2022 WNBA Draft: Round-by-round picks, highlights and quotes

2022 WNBA Draft: Rhyan Howard was the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, selected by the Atlanta Dream
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During the 2022 WNBA Draft, On Her Turf was on-site at Spring Studios in New York to provide live updates. See below to relive how this year’s WNBA Draft unfolded, including a round-by-round summary of draft picks.


2022 WNBA Draft – Live Updates and Highlights:

Draft Pick No. 1: With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, the Atlanta Dream selects Rhyne Howard. Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy has called Howard a “once-in-a-lifetime” player.

“To go first, I don’t even have words for it right now,” Howard said of being the No. 1 overall draft pick. “I’m proud of what I’ve done and proud of myself.”

Throughout her final season with Kentucky, Howard said she tried not to think too much about her future in the WNBA.

“During the season I kind of blocked it out. I wanted to be there for my team and focus on where my shoes were, and I knew that wouldn’t have been possible if I was focusing on the next level,” she said.

No. 2: As predicted, with the second pick of the draft, the Indiana Fever picks up Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. She’ll be part of a big growing year for the Fever, a team that has seven picks in this year’s WNBA Draft (including four in the first round).

“We have four top picks, so it’s a chance and an opportunity for this team to grow tremendously,” Smith said.

No. 3:  The Washington Mystics select Shakira Austin of Ole Miss.

“I feel like I got lucky,” Austin said of being selected by a team with a deep veteran core that includes players like Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud.

“I feel like it’s just the best opportunity possible for me to learn and take my time but also learn from the best. That’s a championship-level team, and that’s where I’m meant to be.”

Austin has plans to be one of those big names one day, telling media she is going to have a long career in the league.

“The people in the league right now who are big-time stars, they’re built like me. They’re tall, they’re lengthy, they’re versatile, they’re not strictly limited to back to the basket or post moves. I think just watching the game and watching how the different players have spotlighted over the past couple years, that’s why I feel like I’m going to be successful,” Austin said.

No. 4: With their second pick of seven tonight, the Indiana Fever select Emily Engstler, who transferred from Syracuse to Louisville ahead of the 2021-22 NCAA season. Her stock really rose during the 2022 NCAA women’s basketball tournament, helping Louisville reach the Final Four in Minneapolis.

After the Cardinals lost in the NCAA semifinals last week, Hailey Van Lith made sure to talk up Engstler and Kianna Smith to any WNBA coaches or GMs who were listening:

“You look at all the intangibles they bring… how they just elevated everyone else and made everyone else a better player. You can’t teach that, and they naturally have that, and that’s why they’re going to be drafted really soon,” Van Lith said.

No. 5: With the fifth overall pick, the New York Liberty selects Oregon’s Nyara Sabally.

“It’s amazing to get drafted by New York. This city is amazing, the organization is amazing. It’s just very surreal, and I’m super excited,” she said.

Nyara was on a zoom call with her sister Satou of the Dallas Wings when her name was called. “I saw her face. She was very excited,” Nyara said.

No. 6: With their third pick of the night – and the sixth overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft – the Indiana Fever selects Stanford’s Lexie Hull.

No. 7: The Dallas Wings pick Northwestern’s Veronica Burton. “These are the moments that you dream about as a young woman, as a young girl,” she said.

While Burton wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, she credits her underdog mentality with helping her reach the WNBA.

“I think that chip on my shoulder is what got me here,” she said. “But obviously I went to the right place at Northwestern, and I hope that’s the same with Dallas. I think it really comes down to the place and the fit and my mindset, and that mindset has certainly not changed. I just want to continue to get better and better. That’s in my control, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

No. 8: In the biggest surprise of the night so far, the Las Vegas Aces select Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed.

No. 9: The Los Angeles Sparks select Tennessee’s Rae Burrell as the No. 9 overall pick.

“This is probably one of the best days of my life,” Burrell said.

Hailing from Las Vegas, Burrell said she hopes to inspire the next generation of kids in that community.

“Vegas for the longest time got overlooked, so I’m just happy to pave the way for future ballers that want to take the same journey that I did,” she said. “I hope they see that working hard can turn your dreams into reality.”

No. 10: Indiana Fever selects Queen Egbo, the second Baylor player drafted by the Fever so far tonight.

No. 11: Kierstan Bell of Florida Gulf Coast University is headed to Las Vegas.

“It’s an honor to be under a coach like that,” Bell said of being drafted by new Aces head coach Becky Hammon.

“I did get a little nervous,” she said of being the second-to-last pick of the first round, noting that she hadn’t spoken to Las Vegas prior to being drafted.

Looking ahead, Bell said she hopes her versatility serves her well.

“I know it’s going to be a lot of new things that I have to adjust to, but I’m willing to be open-minded and be comfortable with being in uncomfortable positions, and that’s why I think that sets me apart from a lot of people because I’m never comfortable being satisfied.”

No. 12: With the final pick of the first round, the Connecticut Sun selects Michigan State’s Nia Clouden.

“Connecticut was high on my radar. I had some great conversations with Coach Curt Miller,” Clouden said. “So when I knew that I was still around at 12, I wasn’t surprised when they picked me.”

As for the deep roster the Sun has heading into training camp, Clouden says she wants to learn as much as she can.

“Connecticut has some really great players – Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and more – so just being able to learn from them and then just work and keep working and working and working, and that’s what I plan to do.”

2022 WNBA Draft – Second Round Draftees:

Draft Pick No. 13: The Las Vegas Aces select LSU guard Khayla Pointer.

No. 14: The Washington Mystics select UConn’s Christyn Williams.

No. 15: The Atlanta Dream picks Michigan forward Naz Hillmon.

“I’m just excited to be here,” Hillmon said of being picked in the second round instead of the first. “Being disappointed in this moment is neglectful to the people who weren’t picked up at all.”

No. 16: The Los Angeles Sparks draft Louisville guard Kianna Smith.

No. 17: Elissa Cunane of NC State is drafted by the Seattle Storm.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in tonight. I know that it is a very tough league to get into,” Cunane said. “I was just excited to hear my name called.”

RELATED: The sad reality of the WNBA Draft

No. 18: With a second straight pick, the Seattle Storm selects Georgia Tech’s Lorela Cubaj. Shortly after Cubaj was drafted by the Storm, she was traded to the New York Liberty in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft.

No. 19: The Los Angeles Sparks draft UConn’s Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

No. 20: The Indiana Fever selects Destanni Henderson. While Henderson was predicted to go earlier in the draft, she’s lucky the Fever snatched her up instead of the Storm, Sparks, or another team with loaded roster.

“It’s been crazy, but good crazy,” Henderson said of the whirlwind of winning the 2022 NCAA women’s basketball title to being drafted into the WNBA.

As for being drafted by Indiana in the second round, Henderson says she tried to enter the night without too many expectations.

“I was just staying positive about the outcome and whichever order that it went, it really didn’t matter,” she said. “Just hearing my name was my outcome, and I got that tonight.”

No. 21: UConn’s Evina Westbrook is drafted by the Seattle Storm.

No. 22: The Minnesota Lynx select NC State’s Kayla Jones.

No. 23: Virginia Tech’s Aisha Sheppard is selected by the Las Vegas Aces.

No. 24: Baylor guard Jordan Lewis is drafted by the Connecticut Sun.

2022 WNBA Draft – Third Round Picks:

No. 25: Jackson State center Ameshya Williams-Holliday is drafted by the Indiana Fever. Williams-Holliday is the first player from an HBCU drafted into the WNBA since 2002.

No. 26: Notre Dame’s Maya Dodson is drafted by the Phoenix Mercury.

No. 27: University of Hawaii forward Amy Atwell is picked by the Los Angeles Sparks.

No. 28: South Dakota’s Hannah Sjerven is selected by the Minnesota Lynx.

No. 29: 19-year-old Sika Kone of Mali is drafted by the New York Liberty.

Ahead of Sue Bird‘s 21st year in the WNBA (and 19th season playing), here’s a fun fact to put her longevity into perspective:

No. 30: Delaware’s Jasmine Dickey is selected by the Dallas Wings.

No. 31: North Florida’s Jazz Bond is selected by the Dallas Wings.

No. 32: IUPUI’s Macee Williams is drafted by the Phoenix Mercury.

No. 33: Australia’s Jade Melbourne, 19, is selected by the Seattle Storm.

No. 34: Indiana guard Ali Patberg is drafted by the Indiana Fever.

No. 35: LSU’s Faustine Aifuwa is selected by the Las Vegas Aces.

No. 36: Florida guard Kiara Smith is drafted by the Connecticut Sun.


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Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”