Layshia Clarendon is an eight-year WNBA vet preparing for her ninth season in the league. She entered in 2013 as a top-10 pick and has bounced among four teams since, with her latest move landing the player on the New York Liberty. The Cal product was instrumental in getting the program to its first-ever Final Four in 2013, has a couple gold medals to her name and played a major role in the recent collective bargaining agreement. Let’s break it down.
Welcome to Career Moments, a Nothing But Nylon series that delves into the major moments of a player, coach or other figure’s career in basketball to give you a snapshot of some of the top things they’ve accomplished and when, plus allowing you the opportunity to relive past glories and celebrate current successes.
Layshia Clarendon Career Moments
2009 U19 World Championship Gold Medal
Before the Cajon High School all-time leader in points (2,875) and assists (944) moved on to play college ball at Cal, she had the opportunity to represent the United States in an international competition; Layshia Clarendon joined up with players like Skylar Diggins, Nneka Ogwumike and Kelly Faris and headed to Bangkok to represent the United States at the 2009 U19 World Championship.
Team USA would start the event with a 90-86 defeat to Spain, though, dropping to the bottom half of Group D. But that would be the final game the team would loss in the tournament.
The Americans won their next two to advance out of the first group stage, then triumphed in the following three contests to get through to the knockout phase. After two double-digit victories over France and Canada in the quarterfinals and semifinals, a rematch with Spain loomed for the gold medal. This time around, the story was different, and the Americans capitalized when it mattered most, 87-71, awarding Clarendon with the first of two gold medals she has won (so far).
It was the fourth time Team USA had won the event (1997, 2005, 2007). The Americans have finished atop the tournament four times since (2011, 2013, 2015, 2019), taking home silver in 2017 instead at the hands of Russia.
2013 Final Four
By the time Clarendon was a senior, she had already been named to an All-Pac-12 team, helped Cal get back to the NCAA Tournament and become competitive within its conference. It went to another level her final collegiate campaign, though.
The Golden Bears finished tied atop the Pac-12 regular season standings with only one blemish on its 17-1 in-conference mark and entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Spokane Region. After surpassing No. 15 seed Fresno State in the first round, 90-76, Cal needed overtime to overcome No. 10 seed South Florida after blowing a 10-point lead in the last 1:23 of regulation, but it did enough in the bonus five minutes to advance, 82-78. Layshia Clarendon put up 27 crucial points in 45 minutes to lead the team to its second-ever Sweet 16.
In the regional semifinals, Clarendon led Cal in scoring again, scoring 19 and adding four assists as the Golden Bears took out No. 6 LSU, 73-63, to reach the previously-uncharted waters of the Elite Eight for the first time. Clarendon continued her reign of terror in the tournament, eviscerating No. 4 seed Georgia for 25 points in another 45-minute performance required by overtime. It was enough to keep Cal alive, 65-62, and send the squad to the Final Four.
Cal trailed to the Lady Bulldogs by 10 with 6:46 remaining in regulation, but the team kept its cool and knotted the game at 52 by the end of 40 minutes. Clarendon was vital in the response, on and off the court, as explained in a 2013 article by Elliott Almond of The Mercury News.
“When the Lady Bulldogs (28-7) led by 10 with about 7 minutes left, Clarendon didn’t panic. She said she told herself, ‘Keep it close, we’re going to make our run, we’re going to make a run.’
The guard added, ‘You can’t let fear creep in.’
During timeouts, she implored, ‘We’re winning this game.’
She said it again after Georgia’s Anne Marie Armstrong scored with seven seconds left to send the game into overtime.
And she repeated it when the Bulldogs’ Khaalidah Miller immediately made a 3-point shot in the five-minute overtime.”
It wasn’t to be in the Final Four as No. 5 seed Louisville eliminated the Bears in the national semifinal, 64-57, but the run was already a massive accomplishment. It was the first time the program had reached the round and made Cal just the third Pac-12 program to play in the Final Four along with Stanford and USC.
Drafted No. 9 in 2013 WNBA Draft
Soon after playing in the Final Four, Layshia Clarendon was out of the college game and into the pro one. With the No. 9 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, the Indiana Fever selected Clarendon as its first pick of the day.
“It was exciting,” Clarendon said in an interview at the draft about when she heard her name called. “We kind of knew who was going one through four, five. I figured somewhere between eight and 12 is what I heard, so that’s when you get a little more excited … I think it’s going to hit you more as you go home and get ready to go to training camp.”
At the time, Indiana was coming off a victory in the 2012 WNBA Finals and stood atop the league. She was asked if that made her nervous.
“No. Maybe a little bit,” she admitted, “but Tamika Catchings is so down to earth, and I think that kind of warms me up a little bit. She’s such an awesome personality. We got to meet her a couple days ago. She did a player panel for us during orientation, so I’m so excited to play with her, learn from her and come under her wing.”
2015 WNBA Finals
Coming off the bench for much of her time with Indiana, Clarendon played in two Eastern Conference Finals with the Fever in 2013 and 2014. Then in 2015, Clarendon and Indiana finally got over that hump, returning to the WNBA Finals.
After a 20-14 regular season, Indiana was the No. 3 seed in the East. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Fever defeated the No. 2 seed Chicago Sky, 2-1, before meeting the No. 1 seed New York Liberty in the Eastern Conference Finals. After losing Game 1, Indiana stormed back and won two in a row to get to the ultimate series.
Clarendon featured in three of the five games necessary in the series against the Minnesota Lynx, including Indiana’s Game 4 victory, 75-69, scoring two points and hauling down a board in five minutes of action. In the end, it didn’t go the Fever’s way, though, as Minnesota took Game 5, 69-52.
Traded to the Atlanta Dream
In 2016, Layshia Clarendon was traded to the Atlanta Dream for a second-round pick. Near the start of the season, she got a call from the Fever that she expected to be about a fender bender she’d been involved with in the team’s car. Instead, it was about her future with the organization.
“I was waiting for us to make that final cut for camp,” Clarendon told Jordan Hill of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2016. “Then I was the cut.”
Michael Cooper, the head coach of the Dream, was the head coach at USC when Clarendon was at Cal. Having coached against her many times, he knew she was someone he wanted on her team. He told Hill he was thrilled to make the deal.
“Layshia was a gift that fell into our lap,” Cooper said. “When Indiana called, it was a no-brainer.”
2017 WNBA All-Star Game
In her first season in Atlanta, Clarendon put her name on the map, becoming a regular starter for the squad and averaging double-digit scoring. By her sophomore campaign with the Dream, she was also put up 6.6 assists per contest and set the franchise record for assists at 226, tied for third in the league.
Her efforts were enough for a spot in the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game, the first of Clarendon’s career. The West defeated the East in the game, 130-121, though Clarendon had a nice night herself, putting up a double-double on 14 points and 10 assists, plus shooting 6-of-10 from the field.
Traded to the Connecticut Sun
In the middle of the 2018 season, the Connecticut Sun made a move to add Clarendon to their ranks.
The Sun sent Alex Bentley to the Dream in exchange for Clarendon and a 2019 second-round selection. Connecticut head coach and general manager Curt Miller was happy to welcome her in.
“We are excited about obtaining Layshia,” Miller said in a press release. “She’s a talented and savvy guard with a great reputation as a leader on and off the court. She was thrilled when we spoke, and can’t wait to arrive in Connecticut.”
Negotiated New WNBA CBA
Layshia Clarendon has been the WNBPA First Vice President since 2016, and she and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike were instrumental in negotiating the recent collective bargaining agreement reached in the league early this year. As part of the agreement, maximum salaries improved from $117,500 to $215,000, and the salary cap jumped from $996,000 to $1.3 million, creating a good environment for Clarendon to enter the free agent market.
“Obviously I haven’t signed a free agency contract yet, but knowing the salaries, there’s a lot more wiggle room under the cap,” she told Howard Megdal of The Washington Post in January. “I think it just creates more security and more of an opportunity to start investing money. And obviously my wife and I bought a condo, and so you start to look at things that you could really set up for your future.”
An important aspect of the negotiations for Clarendon was its inclusion of LGBTQ needs. The player has a long history of LGBTQ activism, and she brought that with her to the talks.
“From the beginning I was like, ‘We better be queer-inclusive on this,'” Clarendon told Megdal. “Does it cover this type of mom, or does it cover only the person who carried the child, not is the person wasn’t going to carry? All those things from the very beginning, I’m trying to really make sure we’re making it as inclusive as possible for all types of working moms in this league.”
Clarendon Signs with the New York Liberty
After one-and-a-half seasons with Connecticut, Layshia Clarendon signed with New York as a free agent in this past (and coronavirus-forced ongoing) offseason, joining the fourth team of her eight-year WNBA career.
“Layshia is an elite facilitator and floor general with an extremely high basketball IQ,” Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins said in a press release. “She not only leads vocally, but also by consistently modeling a tireless work ethic and respect for those around her. She is going to be a massive boon to our roster and our team culture – both on, and off the court.”
Update – May 12, 2021
This article was originally published May 25, 2020. Clarendon spent the 2020 season with the New York Liberty and featured in 19 games, averaging 11.5 points, 3.9 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per outing. It wasn’t such a great season for the Liberty, though,. New York went 2-20 in the shortened, bubbled campaign, and missed the postseason.
Clarendon will be back with the Liberty again in 2021, and the team should be better than it was a year ago in Bradenton.