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Awak Kuier brings African roots, Finnish style of play to WNBA

Awak Kuier has parents from South Sudan, was born in Egypt and grew up in Finland. At just 19 years old, she’s making a major geographic shift by coming to the United States to play in the WNBA.

Awak Kuier was the No. 2 pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft.
Photo courtesy of the Dallas Wings via Twitter.

Awak Kuier’s basketball journey began in the small city of Kotka, Finland and is now headed to Dallas, Texas where she hopes to bring a Kevin Durant-style of play to the WNBA.

Kuier was born in Cairo, Egypt to South Sudan natives who fled civil war. She moved to Finland with her parents and four brothers when she was two years old. She learned Arabic, Finnish and English in that order and began playing basketball at age 11.

Kuier is a 6-foot-5 power forward who has been able to dunk since age 14. From 2017 to 2020 she went to Helsinki Basketball Academy where she took her game to another level. Instead of coming to the states to play at either Oregon or Oregon State, she has played for Ragusa in an Italian professional league.

“I would say I’m very well prepared because my last four years I’ve played in the Finnish first league and then now coming to Italy’s first league,” Kuier said. “So I feel like I’ve always played against tough players, which made me develop my game.”

“European basketball, specifically Finnish basketball, is very different from American basketball. But I feel like just having the basics and the ability to play (on) a team and learning that from Finland is something that is going to help me when I come to the WNBA.”

Kuier says she models her game after WNBA legend Candace Parker (now of the Chicago Sky) and another No. 2 overall pick in an American draft, Durant, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA.

Kuier can dribble and drive like a guard and shoot the three while playing the forward positions.

“I want to be one of the players who is very versatile and does a lot of things,” she said. “But I think I want to get better at post play. I’m very good at driving and shooting, but having good moves inside the paint is very important for me.”

Kuier’s versatile skill set would be valued on any team. Fate has placed her with the Dallas Wings, who took another frontcourt player, Charli Collier of Texas, with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

Though they both play power forward, Collier is very different from Kuier, with more of a post game, but she can shoot the three-ball like Kuier. Together they could form a lethal duo.

And it’s not just them. Dallas also has reigning WNBA scoring champ Arike Ogunbowale, who is just 24 years old, and a second-year player in Satou Sabally who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting last year. After Collier and Kuier were drafted, the team picked up a great all-around scorer in Chelsea Dungee of Arkansas with the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft and then stole a top-notch guard prospect in Dana Evans of Louisville at No. 13.

“I feel like Dallas is going to grow into a great team,” Kuier said. “And to have so many young talents, it’s amazing for me to play with them and also learn from them. So I’m very excited.”

Kuier did not receive as much attention entering the draft as Collier did because she did not play at a U.S. university. However, she has the potential to be very successful in the states and also put Finnish basketball on the map.

“In Finland there hasn’t been anyone to play in the WNBA. For me to be the first one is really amazing and I’m really happy for it,” she said. “Just having a lot of young players being inspired by me is something that keeps me motivated and it’s something that is very close to my heart.”