Former DePaul women’s basketball players carving out their own path in the WNBA

Former+DePaul+women%27s+basketball+player+Jessica+January+signed+a+training+camp+contract+with+the+Indiana+Fever+on+March+19.

Josh Leff | The DePaulia

Former DePaul women's basketball player Jessica January signed a training camp contract with the Indiana Fever on March 19.

When James Wade was an assistant coach for the San Antonio Silver Stars, a team in the WNBA, he spotted a special player during a watch game — Allie Quigley. But the timing just wasn’t right. 

“She was playing on my watch team in San Antonio and my wife [was] telling me how good she was,” Wade said in an interview with The DePaulia. “It just wasn’t her time, but maybe it should have been. And she didn’t get the look she was supposed to get, and she kept working. Now, she’s a multiple [time] all-star, and it’s a great story. 

Quigley, 33, played at DePaul from 2004-2008 before being drafted in the second round in 2008 by the Seattle Storm. But before she even began her rookie year, Quigley got cut by the Storm and signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Mercury. The 5-foot-10-inch guard ended up playing in a total of 20 games in two seasons before being cut by the Mercury during the 2009 season. 

By the end of 2011 season, Quigley had played for four teams, including twice with the Storm, and got cut five times. She didn’t play in the WNBA during the 2012 season and wondered if her career in America was over. But the Joliet, Illinois native kept preserving and started to make a name for herself overseas, where a lot of professional women’s basketball players go when the WNBA season ends in the fall. 

“It was a tough road and I think it’s hard for anyone to transition from college into the WNBA,” Quigley said during a phone interview with The DePaulia. “It’s always a hard first year, but for me it was obviously a hard year. With every year you take experiences that you have in those moments and just try to learn from them, getting positive and having that never give-up mentality. Also, trying to figure out exactly what do I have to do on-the-court to stick.”

After spending the 2012 season out of the WNBA, Quigley went to Hungary to play for the Pecs 2010 and guided them to a third place finish in the league, while also obtaining her Hungarian citizenship. The time she spent in Hungary fine-tuning her game earned Quigley her first contract with her hometown team, the Chicago Sky. Seven years later, Quigley has won two Sixth Woman of the Year awards and has been a consistent starter since the 2017 season. 

In 2019, Quigley was second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game. She also led the league in 3-point field goals made with 70, and earned her third consecutive all-star selection. After the season, the Sky and Quigley agreed to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced Feb. 19. 

“I was excited to re-sign with Chicago,” Quigly said. “Obviously, I’m from there and went to college there, so it’s kind of a perfect situation. I dreamed of going to play in the WNBA, especially in your hometown. So, it’s a blessing and I’m really appreciative that I get to do this.”

Not only is Quigley going to continue her professional career with the Sky, but she will continue to be coached by a familiar face: Wade. The two first met when Wade was coaching a watch game for the Silver Stars, but both of them were in the early stages of their careers. Now, Wade is 44-years-old and has been the head coach and general manager of the Sky since 2018. Both Wade and Quigley are committed to bringing a WNBA championship to the city of Chicago.

“[Allie] always had that skill set,” Wade said. “I think it was her hard work, her determination. She was really skilled even when she came into the league. A lot of young players have to play and look over their shoulders because they are coming in as a substitute, and when they make mistakes, they are coming out.

“I think it was a perfect alignment of her going overseas working on her game to get comfortable, getting that confidence, repetition and also going to an organization that was all in on her.”

While Quigley has “made” in the WNBA and is now one of the most successful players in America, her fellow DePaul alum Jessica January is also trying to carve out a path for herself in the WNBA. January spent four seasons with the Blue Demons from 2013-2017 and led the program to two Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. After the 2016-17 season, the Richfield, Minn. native was drafted by the Connecticut Sun. But like Quigley, however, January has had to take the overseas route to get noticed by the WNBA. 

“Growing up, I would never have imagined playing overseas and even in college I didn’t think about playing professionally until my junior year,” January said. “I’m really happy that I ended up taking that path. My first season, I was in Romania, which was an interesting experience. In my second year, I was in Finland and just now I played in Slovakia. I think this past season was the biggest difference in experience because we played in three different leagues, so we were traveling all over Europe. We were in a bunch of different countries this past season, and it’s really a unique experience. You are traveling, immersing yourself in these different cultures and, at the same time, you are playing basketball. So, it’s really fun and I’m enjoying it.” 

While January has taken the route of playing overseas to continue to improve her game, she is also trying to make it back into the WNBA. And on March 19, she got her wish. January was back in the WNBA after signing a training camp contract with the Indiana Fever. 

Josh Leff | The DePaulia
Allie Quigley, a former DePaul women’s basketball player from 2004-08, signed a multi-year contract extension with the Chicago Sky on Feb. 19.

A training camp contract does not guarantee January a spot on the regular-season roster, but it’s another way for her to showcase her abilities to a WNBA team. It still remains to be seen if January can stick in the WNBA like Quigley has, but DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno is proud of both of them for acting on their dreams. 

“Well, Jessica has been cut twice as one of the last players cut,” Bruno said. “She’s been very close to making this league a couple of times, and Allie’s story is an inspiration to her. So, I think Allie is helping our former players to, who have been close, not to give up and keep pursuing your dreams of playing in the WNBA.”

January, however, is going to have to wait to join the Fever for training camp because the WNBA announced on Friday they are delaying the start of training camps and the beginning of the regular season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But this roadblock won’t stop January from continuing to chase her dream, and other young players to also realize their potential. 

“Just being consistently ready for your time it’s what I would say to anyone who is trying to achieve their dreams,” January said. “You can be performing at your best, in the best shape of your life, playing the best basketball of your life, but if there’s no opportunity for you to showcase that, then it’s really not in your control. But it’s always staying ready, continuing to chase your dreams and loving the game. I think there’s a lot of politics and other things involved with the game, but if you continue to remember why you play and love the game, then you are going to do what’s best for you and achieve your goals.”