‘It’s such a surreal feeling’: Alissa Pili talks about her future with the Minnesota Lynx

A basketball player puts up a shot against a defender
Alissa Pili (35) of the University of Utah shoots against the South Dakota State defense in the first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at McCarthey Athletic Center on March 23 in Spokane, Wash.
Steph Chambers | Getty Images

This week the Minnesota Lynx put more firepower into their roster by drafting University of Utah forward Alissa Pili in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

“It was definitely a lot of nerves building up to the moment,” Pili said about what it was like to be drafted. “It’s such a surreal feeling, and so many emotions, especially with my family being there, and just looking back to everything that I did to get there, it was an amazing feeling.”

Pili, the eighth overall selection, comes to the Lynx from a highly decorated college career with elite scoring skills. She was named PAC-12 Player of the Year and earned First Team All-Conference.

“It’s a quick turnaround off my college season, but I’m looking forward to it; I’m super excited,” she said.

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The 6’2” forward is originally from Anchorage, Alaska, and her family is Samoan and Iñupiaq, a group of Indigenous Alaskans.

“I’ve just realized my impact throughout my communities, especially people from the same culture that I come from, and it’s just been great to see all the little girls who are kind of looking up to me, and, you know, your people from back home in Alaska, and I just kind of embrace that role and I’m super grateful to be that person,” she said.

People dressed up at ceremony
Utah's Alissa Pili, right, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected eighth overall by the Minnesota Lynx during the first round of the WNBA basketball draft on April 15.
Adam Hunger | AP

This year was one of the most highly anticipated WNBA drafts, in part due to Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark, who was drafted to the Indiana Fever, along with other star players like Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso, who were both drafted to the Chicago Sky.

“When I first started college, it wasn’t like this at all,” Pili said. “So you see how the sport has grown and, and to see all these amazing, just female athletes getting the recognition they deserve? It’s a really cool thing.”

The head coach of the Lynx spoke to MPR News earlier this week about the growing interest in women’s basketball.

“I think the timing of someone like Caitlin Clark is really incredible to sort of maximize the movement that had already begun,” said Cheryl Reeve, Lynx Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations. “We saw that in the NBA with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.”

Reeve said Pili will be one of the team’s power forwards.

A basketball player moves the ball down the court
Alissa Pili (35) of the University of Utah dribbles during a game against South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.
Steph Chambers | Getty Images

Pili comes from an athletic family. Her brother Brandon Pili plays for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL. But Alissa Pili says it’s actually her younger brother who people should watch out for.

“He plays football and, you know, all of us grew up playing a bunch of different sports, but I think when he gets older, he's going to be the star of the family,” Pili said.

The Lynx also picked University of Louisville guard Kiki Jefferson in the third round.