Over the course of the last 25 years, the WNBA has seen its share of stars carrying the banner for the league. You know those names. But for the rest of its players — for reasons beyond the capacity of this piece — they haven’t received their due share of the limelight. However, since the turn of the decade, the league has seen unprecedented rapid growth. With the leading names of the league now in the form of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart, and second year thriller Sabrina Ionescu, the momentum and hype around the league is growing with no signs of slowing down.
With regard to the card hobby, Sabrina Ionescu’s highly sought-after rookie card has played an obvious role in driving the market upward. Robbed of a true rookie year with a season ending injury two games into the WNBA bubble, her rookie card value has been climbing since the 2021 season tipped off in May, with her game-winning shot and triple-double performances providing an even greater boost.
The WNBA is unique in that its season is just 36 games, making the window for hype relatively short. Add in the fact that there is only one set of officially licensed trading cards, the scarcity and limited volume of cards is also playing a role in the upward trend in the marketplace. The 2020 Panini Prizm WNBA set is littered with the handful of stars we all know, as well as a robust collection of exciting rookies (who are now second year players). But what about some of the league’s rising stars you may not be familiar with? Below you will find five players I believe you should be looking to add to your collection.
Jewell Loyd — Guard, Seattle Storm
It feels a little strange to be talking about a number one overall pick as a sleeper, but for the sake of folks in the hobby who aren’t familiar — here’s your intro. The former Notre Dame guard is averaging 20.7 points per game through 10 games this season and has already hit two game winners. Seattle currently sits in first place in the west, but veteran stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart usually claim most of the headlines. Jewell has been the standout performer for her squad, and is an early leader in the WNBA MVP conversation.
Chennedy Carter — Guard, Atlanta Dream
Chennedy is a player I’m personally very excited about. The 5’9” second year guard out of Texas A&M came in second place in Rookie of The Year voting in 2020 (and might have won the award if not for an ankle injury that kept her out for six games). What’s arguably most exciting about Carter is her ability to go off in a game. She became the youngest player in WNBA history to score 30 points at 21 years old when she dropped 35 on Seattle last year. In six games so far this season, Chennedy is averaging a respectable 15.7 points per game. When you talk about star potential, Carter has it.
Arike Ogunbowale — Guard, Dallas Wings
Ogunbowale is a Notre Dame product who’s averaging 22.1 points through nine games this season. The 24-year-old is a versatile guard who loves to shoot. Arike is no stranger to the limelight either. In the 2018 NCAA Championships she hit both game-winning shots in the semi-final and championship game; that type of confidence knows no bounds. Keep an eye on her and expect to see her name attached to endless highlight reels throughout her career.
Marina Mabrey — Guard, Dallas Wings
The 5’11” guard out of Notre Dame (are you noticing a trend here?) has officially had her coming out party in the WNBA. Her first two seasons with Dallas brought mixed reviews averaging just 7 ppg as a role player. In 2021, she has started six out of nine games, averaging 18.8 ppg. That’s second only to Arike Ogunbowale’s 22.1 ppg. Both players are leading a young Dallas Wings team which has lost five games this season by a combined 16 points. Though their record may not show it right now, the Wings are built to compete for years to come, and you should expect Mabrey’s stock to rise along the way.
A’ja Wilson — Forward, Las Vegas Aces
Another number one overall pick (2019), A’Ja has all the making of a future WNBA star for both her play on the court and personality off of it. The 6’4” forward is averaging 18.6 points per game alongside the Aces other star center Liz Cambage (16 ppg), providing a killer one-two punch for the second place Aces. With silky guard Kelsey Plum dishing the rock, expect A’ja to have many game-leading performances this season.
If you want to take your interest in the WNBA to another level, the WNBA league pass is currently $17 for the entire season, with a free one-week trial to start.