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WNBA 2022 draft decision tracker: Live news and updates

(Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

As the women’s college basketball season approaches its conclusion, many players have to decide whether to declare for the WNBA draft or return for another year.

The WNBA requires that draft entrants be at least 22 years old during the year in which the draft takes place. Additionally, they cannot have any remaining college eligibility or must renounce any remaining eligibility.

With the draft coming up on April 11 in New York City, there will be plenty of players declaring in the coming weeks. Just Women’s Sports is tracking those who have declared for the draft – or opted to return to their teams.

Wednesday, April 6: Victaria Saxton to return to South Carolina for fifth year

Senior forward Victaria Saxton announced Wednesday that she will return to South Carolina for another year. A veteran presence on the team, coach Dawn Staley called her a key piece to the Gamecocks’ tournament.

“We don’t get here without Victaria (Saxton),” Staley said before the Elite Eight. “We don’t. She is Teflon. She takes falls. She gives up weight and girth, quickness. Every game there is something that there is a disadvantage for her, and she is just sheer will.”

One of the team’s top rebounders (5.8 per game), Saxton will be a key piece as the team looks to make back-to-back title runs.

Monday, April 4: Lexie Hull to leave Stanford, enter WNBA draft

On Monday, Lexie Hull announced that she would not be returning for one more year at Stanford. The senior guard announced the decision via social media.

“It truly has taken a village and without you all, I would not have gotten where I am today, so thank you for making this all possible,” said Hull. “It was an honor to put on a Stanford jersey.”

She also thanked her twin sister, Lacie, “for being my best friend through it all.” The two have played together at Stanford for the entirety of their collegiate experience.

Hull was a major piece of Stanford’s team the past four years, helping lead the Cardinal to one national championship, two Final Fours, two Pack-12 regular season championships and three Pac-12 Tournament championships.

Thursday, March 31: NC State’s Elissa Cunane, Michigan’s Naz Hillmon declare for WNBA draft

NC State star Elissa Cunane has officially declared for the WNBA Draft, announcing the news on Wednesday. After four seasons with the Wolfpack, Cunane holds three ACC tournament championships, two ACC tournament MVP awards and two ACC regular-season titles.

“I am truly thankful for my four years at NC State and everyone who made it all possible,” said Cunane. “With that being said, I am declaring for the 2022 WNBA Draft.”

Cunane is projected as a top-10 draft pick.

Naz Hillmon announced her decision to enter her name into the WNBA Draft, posting an emotional message to social media.

“I am humbled to announce that I have entered my name into the WNBA Draft! I am forever thankful for the opportunities I have had, the people that I have met and the lifelong experience that Michigan has afforded to me,” wrote Hillmon.

The senior is the first-ever Wolverine player to notch 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, finishing her last Michigan season averaging 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds.

Hillmon is projected to be a first-round draft pick, with many suspecting she will be selected fifth overall by the New York Liberty.

 

Tuesday, March 29: WNBA releases list of 88 players who have filed for the draft

Players include Ole Miss’ Shakira Austin, Louisville’s Emily Engstler, Florida Gulf Coast’s Kiersten Bell and many more. The full list is available on the WNBA website.

Those players whose college teams are still alive in the postseason and who have remaining years of NCAA eligibility will have 48 hours after the end of their final game to renounce their eligibility and declare for the draft.

Tuesday, March 29: Oregon Ducks’ Nyara Sabally, Tennessee’s Rae Burrell declare for the draft

Nyara Sabally, a fourth-year sophomore forward for the Ducks, was the team’s top scorer and rebound in 2022. A projected No. 4 overall pick, she averaged 15.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Sabally is the younger sister of Satou Sabally, who also played at Oregon and is now with the Dallas Wings.

“It was an honor to put on the Ducks jersey and play at Matthew Knight. I will forever cherish my time here, and I hope that I was able to inspire the people in Eugene that have shown me unwavering support the past four years,” Nyara Sabally said.

The Ducks made the NCAA tournament this year as a fifth seed but lost in double overtime to No. 12 Belmont 73-70 in the opening round.

Tennessee’s Rae Burrell also announced that she is entering her name in the pool of WNBA draft players. In four years with the Lady Vols, Burrell averaged 10.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

She had a breakout junior season, averaging 16.8 points and 4.6 rebounds before being sidelined with a knee injury for the first half of her senior season. But she rebounded well, averaging 15.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in the postseason en route to the Sweet 16.

Monday, March 28: Iowa State’s Ashley Joens to return for fifth year

One of the bigger question marks coming out of the season, Ashley Joens announced Monday that she will return for a fifth season with the Cyclones.

Joens has been a big piece of the Cyclones’ core, starting in every game for Iowa State since her freshman year. Throughout her career she has averaged 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds through 126 career games. She also broke Angie Welle’s program record of 2,149 career points this season, finishing with 2,369 points.

“This team is special,” Joens said in an announcement posted to her social media accounts. “We have more to accomplish, and I can’t wait to play another year with all of them!”

Friday, March 25: Northwestern’s Veronica Burton enters draft pool

Northwestern standout Veronica Burton announced Friday that she will be headed to the 2022 WNBA Draft. One of the nation’s best players in 2022, she averaged 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 4.0 steals. She’s the first Northwestern women’s basketball player to be named to an AP All-America team, earning Third Team honors.

After winning her third consecutive Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, Burton was named the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday. She’s the first Big Ten student-athlete to win the award.

ESPN currently has Burton projected to go 11th overall.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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