COLUMBIA — The Chicago Sky of the WNBA have released former South Carolina star Aleighsa Welch, who was the team’s second-round draft pick in April.
Welch, a Goose Creek High School product, was the 22nd overall selection in the draft. The honorable mention All-American helped lead the Gamecocks’ women’s basketball program to four consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, capped by this past season’s first trip to the Final Four.
The transaction was initially reported by The Chicago Tribune. Welch later wrote about being released on her Facebook page.
“Chicago didn’t work out the way I had hoped, but the road definitely doesn’t end here. I thank the organization for the opportunity, (and) anybody who knows me knows that no matter the setback, I will always come back,” she wrote, just two days after posting a photo of herself in a Sky uniform.
“Can’t wait to get back to Columbia and Charleston to begin giving back to the people that gave so much to me over the years. Those communities have molded me – it’s only right that I extend myself back in return. Even disappointments can be blessings in disguise!”
Welch’s head coach at USC, five-time WNBA all-star Dawn Staley, said in April that making a roster at the professional level promised to be difficult simply because of the few number of spots available on each team.
“I’ve talked to a lot of WNBA people, and they say there are only one or two roster spots — one or two roster spots — for current draft picks to make it along with free agents. So she’ll have a hard time,” Staley said of Welch. “Every single person will have a hard time.”
Welch, a 6-foot forward, was among a dozen college players invited to attend the WNBA draft in person. She became the fourth former Gamecocks played drafted into the WNBA, joining Jocelyn Penn (first round, 2003), Petra Ujheyli (second round, 2003), Shaunzinski Gortman (first round, 2002) and Teresa Geter (third round, 2002).
Welch averaged 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a senior, and her field goal percentage of .577 ranks as the best in school history. One of four Gamecocks to finish their career with over 1,000 points and 900 rebounds, she played a pivotal role both in the growth of Staley’s program and the school-best 34-3 campaign USC enjoyed this past season.