Fashion, HBCUs win as ESPN drops the ball

The WNBA welcomed 36 additional players to the ranks on Monday night with the 2022 draft headlined by No. 1 overall pick Rhyne Howard at the Atlanta Dream. The league takes over from the NCAA Tournament, which ended eight days ago, and will kick off its 26th season on May 6.

One of the biggest wins of the night was finding out more about Phoenix Mercury Team USA star and gold medalist Britney Griner, who remains imprisoned in Russia since mid-February. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert began her press conference with the media in address Griner’s situation and say the league is working to bring her home but everyone “must be patient”.

Griner was a talking point during the broadcast with updates from Holly Rowe as well. Players have remained largely mum on the situation, likely because they don’t want to draw unwanted attention to it and using Griner as a bargaining chip in the war with Ukraine.

Here are the winners and losers of the draft itself. All 36 draft picks can be found here.

Winners

Rhyne Howard’s Night 1 – Howard has long been a long-awaited No. 1 overall draft pick and conducted numerous draft simulations earlier in the year. But Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, who finished second, was a favorite choice for many when the Washington Mystics held the December lottery draw.

The Dream completed a trade last week to give up their No. 3 and No. 14 picks to bring in Howard, a two-time SEC Player of the Year selection and only the ninth player to be a three-time Associated Press All-Pick. America’s first team. Atlanta has had its fair share of turmoil over the past two years, some of which weren’t its fault, and it must feel good to know that a team has signed up to get you there.

“To begin with, I don’t even have words right now,” Howard said. “I’m still shaking a bit. But it’s super exciting, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, proud of myself and grateful to everyone who has been on this journey with me and helped me get here. . “

Howard is coming off a surprise SEC Tournament championship and a third straight season averaging at least 20 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 SPG and two 3-point attempts per game. She will play near her hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee.

In person again and oh my, the fits – The draft was held in person for the first time since 2019 and it was refreshing to see the moments live, not to mention the proud families sitting with their professional basketball players. Kudos to Grandma Brenda at Spring Studios in Tribeca, where Fashion Week is held.

It’s always the fashion that commands attention at any draft, and the WNBA always leads the way. Players are more authentically themselves than ever and showcase the league’s lineup itself. There are so many different ways to be a person; the WNBA does not subscribe to fitting in a mould.

Who will easily forget the guard of South Carolina and Indiana fever rookie Destanni Henderson in a perfectly blue suit. Or Ole Miss star Shakira Austin, the Mystics’ No. 3 pick in that dream trade, in a star-studded jumpsuit?

Mid-majors and HBCUs in particular – It was a big night for the mid-majors starting with Florida Gulf Coast Guard Cutter Kierstan Bell. The two-time Becky Hammon award winner for the nation’s best mid-major player is heading to Becky Hammon herself and the Las Vegas Aces.

The award given by Her Hoop Stats is only in its third year and strives to showcase talent beyond the Power Five conferences that are often expanded to include the Big East, led by UConn. And it was a big tournament for middle schools as parity grows in the college ranks.

Joining Bell on the Night: Amy Atwell of Hawaii (Sparks, No. 27), Hannah Sjerven of South Dakota (Lynx, No. 28), Jasmine Dickey of Delaware (Wings, No. 30), Jazz Bond of Florida North (Wings, No. 31) and IUPUI’s Macee Williams (Mercury, No. 32). It just goes to show once again that good scouts will find good talent no matter what name is on the front of the shirt.

It was an HBCU that stood out the brightest beyond Florida Gulf Coast selection and Bell, however. Jackson State nearly upset LSU and legendary coach Kim Mulkey in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Now center Ameshya Williams-Holliday is the program’s first-ever draft pick at 25th overall Indiana fever.

Williams Holiday averaged 19.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54% from the field. She is the sixth HBCU player to be drafted into the league and the first in 19 years.

losers

ESPN shortens the W. Again – Chances are this is the first time you’ve heard of the historic aspect of the Williams-Holliday pick even if you watched the WNBA draft live. ESPN didn’t discuss the pick when it happened, just like it didn’t discuss most second- or third-round picks. His name and “Pick is in” went down third graph instead of being called by hosts. It was another missed opportunity for the broadcaster to showcase the league in which it has a commercial interest by owning the broadcast rights.

ESPN has always skipped the final rounds of the draft and instead of calling picks as they go, the news is broadcast on a ticker and later the hosts list a group of five or six together by name. The only ones they stopped for were draft picks on the site that made it past the first round.

Is it really fair to deprive two-thirds of players of a small repechage? It’s their one big chance to learn they’ve been drafted, a huge achievement in itself. It would have been so special to later see the TikTok or Instagram Live reactions of these mid-size players after hearing their name called out on TV. A pThe pro league draft is done in mini moments, not a summary of rosters or first-round selections.

Florida Gulf Coast's Kierstan Bell reacts after being selected by the Las Vegas Aces as the 11th overall pick in the WNBA basketball draft, Monday, April 11, 2022, in New York City.  (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Florida Gulf Coast’s Kierstan Bell reacts after being selected by the Las Vegas Aces as the 11th overall pick in the WNBA basketball draft, Monday, April 11, 2022, in New York City. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Many of these players won’t make rosters — This is the sad annual reality. There are 12 teams with 12 roster spots each creating the league’s “144”. But that’s not a real number as many teams will have 11 players due to salary cap issues. Last season, half of rookies didn’t make a roster, and fewer of those picks will be on Year 2 rosters.

Teams are more likely to sign a known veteran talent than a rookie, although the rookie salary may make it attractive to keep them above a more expensive star. But many of those players are in tough spots with the teams that drafted them already carrying a strong roster.

“My main goal is to get up there and get signed,” said Emily Engstler, the Fever’s fourth pick at Louisville, when asked about her goals. “We may have been drafted but we haven’t got a contract yet. This is my first step. I want to live in the moment. I think it’s important for us to do that or it becomes a bit too much.”

About 0.8% of collegiate players make it to the WNBA, a stat so much lower than any other professional league that the bar charts are staggering. ESPN showed those who started the broadcast, making their omission of the few people who “did” it – at least for a few weeks – all the more difficult to swallow.

Discussion on the expanded list —Expansion is the subject of every availability with Engelbert, and Monday was no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a pause in expansion that will hopefully ease soon and Engelbert teased more information to come this summer.

“I wish I could be in a different position to talk about it, but we’re going to get there and it’s definitely in our future,” Engelbert said.

Roster expansion takes over from squad expansion after a season that saw some teams use six available players for games and the hardship waiver was used more than ever to sign players for short stays. Rebecca Lobo, citing discussions with coaches and general managers, launched the idea of ​​two training places for the players during a media conference call ahead of the draft. Engelbert does not “see this in the very short term” and would require a change to the collective agreement since these players must be paid.

“If I get what I want and we disrupt the royalty model for media rights and we’re able to afford it, we’re absolutely going to take a look at it,” she said. declared. “I think everything will be on the table in a few years. In fact, I expect that.”

Expect more tough signings and shorter rosters in the coming season, especially as it’s an extended 36-game season in a shortened window due to the FIFA Cup. FIBA World in September.

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