For MSU redshirt-junior women’s basketball star Aerial Powers, the decision to forgo her senior season as a Spartan and enter into the WNBA draft on April 14 ultimately came down to one thing — following her dreams.
“It was always a dream of mine,” said Powers, who will graduate with a degree in communication in May. “We always have little camps and the girls always ask questions and I’m usually the first one to say ‘Yeah, I want to play in the WNBA.’ … That’s always been my dream since I was young so just to have this opportunity, it’s just a blessing.”
Powers will leave MSU as arguably the greatest women’s basketball player to ever come through the school. She ranks first all-time in scoring at 1,817 points and is fourth in rebounding at 937. This last season, Powers averaged 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds and led the Spartans to a 25-9 record and second round appearance in the 2016 women’s NCAA Tournament.
Powers said she made the decision after talking to her parents Easter weekend. However, she didn’t tell anyone at the time, in case she changed her mind.
It wasn’t until late Friday evening on April 1 that Powers said she went to MSU women’s head basketball coach Suzy Merchant’s house to tell her.
“I’m a little nervous to tell her because I’m not sure of her reaction, and I’m sitting there and I didn’t know how to start the conversation,” Powers said of the meeting. “It’s like when you’re breaking up with a boy and you don’t know how to say it because it’s going to be awkward so I just finally told her and we talked through everything.”
Through the whole process of making her decision, Powers said Merchant said she’d be supportive of any decision she would make. And although Merchant said she’ll “never be ready to lose her,” she couldn’t be happier for Powers.
“Overjoyed for her,” Merchant said. “Ever since I’ve known her and recruited her and had the opportunity to get to know her, her dream has always been to play in the WNBA. The fact she’s going to graduate and has had the accolades and the efficiency and effectiveness she’s had as a Spartan, what else could she do? She’s ready. She’s a pro-driven kid. Her body’s ready and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to coach her and I’m proud of her.”
Powers said she was nervous to tell her teammates at first too, but has found they’re also 100 percent supportive of her decision.
“I'm really proud of her because I know that basketball is a big part of her life and it always has been,” graduating senior and center Jasmine Hines said. "She takes her play very seriously it's always been her dream to play at that level. I'm just so happy for her for being able to make it happen."
And even though losing Powers means MSU will obviously be losing their leader and best player, Merchant is confident in the abilities of next year’s team.
“I think we’re going to be good,” Merchant said. “(Powers) is a heck of a player but I think we have a good veteran group. There’s other kids that I think deferred to her a little bit because Aerial was such a good player. We ran a lot of things to her. So I think we’re going to have a different dynamic out there on the court but I think it will still be a strong one.”
Next up for Powers is the WNBA draft, where she’s projected as a first-round pick. The draft will take place on April 14 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. ESPN2 will provide coverage of the first round beginning at 7 p.m. and ESPNU will air coverage of the second and third rounds beginning at 8 p.m.
From there, the regular season begins on May 14.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see but I’m very confident in myself,” Powers said. “I’m excited to be able to play with professionals and just kind of learn from them and show what I’ve got.”