The Dallas Wings didn’t have to look far to find a new player to build around.
With the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s WNBA draft, the Wings selected Texas star Charli Collier, a 6-foot-5 forward/center who helped put women’s basketball back on the map in Austin.
Collier, who averaged 19 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 51.1% from the field for the Longhorns in the 2020-21 season, was a WBCA All-America honorable mention, who helped lead No. 6 seed Texas to the Elite Eight of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Her scoring average was the sixth-best in Texas program history, and she was only the fourth Longhorn to average a double-double over the course of a season — a feat she accomplished in each of the last two seasons.
Within minutes of Collier’s selection, Dallas was back on the clock, as the Wings became the first team in league history with the top two picks in the same draft.
The Wings used their second pick to select Awak Kuier, the first player from Finland to be drafted. Kuier, who was born in Cairo and emigrated to Finland with her family as a small child, has drawn comparisons to reigning Defensive Player of the Year and two-time MVP Candace Parker over the past season. The 6-foot-5, 19-year-old center currently plays professionally for Virtus Eirene Ragusa in Italy.
“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 tonight with the progress of our team. Obviously with drafting Charli and Awak we got the two best players in the draft.”
Three picks later, the Wings selected Chelsea Dungee, a 5-foot-11 guard out of Arkansas at No. 5. A WBCA first-team All American, the dynamic scorer averaged 22.3 points per game this season for the Razorbacks.
In between the Wings’ selections, the Atlanta Dream used the No. 3 pick to select Arizona guard Aari McDonald, who became a household name with her stellar play in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, where she led the Wildcats to their first ever national championship game. Averaging 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and four assists per game her senior season, McDonald was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and co-Defensive Player of the Year.
In a bit of a surprise, the Indiana Fever drafted Kysre Gondrezick, a 5-foot-9 guard from West Virginia, with the fourth pick. Gondrezick averaged 19.5 points, 4.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds and was chosen as a WBCA honorable mention All-American.
Collier, the first Longhorn ever selected first overall in the WNBA draft, Kuier and Dungee will join a very young Dallas team with no player on the current roster having more than five years of WNBA experience. But head coach Vickie Johnson, a former New York Liberty star, has a lot of talent to work with and a chance to really reshape the roster before the 2021 season tips off on May 14.
The Wings had three of the top seven picks in last year’s WNBA draft and used the selections to draft Oregon’s Satou Sabally at No. 2 overall, Princeton’s Bella Alarie at No. 5 and South Carolina’s Tyasha Harris at No. 7.
Two years ago, with the No. 5 overall pick, Dallas selected Arike Ogunbowale, who nearly led Notre Dame to the 2019 national championship before the Fighting Irish lost by one point to Baylor. Ogunbowale led the WNBA in scoring last season with 22.8 points per game.
Contributing: The Associated Press
2021 WNBA draft selections
1. Dallas Wings (from New York Liberty): Charli Collier, F/C, Texas
2. Dallas Wings: Awak Kuier, C, Virtus Eirene RG (Italy)
3. Atlanta Dream: Aari McDonald, G, Arizona
4. Indiana Fever: Kysre Gondrezick, G, West Virginia
5. Dallas Wings: (from Washington Mystics): Chelsea Dungee, G, Arkansas
6. New York Liberty (from Connecticut Sun): Michaela Onyenwere, F, UCLA
7. Los Angeles Sparks (from Dallas): Jasmine Walker, F, Alabama
8. Chicago Sky (from Phoenix Mercury): Shyla Heal, G, Townsville Fire (Australia)
9. Minnesota Lynx: Rennia Davis, G/F, Tennessee
10. Los Angeles Sparks: Stephanie Watts, G, Southern California
11. Seattle Storm: Aaliyah Wilson, G, Texas A&M (Wilson was then traded to Indiana)
12. Las Vegas Aces: Iliana Rupert, C, Tango Bourges Basket (France)
13. Dallas Wings (from New York): Dana Evans, G, Louisville
14. Las Vegas Aces (from Indiana): Destiny Slocum, G, Arkansas
15. Atlanta Dream: Raquel Carrera, C, Valencia Basket Club (Spain)
16. Chicago Sky (from Dallas): Natasha Mack, F, Oklahoma State
17. New York Liberty (from Washington): Didi Richards, G, Baylor
18. Seattle Storm (from Connecticut): Kiana Williams, G, Stanford
19. Indiana Fever (from Chicago): Unique Thompson, F, Auburn
20. Connecticut Sun (from Phoenix): DiJonai Carrington, G, Baylor
21. Connecticut Sun (from Minnesota): Micaela Kelly, G, Central Michigan
22. Los Angeles Sparks: Arella Guirantes, G, Rutgers
23. Seattle Storm: N’Dea Jones, F, Texas A&M
24. Indiana Fever (from Las Vegas): Trinity Baptiste, F, Arizona
25. New York Liberty: Valerie Higgins, G, Pacific
26. Indiana Fever: Chelsey Perry, F, UT Martin
27. Atlanta Dream: Lindsey Pulliam, G, Northwestern
28. Los Angeles Sparks (from Dallas): Ivana Raca, F, Wake Forest
29. New York Liberty: (from Washington), Marine Fauthoux, G, Lyon Asvel Feminin (France)
30. Connecticut Sun: Aleah Goodman, G, Oregon State
31. Indiana Fever (from Chicago): Florencia Chagas, G, USE Scotti Rosa Empoli (Italy)
32. Phoenix Mercury: Ciera Johnson, C, Texas A&M
33. Indiana Fever (from Minnesota): Maya Caldwell, G, Georgia
34. Los Angeles Sparks: Aina Ayuso, G, Spain
35. Seattle Storm: Natalie Kucowski, F, Lafayette
36. Las Vegas Aces: Kionna Jeter, G, Towson