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Twenty-five years ago, Howard University alumna Denique Graves made history by becoming the first player from an HBCU to be selected in the WNBA draft. Over two decades after that monumental moment, Jackson State University grad Ameshya Williams-Holliday is now carrying the torch. According to CBS Sports, she became the first HBCU scholar to be drafted by a WNBA team in 20 years.
The Gulfport native, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, was the No. 25 overall pick and is taking her talents to the Indiana Fever. Williams-Holliday’s road to greatness has been far from an easy feat.
She initially was recruited to join the women’s basketball squad at Mississippi State, but in 2017 she stopped playing because she didn’t find basketball enjoyable anymore. After becoming a mother, she rediscovered her passion for the game and joined the team at Jackson State.
Williams-Holliday’s college basketball career has been nothing short of triumphant. Standing at 6-foot-4, the center made her presence felt on both the offensive and defensive ends. She holds three SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Awards and averaged a double-double with 19.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this past season.
She stands on the shoulders of former WNBA players who graduated from HBCUs like Graves, Karen Wilkins, Andrea Gardner, Jaclyn Winfield and Amba Kongolo. Williams-Holliday’s achievement brings attention to the need for greater representation of HBCU athletes within the league. There currently are no active players from historically Black colleges and universities in the WNBA.
Williams-Holliday says she wants to use her journey to ensure HBCU alums have a strong presence within professional sports. “It’s an honor, a dream come true, and a blessing to be able to be a part of history and to be able to open doors for our HBCU community,” she shared in a statement, according to WBAL-TV.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to continue my career on the next level and, most importantly, to continue to be a great example for my son Jace and my younger siblings and for the kids in my community. I want every HBCU athlete to never lose hope and to know anything is possible.”