The college basketball season may have ended less than a week ago, but the WNBA draft has already begun. Set for Monday at 7 p.m. ET, a number of players who have been recently competing in Final Four are hoping to hear their name and begin the next phase of their basketball journeys. Want to break down each team individually for what each W roster needs? My colleague Wilton Jackson has you covered. But here are five more things you need to know about Monday’s event.
back personal draft
For the first time since 2019 — and for the first time in the term of WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert — the League will host a personal draft, at Spring Studios in Lower Manhattan. As part of this return, 12 potential clients will be attending. The WNBA has also announced plans for three events taking place in New York City in the lead-up to draft night, including a plan to have invitees visit the Empire State Building, a collaboration with the street team to paint “City Sketch Orange” and a possible mini-tour, which will transport some invitees in different parts of the city.
Who are the best names to watch?
The first three names expected to be removed from the board are goalkeeper Ryan Howard, striker Nalissa Smith and midfielder Shakira Austin. Howard was the SEC Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons and emerged as one of the top scorers in college basketball by the end of her tenure in Kentucky. While the Wildcats were upset in the first round of the NCAA Championship by Princeton, Howard and her teammates scored one of the most important victories of the entire college season, defeating the eventual national champion South Carolina in the SEC Championship title match. “She’s clearly a good-sized winger who can score in multiple ways and also has the ability to defend when she wants to,” Dream general manager Dan Badover told reporters earlier this week.
Smith was a star player for Baylor, having won the Wade Cup awarded to the country’s best player in 2020–21. Last season, she averaged 22.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game — both in the top 10 nationally — and fired 55% from the field. While presenting a limited three-point threat, Smith brings aggression to the ground, especially on the offensive end and should provide any team he chooses with an immediate impact.
Austin isn’t the most efficient player in attack, but she has developed into one of the top centers in the country by the end of her college career. The two-time All-America Award Honorable Mention was first shown in Maryland and later moved to the Ole Miss, where it became a focal point of both rebel attack and defense. Austin has averaged at least 15 points and nine rebounds in each of the past two seasons, becoming likely to be in the top five in the process.
Who’s Stock Soared After the NCAA Championship?
Don’t be surprised if Destiny Henderson of South Carolina and Emily Engstler of Louisville hear their names in the top ten in the wake of Final Four. Henderson played perhaps her best team game in the National Championship, scoring 26 career points as South Carolina beat Yukon. Trainer Dawn Staley praised the growth she has shown since the beginning of her time with the Gamecocks, with Henderson becoming an influential force on both ends of the floor. For her efforts throughout March Madness, specifically, she was named to the All-Tournament team for the event.
Engstler displayed just how versatile she was while playing with the Cardinal last season. She was a member of the All-ACC and All-Defensive First Team and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year. In the NCAA Championships, she averaged 14.4 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, including scoring 20 against Tennessee at Sweet 16 and 18 in the National Semifinals game against South Carolina. Leah Dunn, General Manager at Fever, said: “So many things you’ll love, four players who can flat the floor, hit three, get to the edge. Really, an intense defensive player, high energy, gives you 110% 24/7. Just high Very much on her and what she can do, and I think she will have an amazing professional career.”
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Why is Mystics trading the #1 choice?
Washington appears to be looking to build for the future and compete in the present after trading the #1 pick in the draft to Atlanta earlier this week. The deal gives Mystics an additional second-round pick this year and the rights to swap their first-round pick for 2023 with the first-round pick that Dream acquired from Sparks in a deal earlier this season. Washington general manager and coach Mike Thibault told Washington PostKarim Copeland said the team has reached the point where he feels comfortable with any of the three choices. By saying, ‘We feel like, at three, we’re going to have a player we’re really happy with. So why not do the other things.’
Was it a big deal to move two locations when we liked all three? If we don’t [felt that way]We would have kept the choice.”
Badover, Dream GM, told reporters that he thinks this year’s draft is “probably the best from a depth point of view since 18 or 19.” His team’s trade will give them the opportunity to choose what they hope will be their desired key player, and do so after not compromising too much in the process.
Who are some of the names of sleepers to watch?
Looking for some players who can be recruited after the first round, but can still make an impact this season? Here are three names to watch. Stanford’s Lexie Hull was a Honorable Male on the 2021-22 All-America Coaches Team, averaging 12.5 points per game for 39.3% of the Cardinal’s three-shots. In the NCAA Championships, she raised that total to 18.4 points per game and went on to play solid defense, another distinguishing feature of her repertoire.
NC State forward Kayla Jones has rarely been the centerpiece of the Wolfpack, but she has provided the ACC champions with versatility at both ends. Jones, a second All-ACC member, has also shot at least 41% of three in each of the past two seasons and is fully capable of becoming an instant contributor if she finds the right WNBA landing spot.
LSU protector Khayla Pointer has continued to show improvement throughout her tenure at Baton Rouge, saving her best season in the past when averaging 19.6 points per game on 42% shots from the field. Although a little small in size, Pointer has proven that she can be a key playmaker for a successful team. Perhaps, in the WNBA, you will take on a similar role.
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