North Carolina

The redshirt freshman guard made her first appearance for the Tar Heels in a win over Clemson on Jan. 29, after suffering a lower body injury during practice in October. She spent last season rehabbing a knee injury sustained in high school, and the second injury was unrelated.

McPherson has played three games for the Tar Heels, and is averaging 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

Ashley Owusu, Virginia Tech

The guard returned to action in a win over Pitt on Thursday, January 19 after missing a month of games.

She left the Hokies’ win over Nebraska on Dec. 1 due to an injury to her shooting hand. Owusu had broken her pinkie finger and underwent surgery, coach Kenny Brooks told ESPN on Dec. 15.

The Maryland transfer was averaging 10.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists through her first seven games with the Hokies.

Rori Harmon, Texas

The Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2021-22 missed the first five games of the year for Texas with a foot injury. She was seen wearing a boot during the Longhorns’ season opener, and was day-to-day until returning to the lineup in a 74-50 win over Princeton on Nov. 27.

Kayleigh Truong, Gonzaga

The Gonzaga guard suffered a foot injury during a Battle 4 Atlantis contest against Tennessee on Nov. 21.

The senior started five games for Gonzaga before her injury, averaging 9.4 points and 4.6 assists per game. She returned on Feb. 23.

Dorka Juhász, UConn

After breaking her thumb in an 83-76 win over Texas on Nov. 14, the UConn senior was expected to miss three games. She was sidelined for her team’s wins over NC State, Duke, Iowa and Providence as well as the loss to Notre Dame.

Juhász made her return in UConn’s win over Florida State on Dec. 18, finishing with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 assists.

Diamond Johnson, NC State

Johnson suffered an ankle injury on Dec. 11 as her team topped USF 65-57. The injury took place midway through the second quarter when she went up for a fast-break layup.

The junior guard returned on Jan. 5 from her four-game absence, contributing 18 points in a loss to Boston College.

Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State

Ohio State fans rejoiced on Feb. 5 as Sheldon returned to the court for the Buckeyes in her first appearance since Nov. 30. And though the celebration was short-lived thanks to a blowout loss at the hands of Maryland, Sheldon’s return bodes well for Ohio State.

The point guard had been out with a lower-leg injury since she logged 39 minutes against Louisville on Nov. 30. The program didn’t provide specifics on her injury, but she spent time on the sidelines in a walking boot.

Grace Berger, Indiana

The senior point guard injured her knee against Auburn on Nov. 25. She missed eight games before returning to the court in a dominant win against Northwestern on Jan. 8.

“It felt really great, almost like surreal because it feels like it’s been forever since I played a game,” Berger said. “Definitely a little nervous and really anxious at first. I feel really fortunate that I had a chance to get back out there with a good bit of the season left.”

Indiana star Grace Berger returned to the court on Jan. 8. (Rich Janzaruk/USA TODAY Sports)

After two months of anticipation, Ohio State announced the return of their star guard on Feb. 5 with a simple tweet: “Jacy Sheldon is available for today’s game at Maryland.”

Sheldon played four games to start the season before being sidelined with a lower leg injury. The details of the injury weren’t made public, but Sheldon was seen wearing a walking boot on the sidelines during several of her team’s games.

Prior to the injury, Sheldon was averaging 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. In her last appearance before being sidelined, Sheldon dropped 22 points to lead her team to victory over then-No. 18 Louisville.

Sheldon’s absence raised concerns for the Buckeyes, but against all odds they opened their season at 18-0 and crept up to No. 2 in the AP Poll. Ohio State even managed to maintain its unblemished record when Madison Greene suffered a season-ending ACL injury. But eventually, the injuries and fatigue caught up with the Buckeyes, who dropped three games in a row to Iowa, Indiana and Purdue in the final week of January.

Sheldon’s return seemed to come at the perfect time when the Buckeyes took on No. 8 Maryland on the road on Feb. 5. But the senior clearly wasn’t 100 percent, finishing with just five points in a 90-54 loss that Maryland controlled from start to finish.

Worse than the blowout loss was the fact that Sheldon was sidelined once more. After missing 20 games, she went back to street clothes for the Buckeyes’ next two contests — a win over Minnesota on Feb. 8 and a blowout 83-59 loss to Indiana on Monday.

“Nothing has changed,” coach Kevin McGuff told reporters following the win over Minnesota. “She still feels fine there, but just in terms of just getting her whole body back and going, we’re still sort of in management mode. We did have her practice a little bit. We’re still sort of just picking and choosing, making decisions how much to bring back right now.”

Forward Rebeka Mikulasikova sustained an ankle injury during the Minnesota game and was also absent for Ohio State’s loss to Indiana. It’s likely a high ankle sprain, according to McGuff. The Buckeyes haven’t given a timeline for her return, but high ankle sprains typically take twice as long to heal as low ankle sprains since ligaments are involved.

The Buckeyes have three regular-season games remaining against Penn State, No. 12 Michigan and No. 8 Maryland. Then comes the NCAA Tournament. For Ohio State to make a deep run in March, they will need Sheldon and Mikulasikova on the court. McGuff hasn’t specified a target date for their return, but keeping the two out for regular season games in anticipation of March Madness appears to be a smart move for the depleted squad.

Since they’ve lost five of their last seven games, Ohio State’s projected seeding has changed dramatically (from a potential No. 1 seed to a 4 or 5). More losses could mean an even lower seed. But the trade-off to having a healthy team in March might warrant the current drop.

The Buckeyes won’t get Greene back, but with both Sheldon and Mikulasikova on the court, the team looks dramatically different. On offense, Sheldon runs the point and is able to create off the bounce, which opens up both post players and shooters, like Taylor Mikesell, the team’s top scorer at 17.8 points per game.

At 6-4, Mikulasikova is the team’s only player over 6-foot who plays significant minutes. Without her, the Buckeyes are undersized. Offensively, she can also free up the paint by extending defenses with the ability to shoot 3-pointers, hitting from deep at a 35.2 percent clip.

Between the two, Ohio State is missing 26.6 points per game (32.3 percent of their total scoring).

In their absence, The Buckeyes have seen the development of freshman forward Cotie McMahon, a bright spot in the injury-riddled season. McMahon is averaging 14 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Against Minnesota, she scored 25 points — her second-highest mark this season — and she held her own against Indiana on Monday, with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists.

If Ohio State can get both Sheldon and Mikulasikova back, McMahon’s increased confidence will only help the Buckeyes. That’s the best-case scenario for this team heading into the postseason.

“Every season has inevitable highs and lows,” McGuff said earlier this month after the three-game losing streak. “Some are maybe not as extreme as 19-0 and three losses in a row, but they all have their highs and lows. If we can push ourselves to being the team that got us to 19-0 and then infuse Jacy back at the right time, then hopefully, we can be on an upswing down the stretch and peak heading into March.”

Maryland guard Diamond Miller called out the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes for their style of play in their 90-54 loss Sunday against No. 8 Terrapins.

“I was definitely [ticked] off. They were playing dirty,” said Miller, who flexed on her opponents at one point during the game. “Not really dirty, I guess, because people call me a dirty player, but they were very aggressive towards me, and I guess I just showed a little of what real aggression is.”

The game provided the Terrapins with a statement win after they lost handily Thursday on the road against No. 6 Iowa. Maryland took advantage of an Ohio State team that had lost three of its last four entering Sunday, and now has dropped four of its last five – including a loss to unranked Purdue.

For Maryland, though, the win was a reset after the team was dismantled by Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes.

“I was extremely frustrated after the Iowa game,” Miller said, “just because I felt like we did not perform the way we needed to perform for that game, and we knew we were capable of competing and beating teams like Iowa.

“So coming out today was extremely crucial for us just to show that we can play 40 minutes and we are one of the top contenders in the Big Ten.”

Miller led the team with 29 points and 10 rebounds, while Abby Meyers added 22 points. The Terps also held one of the top teams in the country to a season low in points.

“I absolutely believe that we made a statement,”  said guard Shyanne Sellers, who had 19 points and nine assists. “If people don’t believe it, they’re going to have to find out when they play us.”

Ohio State’s athletics department has been hit with sanctions – including four years probation – as a result of self-reported recruiting and policy violations in three women’s sports.

Women’s basketball, golf and fencing all reported violations to the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions between 2015 and 2019. The university imposed a postseason ban for all three sports in 2020-21.

The violations in women’s basketball were in relation to former associate coach Patrick Klein, who admitted his violations in an August 2019 resignation letter.

“As part of his efforts to establish personal relationships with student-athletes, the associate head coach provided them with impermissible benefits, including paying for manicures, loaning money for rental cars, and purchasing textbooks for a student-athlete who was not on scholarship,” the report said.

As a result, the basketball team will have 52 of its wins vacated. Additionally, its Big Ten regular season titles in 2017 and 2018 and its 2018 conference tournament championship will be forfeited.

The Buckeyes shared the 2022 regular season crown with Iowa.

In golf, the team was found to have gone over set practice times while fencing recruits were given free meals, lessons and access to the OSU facility.

“I’m proud of our university, athletics department, and the involved sport programs for our management of this matter,” Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said in a statement. “We are committed to our proactive and pre-existing system of compliance methods and rules education.”