Ever since the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, its mark on sports has been well-pronounced with several major sporting events being either cancelled or postponed.
Scratch that – with virtually every major sporting event either being cancelled or postponed.
As it appears said situation will proceed into the summer – and possibly even into the fall – the status of the 2020 WNBA season is very much up in the air.
In fact, the attention being paid to the virus has sidetracked us in the WNBA ecosystem to a somewhat overlooked detail – the start of the season is scheduled for May 15.
As for the draft, it will still take place on April 17, but will instead be done in an entirely virtual format with picks being announced by WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. Initially it was to take place on ESPN2, but was moved to ESPN after fan outcry reminded ESPN that it might as well air the draft with no other sports available at the moment.
Safeguarding the health and well-being of our prospects, players, employees and everyone connected to our game as well as the general public is paramount. With that in mind, we will work diligently with our broadcast partner, ESPN, to create a memorable but virtual event that appropriately honors these accomplished athletes.
–Cathy Engelbert, WNBA commissioner (press release)
Virtual or not, the WNBA will also move ahead with plans to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant at the draft as well as Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli – all four of whom tragically lost their lives in January in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles.
Prior to the pandemic, Engelbert hinted at a National Press Club luncheon with Washington Mystics owner Ted Leonsis that the draft would have been held with fans present. The last time fans could attend a WNBA draft was the 2016 rendition at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Virtual or not, this draft will still feature some major names who got next in the W. Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu is expected to be the top selection to the New York Liberty. Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard will also represent the Ducks. Megan Walker out of UConn also recently declared for the draft. Lauren Cox (Baylor), Chennedy Carter (Texas A&M), Tyasha Harris (South Carolina), Te’a Cooper (Baylor), Bella Alarie (Princeton), Beatrice Mompremier (Miami), Crystal Dangerfield (UConn) and Kylee Shook (Louisville) are other names to look out for.