Canada’s Aislinn Konig ready for WNBA jump with Mystics

North Carolina State guard Aislinn Konig (1) reacts following a basket against Florida State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball championship game at the Atlantic Coast Conference women's tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, March 8, 2020. (Gerry Broome/AP)

Aislinn Konig is a name that most casual WNBA fans may not recognize. That’s because in 2020, when the Canadian graduated from North Carolina State University, she went undrafted.

The 2020 ACC Tournament MVP, who averaged a career-high 11 points per game in her senior year and sits second in program history with 294 made three pointers, was expecting to go late in the third round and prove herself at camp – but her name was never called.

Instead, Konig signed with Elfic Fribourg of the Swiss Basketball League, and averaged 21.4 points per game, helping take the team to their first ever EuroCup Women’s quarterfinals, playing against the likes of Tyasha Harris and Kelsey Mitchell.

“Making it back to the WNBA was always the goal in the back of the mind, it’s always kind of the guiding path of my decision making, but as far as in the day-to-day basis, it was really about being the best player I could be for my team in Switzerland and trusting that it would be enough to get me back to where I am right now,” said Konig.

After a stellar rookie season for Fribourg, averaging 16.2 points in the post-season, Konig was invited to training camp with the 2019 WNBA Champion Washington Mystics to earn a chance to play for head coach Mike Thibault.

Although the Mystics gave up many 2021 draft picks when they traded for Tina Charles, Thibault still saw the opportunity to pick up undiscovered gems from overseas in order to freshen up his squad after their first-round playoff exit last season.

“I always believed in myself that this is where I was supposed to be, but it was definitely a great moment of reward for all of the hard work that I had put in and that the team had put in as whole, I was surrounded by a lot of talented players on that team,” said Konig.

Washington also saw the return of Charles, Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud this year, a trio that certainly would have helped their playoff run in 2020, but also lost Alysha Clark who they had acquired from Seattle and will be looking to fill in the defensive gap they were hoping to close with Clark.

Konig’s fitness was stated as a concern by potential teams coming out of her 2020 season, but after shaping up to play overseas and now to come back to the WNBA, her skills could add depth to an already stacked Mystics backcourt with Leilani Mitchell and Ariel Atkins.

“You have to keep recalibrating, trying to figure out your offence and defence, we planned a lot of our defensive stuff because of Alysha Clark being our big signee, now that’s had to change a little bit, but all seasons have an ebb and flow to them,” said head coach Mike Thibault.

With Konig arriving to training camp, she has the potential to be just the fourth Canadian player currently active in the league – Bridget Carleton, Natalie Achonwa and Kia Nurse are the last three standing on WNBA rosters who have signed contracts.

Canadian women’s basketball talent has been gaining more attention, especially with young players like Aaliyah Edwards and Shaina Pellington making waves in the Final Four, both players which Konig has represented Team Canada with and hopes to continue to grow the game with.

“It’s a really big honour to be a part of that shortlist, and the WNBA is very competitive for spots, being able to be one of those who can be a role model like that is a huge honour and something I take a lot of pride in,” said Konig.

“It speaks volumes to the future of Canadian basketball and the opportunities that will be lying ahead for these young girls and to be able to be someone who inspires them to chase after those opportunities is really close to my heart.”

Konig, who also holds the FIBA U-19 World Cup record for most three pointers made in a single tournament game, making 10 against Latvia in 2017, is part of the senior national team pool that will begin training camp next month for the FIBA AmeriCup in June and Tokyo Olympic Games in July.

Though final rosters have not been announced yet, Konig’s journey is similar to what many undrafted or even talents who eventually get cut from training camp will go through in 2021 but ensuring that the main goal is always to perform best for whatever roster she’s on is what helped Konig’s success to find her way back to the WNBA.

“Upon getting here, it’s doing the things that I can do and be who I am, being a great teammate, playing tough defense, hitting shots because that’s my thing,” said Konig.

“My goal wasn’t to come in here and make some crazy big waves and changing my game, Mike Thibault already knows who I am, he’s watched me a lot, so it’s about being the best version of myself.”

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