'It's really cutthroat:' In a year harder than most to make a WNBA roster, rookies contemplate next steps after being cut, deciding to sit out or making a team

Alexa Philippou, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Basketball

Gillespie has been designated as non-active for the full season, meaning that, unlike a waived player, she can't play in the WNBA at all this year. But her rights will be retained by the Sky, and she was told she's guaranteed a spot in training camp next season. In the meantime, she intends to spend this next year getting into WNBA shape and developing her game.

Among this year's draftees, three international players and two of the Atlanta Dream's picks also chose to sit out 2020.

"I think it sets me up for the chance to make that Chicago Sky roster and be on a team where they're really interested in my skillset and what I have to offer," Gillespie said. "It also gives me an opportunity to work on those things that I necessarily wouldn't have been the best at going into training camp this season."

Gillespie could have taken her chances this year and tried to find an opportunity with another team, but she went with what she saw as the less risky move.

"I just looked at it realistically," Gillespie said. "A lot of teams had to make a lot of tough decisions, and they had to waive players that they probably didn't necessarily want to waive because they haven't gotten the chance to really check out their skills. I felt that it was just smarter for me to stay somewhere and actually get the opportunity to play in front of them than to roll the dice and see if another team would pick me when they had people that they couldn't necessarily keep."

Kaila Charles knows that her work isn't over just because she landed a spot on the Sun's roster. The two rookies Connecticut started the 2019 season with (Kristine Anigwe and Bridget Carleton) were either traded or waived by early August.

"It's really cutthroat in a way," said Charles, who was taken No. 23 overall. "I wish we could have more teams and then more people could play. But it is very hard to make a roster, and I see that now, actually experiencing it."

Even though she made the cut, she's seen what happened this year with her peers. Five of the 12 teams didn't keep a 2020 draft selection. Charles was the sole player selected in the second half of the draft to make a roster.


"It really does hurt to see that," Charles said. "This whole situation is kind of unfair. ... As a competitor, I know how much I wanted to be on the court to prove myself, and so I feel for these other girls."

That reality makes Charles all the more motivated to work harder. She does whatever she can to stay sharp and in shape, both through the Sun's organized workouts and other activities on her own. And once she finally gets to step on the court with her new teammates, she wants to reaffirm to her team that she belongs there.

"It just gives me so much confidence that they believe in me and think of me so highly as a player, and being able to have that opportunity -- especially going second round -- is just a blessing," Charles said. "It gives me confidence that my coaching staff believes in me, and that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be."

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