The College-To-Pro Transition



Ros Gold-Onwude

What was your experience like when you were just beginning your career in the WNBA?

I struggled as a rookie. There are many higher-level aspects of the game that you have to understand quickly. Not to mention the physical aspect. I wasn’t ready physically. It makes sense that in clutch periods, coaches usually relied on the veteran players.

Is that how it is for most rookies and young players in the league today?

I think young players today have a lot of expectations coming out of college. The college game has become more high profile and gets a lot of attention so many players expect the same results immediately in the WNBA. The expectation was different when I came in- I think players relished the opportunity to even play professionally in the U.S. Everyone quickly realizes that this is a different level; moving from college to the pros means you could be playing with someone on your team that has a ten-year age gap on you. You are competing with grown women, all of whom have experience over you.

What is the reality that waits for players talented enough to advance from the collegiate ranks to the pro level?

The biggest realization for college players entering the pro level is that there are no givens. There is no pre-scheduled plan for you. No one tells you what to do. You eat, lift weights and do extra workouts on your own. Whenever you walk into the gym it’s all on you. The reality is this is your livelihood now. You are employed to do this.

With limited space on rosters and many returning veterans, is there enough room for young talent to properly funnel into the WNBA?

Yes, there are spots in the league for just-graduated collegiate players. But there are a lot of vets in the league who are still putting up solid numbers. You can’t argue with the production so it’s not like vets are taking up roster spots. Often the coach will choose to play an experienced player over and inexperienced one. Many of the vets understand how to succeed at this level and have a lot left to give. There are certainly sports for young players, but they may struggle with the 11-player roster because there isn’t a lot of time to teach. With little time, a fast moving season and a short roster, “experience” may be chosen over “potential” and those young players who do make the cut will be thrown into the fire.

How did you eventually find your way on the court and develop a niche for yourself?

I did anything I could to find time on the court. I would dive on the ball for a loose ball. I would be the player taking a charge and doing any little thing that helped my team, and in turn helped me find a way on the court. I became a tough, hustling player. I learned to think the game better, I got stronger, and picked up moves that made the most of my speed in the paint. I relished my moments on the court