There aren’t too many opportunities for us to see professionals play against college teams in a true sanctioned format. And today, we had our opportunity to see just that as the USA Basketball women’s national team, made up of WNBA All-Stars, played the No. 11 Tennessee Lady Volunteers tonight in a friendly in Knoxville. It was a blowout in favor of the Americans, 95-59. That said, Tennessee made the first bucket.
As Mystics fans, we are obligated to cover this game and let you know how guard Ariel Atkins did. She got the start tonight, playing alongside Diana Taurasi, Betnijah Laney, Kahleah Copper and Brittney Griner.
Along the way, Atkins scored 6 points on 3-of-4 shooting, and even made this nice pass to Copper. (Sometimes I wonder how Copper would’ve been if she was never traded from the Mystics to the Chicago Sky).
That wasn’t the only assist Atkins had. She dished four dimes and even had four steals! There is definitely a reason why Team USA wants a player like Atkins on the roster. She may not be a scorer like some other players on this team. But every team needs strong defenders and those willing to keep the ball moving. Ariel does just that!
Besides seeing Atkins play tonight, this game provided a test for the Lady Vols. They are looking to make the Final Four for first time since 2007-08, when the late Pat Summitt was their head coach and when Candace Parker was their superstar.
So this game was also a a good test for the current Lady Vols’ star, Rickea Jackson. Jackson is a fifth-year senior, and decided to stay in college this season instead of be in the WNBA Draft. Jackson is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2024 Draft. And for what it’s worth, the Mystics have the sixth pick and could be lucky enough to get her.
In the game Jackson led the Lady Vols with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 5 rebounds. Not bad considering she was the main player Team USA was focusing on.
Laney led Team USA with 14 points. Taurasi and Griner added 11 points each. All players had between 16-24 minutes of playing time each.
The Americans have one more friendly where they will travel to Durham, North Carolina and play the Duke University Blue Devils next Sunday. Their head coach is former Wizards color analyst and Mystics player Kara Lawson. Tip off is 12 p.m. ET.