Charli Collier's father, Elliott, used to tell her she'd be No. 1 in whatever she did.
Now, she's the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA draft. The Dallas Wings selected Collier, the first Texas player to go No. 1, to kick off the draft on Thursday night from ESPN Studios in Connecticut.
"Everything that I did from a baby, he said you was going to be No. 1," Collier said of her father, who died when she was 16. "Even this moment right here, we sat in the hospital bed, we wrote down goals. This was one of them."
Collier, a 6-foot-5 center, declared for the draft as a junior. She averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds for Texas, shooting 51.1% from the field. Her mother, Ponda, tried out for the WNBA in its inaugural season.
She'll join a young squad led by third-year star Arike Ogunbowale, who led the league in scoring, and Satou Sabally, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick.
The draft was virtual again given the COVID-19 pandemic and a tight schedule between the NCAA tournament, draft and WNBA season. The Wings acquired the top pick from the New York Liberty in a three-team trade in addition to the Nos. 2, 5 and 7 picks in the first round. They're the first team to pick 1-2 in a professional draft. The Wings traded the seventh pick to the Los Angeles Sparks earlier this week.
Players will report to camp later this month and the 25th season will tip off on May 14. Here are seven marquee matchups to watch this summer and all of the picks are below.
2021 WNBA draft picks
1. Dallas Wings — Charli Collier, Texas
Collier's final collegiate season was highlighted by a 44-point, 84.2% shooting performance over North Texas and the Sweet 16 upset of No. 2 Maryland. She put up 19 double-doubles as the Longhorns' leader and hosts an Instagram Live talk show that included Kevin Durant. Her size and strength will complement Sabally and having strong shooters will open Collier up in ways she didn't have with Texas this season.
2. Dallas Wings — Awak Kuier, Finland
Kuier modeled her game after two-time MVP Candace Parker and is only 19 years old. The 6-foot-5 Finland native is currently with Italian side Ragusa and has gone viral for her dunking talents. When she suits up, she’ll become the first Finnish player to do so in the WNBA and is now the sixth international player drafted top five who didn’t play in the NCAA.
3. Atlanta Dream — Aari McDonald, Arizona
McDonald made sure people knew her name in the NCAA tournament, lifting No. 3 seed Arizona to upsets of Texas A&M and UConn into the championship game. In those six tournament games, the 5-foot-6 guard averaged 24.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 3.6 3-pointers per game on 47.8% shooting behind the arc in 35.5 minutes per game.
She’s an incredible defender, earning all-Pac-12 honors, and showed she can be a threat from deep in the tournament. The Wildcats star is now the first first-round pick out of Arizona and will join Chennedy Carter in ATL.
4. Indiana Fever — Kysre Gondrezick, West Virginia
Gondrezick is a surprise at No. 4. The 5-foot-9 redshirt guard averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 assists in her senior year while shooting a career-best 42.1% overall.
5. Dallas Wings (via Washington) — Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas
Dungee is fast with a sharp shooting touch as showcased in Arkansas’ upset of UConn in February. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 22.3 points per game her senior year to lead the SEC and is good at getting to the free-throw line. Dallas has salary cap room, but not a lot of roster room. Her shooting ability will help the Wings on a playoff run.
6. New York Liberty (via Connecticut) — Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA
Onyenwere put up big games in a tough conference. The 6-foot guard scored 33 points at Oregon, 30 against USC and 30 again while playing national champion Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. She's fourth on UCLA's all-time career scoring list and her father, Peter, competed on two Olympic track teams for Nigeria.
The Liberty will have Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 pick in 2020, back and added defensive power and three-time champion Natasha Howard. Onyenwere said on the broadcast she was excited to be on the scoring side of the pick-and-roll with Ionescu, rather than defending it.
7. Los Angeles Sparks (via Dallas) — Jasmine Walker, Alabama
Walker shot 40% from the 3-point line for Alabama. The 6-foot-3 forward is the school's single-game scoring record holder with 41 points against Auburn. She's a Montgomery, Alabama, native and averaged 19.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
8. Chicago Sky (via Phoenix) — Shyla Heal, Australia
Heal, 19, played professionally in Australia and has played against WNBA talent such as Liz Cambage. The point guard fills a need for the Sky and will learn under Courtney Vandersloot.
Heal is also a surprise pick in the early rounds; she was widely considered a second-round selection.
9. Minnesota Lynx — Rennia Davis, Tennessee
Davis averaged 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in her senior season at Tennessee. She joined elite Lady Vols company as one of four players to rank in the career top 10 in points, points per game, rebounds and rebounds per game. She joins former WNBA rookies of the year in Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker. Her 39 double-doubles rank fourth.
10. Los Angeles Sparks — Stephanie Watts, North Carolina
Watts had 275 3-pointers with the Tar Heels, ranking second in program history. The 5-foot-11 shooting guard was top five in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio and steals. She was on the draft bubble, but coach and general manager Derek Fisher clearly sees something he thinks will fit well in Los Angeles. The Sparks are in rebuild mode around veteran Nneka Ogwumike.
11. Seattle Storm — Aaliyah Wilson, Texas A&M
Wilson was a key part of the Aggies' win against top-ranked Kentucky and Arkansas in January. The 5-foot-11 guard earned her first all-SEC honor in her senior year after coming off the bench as a junior. She averaged 12.7 points on 43.9% shooting for a top-ranked SEC squad that relied heavily on team roles rather than singular stars.
The Storm traded Wilson to the Indiana Fever for the contract of Kennedy Burke.
12. Las Vegas Aces — Iliana Rupert, France
Rupert, 19, finished her third professional season in France and averaged a career-high 10.2 points per game this past year. Her Bourges team is currently 21-1 and in first place. In 2020, she was the EuroLeague Young Player of the Year, and in 2018, she made the FIBA U17 women's basketball world cup all-star five team.
13. Dallas Wings (via New York) — Dana Evans, Louisville
14. Las Vegas Aces (via Indiana) — Destiny Slocum, Arkansas
15. Atlanta Dream — Raquel Carrera, Spain
16. Chicago Sky (via Dallas) — Natasha Mack, Oklahoma State
17. New York Liberty (via Washington) — DiDi Richards, Baylor
18. Seattle Storm (via Connecticut) — Kiana Williams, Stanford
19. Indiana Fever (via Chicago) — Unique Thompson, Auburn
20. Connecticut Sun (via Phoenix) — DiJonai Carrington, Baylor
21. Connecticut Sun (via Minnesota) — Micaela Kelly, Central Michigan
22. Los Angeles Sparks — Arella Guirantes, Rutgers
23. Seattle Storm — N'dea Jones, Texas A&M
24. Indiana Fever (via Las Vegas) — Trinity Baptiste, Arizona
25. New York Liberty — Valerie Higgins, Pacific
26. Indiana Fever — Chelsey Perry, UC Martin
27. Atlanta Dream — Lindsey Pulliam, Northwestern
28. Los Angeles Sparks (via Dallas) — Ivana Raca, Wake Forest
29. New York Liberty (via Washington) — Marine Fauthoux, France
30. Connecticut Sun — Aleah Goodman, Oregon State
31. Indiana Fever (via Chicago) — Florencia Chagas, Argentina
32. Phoenix Mercury — Ciera Johnson, Texas A&M
33. Indiana Fever (via Minnesota) — Maya Caldwell, Georgia
34. Los Angeles Sparks — Aina Ayuso, Spain
35. Seattle Storm — Natalie Kucowski, Lafayette
36. Las Vegas Aces — Kionna Jeter, Towson
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