Age of WNBA Players: From the Youngest Stars to Veteran Legends

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) features some of the best professional basketball players in the world. There is great diversity in age among WNBA players – from fresh-faced rookies just starting their careers, to seasoned veterans with 15+ years of experience under their belts. This article will explore the age range of WNBA players, meet some of the youngest rising stars and most veteran legends, and break down what impacts age has on player performance.

KeyTakeaways:

  • Average player age sits at 27.3 years showcasing primes blended with promising youth and wise veterans.
  • Budding 21-year-old talents like Aliyah Boston and Jade Melbourne represent the next generation.
  • Diana Taurasi continues excelling at 41 years old as the oldest active WNBA legend.
  • League eligibility rules generally require reaching age 22 domestically or 20 internationally to qualify for the draft.

What is the age limit for WNBA?

The WNBA eligibility rules state that players must be at least 22 years old or have completed their college eligibility to be drafted into the league. There are occasional exceptions where particularly gifted players may choose to bypass finishing college and enter the draft early at age 20 or 21.

International players from outside the U.S. have more flexibility on the age limit. If they turn 20 in the same year as the draft, they are eligible.

So while 22 is the common draft entry age, exceptions allow for both younger and older rookies to make their WNBA debuts. Some college stars aim to enter the pros immediately at age 22 after graduating, while others find their way after careers overseas or in other occupations.

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Meet the Youngest WNBA Players of 2024

Though most rookies enter around age 22-23, a few talented young stars defy the norm. Here are three of the youngest WNBA players who started their pro careers early while still in college under age 22:

Caitlin Clark, G, Iowa

Age: 20 years old

Draft Year: 2023, 1st Round (#1 overall)

Known for her sharpshooting and crafty ball-handling, Caitlin Clark skipped her final 2 years at Iowa after winning several National Player of the Year awards. She aims to quickly become one of the faces of the WNBA at just 20 years old after getting drafted 1st overall in 2023 by the Minnesota Lynx.

Cameron Brink, C, Stanford

Age: 21 years old

Draft Year: 2023, 1st Round (#2 overall)

The skilled 6’4” center only spent two years dominating college basketball at Stanford before going pro. With excellent mobility and shooting ability for her size, Cameron Brink brings unique matchup problems. She’ll shore up the interior defense alongside 2022 MVP Breanna Stewart on the Seattle Storm after getting picked 2nd overall in 2023.

Charisma Osborne, G, Louisville

Age: 20 years old

Draft Year: 2023, 1st Round (#5 overall)

Charisma Osborne capped her sophomore season at Louisville by winning ACC Player of the Year before declaring for the 2023 draft. She’s an athletic scoring threat with lockdown defensive capabilities. Osborne went 5th overall to the Dallas Wings at only 20 years old, set to be a highlight reel regular early in her promising career.

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Decades of Domination: The WNBA’s Most Experienced Veterans

While young stars capture headlines, decorated veterans keep excelling into their late 30’s and even 40’s. Playing 15+ years puts them among the oldest in league history. Here are three current players defying time with their enduring all-star production:

Diana Taurasi, G, Phoenix Mercury

Age: 40 years old

WNBA Experience: 17th season

Diana Taurasi is still operating at an elite level despite entering her 18th WNBA campaign in 2024 at age 40. With 3 championships and a record 9,693 career points, her brilliant skillset has aged beautifully. Taurasi shows no signs of slowing down yet as the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Sylvia Fowles, C, Minnesota Lynx

Age: 37 years old

WNBA Experience: 15th season

Even in the twilight of her career, Sylvia Fowles remains the Lynx’s go-to weapon inside with her 6’6” frame and high motor. Her final WNBA season at age 37 comes on the heels of 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards. She’s still averaging a dependable double-double during the 2023 playoffs.

Sue Bird, G, Seattle Storm

Age: 42 years old

WNBA Experience: 19th season

Going strong with 12 all-star appearances in her unparalleled 19-year career, savvy veteran Sue Bird is the oldest active player in the WNBA. Though no longer the outright star at age 42, her leadership and crunch-time shot-making are integral for Seattle’s title hopes before she likely retires after 2024.

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Unpacking the Years: A Look at the Average Age in the WNBA

age-of-wnba-players
age-of-wnba-players

Taking all 147 players across 12 teams into account during the 2023 season, the average age of a WNBA player was 28.2 years old. This puts most players squarely in their athletic prime with several years of professional experience.

The WNBA median age was slightly lower at 27 meaning about half of the league was above this marker, and half below.

Populating the majority of WNBA rosters were veterans:

  • 22.4% of players fell in the 25-27 year old range
  • 16.3% were in the 31-33 year old bracket

On the opposite ends of the age spectrum in 2023:

  • Just 10 rookies out of 147 players were under 22 years old
  • Only 9 players (6%) were over the age of 35

So while the young burgeoning stars and savvy veterans facing retirement get lots of buzz, most WNBA players are established talents in their late 20’s.

Analyzing team-by-team shows some interesting age variance across the league however:

The youngest teams in 2023:

  1. Atlanta Dream – Average age of 25.4 years
  1. Indiana Fever – Average age of 25.6 years
  1. Dallas Wings – Average age of 25.8 years

The oldest teams in 2023:

  1. Seattle Storm – Average age of 30.4 years
  1. Phoenix Mercury – Average age of 30.1 years
  1. Minnesota Lynx – Average age of 29.8 years

Seattle and Phoenix leaning veteran heavy to chase championships explains their higher averages, while young rebuilding squads like Atlanta and Indiana featuring recent top draft picks trends younger.

But across the board, almost all teams feature diverse blends of younger and older players balancing out the average.

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Path to the WNBA: Age & Eligibility

Path to the WNBA: Age & Eligibility
Path to the WNBA: Age & Eligibility

The average rookie is 22 years old, but there is significant variation in players’ paths reaching the world’s premier women’s basketball league. Education status, nationality, and previous playing history all impact eligibility.

College Experience

For most aspiring domestic players based in the U.S., competing for their college program is the typical requirement before entering draft eligibility. High school stars choose from top tier women’s basketball schools and play all 4 years improving their skills and visibility.

However, approximately 33% of draftees choose to leave college early after their junior or sophomore seasons once they feel ready and have garnered enough interest from WNBA scouts.

Going pro before getting their degrees often comes down to financial considerations and starting to earn sooner from lucrative WNBA salaries or sponsorship deals. Players can always return to finish later.

Overseas Detours

A decent portion of WNBA athletes take alternative paths reaching the big leagues too, especially international players. Stars from Australia, Europe, South America and more play profession­ally overseas first rather than U.S. college hoops.

For American players who get overlooked out of high school, honing skills on foreign pro teams for several years then returning to make WNBA rosters is an option too. These unique stories can mean rookies finally debuting at ages 23, 25 or older.

Career Changes

In special cases, bold WNBA hopefuls have daringly switched sports or stepped away after college assuming hoops dreams were done…only to triumphantly come back.

Inspirational role model Rebekah Gardner entered the pros at the remarkably “late” rookie age of 32 years old in 2023 after stints playing professionally overseas. She detailed leaving basketball for a few years working a regular job due to depression and wanting to find herself, making her return to achieve WNBA glory even sweeter.

How Age Impacts Player Performance?

Determining exactly how age influences on-court production requires analyzing some key performance indicators. Studies have uncovered intriguing trends that both veteran wisdom and youthful energy shine through across seasons:

Scoring

WNBA players generally peak in scoring around age 28. Output dips slightly for a few years then declines more steeply entering the mid-30’s. Shooting percentage follows a similar arc staying consistent until the late 20’s and dipping down through the 30’s.

However, despite lowering raw point totals, some craftier veterans keep their efficiency steady later into careers by taking smarter shots.

Rebounding

Rebounding peaks sooner aligned with athletic primes in the early-to-mid 20’s for most athletes. Numbers gradually decrease from there with age causing the biggest drops in the mid-30’s.

The very best glass cleaners can still crash boards effectively relying on positioning, strength, and technique rather than vertical leap.

Assists

Unlike scoring and rebounding, assists increase later peaking from age 30-35~ assisted by experience and court vision before tailing off. Wise veteran point guards keep racking up dimes relying on their pristine skill and BBIQ rather than raw physical gifts.

Blocks & Steals

These measures of defensive disruption follow more expected age-related declines. Both peak by the mid-20’s aligning with quickness and bounce before dropping gradually. The very best defenders manage maintaining decent steal and block rates later on, but most fade.

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