New York (AP) — Alysha Clark, a top reserve for the Las Vegas Aces, has been playing overseas in Israel during the WNBA offseason for the past five years. However, due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, Clark is unsure if she will be returning to Israel this year, even if it becomes an option.
Currently, the Israel women’s basketball league has suspended play due to the war.
“It’s like another home for me when I go there. But honestly, my instinct is telling me no. I would rather stay home and be with my family, be in the market in Vegas, and do things like that,” Clark said.
As the WNBA season comes to an end this week, players like Clark are considering their next moves. The overseas job market is shrinking, with the situation in Israel and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Last offseason, nearly half of the league’s players traveled to countries like Israel, Australia, Turkey, Italy, and others to supplement their incomes.
While veterans like Clark, Jonquel Jones, and Breanna Stewart have an easier time finding places to play, younger players are struggling, especially with the 10-team league in Israel currently out of the picture.
Connecticut Sun rookie Leigha Brown was supposed to go to Israel the day before the conflict started. She’s grateful that she hadn’t boarded her flight yet.
“My flight was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on that Saturday morning,” Brown said. “I was already at the airport hotel preparing to leave when my coach from Israel called and told me not to come. He said the league was suspended until further notice.”
About a dozen current and former WNBA players played in Israel last season, but Brown’s family was relieved she didn’t make the trip amid the conflict, especially since it was her first extended trip overseas.
“They didn’t express their concerns until after the fact,” she said. “My whole family was grateful. It put things into perspective that basketball is a part of my life and something I love, but there are more important things.”
After not seeing much playing time as a rookie, Brown had hoped to improve her skills in Israel. For now, she is training in Colorado and hoping to find somewhere else to play, either overseas or in the domestic Athletes Unlimited league.
Russia is not an option for her.
Although the WNBA offers lucrative marketing deals, many players still choose to play overseas. China has become a top destination once again, with players like Jones and Alyssa Thomas planning to play there during the offseason. China had previously been closed to international players due to COVID-19 policies.
“I didn’t think twice about it. I had been to China before, and it was a really good experience,” Jones said. She has also played in Korea and Russia.
When deciding where to play overseas, players consider several factors, including security, health, finances, family obligations, and quality of life. Now they have one more factor to consider: the WNBA prioritization rules. Starting from the 2024 season, players with more than two years of experience must report to their teams by May 1 or the start of training camp, or they will be suspended for the entire season.
With the Paris Olympics approaching next year, the WNBA season may start earlier to accommodate the 40-game schedule and the month-long break for the Games. Playing for the national team is one of the few exceptions to the prioritization rule.
Players like Stewart are still weighing their options. She may join Jones in China, but nothing is certain yet as she is expecting her second child later this month.
“I haven’t figured it out yet,” Stewart said. “I’m going to take some time.”
Rachel Adams is your WNBA insider, delivering comprehensive coverage of women’s basketball. With a commitment to highlighting the talent and achievements of WNBA players, she provides game analysis, player profiles, and inspiring stories from the league.