The WNBA will hold its collegiate draft on April 17, as originally planned, the league said Thursday, even as it continues to examine whether the novel coronavirus will affect the scheduled opening of training camps later next month and the start of the regular season in May.
The WNBA draft will be held without players, guests or media, but will air live on ESPN2. Engelbert will announce the picks, with the event starting at 8 p.m. Individual teams are expected to have virtual draft rooms online and will continue to call in their picks like previous years.
The regular season isn’t set to begin until May 15, so the pandemic has not affected daily operations as much as other professional leagues. The WNBA, however, has been evaluating its schedule, with training camps slated to begin April 26.
“One, with the prospects in mind, this would be a dream for them to, hopefully, be drafted into the WNBA,” league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “The draftees, the prospects, deserve to be drafted like they would have been. We also have teams strategizing around their rosters. I think this is the fairest way to do it, as we planned.”
College players must declare their intentions to enter the draft 10 days before the event, so the league wanted to announce its decision to give them a clear timetable. The NCAA canceled its winter and spring sports but has yet to announce how it will handle eligibility issues. Engelbert said she is optimistic the NCAA will decide before the end of the month.
The NFL plans to hold its draft as scheduled April 23 but without any live events. There are some concerns within the NFL leading up to the draft about teams’ inability to conduct physicals or workouts for players. The WNBA doesn’t have that issue, as its draft is typically held shortly after the NCAA Final Four, which this year would have ended on April 5. .
“With technology today, everybody has the same access to technology and data,” Engelbert said. “No concerns at all.”
The league is still evaluating its options as training camps and the regular season approaches.
“We have some time to put forth all the various scenario plans for medical safety, physical health, training,” Engelbert said. “So we have a little more time than those who had to suspend their seasons. As we scenario plan this all out, and we have been doing that for a couple weeks, these are on the list, making sure that when we return we have a plan-to-play protocol, that we’re getting the right advice from infectious disease and other physicians on staff and we have all the right protocols around quarantining and testing and whatever happens over the next couple weeks.”
The league plans to honor Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester at the draft. They all perished in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles on Jan. 26. Bryant had become a vocal advocate for women’s basketball in recent years and Gianna had hoped to play college ball at the University of Connecticut.