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Texas’ Charli Collier goes No. 1 in WNBA draft

Dallas, which had the top two picks, chose at No. 2 Awak Kuier, who became the first Finnish player to be drafted in the league.
Texas center Charli Collier goes up for a basket against Texas A&M center Ciera Johnson (40) during a game Dec. 6 in Austin, Texas. The Dallas Wings selected Collier with the first pick in the WNBA draft Thursday.
Texas center Charli Collier goes up for a basket against Texas A&M center Ciera Johnson (40) during a game Dec. 6 in Austin, Texas. The Dallas Wings selected Collier with the first pick in the WNBA draft Thursday. [ MICHAEL THOMAS | AP ]
Published Apr. 16
Updated Apr. 16

NEW YORK — Charli Collier said she wrote down goals with her late father when he was hospitalized with cancer five years ago, and being selected No. 1 in the WNBA draft was one of them. She checked off that goal Thursday when Dallas took the Texas center with the first pick.

“He’s here with me. He’s with me in the moment,” Collier said of her dad, who died in 2016. “My dad is so proud of me. Wish he could see this in real life. Nothing can take this moment away from me.”

The Wings also had the No. 2 pick. They chose Awak Kuier, who became the first Finnish player to be drafted in the WNBA.

It was the first time in league history that a team had picks Nos. 1 and 2. The Wings acquired the top pick in a February trade after being awarded the second choice in the draft lottery.

“Needless to say, we are thrilled with the results of the draft for our organization,” Wings president and general manager Greg Bibb said. “We took another big step forward (Thursday) with the progress of our team. Obviously with drafting Charli and Awak, we got the two best players in the draft.”

Related: Complete WNBA draft coverage

The 6-foot-5 Collier helped the Longhorns reach the Elite Eight in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The junior, 21, finished the season averaging 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.1 percent from the field.

Kuier, 19, is playing professionally in Italy averaging 8.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots.

“An elite basketball player. Been following her, watching her game,” Collier said of Kuier. “Six-foot-5, long, versatile. Can’t wait to get to play with her.”

The Wings also added Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee with the fifth pick. Between the Dallas picks, Atlanta chose Arizona guard Aari McDonald, who had a stellar NCAA Tournament, and West Virginia guard Kysre Gondrezick went fourth to Indiana.

Related: Seniors Shae Leverett, Bethy Mununga remain with USF women’s team

Washington became the first team in WNBA history not to make a selection in the three-round draft. It traded all three of its picks to bring in former league MVP Tina Charles last year.

With potentially as few as 144 roster spots in the WNBA and so many players under contract or still on their rookie-scale deals, not many spots are open for players to make teams. There’s a good chance that less than a dozen draftees will be on opening-day rosters this season.

For the second straight season, the draft was held virtually. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced picks from an ESPN studio in New York, and players were at home appearing virtually. Training camps open around April 25, and the season starts on May 14.

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