Words: Elle Clay

Photography: Ming Smith

Versatility is quite possibly the best attribute a player can have, and it’s a word often used to describe Arella Guirantes’ talent. As the daughter of two coaches, Arella naturally picked up basketball and never stopped pushing to be great. The Long Island native wants to be the best at everything she does, whether it’s sports or music. Now, with the L.A. Sparks, she’s ready to go even further.

Arella’s persistence helped position her as the no. 44 player in the country coming out of Bellport High School. She went on to score more than 2000 points and make the NYSSWA All-State First Team. After spending her freshman season at Texas Tech, Arella transferred back east to play for legendary coach, C. Vivian Stringer, at Rutgers University. As a Scarlet Knight, Arella was ranked in the Big Ten top for points, assists, steals and blocks per game. 

While most players opt out of their senior season to join the league, Arella made the tough decision to return. She knew there was still work to be done and ended her collegiate career as the ninth all-time in scoring for Rutgers with two All-American honorable mentions. Through her paternal Puerto Rican background, Arella also practiced with the Puerto Rican women’s national team program. 

Pre-draft projections had Arella as a top-five pick landing in her hometown of NYC. Fate had other plans, though Arella still got drafted in the second round by L.A. She quickly turned that disappointment into motivation; Arella’s ready to show teams what they passed up. 

We spoke with Arella about her commitment to greatness, her love of musical instruments and of course, her love of the game. Welcome to the family, Arella.

What does it feel like to be part of the Jordan Brand family?

It feels like being part of greatness. I’ve grown up watching what MJ accomplished. He set a tone and created a foundation for all basketball players. It feels like there are great things ahead.

Growing up in Long Island, when did you fall in love with the game of basketball? At what point did you know you could take it to the next level?

I was introduced to basketball by my family, and I naturally fell in love with it. I watched my mom and dad coach. I was around a bunch of guys all day. Seeing their competitive spirit motivated me to put on for the girls.

At one point, you wanted to be a sportscaster. What was appealing to you about that career?

I like the energy that sports broadcasters bring. They make the game more exciting. When you’re on the court, you see it from a different standpoint. When you’re watching, you see how important sports broadcasters are in the role of entertainment. I thought it would be the best job in the world. You get to come in and talk about sports.

A little-known fact is that you’re also musically gifted. What instruments do you play, and do you still play them?

Yes, I grew up playing saxophone. I picked it up from my brother who’s very musically inclined. I just wanted to be better than him. [Laughs] It was a competitive thing, but then I fell in love with the instrument — the music it made and how it made me feel when I was playing it. It pushed me to explore writing music and teaching myself other instruments. I play piano by ear. I just started learning the guitar. I’m trying to be as versatile with music as I am with basketball. 

Rutgers has a history of producing some amazing guards. What was it like to play for the legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer?

It was amazing, but it was also challenging. I love that she pushed me to levels I never thought I could reach — on and off the court. She humbled me and made me branch out of my comfort zone. I tried to hold myself to a high standard of greatness because of how unique that sisterhood is.

Coach Stringer was also very vocal about your flexibility as a player, describing you as having a high basketball IQ and being someone who can do it all. How did you develop your versatility as a player and what motivates you to win?

I’ve always just wanted to do everything on the court, to separate me from other people. A lot of people are masters of one or two things. I try not to limit myself to any aspect of the game. I like to be a sponge. I listen and apply everything I can, in order to become a better basketball player and a better human. 

My motivation to win came from growing up in a competitive family. I’m one of five, and I’m the middle child. I learned to not back down from any challenge.

What was the decision-making process like for returning to play your final season at Rutgers? Do you feel like it was the right decision?

The decision-making process was actually really difficult. As a child, you grow up, and you’ve had this dream. It’s right there in front of you, and it’s within your reach. To say no to that is really hard. I just went with my gut feeling. My gut told me to come back to Rutgers, to pour more into this program and to let others pour more into me. It had nothing to do with basketball. I wanted to give back.

You were also recognized by and got to practice with the Puerto Rican women’s national basketball team. What was that experience like, and what makes you so proud of your Puerto Rican heritage?

That experience in Puerto Rico was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The head coach and team members walk with a certain pride that’s just contagious. It makes you want to be part of something like that. I’m super proud to be Puerto Rican and to help represent.

What were your expectations going into the draft, before landing with the Sparks?

Going into the draft, my expectations were very high. I saw the mock drafts, and it fueled a fire in me to go in the top five, the first round. When it didn’t happen, it felt emotional at first, but it also was motivational. 

I think God understands that I run on a different type of fuel. I can’t run on regular fuel, I need diesel. It motivated me to show people what they’re missing out on. At the same time, I walk with a certain  humility; it can happen to anybody. It just adds to the story. 

“I think God understands that I run on a different type of fuel.”

You’re playing alongside Jordan Brand family member, Te’a Cooper. Have you connected yet?

Yes, we’ve done drills together. She was actually one of the first people to say hi to me when I stepped foot in the gym. She’s a sweetheart; she’s a ball of energy like you see in her social media videos. That’s how she is in person. Her energy is very contagious, and I love to be around it.

What are you most looking forward to this season?

I’m looking forward to having as much of an impact as I can. I want to take every opportunity and run with it. I plan to soak up information from guards I’ve looked up to. I really love the Sparks’ legacy and think that upholding that legacy is going to be really fun.

Your Instagram has as much basketball as it does fashion. How would you describe your style?

I describe my style as being a mix of tomboy, feminine and creative. I really like the swag Jordan Brand brings. I feel connected to it. Putting on Jordans makes me feel confident.

What are your favorite Jordans?

My favorite Jordans are the AJ1s. They go with anything and fit my body type the best. The AJ11s are right after. 

Did MJ influence you to wear 23 when you were at Texas Tech?

Absolutely. I couldn’t get number 24, so I was like, “What other number makes a statement?” I ran with it. I had a fun year playing as 23. I thought it brought out a really aggressive side of me. I had big shoes to fill.

The Jumpman has grown to represent more than just basketball or even sports. What does the Jumpman represent to you?

I think the Jumpman represents confidence, swag and work ethic. A lot of brands can’t transform or evolve the way Jordan Brand has. It’s amazing to see how women are in the spotlight now, too. The Jumpman represents all of those things for me.

Learn more about our WNBA family members here.