Ameshya Williams-Holliday of Jackson State was picked by the Indiana Fever, breaking the WNBA’s drought of HBCU players. The Fever selected the Lady Tigers center with the 25th overall pick, making her the first HBCU player drafted since 2002.
On Monday night, dozens of Ameshya Williams-Closest Holiday’s friends, family, coaches, and former teammates gathered in Gulfport, Mississippi, to watch her join the WNBA.
They weren’t disappointed, and neither was the nervous 6-foot-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Player of the Year from Jackson State University.
Williams-Holliday was taken with the 25th overall choice by the Indiana Fever, making her the first woman to be drafted from a historically black college or university (HBCU) since 2002.
After the draft, Williams-Holliday noted, “It simply felt great.” “I couldn’t stop smiling.” I couldn’t stop smiling, and I couldn’t stop crying tears of delight. “It was insane.”
Despite being projected as a third-round pick by scouts, Williams-Holliday was skeptical that she would hear her name called on Monday night. Only five HBCU players had previously been drafted to the WNBA: Howard’s Denique Graves (1997), Karen Wilkins (1998), and Andrea Gardner (2002), North Carolina Central’s Amba Kongolo (2002), and Southern’s Jaclyn Winfield (2002). (2002).
“I was nervous the entire time,” Williams-Holliday admitted. Well, I’ve been nervous since I awoke,” says the narrator.
Williams-Holliday felt her anxiety grow as the first round came and went while watching the draft with her family and friends by her side. The second round was the same.
She felt a knot in her stomach moments before the start of the third and final round. Her agent then called to tell her that the Dallas Wings, Phoenix Mercury, and Fever were all in talks to sign her. She fell silent when ESPN’s ticker at the bottom of the screen flashed the first pick of the third round.
“I received the call before seeing it on the screen.” I had a Zoom call with Dallas, and a follow-up call with Indiana was scheduled. Then another team contacted my coach, but I had a feeling Indiana would choose me. But I was still undecided. As a result, it still surprised me. “
After nearly quitting basketball for good five years ago, the center has accomplished something that only about 1% of all NCAA women’s basketball players can claim.
The fact that Williams-Holliday was drafted caught the attention of other HBCU athletes, including Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, an alumnus of South Carolina State who understands how difficult it is for most players to get drafted out of an HBCU.
Williams-Holliday, the SWAC Player of the Year and back-to-back SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, led Jackson State with 19.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game this season.
She led the SWAC in four statistical categories, including points, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage (57.8%), and tied for sixth nationally with 22 double-doubles.
Watching Williams-Holliday get drafted was a dream come true for Jackson State head coach Tomekia Reed. Reed went viral on social media before the draft for a passionate speech she gave after Jackson State’s NCAA tournament loss to LSU in the first round about breaking down barriers for HBCU players.
“We’re going to go all out with this [draft pick] and take it as far as we can.” This allows us to recruit some of the best players in the country.
They used to say, “We don’t want to go to HBCUs because you guys can’t get players drafted.” So, what’s the excuse now? ” Reed remarked. “This gives us the opportunity to go out and recruit quality players for our program.” Now we have some clout.
Both Reed and Williams-Holliday are ecstatic that Williams-Holliday was able to end the WNBA’s 20-year HBCU draft drought, and they hope that the next HBCU athlete will be selected sooner rather than later.
“Getting drafted means a lot to me,” Williams-Holliday said. “I’m simply delighted that I kept making history, and that the people who come after me will have the chance to keep that history going.” It is possible to achieve anything. Being drafted, I believe, opens a lot of doors. I believe you can do it regardless of the school you attend. All you have to do now is keep working hard. Continue to push forward. “Never, ever give up.”
“This is a knocked-down door,” Reed continued. She’ll open doors for future players to follow in her footsteps, not just at Jackson State, but throughout our HBCU community. “
On Monday, Williams-Holliday was the sixth of the Fever’s seven draft picks, and he’ll compete for a position on the team’s official roster at training camp in May.
The Fever concluded last season with a league-worst 6-26 record. The Fever are rebuilding in order to make their first postseason appearance in five years, and Reed believes the Fever are a wonderful place for her former center to make her mark.
“She’s not under any duress,” Reed added. “She’s in a situation similar to when she came to Jackson State [in 2019] after having a baby, to a failing program, and she absolutely took over.”
She was instrumental in making this program what it is today. She knows how to take control of a situation. There’s only one way to go, and that’s up, and she can certainly assist that program in making some significant progress. “
Mia Berry is Andscape’s senior HBCU reporter, covering everything from sports to student-led protests. She’s a native Detroiter (What up Doe! ), a long-suffering Detroit sports fan, and a Notre Dame alum who exclaims, “Go Irish!” at random times.