Michigan star Naz Hillmon, a projected first-round pick, to enter WNBA Draft

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Naz Hillmon, the most decorated and influential player in Michigan women’s basketball history, has declared for the WNBA Draft.

A day after Michigan was eliminated in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament by Louisville, Hillmon’s name appeared Tuesday on a list released by the WNBA of 88 players who have formally filed for consideration in the upcoming WNBA Draft.

The draft is April 11. Hillmon, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, had the option of playing an additional season at Michigan with the bonus year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan's Naz Hillmon became the first player in program history to earn All-American honors this season.

Hillmon became the program's first All-American this season and led the Wolverines (25-7) to their first Elite Eight appearance a year after helping lead the team to its first Sweet 16. She is Michigan’s first male or female basketball player to record 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, finishing her career with 2,150 points and 1,042 rebounds.

During this year’s NCAA Tournament run, Hillmon recorded double-doubles in each of the team’s four games. She had 52 during her career.

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico recently described Hillmon as “transformational” and “generational” in terms of her talent. Barnes Arico said after the Elite Eight loss Monday night that she and the players would support whatever decision Hillmon made. According to a mock draft by ESPN, Hillmon is projected to be drafted No. 4 overall.

“The thing with Naz, she is so dynamic and so special, I believe she is going to be a high first-round draft pick and will really make an impact at the next level,” Barnes Arico said. “I know that's a dream of hers and that's something that I would support 100%. I know her teammates would as well. Whatever she decides to do, we're behind her 100% for sure.”

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Hillmon was a co-captain along with Danielle Rauch this season. Rauch, emotional after the Elite Eight loss while discussing her Michigan career, discussed how meaningful Hillmon has been to the program.

“Playing next to Naz, an All-American, she is once-in-a-lifetime kind of player,” Rauch said. “I got to play with the greatest player in Michigan women's basketball history, and she is also my best friend.”

Much of the focus during Michigan’s postseason run was Hillmon. She frequently deflected the attention and spoke of her teammates. After the Louisville game, she said she needed time to reflect on her career.

“When you make it to the Elite Eight, something that Michigan has never done, Michigan women's basketball has never done before, and in the pit of your stomach you know it was a ride that you want to take again, there will be some reflection and I will be thinking about that,” Hillmon said.

Barnes Arico said Hillmon has thrived at Michigan because she shared the attention with her teammates.

“One of the things about Naz that people don't understand is she's so humble and she's such an incredible teammate,” Barnes Arico said. “She doesn't even care if she scores. So she just is the best teammate in the world, and she gets excited about everyone else's success.

“And so many times you hear those things or it's cliché like, ‘Oh, yeah,’ but it's genuine. And I think because every single person on our team really believes that everyone is bought in. It just makes everyone want to be on board because Naz doesn't care. It's just a special kind of thing. She connects with each individual person in her own kind of way.”

Hillmon wore No. 00 at Michigan. Will the jersey of the most impactful player in Michigan women’s basketball history be retired?

"She belongs in the rafters of Crisler,” Barnes Arico said recently. “We always talk about 'The House That Cazzie Built,' but we sometimes talk about 'The House That Nazzie Built' on the women's side.”


Twitter: @chengelis