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Anchorage’s Alissa Pili officially laces ‘em up in WNBA, plays 10 minutes in pro debut

by | May 15, 2024 | Basketball, Cover Story

It didn’t take long for the Seattle Storm to realize they couldn’t bully rookie Alissa Pili on Tuesday night.

Seattle’s 6-foot-6 center Mercedes Russell took it to the Minnesota Lynx first-round draft pick out of Anchorage the moment Pili stepped onto a WNBA court for the first time at 4:56 of the first quarter.

Russell had Pili on her hip as she attempted to back her down in the post, but the Alaskan stood strong as Russell never really bumped Pili off her spot. Finally, a weakside foul by a teammate stopped the play but Pili had passed her first test.

So did the Lynx, who beat Seattle 83-70 on opening night as an 8-point road underdog. Pili played 10 minutes.

Coming into the season, the biggest question mark surrounding the two-time All-American forward out of the University of Utah was how she’d match up defensively. But she held her own when challenged as she showcased her brute force to hold firm when Seattle players tried (and failed) to body her up; both fouls she was whistled for were on reach ins.

Listed at 6-foot-2, Pili looked closer to 6 feet, yet her presence was not diminished on the biggest stage in women’s basketball.

The WNBA is a big jump from college and that leap can be humbling, especially the first game. After starting 122 of 128 games in college, Pili came off the bench Tuesday. And it may have been the first time she didn’t score in a game going back to the first time she touched a basketball.

One of only two Alaskans to score 2,000 points in high school and college, Pili didn’t really look to score Tuesday. Her only shot attempt came on a hurried 3-point shot. Other than that, she never touched the ball in a position to score.

There were times in the post when she sealed off her defender and Minnesota looked to get her the ball, but all three pass attempts resulted in a turnover. Pili made those plays look easy in college. Things will be more difficult in the WNBA, and Pili knows that, so look for her to adjust moving forward.

Minnesota’s next game is Friday at home against Seattle in at the back end of a home-and-home series to start the season.

Game 1 Scoring For Alaskans

8 – Kelsey Griffin 5/15/10
6 – Andrea Lloyd 6/12/99
4 – Ruthy Hebard 7/26/20
0 – Molly Tuter 7/07/97
0 – Jessica Moore 5/28/05
0 – Alissa Pili 5/14/24

For the most part Tuesday, Pili camped out on the 3-point line. At Utah, she made 86 3s in two seasons on a 41% clip. She was 7-of-14 in two games at March’s NCAA Tournament, so the stroke is there. The opportunities were not.

Moments after missing her only shot attempt, Pili grabbed her first rebound in the WNBA.

Other than that, though, it was a pretty quiet night for the former Dimond High star. Most of her playing time came in the first half, although she was on the court late in the third quarter when the Lynx started to pull away.

Story made possible by:

Family of Sponsors

Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Alaska Airlines | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Joe Alston | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Aspen Endodontics | Glen Bailey | Kathie Bethard | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Continental Auto Group | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris | The Conway Family | Donley Family | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Foley & Pearson | JL Properties | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Amy and Jason Miller | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | Rick Mystrom | Kathleen Navarre | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Dave and DeAnne Rand | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Replacement Glass | Residential Mortgage | RSA Engineering- Sarah & A.J. Schirack | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Peter Pounds | Dan Rufner | Harlow Robinson | Pete Robinson | Moria Smith | Taylored Restoration | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Team Heat | Todd Whited | UAA Seawolves | Don Winchester

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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