The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have sent their fair share of players to the WNBA during the tenure of legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer. Names like Cappie Pondexter, Sue Wicks and Tammy Sutton-Brown sit alongside Stringer’s in the hall of women’s basketball royalty, while up-and-coming players such as Betnijah Laney and Kahleah Copper currently maintain the program’s pipeline.
Next in line for Rutgers is Arella Guirantes, a 5-foot-11 wing from Bellport, NY. Guirantes — who chose not to enter the 2020 WNBA Draft and instead returned to Rutgers for her redshirt senior season — has been building upon a breakout 2019-20 season and could very well be among the first players drafted in 2020.
Honors and statistics
Guirantes’ collegiate career (and rise as a WNBA prospect) could be called that of a late bloomer. Entering her freshman season at Texas Tech, she was ranked as the No. 100 prospect in the country (No. 19 wing) by ESPN HoopGurlz, and she transferred from Texas Tech after averaging 27.5 solid but not spectacular minutes per game.
It was Guirantes’ redshirt junior season at Rutgers that truly put her on the map as a WNBA prospect. She averaged 20.6 points, six rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game en route to First Team All-Big Ten and All-American Honorable Mention selections.
Guirantes entered the 2020-21 season as one of the top shooting guards in the nation and was thus selected to the preseason Ann Meyers-Drysdale Award watch list. She also made the Naismith Trophy, Wade Trophy and Wooden Award watch lists and was voted co-Big Ten Player of the Year by conference coaches, along with Michigan’s Naz Hillmon.
How she helps the Scarlet Knights
Guirantes’ role for Rutgers is simple: score the basketball. Not only is she arguably the most skilled scorer in the Big Ten, she’s one of the best in the country, currently averaging 23.7 points per game after a 33-point, 10-rebound and 6-assist masterclass against No. 14 Maryland on Monday.
What makes Guirantes so dangerous is that she has nearly every tool needed to be a top-level scorer. A quick first step and explosion allow her to rise and fire over most defenders, and she’s strong enough to play bully ball off the dribble. Per Synergy Sports, Guirantes took 28.1 percent of her shots at the rim as a redshirt junior, connecting on 50.4 percent of those attempts. Even when she’s not finishing, she’s getting to the free throw line, and doing it often, as last season’s 211 total free throw attempts (ninth in the nation) showed.
Guirantes’ bread and butter, though, is still her midrange jump shot. It’s a versatile one — she’s just as adept in isolation as she is as a catch-and-shoot player, mainly because her dribble-and-shoot motion is so smooth. Guirantes can score going left or right, and her 3-point shot has shown flashes as well. She’s shot 38.5 percent from long distance since the beginning of her redshirt junior season.
Some Arella Guirantes junior season highlights. Made the leap to become one of the top scorers in the country & led Rutgers to 22 wins. Really physical player. Keeps you off balance. Good midrange game. Got to the line 7x/gm. pic.twitter.com/0wNp3DCpGX— Ben Dull (@ben_dull) November 25, 2020
An above-average athlete who can score at all three levels is a tremendous asset to have. While Stringer’s Rutgers teams have not historically been known for playing uptempo, trigger-happy basketball, Guirantes allows the Scarlet Knights to be a little more offensive-minded. Moreover, her blend of skill and physicality allow her to carry the team’s offense while still remaining engaged on the defensive end — something that surely appeals to WNBA scouts. It’s hard not seeing her game translating to the next level.
Watch her play
With so many Top 25 teams playing in the Big Ten (Rutgers is not currently one of them), there are plenty of good matchups for Guirantes and the Scarlet Knights in the near future. They have three consecutive games against ranked opponents in January, as they will be facing No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 10, No. 16 Northwestern on Jan. 14 and No. 14 Indiana on Jan. 18. They will also get another crack at No. 14 Maryland on Jan. 28.
Unfortunately, the TV schedule for many of Rutgers’ games has yet to be announced so far in advance, but the games will at the very least be on the Big Ten Network Plus streaming service.
All statistics for the 2020-21 season are current through Dec. 14, 2020.