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WNBA draft prospects prepare to takeover NYC

Photo Credit: Bryan Woolston/AP

Ole Miss center Shakira Austin, Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard and Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith headline the list of 12 prospects who will attend WNBA Draft 2022 presented by State Farm on Monday, April 11.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce the first-round draft picks live on ESPN with exclusive coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET.  The draft will also be available live on the ESPN App. 

In preparation for the WNBA Draft 2022 , ESPN2 will broadcast the first-ever WNBA Draft Preview Show on Saturday, April 9 (1:30 p.m. ET).  LaChina Robinson will host the 30-minute special with analyst Rebecca Lobo. Together they will break down the top draft prospects, discuss team needs and whose stock is on the rise following the NCAA Tournament.

On draft night, top prospects will take part live as the WNBA Draft returns to an in-person event for the first time since 2019, with the acclaimed Spring Studios, located in the Tribeca section of New York City and the home to such iconic events as Fashion Week and The Tribeca Film Festival, serving as the venue for the evening’s events.

The other prospects who will be in attendance are guard Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast), guard-forward Rae Burrell (Tennessee), guard Veronica Burton (Northwestern), guard Nia Clouden (Michigan State), center Elissa Cunane (NC State), forward Emily Engstler (Louisville), guard Destanni Henderson (South Carolina), forward Naz Hillmon (Michigan), and forward Nyara Sabally (Oregon).

The Atlanta Dream own the top pick in the draft by virtue of a trade with the Washington Mystics that took place on Wednesday.  The Indiana Fever, which has the No. 2, 4, 6 and 10 overall selections, could become the first team in WNBA history to make four picks in the first round. 

Prospect highlights:

Shakira Austin (Ole Miss): A two-time All-America Honorable Mention selection at Ole Miss, Austin was one of 15 players on the ballot for the 2021-22 John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s top player and a semifinalist for the Lisa Leslie Award as the nation’s best center.  

Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast): Bell, a 6-1 guard and the winner of the 2020-21 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award, was a finalist for the same honor in 2021-22 as well as for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the nation’s best shooting guard. She averaged 24.3 points in 2020-21 and 22.8 points in 2021-22.

Rae Burrell (Tennessee): A 6-1 guard-forward from Las Vegas, Burrell overcame an early-season leg injury this season to average 12.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 22 games for the Lady Vols. 

Veronica Burton (Northwestern): The 5-9 Burton, a finalist for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year honor, joined current Atlanta Dream coach Tanisha Wright as the only women to earn three Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.  A native of Newton, Mass., her late grandfather, Ron Burton, was the first-ever draft pick of the New England Patriots.

Nia Clouden (Michigan State): A 5-8 guard, Clouden garnered All-Big Ten First Team honors in 2020-21 and again this season. She set a Michigan State single-game record with 50 points against Florida Gulf Coast this season en route to being one of 10 semifinalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award as Division I’s best point guard.

Elissa Cunane (NC State): Nicknamed “Big Smile,” the 6-5 Cunane was a finalist for the Lisa Leslie Award as the nation’s best center the past three seasons and an AP All-America Second Team selection the last two years. She helped the Wolfpack win the ACC Tournament crown in her hometown of Greensboro, N.C., each of the last three seasons, earning tournament MVP honors in 2021 and 2022. 

Emily Engstler (Louisville): The 6-1 forward from Queens, N.Y., was an All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team pick in 2021-22, a year after being named Co-Sixth Player of Year.  She finished this season atop the ACC charts in steals (2.7 spg) and ranked third in rebounding (6.7 rpg).

Destanni Henderson (South Carolina): A 5-7 guard from Fort Myers, Fla., Henderson propelled South Carolina to the 2021-22 national championship with a game-high 26 points in the title game win over Connecticut. She was also a finalist for the Dawn Staley Award as the best Division I guard and for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation’s top point guard.

Naz Hillmon (Michigan): The most decorated player in the history of the Wolverines’ women’s basketball program, Hillmon was an AP All-America First Team selection this season and the 2020-21 Big Ten Player of the Year.  A 6-2 forward, Hillmon averaged more than 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in each of the past two seasons.

Rhyne Howard (Kentucky): The 6-2 Howard was the SEC Player of the Year in 2020-21 and 2021-22.  In each of the past three seasons, the versatile Chattanooga, Tenn., native was a finalist for multiple National Player of the Year honors as well as for the Dawn Staley Award as the nation’s top guard and the Cheryl Miller Award as the best small forward.  Howard averaged at least 20 points each of the last three seasons.

Nyara Sabally (Oregon): A native of Berlin, Germany, the 6-5 forward is the younger sister of Satou Sabally, the Dallas Wings forward and No. 2 selection in the 2020 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm.  After missing the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons due to injury, the younger Sabally was an All-Pac-12 selection the past two seasons and a finalist for the 2021-22 Katrina McClain Award as the nation’s top power forward.  This season, she led Oregon in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg).

NaLyssa Smith (Baylor): Smith, a 6-4 forward, won the Wade Trophy as the nation’s best player in 2020-21.  In each of the past two seasons, she earned the Katrina McClain Award as Division I’s best power forward, was selected as the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and was named to the AP All-America First Team.  This year, the Converse, Texas native was again a finalist for multiple National Player of the Year honors after pacing the Big 12 in scoring (22.1 ppg) and rebounding (11.5 rpg).