Friday, April 17th marked a special moment for a multitude of young women, as each realized their dream of becoming a professional basketball player. The 2020 WNBA Draft, which was held virtually due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, marked the beginning of a new age of women’s basketball.
When have you heard of a WNBA player’s jersey selling out within minutes of its release? Do you remember a WNBA draft featuring live shoutouts from Olympians such as Simone Biles, and NBA superstars such as Kevin Durant & Kevin Love? The 2020 WNBA Draft, the first under the new collective bargaining agreement, represented change for the sport.
The night began with a touching tribute to Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, and Payton Chester, who lost their lives in the tragic helicopter crash which was also responsible for the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. The WNBA made them honorary draft picks, which would allow them (post-mortem) to have what they were working towards. Following the tribute, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert began the proceedings of the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Pick #1: Sabrina Ionescu (selected by the New York Liberty)
This pick was virtually a lock due to the greatness displayed by Ionescu during her Oregon tenure. Ionescu was the NCAA’s all time leader in career triple doubles, broke various records, garnered multiple awards such as Naismith Player of the Year, and was a 3-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner (the award for the nation’s best point guard).
Ionescu, flanked by her family at home, conveyed a cool aura answering questions from reporters (via telecommunication) after the pick was made. That type of demeanor will serve Sabrina well playing in one of, if not the largest, market for sports. Speaking of markets, Ionescu also announced on draft night that she would be signing with shoe/athletic apparel giant, Nike.
The California-born Ionescu will look to transform Liberty basketball in New York City, more specifically Brooklyn. After the Liberty’s sale to current Nets owner, Joe Tsai, it became apparent that the franchise would move from Westchester to the Barclays Center. Time will tell if Sabrina Ionescu will become the next New York sports hero.
Pick #2: Satou Sabally (selected by the Dallas Wings)
The New York City-born (raised in Germany), prospect didn’t have as much fanfare coming out as her teammate, Sabrina Ionescu. However, she was an elite forward at Oregon, winning the Cheryl Miller Award (the award for the best small forward in women’s college basketball).
The European style of play is evident in Sabally’s game. The 6’4 junior shot 33.8% from beyond the arc (2019-2020), implementing a long-range game in conjunction with her ability to use her size in the interior. Satou also intimated in her post-selection interview that former German/NBA basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki was an inspiration for her growing up.
Satou Sabally will be joining a Wings team that finished 10-24 last year. The team is undergoing a rebuilding period, as they try to figure out an identity. By the looks of it, it seems they will focus on a “tall-ball” game using length and athleticism to produce on both sides of the floor. With fellow draftees Bella Alarie (6’4) and Luisa Geiselsoder (6’3), and veterans such as Megan Gustafson (6’3) and Katie Lou Samuelson (6’3), everything is indeed looking big in Texas.
Pick #3: Lauren Cox (selected by the Indiana Fever)
Prior to the selection of Satou Sabally, there were questions on whether Lauren Cox would be selected by Dallas with the second overall pick. Cox was born and raised in Texas, and went to Baylor University in Waco. Being drafted by Dallas would have kept Cox in her home state.
Similar to Ionescu and Sabally, Cox has an impressive resume herself. Lauren Cox ended her college career as the Big 12 Player of the Year. She also won the National Championship back in 2019 under Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2020 selection, Kim Mulkey.
Lauren Cox will be joining an Indiana Fever team that features notable veterans in Natalie Achonwa, and 6-time All Star Candice Dupree. The selection of Cox signals the team’s need for adding talented youth. Last year, Indiana used their first round pick (which happened to be third as well) to select Mississippi State’s 6-7 phenom, Teaira McCowan. Last year McCowan averaged a near double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Cox’s presence should allow Indiana to space the floor and be competitive in games.
Pick #4: Chennedy Carter (selected by the Atlanta Dream)
If there was ever a player that fit the name of the team she/he was drafted on, Chennedy Carter has a good case. Carter’s college career was nothing short of outstanding, as she averaged 22.5 points-per-game over three seasons. The former National Freshman of the Year, Chennedy rose to prominence for her other-worldly scoring ability. Carter holds the
Texas A&M school record for single-game points scored (in both regular season and tournament play).
The 5-7 Chennedy Carter arguably could have been the second or third pick, but Sabally and Cox appear to be better fits with their teams right now. The veteran heavy Dream are looking for fresh faces to push the team forward. Also, considering the Atlanta Hawks’ acquisition of Trae Young last year (and seeing what he can do on the floor), it makes sense that the Dream looked for their version.
The Atlanta Dream are looking to revitalize a franchise that hasn’t seen a first-round pick drafted since 2015 become an All-Star. However, Chennedy may be drawing in the stars already. Acclaimed rapper Lil Wayne’ suggested he would buy tickets for the Dream with the arrival of Carter in Hotlanta.
Pick #5 – Bella Alarie (selected by the Dallas Wings)
This was the first surprise pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft. ESPN’s mock draft had Alarie selected later on in the draft at pick number seven. The 6’4 forward from Princeton is no stranger to basketball success. Her father, Mark Alarie, was selected 18th in the 1986 NBA Draft to the Denver Nuggets, ahead of notable names such as Arvydas Sabonis, Dennis Rodman, Mark Price, Nate McMillan, Jeff Hornacek, and Dražen Petrović.
Although Bella Alarie was named unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year in her senior campaign, her best statistical season was her junior year in which she averaged (per-game): 22.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Bella Alarie is one of the better players to come out of the Ivy League for women’s basketball. Being a 3-time Ivy League Player of the Year, only the third person to do it, speaks volumes to her individual level of greatness.
Pick #6 – Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (selected by the Minnesota Lynx)
The selection of Herbert Harrigan here was another shocker, to where ESPN analysts covering the draft went as far as to intimate that Minnesota possessed some “secrets” on Herbert Harrigan’s game. The ESPN mock draft had her being selected 10th by the Phoenix Mercury, which made sense. Their logic was that Mikiah could be a long, rangy veteran who could replace DeWanna Bonner. The mock draft had her teammate, Tyasha Harris going much earlier in the 5th spot.
Statistically, Herbert Harrigan’s career does not leap out to the casual fan, but she possesses an innate level of tenacity when it comes to blocking shots. Mikiah currently sits 5th all-time in South Carolina women’s basketball blocked shots. Minnesota is picking up a player who is heavily underrated by some, and could be a genuine steal.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will look into picks 7-12.