This year marks the 25th season of the WNBA. Most of this year’s draftees weren’t even born when the first WNBA Draft took place. From the time they took their first shots and got into organized basketball, they dreamed of hearing their names called. That is all the more poignant for Charli Collier, a post player who attended the University of Texas at Austin. Before her father died of cancer in 2016, he told her that she would someday be the top pick.
Elliott Collier’s prediction proved true at last week’s WNBA Draft, with Collier being the first selection, chosen by the Dallas Wings. “It was just amazing to know that your hard work pays off no matter what you do, and I feel like the best is still yet to come,” said Collier, who was wearing a design by Sergio Hudson, who has designed for First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Even though people were saying I was No. 1 here or there, I feel like when you’re actually in the moment, it’s different,” said Collier. “Your heart is racing. [WNBA commissioner] Cathy [Engelbert] is over there about to announce. The whole atmosphere is definitely exciting, and I was just feeling excited at the time.”
The Dallas Wings also had the second pick, choosing Awak Kuier, a 19-year-old from Finland who is currently playing professionally in Italy. At No. 3, the Atlanta Dream chose Aari McDonald, a 5-foot-6 guard from the University of Arizona, who in the last two weeks went from a talented but largely unknown guard to star of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think the women’s game is disrespected and I think people need to open their eyes,” said McDonald. “There’s something bigger than basketball. They stand up for stuff that they’re very passionate about, and that’s great.”
This season, the teams return to their markets, albeit with a limited number of fans, at least until after the Olympic break. Engelbert made it clear that last year’s social justice mission continues. Vaccine education and discussions about health equity will be prominent. The WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council will have active discussions about inequities and systemic racism in health care, while championing the importance of mental health.
A player-led vaccine-related public service announcement debuted during the Draft. The WNBA partnered with the WNBPA to donate $25,000 to the Black Women’s Health Imperative. The WNBA will bring community vaccine sites to its markets before the start of the season. The season kicks off May 14.