The Atlanta Dream is looking for a versatile player to help rebuild their list, with select guard Rhyne Howard University of Kentucky as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft at Spring Studios in New York on Monday.
Prior to the draft, Dream General Manager Dan Pedor said the team was looking for a player who would “bring fresh energy and shine something on the bottom of our franchise.”
Too little that Howard can’t do. She is in the top 10 of almost every statistical ranking in Kentucky, and has the second highest number of points for women and men in the history of the program. Last month, Howard led Kentucky to its first Southeastern Conference tournament title since 1982 when the team defeated South Carolina, the national champion of 2022, the second and final loss of the season. Howard, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. That is, ending his senior year with an average of 20.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Kentucky, the No. 6 seed in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament this year, lost to No. 11 Princeton in the Round of 64. But Howard’s career in Kentucky helped draw attention to a women’s basketball program at a school known for its popularity. Its Powerhouse Men’s Team.
In order to be able to pick him, the Dreams were drafted last week earning No. 1 in a trade with the Washington Mystics. In return, Sofia will receive the No. 3 and No. 14 overall selections of the Dreams. The Sufis also have the right to change the first-round pick in the 2023 draft, which is expected to draw deep talent from across the country.
Atlanta finished 8-24 last season, the second-worst record in the WNBA, and lost the game for the past three seasons. Adding Howard to the dream list immediately strengthens their girlfriend’s game, which should help team-mate Chyna Carter to the Los Angeles Sparks in the off-season.
“Some drafts are huge; Some are hot, “said Powell. “It’s probably hotter than anything else.” He added that the best talent from 2018 or 2019 has been presented in this year’s draft.
This year, 108 college players are considering drafting their remaining NCAA eligibility, more than doubling by 2021. International players and those who are no longer eligible to play in the NCAA will also be considered. But the chances of getting a spot on the roster are slim: There are 36 draft slots for WNBA’s 12 teams, with only 12 roster spots in each. With only 144 road spots in all, many players and fans are calling for bigger routes and more teams, the WNBA has resisted.
Infection is probably one of the reasons for the increase in college-eligible draft prospects. College players are usually eligible to play four seasons over a five-year period. In the post-mortem schedule, the NCAA added a special bonus year for any athlete who has missed playing time during the 2019-20 season.
Should they not go to the WNBA this year and still have qualifying season, the athletes can return to their college (assuming there is still room for them on the roster).
Horizon League commissioner Julie Roach said this year’s draft class mimics the equality seen in the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, which led six top-seeded teams to the Round of 16.
“You have some names you would expect to see, but we are seeing more schools with players that look like strong draft prospects,” he said. “It represents the growth of talent that we are seeing in the country of these great women’s basketball players.”
The WNBA season starts on May 6 with eight teams, including reigning champion Chicago Sky, in action.