The Atlanta Dream, looking for a versatile player to help rebuild its roster, selected University of Kentucky guardian Rhyne Howard on Monday as the first chance for a WNBA draft at Spring Studios in New York City.
Prior to the draft, Dream General Manager Dan Padover said the team was looking for a player who “has a fresh energy and something under their franchise”.
Indiana Fever selected NaLyssa Smith, the No. 2 senior striker at Baylor University. In No. 3, Washington Mystics chose Shakira Austin, the center of the University of Mississippi.
Howard said he intended to bring his “competitive spirit” with Kentucky to the Dream, where he was assured that he would be “calm, fresh and wrapped up” to make an impact. In Atlanta, Howard said “everything will continue to improve.”
There is very little that Howard cannot do. It ranks in the top 10 in almost every statistic category in Kentucky and has scored the second most points in the history of the program among women and men. Last month, Howard moved Kentucky to the first title in the Southeastern Conference Championship since 1982 when the team lost its second and final loss to South Carolina, the 2022 national champion of the season. Howard, from Chattanooga, Tenn., Finished the final year with an average of 20.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Kentucky, this year’s No. 6 NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball tournament, lost to No. 11 at Princeton in the 64th final. But Howard Kentucky’s career has helped her focus on a school that is well known for its women’s basketball program. his strong male team.
In order to pick her up, Dream shook up the draft last week, earning her 1st chance in a trade with the Washington Mystics. In exchange, Mystics will get their 3rd and 14th issue of Dream. Mystics also have the right to exchange their first return options in the 2023 draft, which is expected to attract deep talent from across the country.
Atlanta finished 8-24 last season, the second-worst WNBA record, and has lost the playoffs in the last three seasons. Adding Howard Dream to the roster immediately revives the perimeter game, which should help the team move after guard Chennedy Carter moves to the Los Angeles Sparks.
“Some sketches are top weights; some are deep, ”Padover said. “This is probably deeper than nothing.” He added that this year’s draft has offered the best talent since 2018 or 2019.
This year, 108 college players turned down NCAA eligibility for the draft, more than double that of 2021. International players and those who do not have the right to play in the NCAA will also be considered. But the chances of getting a place on a roster are slim: There are 36 drafts for 12 WNBA teams, each with only 12 roster positions. With a total of 144 positions, many players and fans are demanding bigger lists and more teams, which the WNBA wants to tackle.
One reason for the increase in college-eligible pre-projects may be a pandemic. College athletes typically have the right to play for four seasons for five years. After the pandemic schedule was disrupted, the NCAA added a special year of eligibility for athletes who lost time playing in the 2019-20 season.
If they haven’t joined the WNBA this year and still have a qualifying season, athletes can return to their college (assuming there is still a place on the list).
Julie Roe Lach, a Horizon League commissioner, said this year’s draft class mimics the parity seen at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships, which saw six double-digit teams reach the quarterfinals.
“You’ve got some names you’d expect to see, but we’re seeing more schools with players who seem like strong draft options,” he said. “This speaks to the increase in talent that we are seeing in the country of these great female basketball players.”
The WNBA season kicks off May 6 with eight teams, including Chicago Sky champion.