WNBA Draft: Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard Goes No. 1 to Dream

The Atlanta Dream, on the lookout for a flexible participant to assist rebuild their roster, chosen guard Rhyne Howard from the College of Kentucky because the No. 1 choose within the WNBA draft on Monday at Spring Studios in New York.

Forward of the draft, Dream Common Supervisor Dan Padover stated the staff was on the lookout for a participant who introduced “contemporary vitality and sparks one thing beneath our franchise.”

The Indiana Fever chosen NaLyssa Smith, a senior ahead from Baylor College, with the No. 2 jumpsuit choose. At No. 3, the Washington Mystics selected Shakira Austin, a middle from the College of Mississippi.

Howard stated she deliberate to convey to the Dream the identical “aggressive spirit” she had with Kentucky, the place she made certain to remain “calm, cool and picked up.”

“I feel that is what actually helped me to change into profitable, and I simply actually need to have an effect on the staff,” Howard stated, including that she is going to “proceed to make everybody higher” in Atlanta.

There’s little or no Howard cannot do. She is within the prime 10 of virtually each statistical class at Kentucky, and has scored the second-most factors in program historical past for men and women. Final month, Howard led Kentucky to its first Southeastern Convention match title since 1982 when the staff handed South Carolina, the 2022 nationwide champion, its second and last lack of the season. Howard, who’s from Chattanooga, Tenn., completed his senior yr at Kentucky averaging 20.5 factors and seven.4 rebounds per sport.

Kentucky, a no. 6 seed on this yr’s NCAA Division I girls’s basketball match, misplaced to No. 11 Princeton within the spherical of 64. However Howard’s profession at Kentucky has helped draw consideration to the ladies’s basketball program at a college finest recognized for its powerhouse males’s staff.

“I am very versatile, no matter place I am enjoying, I prefer to match for these positions,” Howard stated.

To have the ability to choose her, the Dream shook up the draft final week by buying the No. 1 choose in a commerce with the Washington Mystics. In return, the Mystics acquired the Dream’s No. 3 and no. 14 general picks. The Mystics even have the precise to swap first-round picks within the 2023 draft, which is predicted to attract deep expertise from across the nation.

Atlanta completed final season 8-24, the second-worst file within the WNBA, and has missed the playoffs for the previous three seasons. Including Howard to the Dream’s roster instantly bolsters their perimeter sport, which ought to assist after the staff traded guard Chennedy Carter to the Los Angeles Sparks within the low season.

“Some drafts are top-heavy; some are deep,” Padover stated. “This one might be probably the most deep greater than something.” He added that this yr’s draft supplied one of the best expertise since 2018 or 2019.

The Liberty chosen Nyara Sabally, a 6-foot-5 ahead from College of Oregon, at No. 5 jumpsuit. Sabally, who’s from Berlin, scored a profession excessive 31 factors in Oregon’s last sport of the season, a first-round loss within the NCAA match. She averaged 15.4 factors and seven.8 rebounds per sport within the 2021-22 season.

“It is superb to be drafted by New York. It’s extremely surreal,” stated Sabally, who joins the league two years after Dallas drafted her sister and school teammate, Satou. “I really like that ladies’s basketball is rising and other people acknowledge it, particularly in such a giant metropolis like New York. I am simply comfortable that I get to play on a staff like that.”

This yr, 108 school gamers renounced their remaining NCAA eligibility to be thought-about for the draft, greater than double than in 2021. Worldwide gamers and those that are not eligible to play within the NCAA will even be thought-about. However the possibilities of getting a spot on a roster are slim: There are 36 draft slots for the WNBA’s 12 groups, which have simply 12 roster spots every. With solely 144 roster spots in all, many gamers and followers are calling for larger rosters and extra groups, needs the WNBA has resisted.

One cause for the rise in college-eligible draft prospects would be the pandemic. Faculty athletes are usually eligible to play 4 seasons over the course of 5 years. After the pandemic disrupted schedules, the NCAA added a particular bonus yr of eligibility for any athlete who misplaced enjoying time throughout the 2019-20 season.

Ought to they not make it to the WNBA this yr and nonetheless have a season of eligibility, athletes can return to their school (assuming there may be nonetheless a spot for them on the roster).

Julie Roe Lach, the commissioner of the Horizon League, stated this yr’s draft class mimics the parity seen within the 2022 NCAA girls’s basketball match, which noticed six double-digit-seeded groups make it to the spherical of 16. Not one of the three prime draft picks superior past the spherical of 16.

“You have obtained a few of the names you’ll count on to see, however we’re seeing extra colleges with gamers that appear like sturdy draft prospects,” she stated. “That speaks to the rise of expertise we’re seeing throughout the nation of those nice girls basketball gamers.”

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert opened the draft by acknowledging Phoenix Mercury heart Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia since mid-February on drug fees that might carry a sentence of as much as 10 years if she is convicted. “Getting her house is a prime precedence,” Engelbert stated.

This was the primary in-person draft since 2019, and gamers and friends didn’t maintain again from celebrating. Colourful pantsuits, rhinestone jackets and loads of excessive heels and sneakers alike crammed the TriBeCa occasion area. The Corridor of Famers Daybreak Staley, the South Carolina head coach, and Lisa Leslie posed with draft prospects earlier than the ESPN protection started. Oregon’s Sedona Prince lived as much as her TikTok fame and was capturing scenes all through the night time.

The draft capped a weekend of WNBA occasions throughout New York Metropolis, together with shoot-arounds at neighborhood playgrounds and a go to to one of many metropolis’s prime sneaker outlets. Because the WNBA tries to extend its visibility, the league obtained the strongest New York Metropolis enhance of all: The Empire State Constructing lit up Monday night time in orange, the signature coloration of the WNBA

The 2022 season begins Could 6 with eight groups in motion, together with the reigning champion Chicago Sky.

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