All Scores

2021 WNBA Draft: First round picks and analysis

AUSTIN, TX – FEBRUARY 17: Texas Longhorns forward Charli Collier (35) is defended by West Virginia Mountaineers Lucky Rudd (4) and Rochelle Norris (31) on February 17, 2020, at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, TX. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The WNBA Draft is making players’ dreams come true from their homes. The virtual event got underway with the first round Thursday night on ESPN.

As teams make their selections, we’ll be delivering instant analysis.

1. Dallas Wings – Charli Collier, C/F, Texas

The Wings didn’t surprise with their first pick, selecting the 6-foot-5 forward who declared for the draft after her junior season at Texas. Collier will need to work on the finer points of her paint game to contend with veteran WNBA players, but she has the type of upside Dallas is looking for in building out its frontcourt behind Satou Sabally.

“My heart is racing because I worked so hard for this moment,” Collier told Holly Rowe on air. “Hate me or love me, you still gotta respect me either way.”

2. Dallas Wings – Awak Kuier, PF, Finland

The Wings have the youngest roster in the WNBA and the highest ceiling. They added another athletic big with the No. 2 pick, taking the 19-year-old out of Finland. Kuier is 6-5 and has played for the Finnish national team since she was 16, preparing her for the elevated skill in the WNBA.

3. Atlanta Dream – Aari McDonald, G, Arizona

Aari McDonald’s draft stock rose as she led her Arizona team to the NCAA championship game, but No. 3 is even higher than some might’ve predicted. McDonald showed off her speed and offensive repertoire in San Antonio, averaging 24.8 points through the tournament, and will give Atlanta a dangerous 1-2 punch at guard with Chennedy Carter.

4. Indiana Fever – Kysre Gondrezick, G, West Virginia

The first big surprise of the draft came very early. Most pundits didn’t even have Kysre Gondrezick going in the first round, but the 5-9 guard was coming off her best season as a redshirt senior at West Virginia. She led the Mountaineers with 19.5 points per game and became a more efficient shooter at all levels.

5. Dallas Wings – Chelsea Dungee, SG, Arkansas

The Wings beefed up their frontcourt with their first two picks, so it only made sense for them to find a shooter, and Chelsea Dungee has one of the purest strokes in this draft class. The third-team All-American averaged 22.3 points per game for Arkansas, 14th in the NCAA, and shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range.

6. New York Liberty – Michaela Onyenwere, SF, UCLA

The Liberty added some needed veteran starters in free agency between Natasha Howard and Betnijah Laney, and Michaela Onyenwere gives them a versatile option with a lot of upside to add to the mix. The athletic forward can rack up points in a hurry and goes hard on the glass.

7. Los Angeles Sparks – Jasmine Walker, F, Alabama

The Sparks took one step toward filling Candace Parker’s shoes with their seventh pick. Jasmine Walker is one of the most intriguing forward prospects in the draft because of her 3-point shooting ability. She averaged nearly a double-double as a senior (19.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game) while also shooting 39.8 percent from range.

8. Chicago Sky – Shyla Heal, PG, Australia

It made sense for the Sky to take a point guard with this pick and give her a season to develop under veteran Courtney Vandersloot. The surprise came in the player they selected, but the 19-year-old Shyla Heal has potential and the skills they can mold into their point guard of the future.

9. Minnesota Lynx – Rennia Davis, SF, Tennessee

The Lynx have made a habit of finding gems in the draft, evidenced by two of their most recent picks (Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield) being named Rookie of the Year. Based on Rennia Davis’ college resume, they might’ve done it again. Davis is an efficient scorer who can do a little bit of everything on offense and defense, just the type of player Cheryl Reeve likes.

10. Los Angeles Sparks – Stephanie Watts, G, UNC

The surprises continued in the first round, with the Sparks taking a guard many had targeted for later in the draft. Los Angeles’ frontcourt is formidable and pretty much set between Amanda Zahui B., Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike (and Jasmine Walker joining the mix), so it made sense for Derek Fisher to add guard depth. Watts is someone they have the ability to develop in the background this season.

11. Seattle Storm – Aaliyah Wilson, G, Texas A&M (traded to Indiana)

Aaliyah Wilson was an underrated playmaker on one of the best college teams in the country this season. The Fever boosted their backcourt even more by trading for Wilson on Thursday night, giving point guard Julie Allemand another shooting option. Wilson made a huge leap from beyond the arc as a senior, shooting 12.5 percent better than the year before.

12. Las Vegas Aces – Iliana Rupert, C, France

It would have made sense for the Aces to target a player who can contribute right away, given the 2020 WNBA finalists have the talent to contend for a championship season. So it came as a surprise they went with a player who might be more of a project. That said, there’s no better center for the 19-year-old Iliana Rupert to learn from than Liz Cambage, and the French national team player has the tools to shine in a few years.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.