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Women's Basketball: Probability of competing beyond high school

When we survey NCAA student-athletes about their expectations of moving on to professional athletics careers, the results indicate surprising confidence in that possibility. The reality is that very few go pro.

Estimated probability of competing in women's college basketball athletics

High School Participants NCAA Participants Overall % HS to NCAA % HS to NCAA Division I % HS to NCAA Division II % HS to NCAA Division III
412,407 16,614 4.0% 1.2% 1.2% 1.6%

Sources: High school figures from the 2017-18 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations; data from club teams not included. College numbers from the NCAA 2017-18 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report.

Estimated probability of competing in women's professional basketball

NCAA Participants Approximate # Draft Eligible # Draft Picks # NCAA Drafted % NCAA to Major Pro % NCAA to Total Pro
16,614 3,674 36 32 0.9% 6.9%
  • WNBA draft data from 2018.  There were 36 draft slots in that year’s draft, 32 of which went to NCAA players (other selections were international players not attending U.S. colleges).  All 32 NCAA selections came from Division I colleges.  Percentage NCAA to Major Pro calculated using the 32 NCAA selections.
  • Data on international professional opportunities in women’s basketball were collected by NCAA staff with the assistance of Marek Wojtera from eurobasket.com, and are limited to the 2018 draft cohort.  It was determined that an additional 223 former NCAA student-athletes from the cohort played internationally in 2018-19 (208 from Division I, 13 from Division II and 2 from Division III).  These numbers were combined with the WNBA draftees to calculate an approximate NCAA to Total Professional opportunities figure (calculated as [32 + 223] / 3,692 = 6.9%).   
  • We estimate that 2.8% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2018 WNBA draft (32/ 1,124).  However, in total, 21% of draft-eligible Division I players competed professionally (WNBA or internationally) in their first year after leaving college (calculated as [32 + 208] / 1,124). Approximately 12% of draft-eligible players from the five Division I conferences with autonomous governance (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) were drafted by the WNBA in 2018 (24 / 204), while 41% played professionally somewhere in their first year post-college (calculated as [24 + 59] / 204).

Last Updated: April 3, 2019