NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Charli Collier said she wrote down goals with her late father when he was hospitalized with cancer five years ago, and being selected No. 1 in the WNBA draft was one of them.
She checked off that goal on Thursday night when the Dallas Wings took her with the first pick.
“He’s here with me. He’s with me in the moment,” Collier said of her dad, who died in 2016. “My dad is so proud of me. Wish he could see this in real life. Nothing can take this moment away from me.”
— Charli Collier™ (@charlicollier) April 16, 2021
The Wings also had the No. 2 pick and a rare opportunity to transform the franchise. They chose Awak Kuier, who became the first Finnish player to be drafted in the WNBA.
It’s the first time in league history that a team had picks No. 1 and 2. The Wings acquired the top pick in a February trade after being awarded the second choice in the draft lottery.
The 6-foot-5 Collier helped the Longhorns reach the Elite Eight. The junior center finished the season averaging 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.1% from the field.
The 19-year-old Kuier played professionally in Italy, averaging 8.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
“An elite basketball player, so happy that she will be my teammate. Been following her, watching her game,” Collier said of Kuier. “Six-foot-5, long, versatile. Can’t wait to get to play with her and know her as a basketball player and a teammate.”
Kuier won a playoff game on Thursday night with her Italian team before getting drafted.
The Wings added Chelsea Dungee of Arkansas with the fifth pick.
Between the Dallas picks, Atlanta chose Arizona guard Aari McDonald, who had a stellar NCAA Tournament, and Kysre Gondrezick of West Virginia went fourth to Indiana.
New York chose Michaela Onyenwere of UCLA with the sixth pick. Los Angeles took Jasmine Walker of Alabama seventh, Chicago drafted Australian Shyla Heal eighth and Rennia Davis of Tennessee went to Minnesota ninth.
Stephanie Watts of North Carolina went 10th to Los Angeles. The defending champion Seattle Storm took Aaliyah Wilson of Texas A&M. Wilson didn’t stay in Seattle for long as she was traded to Indiana for Kennedy Burke. WNBA finalist Las Vegas drafted Iliana Rupert from France to close out the first round.
Dallas closed out its four picks in the first 13 by choosing Dana Evans of Louisville, who had been projected to be taken a lot sooner.
“It’s a blessing, excited to finally hear my name,” an emotional Evans said. “It’s motivation, didn’t expect to (fall) this far. I’m ready to take on whatever I got to do.”
The Washington Mystics became the first team in WNBA history not to make a selection in the draft. The Mystics traded all three of their picks to bring in former league MVP Tina Charles last year.
For the second straight season, the draft was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced picks from an ESPN studio in New York and players were at home appearing virtually when they were drafted.
With potentially as few as 144 roster spots in the WNBA and so many players under contract or still on their rookie-scale deals, there are not many spots open for players to make teams. There’s a good chance that less than a dozen draftees will be on opening-day rosters this season.
Training camps open around April 25 and the season starts on May 14.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)