Monday, September 27News That Matters

Charli Collier Is the No. 1 Pick in the W.N.B.A. Draft

Charli Collier, a center from the University of Texas, was selected No. 1 over all by the Dallas Wings in the W.N.B.A. draft held virtually on Thursday, fulfilling the dream of her late father that she be the top pick. Collier, who is from Texas and was widely projected to be the first pick, averaged 19 points and 11.3 rebounds per game in the 2020-21 season.

Collier, surrounded by her mother, brother and boyfriend, pointed to the sky as she was announced as the first pick.

“We sat down in the hospital bed, and we wrote down goals,” she said, referring to her father, Elliott. “This was one of them. He’s here with me.”

The Wings had the No. 2 pick and added the No. 1 pick in a trade with the Seattle Storm, which had acquired the top selection in a trade with the Liberty. Dallas selected Awak Kuier, a 6-foot-5 center playing professionally in Italy, with the second pick. It was the first time in league history that one team had the top two picks. This will be the W.N.B.A.’s 25th season.

Last season was played in a bubble environment — fondly referred to as the “wubble” — at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., because of the pandemic. This season will be played in teams’ home cities, some with a limited number of fans, in accordance with local health officials’ recommendations.

The season tips off on May 14, when the Liberty host the Indiana Fever at Barclays Center. Each team will play 32 games in the regular season, down from the originally planned 36, with reduced travel because of the pandemic. The league, which has been ahead of others in discussions about social justice, plans to continue those efforts this season, W.N.B.A. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters on Tuesday.

“The players want to be about change, and they want to have their hand in that change,” she said. “Whether it’s civic engagement or voting rights or health equity or other issues that many of them are passionate about, I really look forward to seeing what they do this year and handling any crises that come our way.”

Engelbert also said that the league was open to expanding, as women’s sports have gained more attention in recent years. Viewership of the 2020 W.N.B.A. finals was up 15 percent year over year, according to ESPN. The draft came as the spotlight had turned toward inequities between men’s and women’s athletics, with a focus on differences in facilities, testing and meals at the men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments.