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2022 WNBA Draft Notebook

The 2022 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm is officially in the books as 36 players fulfilled a dream by having their names announced at the draft to begin their journey as professional basketball players.

In-Person Draft Returns

After a pair of virtual drafts in 2020 and 2021, the 2022 WNBA Draft returned as an in-person event at Spring Studios in New York City.

From the pre-draft activities, including the Hoopbus tour around New York City and a visit to the Empire State Building – which shined in orange Monday night in honor of the draft – to walking the Orange Carpet as they entered the venue, this year’s top draft prospects got the full draft experience.

Inside the Spring Studios space, the prospects sat with their families and waited for their name to be called, celebrated the moment with their loved ones before heading toward the podium to greet WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, held up the ceremonial jersey and posed for a once-in-a-lifetime photo, followed by a post-draft interview and a full circuit of activities.

 

Howard Joins Exclusive Club as No. 1 Overall Pick

While 36 names were called on Monday night, only one gets the honor of being first, that gets to hear “with the first pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, the Atlanta Dream select …”

 

Rhyne Howard was the name that was called as she joins a 26-member club of some of the best basketball players to ever lace them up – players like Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker, Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson just to name a few. In the lead-up to the draft, we examined the importance of the No. 1 overall pick in terms of team and individual success in the WNBA. And the graphic below sums it up pretty well.

 

Howard didn’t waste any time getting herself ready to join the Dream, as she got some shots up at the pop-a-shot stop along the circuit of activities draftees go through after their selection.

Fever Dominates First Round with 4 of the Top 10 Picks

No one had a busier draft night than Indiana Fever general manager Lin Dunn as her team entered the draft with seven picks, including four of the first 10 selections. The Fever used each of their selections – no trades have been made at this point – as they bolstered their roster with plenty of young talent to help build a new foundation.

The Fever were one of the most successful franchises in WNBA history – making the playoffs for a league-record 12 straight years from 2005 to 2016 and won the championship in 2012 – but the past five years have been bleak as they reached double-digit wins only one time in that span.

Dunn, who coached the Fever during their championship run, is back with the team in a new role as GM looking to rebuild the franchise back to prominence.  Her first step in that process is nailing this draft as she targeted the best available players and ones that will embrace defense, which was a hallmark of the Fever teams she coached.

First Round

  • 2nd pick: NaLyssa Smith, Baylor, Forward
  • 4th pick: Emily Engstler, Louisville, Forward
  • 6th pick: Lexie Hull, Stanford, Guard
  • 10th pick: Queen Egbo, Baylor, Center

The first round the Fever get a double-double machine in NaLyssa Smith, who averaged 22.1 points and 11.5 rebounds at Baylor this past season, at No. 2. Two picks later, the Fever added one of the top defenders in this draft class in Louisville’s Emily Engstler. Two picks later, the Fever added some 3-point shooting by drafting Lexie Hull out of Stanford. Finally, they rounded out their picks with another Baylor big in center Queen Egbo, a strong and athletic build with a huge upside for Indiana to build upon.

Second Round

  • 20th pick: Destanni Henderson, South Carolina, Guard

With their only pick in the second round, the Fever saw South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson fall to them at No. 20. This is a great value pick as Henderson was projected as a first-round pick coming off of a huge performance in the national championship game for the Gamecocks. Henderson also had one of the top fits of draft night as she rocked a teal suit from her own clothing brand to go with some custom sneakers. Indiana closed out the draft with a pair of third-round picks – Jackson State center Ameshya Williams-Holiday at No. 25 and Indiana guard Ali Patberg at No. 34.

Third Round

  • 25th pick: Ameshya Williams-Holiday, Jackson State, Center
  • 34th pick: Ali Patberg, Indiana, Guard

Schools with Multiple Draft Picks

Baylor and Connecticut were the most represented schools at the 2022 WNBA Draft, with each having three players selected among the 36 picks. UConn breaks a tie with longtime rival Tennessee for the most WNBA draft picks of all time. The two entered the night with 40 draft picks to their credit, now UConn leads 43-41 as the Lady Vols had just one selection (No. 9 overall pick Rae Burrell).

Connecticut: 3 (all 2nd round picks)

  • Christyn Williams (14) to Washington
  • Olivia Nelso-Ododa (19) to Los Angeles
  • Evina Westbrook (21) to Seattle

Baylor: 3 (two 1st round picks, both to Indiana; one 2nd round pick)

  • NaLyssa Smith (2) to Indiana
  • Queen Egbo (10) to Indiana
  • Jordan Lewis (24) to Connecticut

Baylor and LSU saw college teammates drafted to the same WNBA team with Smith and Egbo headed from Baylor to Indiana and Khayla Pointer and Faustine Aifuwa going from LSU to Las Vegas.

Louisville: 2 (one pick in the 1st and 2nd rounds)

  • Emily Engstler (4) to Indiana
  • Kianna Smith (16) to Los Angeles

LSU: 2 (one pick in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, both by Las Vegas)

  • Khayla Pointer (13) to Las Vegas
  • Faustine Aifuwa (35) to Las Vegas

More Sisters in the WNBA

With the fifth pick in the draft, New York selected Nyara Sabally out of the University of Oregon, who joins her sister Satou as a top-five selection in the WNBA Draft. Satou was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2020 by the Dallas Wings. The Sabally sisters are not the only siblings in the WNBA as there are now five sets of sisters in the league.

 

Nneka Ogwumike and Chiney Ogwumike – Los Angeles Sparks

Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike were each drafted No. 1 overall out of Stanford in 2012 and 2014, respectively – as they joined the NFL’s Peyton and Eli Manning as the only siblings selected No. 1 overall in the WNBA, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS drafts – and both went on to win Rookie of the Year honors in their first season in the WNBA. After starting their professional careers as opponents, the Ogwumike sisters reunited in Los Angeles in 2019 when Chiney joined the Sparks.

Brionna Jones and Stephanie Jones — Connecticut Sun

Another set of sister teammates are Brionna and Stephanie Jones of the Connecticut Sun. In her fifth season in the WNBA, Brionna Jones won Most Improved Player honors in 2021 as she had a breakout season for the Sun. And she did so with her younger sister, Stephanie Jones, playing sparingly for the Sun as a rookie that season.

DeWanna Bonner (Connecticut Sun) and Erica McCall (Washington Mystics)

Bonner is set to enter his third season in Connecticut and 13th in the WNBA since entering the league as the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Phoenix Mercury. McCall was a second-round pick (17th overall) in 2017 by the Indiana Fever and is now in Washington following stops in Atlanta and Minnesota. The sisters not only share a profession, they also share the same birthday – August 21.

Karlie Samuelson (Seattle) and Katie Lou Samuelson (Los Angeles)

The Samuelson sisters spent three games as teammates last season in Seattle, but will once again be opponents in 2022 as Katie Lou was traded to Los Angeles in an offseason trade for her former UConn teammate Gabby Williams. Ironically, Katie Lou joins a Sparks team, which had her sister on its roster in 2018 and parts of 2019 and 2021. Karlie has played 34 games for the Sparks, four for Dallas and three for Seattle. L.A. will be Katie Lou’s fourth team in as many years; after being selected No. 4 overall by Chicago in 2019, Katie Lou played with Dallas in 2020, Seattle in 2021, and now heads to Los Angeles.

 

Longtime WNBA reporter Brian Martin writes articles on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.