Sabreena Merchant: Bringing women’s basketball stories to life

Three and a half years ago, I took on the journalistic role of my lifetime. Athletes It was launching national coverage of the WNBA and I was assigned to report on my hometown Los Angeles Sparks. When Athletes The previous season launched in Los Angeles, I refused to even subscribe until a Sparks writer came on board, and now it was mine.

I have never had the opportunity to cover such a team. I spent most of my college years in the newsroom, and after that I got contracts at several places, but most of my assignments were game-based. I really understood why the Blue Devils couldn’t get the ball to Shante Black or what skills to look out for from Jordan Clarkson as the Lakers trudged toward another draw. I valued those experiences and carry this analytical background with me today. I just wanted more.

Athletes It was the only place I’ve ever worked that gave me the creative freedom to start by introducing a player in training camp who didn’t make the final roster because her journey was instructive about the plight of female basketball players. I got to write about the musical side hustle of an assistant coach, a rookie who had to Google his coach, while I broke down the style changes of one of the league’s storied franchises in their first year under an unproven head coach. Any ideas would be appreciated and I tried to look for as many as possible. This is the type of environment I have been looking for ever since.

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As it turns out, the place to tell these kinds of stories has always been here. I felt that as a freelancer, and that’s what motivated me to come back here full time and join our expanding women’s basketball team. Athletes There’s a bigger commitment to covering women’s sports — you’ve seen that prominently with Meg Linehan and Steph Young on the soccer side — and I wanted to be in a place where I valued the people and teams I wanted to cover. I like to cover them.

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It was a long time ago that I was really afraid to write about women’s sports because I didn’t want to enter the space as a woman. I wanted to have the option to follow every beat, both men and women. But here I am now, as a national women’s basketball writer, and I’ve made this choice for myself: I’m particularly interested in covering female athletes because of the bond we share as women. I think their journeys are a reflection of the larger narrative arc of society, and discovering and sharing those stories is both a challenge and a privilege.

Women’s basketball is having a moment. With the NIL, collegiate players are more visible than ever, drawing more attention to the NCAA tournament that is offered year after year. There’s no shortage of upsets — Lauren Jensen knocking out her former team on Iowa’s home court is a moment I won’t soon forget — but fans consistently witness greatness at the same time. Who knows what Aaliyah Boston is still up to?

The WNBA just produced one of the most dynamic individual postseason games of all time, and Chelsea Gray carried that flame around the world just days later as Team USA ushered in a new era. Three-on-three basketball is taking over the world, Athletes Unlimited is entering Season 2, the EuroLeague is on the rise – there are countless ways to watch the women’s game at any time.

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And as long as the athletes do their job, we will do ours. That’s why I want to be here to make sure the most important stories in women’s basketball are told. I am delighted to join Chantel Jennings and Ben Pickman, two fantastic writers, in this endeavor. The support and resources we have here allow us to pursue some really exciting projects. I know I will have a blast. I hope you readers are too.

Editor’s note: Follow your favorite NCAAW league or team to get more stories like this delivered directly to your feed.

(Photo: by Los Angeles Sparks)


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