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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
399,067 16,509 4.1% 1.3% 1.2% 1.7%

Sources: High school figures come from the 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.  College numbers are from the NCAA’s 2018-19 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report. These college numbers account for participation in college athletics at NCAA-member schools only.

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
16,509 3,669 36 31 0.8% 6.9%
  • WNBA draft data from 2019.  There were 36 draft slots in that year’s draft, 31 of which went to NCAA players (other selections were international players not attending U.S. colleges).  All 31 NCAA selections came from Division I colleges.  Percentage NCAA to Major Pro calculated using the 31 NCAA selections.
  • We estimate that 2.8% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2019 WNBA draft (31/ 1,120), while approximately 13% 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 2019 (25 / 200), 
  • 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 2018 WNBA draftees to calculate an approximate NCAA to Total Professional opportunities figure (calculated as [32 + 223] / 3,692 = 6.9%).   
  • Using these figures, it is estimated that 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 20, 2020