WNBA players are scattered around the world during the offseason. Between Asia, Australia, and the EuroLeague, players from all 12 teams are competing in over a dozen countries around the world. Click here for an interactive map of the location of WNBA players abroad and see the most recent list below (subject to change, as not all players will be spending the entire winter abroad). Some will come back as others are just leaving, so stay tuned. [Player listing as of November 15, 2012].
Below we have compiled Five Things to Know for WNBA fans who would like to keep up with their favorite players competing abroad while the WNBA is in offseason mode.
1) FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
WNBA players love playing in Russia, as 18 current WNBAers are rostered on six different Russian teams (UMMC, Dynamo Moscow, Spartak, Nadezhda, Dynamo Kursk and Chekavata).
UMMC in Yekaterinburg is the class of the Russian League thus far this season, sporting a 6-0 domestic league record [as of Dec, 5, 2012], thanks in large part to a star-studded roster including WNBA MVP's Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks). Three-time WNBA Champion with the Detroit Shock Deanna Nolan and current Seattle Storm player Ewelina Kobryn are also key contributors for UMMC, while Sue Bird is on the squad's roster but has yet to get any game action as she's recuperating from post-WNBA season surgery.
Crystal Langhorne and Kristi Toliver (Dynamo Moscow), Seimone Augustus, Becky Hammon and Candice Dupree (Spartak), Renee Montgomery and DeWanna Bonner (Nadezhda) and Epiphanny Prince and Temeka Johnson (Dynamo Kursk) are some of the other top WNBA players to be plying their trade in the former Soviet Union during the offseason.
2) TURKISH DELIGHT
Turkey is currently the second most popular destination for WNBA players competing abroad, with 15 WNBAers rostered on nine different Turkish clubs.
Four WNBA players competed on four different Chinese teams last year, but their has been significant growth of WNBA player exports in the Far East this year, with more than double the WNBA players (9) playing for double the amount of teams (9) in China for 2012-13. Additionally, four South Korean clubs have signed WNBA players: Woori Bank Hansea (Nakia Sanford), Shinhan Bank (Cathrine Kraayeveld), Samsung Life Bichumi (Amber Harris) and KB Stars (Lynetta Kizer).
WNBA representation in China has not only doubled in number, but there has been a signficant upgrade in star power. 2012 WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player and U.S. Olympic Team Co-Captain Tamika Catchings, fresh off her first WNBA championship with the Indiana Fever, is playing for Guangdong, while 2011 Rookie of the Year and fellow U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx is leading the way for the Shanxi Xing Rui Flames squad.
4) ONE LEAGUE, TWO LEAGUE, RED LEAGUE, BLUE LEAGUE
Fans of WNBA players competing abroad during the WNBA offseason may find themselves with a case of "league fatigue" when faced with all the different leagues featuring their favorite WNBA stars.
Here's a quick explanation.
Most WNBAers are playing for teams that compete in the domestic league of the country they are playing in. So, Parker and Taurasi are playing in the Russian League and McCoughtry and Pondexter are in the Turkish League. The European teams, however, are ALSO competing in a larger, and in many respects more competitive and more prestigious league called the EuroLeague, which pits the top domestic teams from individual countries (ie. UMMC in Russia and Fenerbahce in Turkey) in a European wide tournament.
Fans of college basketball can think of it like Brittney Griner and Baylor University compete in the Big 12 where they face conference foes in pursuit of a conference championship. Additionally, Griner and Baylor will appear in the NCAA tournament, where the top teams in each conference are matched up in tournament crowning the best of the best as the National Champion. The domestic European leagues are akin to the conferences, while the EuroLeague is similar to the NCAA Tournament, including a Final Four.
5) HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
While the vast majority of WNBA players competing abroad are doing so in a foreign land, there are a few players who are actually going home to play during the WNBA offseason.
Three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson has signed with the Canberra Capitols in her native Australia and while Jackson has not yet played for Canberra due to injury, they are happy to have her Down Under. Fellow Aussie Jenna O'Hea of the Los Angeles Sparks also headed home, where she is playing for Dandenong Rangers.
The Atlanta Dream's Erika de Souza and Washington Mystic Izzy Castro-Marques are also in familiar surroundings during the WNBA offseason, as de Souza is playing at Recife and Castro-Marques at Maranhao, both in their native Brazil.