The Indiana Fever used two of their four first-round draft picks on players from Baylor University on Monday night and also picked up guard Ali Patberg of Indiana University—the 2015 Indiana Miss Basketball—in the third round.
The Fever went into Monday night’s three-round draft with seven picks overall. They drafted 6-foot-3 forward NaLyssa Smith from Baylor with the No. 2 pick and her Bears teammate, 6-foot-3 forward/center Queen Egbo, at No. 10.
The Fever also snagged 6-foot-1 University of Louisville guard/forward Emily Engstler at No. 4 and 6-foot-1 guard Lexie Hull of Stanford University at No. 6.
“We have four top picks, so there is the opportunity for this team to grow tremendously,” said Smith, who averaged nearly 22 points and 12 rebounds a game for Baylor her senior season.
The Fever used their second-round pick on 5-foot-7 guard Destanni Henderson of the University of South Carolina at No. 20 and took Patberg at No. 34. The 5-foot-11 Patberg, 25, was the oldest player in the draft after spending seven years in college at IU and the University of Notre Dame.
The Fever also drafted 6-foot-5 center Ameshya Williams-Holliday of Jackson State at No. 25 with the first pick of the third round. Williams-Holliday was the first WNBA draft pick from a historically Black college since 2002.
The Fever had the worst record in the league last year at 6-26. The team, which hasn’t had winning season since 2015, hasn’t had much luck in the draft in recent years, with none of the team’s first-round picks from the last three seasons still on the roster.
Two other players from Indiana colleges besides Patberg were drafted in the third round. IUPUI standout Macee Williams was selected by the Phoenix Mercury at No. 32, becoming the first Jaguar to be taken in the WNBA draft. The Mercury also took Maya Dodson of Notre Dame at No. 26.
The Atlanta Dream used the No. 1 pick of the draft to choose 6-foot-2 guard Rhyne Howard of the University of Kentucky. Howard was the first Kentucky player to go No. 1 in the WNBA Draft. The Dream traded up two spots last week to acquire the No. 1 pick from the Washington Mystics.
Moments before Rhyne Howard went to Atlanta with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league is working very hard to help bring Brittney Griner back to the United States.
Griner, one of the league’s biggest stars, has been detained in Russia since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“I want to take a moment to reiterate the WNBA’s support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner,” Engelbert said before the draft started. “Please know that getting her home safely continues to be our top priority and while we are facing an extraordinarily complex challenge, there is strength in community, especially the WNBA.”
Engelbert said there will be a league-wide charity initiative spearheaded by the Mercury to support Griner’s philanthropic project, called BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. The drive has gathered new or gently used shoes for homeless people in the Phoenix area.
“This is an unimaginable situation for BG to be in,” Engelbert said. “She continues to have our full support. Certainly, we’re trying everything we can, every angle, working with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration. Just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can.”
The WNBA season tips off on May 6, with training camps opening later this week.
Selections from the 2022 WNBA draft held Monday with team, player, and college:
1. Atlanta, Rhyne Howard, Kentucky.
2. Indiana, NaLyssa Smith, Baylor.
3. Washington, Shakira Austin, Mississippi.
4. Indiana, Emily Engstler, Louisville.
5. New York, Nyara Sabally, Oregon.
6. Indiana, Lexie Hull, Stanford.
7. Dallas, Veronica Burton, Northwestern.
8. Las Vegas, Mya Hollingshed, Colorado.
9. Los Angeles, Rae Burrell, Tennessee.
10. Indiana, Queen Egbo, Baylor.
11. Las Vegas, Kierstan Bell, Florida Gulf Coast.
12. Connecticut, Nia Clouden, Michigan St.
13. Las Vegas, Khayla Pointer, LSU.
14. Washington, Christyn Williams, UConn.
15. Atlanta, Naz Hillmon, Michigan.
16. Los Angeles, Kianna Smith, Louisville.
17. Seattle, Elissa Cunane, NC State.
18. New York, Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech.
19. Los Angeles, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn.
20. Indiana, Destanni Henderson, South Carolina.
21. Seattle, Evina Westbrook, UConn.
22. Minnesota, Kayla Jones, NC State.
23. Las Vegas, Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech.
24. Connecticut, Jordan Lewis, Baylor.
25. Indiana, Ameshya Williams-Holliday, Jackson State
26. Phoenix, Maya Dodson, Notre Dame.
27. Los Angeles, Amy Atwell, Hawaii.
28. Minnesota, Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota.
29. New York, Sika Kone, Mali.
30. Dallas, Jasmine Dickey, Delaware.
31. Dallas, Jaz Bond, North Florida.
32. Phoenix, Macee Williams, IUPUI.
33. Seattle, Jade Melbourne, Australia.
34. Indiana, Ali Patberg, Indiana.
35. Las Vegas, Faustine Aifuwa, LSU.
36. Connecticut, Kiara Smith, Florida.