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This Week in Women’s Basketball: Tiffany Hayes closes door on 11-season WNBA career

The surprising retirement of Tiffany Hayes from the WNBA highlights last week’s women’s hoops news. We also learned when Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball will return and that Iowa star Caitlin Clark is a Gatorade athlete.

Dallas Wings v Atlanta Dream
After 11 seasons, Tiffany Hayes has decided to retire from the WNBA.
Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s the latest developments and happenings from across the world of women’s hoops:


A tip of the hat to Tip Hayes

All the best to Tiffany Hayes, who announced her retirement on from the WNBA on Wednesday. On the “Counted Me Out” podcast, Hayes revealed, “It’s the end. You can still catch me overseas. WNBA—this right here with the Connecticut Sun was my last season.”

Hayes, who won a pair of national championships with the UConn Huskies in 2009 and 2010, spent the first 10 seasons of her career with the Atlanta Dream before her final single season with the Sun. She further clarified her decision, sharing, “It’s a lot of things. I really feel like I’m older now. I’ve got a lot of stuff that I really always wanted to get into, but I’m so busy because I’m playing year-round. ... Plus my body, playing 11 seasons straight with no breaks, every year, two seasons in a year every time—that’s a lot.”

A few years ago, we declared Hayes the best No. 14 draft pick in WNBA history. It’s a status she seems unlikely to cede.

While she finishes her career with averages of 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 per game, along with one All-Star (2017), one All-Defensive (2018) and one All-WNBA (2018) honor, her stats and awards do not accurately capture her impact on the court. Even as 34-year old in her final season, Hayes remained one of the league’s quickest, craftiest players, ever a threat to find her way to the rim in a flash. Hayes’ improvement as a 3-point shooter made her an even more dangerous offensive player. She also showed little decline on the defensive end, utilizing her athleticism to consistently cause trouble for opposing perimeter players.

Upon Hayes’ announcement, Sun head coach Stephanie White said:

We are so grateful for the season we had with Tip. She is the ultimate competitor and professional. She plays with passion, toughness, competes on both ends and leaves it all on the floor. I said it all season long. She’s one of the few players in the history of league that can get downhill and beat people with that quick first step. She is elite in every sense of the word. We wish Tip the best and congratulate her on an outstanding career.

Currently, Hayes is still showing off the breadth of her skill set in China. She’s been hooping in the WCBA, with back-to-back 39-point and 38-point performances for Shanghai.

Caitlin Clark joins Gatorade

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark has added to her portfolio of NIL deals, signing with Gatorade. Clark is the second women’s college basketball player to endorse Gatorade, with the first being UConn’s Paige Bueckers. On the becoming a Gatorade athlete, Clark said:

Gatorade fuels some of the greatest athletes in sport, as well as ones I have looked up to growing up, so it’s a dream come true joining the Gatorade Family. Gatorade also shares my competitive mindset of wanting to be the best, and that commitment to excellence extends beyond the court, too. We share similar values in terms of wanting to lead and inspire the next generation, so I’m excited to leverage our collective platforms to make an impact.

For Clark, part of that impact will be a $22,000 donation by Gatorade to the Caitlin Clark Foundation.

Understanding UConn’s injury woes

During the WNBA season, we periodically checked in on Lucas Seehafer’s WNBA injury database at The Next. Last week, Seehafer offered commentary on the rash of injuries that have befallen the UConn Huskies over the last four seasons.

On Friday, Ayanna Patterson was added to the list, as the sophomore forward underwent season-ending surgery on her left knee. She joins junior wing Azzi Fudd and freshman big Jana El Alfy on the shelf for the remainder of the 2023-24 season; Fudd tore her ACL in practice just before Thanksgiving, while El Alfy ruptured her Achilles when competing for Egypt at the 2023 FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup in July. Junior Caroline Ducharme also is sidelined with neck spasms; this is the second-straight season that a combination of head and neck issues have kept her off the court.

Seehafer emphasizes that, “Injuries are multi-factorial.” And while informed studies and hypotheses can point to some factors, from overtraining or undertraining to inadequate diet and/or sleep to biomechanical imbalances, bad luck also is a—or even the most—determinative factor. In short, UConn is not unique; rather, the Huskies’ injury issues stand as the unfortunate, extreme example of the increased injury incidence across women’s basketball in recent years.

Mystics moving to Capital One Arena

Somewhat lost in the coverage of the announcement that the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals will be moving to a new arena in Alexandria, VA was the news that the Mystics are expected to play in Capital One Arena. It is unclear if the Mystics will make this move for the 2024 season and/or for all home games.

The anticipated move is interesting in context with the failed WNBA expansion bids. The disputed availability of the Moda Center has been cited as the reason that, for now, Portland will not welcome a WNBA team for the 2025 season. The league’s dissatisfaction with the University of Denver’s Magness Arena reportedly stalled Denver’s bid, while Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s reluctance to promise that all games would be played at Scotiabank Arena, home of the Raptors and Maple Leafs, contributed to the sinking of Toronto’s expansion prospects. WNBA Golden State, in contrast, will play in San Francisco’s Chase Center, home of the Warriors.

That the Mystics’ organization went to great lengths to embrace the community surrounding Entertainment and Sports Arena, the facility constructed for the Mystics and G-League’s Capital City Go-Go in southeast DC, makes the potential move curious. Unless, as the degree to which the desire for regulation-size arenas has appeared to factor in the league’s expansion decisions suggests, the WNBA is urging organizations to play in larger facilities.

AU Pro Basketball is back

In case you missed, Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball released plans for the 2024 season. Catch up on the location, dates and participants here.