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Three Top Women’s Basketball Prospects to attend 2022 WNBA Draft Presented by State Farm

Ole Miss center Shakira Austin, Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard and Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith headline the list of 12 prospects who will attend WNBA Draft 2022 presented by State Farm® on Monday, April 11.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce the first-round draft picks live on ESPN with exclusive coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET.  The draft will also be available live on the ESPN App. 

In preparation for the WNBA Draft 2022 presented by State Farm, ESPN2 will broadcast the first-ever WNBA Draft Preview Show on Saturday, April 9 (1:30 p.m. ET).  LaChina Robinson will host the 30-minute special with analyst Rebecca Lobo. Together they will break down the top draft prospects, discuss team needs and whose stock is on the rise following the NCAA Tournament.

On draft night, top prospects will take part live as the WNBA Draft presented by State Farm returns to an in-person event for the first time since 2019, with the acclaimed Spring Studios, located in the Tribeca section of New York City and the home to such iconic events as Fashion Week and The Tribeca Film Festival, serving as the venue for the evening’s events.

The other prospects who will be in attendance are guard Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast), guard-forward Rae Burrell (Tennessee), guard Veronica Burton (Northwestern), guard Nia Clouden (Michigan State), center Elissa Cunane (NC State), forward Emily Engstler (Louisville), guard Destanni Henderson (South Carolina), forward Naz Hillmon (Michigan), and forward Nyara Sabally (Oregon).

The Atlanta Dream own the top pick in the draft by virtue of a trade with the Washington Mystics announced earlier today.  The Indiana Fever, which has the No. 2, 4, 6 and 10 overall selections, could become the first team in WNBA history to make four picks in the first round. 

“Draft Central” on WNBA.com will enable fans to access multiple offerings in advance of and throughout the WNBA Draft 2022 presented by State Farm, including an interactive Draft Board, prospect profiles with insights powered by SAP, in-depth features on the top draft prospects and coverage of all draft events.  Fans will also be able to access an array of content across @WNBA channels that will include the unique stories and personalities of the prospects via Instagram and TikTok, a Twitter Spaces Mock Draft Debate and cross platform live coverage including the “Orange Carpet.” 

Here is a closer look at the prospects who will be attending WNBA Draft 2022 presented by State Farm.

Shakira Austin (Ole Miss): A two-time All-America Honorable Mention selection at Ole Miss, Austin was one of 15 players on the ballot for the 2021-22 John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s top player and a semifinalist for the Lisa Leslie Award as the nation’s best center.  The 6-5 Fredericksburg, Va., native earned all-conference honors first in the ACC with Maryland and then in the SEC with Ole Miss, which she helped improve from 7-23 the year before her arrival to 23-7 this season.

Kierstan Bell (Florida Gulf Coast): Bell, a 6-1 guard and the winner of the 2020-21 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award, was a finalist for the same honor in 2021-22 as well as for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the nation’s best shooting guard.  An AP All-America Honorable Mention selection the last two seasons, the native of Alliance, Ohio helped FGCU earn the ASUN Conference regular-season and tournament titles in 2021-22.  She averaged 24.3 points in 2020-21 and 22.8 points in 2021-22.

Rae Burrell (Tennessee): A 6-1 guard-forward from Las Vegas, Burrell overcame an early-season leg injury this season to average 12.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 22 games for the Lady Vols.  Burrell capped her final season at Tennessee by earning All-Tournament Team at the NCAA Wichita Regionals.

Veronica Burton (Northwestern): The 5-9 Burton, a finalist for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year honor, joined current Atlanta Dream coach Tanisha Wright as the only women to earn three Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.  The four-time Big Ten steals leader also was an AP All-America Third Team selection this season and a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the best Division I point guard.  A native of Newton, Mass., her late grandfather, Ron Burton, was the first-ever draft pick of the New England Patriots.

Nia Clouden (Michigan State): A 5-8 guard, Clouden garnered All-Big Ten First Team honors in 2020-21 and again this season. A starter at Michigan State from the first game of her freshman season, the Baltimore native paced the Spartans in points per game in her final three seasons, lifting her scoring average from 14.5 to 18.7 to 20.0 points in that span.  She set a Michigan State single-game record with 50 points against Florida Gulf Coast this season en route to being one of 10 semifinalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award as Division I’s best point guard.

Elissa Cunane (NC State): Nicknamed “Big Smile,” the 6-5 Cunane was a finalist for the Lisa Leslie Award as the nation’s best center the past three seasons and an AP All-America Second Team selection the last two years. She helped the Wolfpack win the ACC Tournament crown in her hometown of Greensboro, N.C., each of the last three seasons, earning tournament MVP honors in 2021 and 2022.  Cunane also helped NC State earn four consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Emily Engstler (Louisville): A transfer from Syracuse ahead of this season, Engstler excelled for Louisville, becoming one of five finalists for the Cheryl Miller Award as the nation’s best small forward and one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year honor.  The 6-1 forward from Queens, N.Y., was an All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team pick in 2021-22, a year after being named Co-Sixth Player of Year.  She finished this season atop the ACC charts in steals (2.7 spg) and ranked third in rebounding (6.7 rpg).

Destanni Henderson (South Carolina): A 5-7 guard from Fort Myers, Fla., Henderson propelled South Carolina to the 2021-22 national championship with a game-high 26 points in the title game win over Connecticut.  In Henderson’s final season with the Gamecocks, she was one of 15 players on the ballot for the John R. Wooden Award as the National Player of the Year.  She was also a finalist for the Dawn Staley Award as the best Division I guard and for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation’s top point guard.

Naz Hillmon (Michigan): The most decorated player in the history of the Wolverines’ women’s basketball program, Hillmon was an AP All-America First Team selection this season and the 2020-21 Big Ten Player of the Year.  The Cleveland native and four-time All-Big Ten First Team honoree was a finalist for both the Katrina McClain Award as the nation’s best power forward and the John R. Wooden Award as the National Player of the Year.  A 6-2 forward, Hillmon averaged more than 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in each of the past two seasons.

Rhyne Howard (Kentucky): The 6-2 Howard was the SEC Player of the Year in 2020-21 and 2021-22.  In each of the past three seasons, the versatile Chattanooga, Tenn., native was a finalist for multiple National Player of the Year honors as well as for the Dawn Staley Award as the nation’s top guard and the Cheryl Miller Award as the best small forward.  She is the ninth player ever to be a three-time AP All-America First Team pick, joining Alana Beard, Brittney Griner, Chamique Holdsclaw, Sabrina Ionescu, Maya Moore, Courtney Paris, Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson.  Howard averaged at least 20 points each of the last three seasons.

Nyara Sabally (Oregon): A native of Berlin, Germany, the 6-5 forward is the younger sister of Satou Sabally, the Dallas Wings forward and No. 2 selection in the 2020 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm.  After missing the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons due to injury, the younger Sabally was an All-Pac-12 selection the past two seasons and a finalist for the 2021-22 Katrina McClain Award as the nation’s top power forward.  This season, she led Oregon in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg).

NaLyssa Smith (Baylor): Smith, a 6-4 forward, won the Wade Trophy as the nation’s best player in 2020-21.  In each of the past two seasons, she earned the Katrina McClain Award as Division I’s best power forward, was selected as the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and was named to the AP All-America First Team.  This year, the Converse, Texas native was again a finalist for multiple National Player of the Year honors after pacing the Big 12 in scoring (22.1 ppg) and rebounding (11.5 rpg).

About State Farm®

For 100 years, the mission of State Farm has been, and continues to be, to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its more than 19,400 agents and approximately 53,400 employees serve over 87 million policies and accounts – which includes auto, fire, life, health, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for rentersbusiness ownersboats and motorcycles, is available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 39 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com.​

About the WNBA

Tipping off its 26th season in May 2022, the WNBA is a bold, progressive basketball league that stands for the power of women.  Featuring 12 teams, the W is a unique sports property that combines competition and entertainment with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and social responsibility.  Through its world-class athletes, the in-game fan experience, TV and digital broadcasts, digital and social content and community outreach programs, the league celebrates and elevates the game of basketball and the culture around it.

In 2020, the WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) signed a groundbreaking eight-year CBA that charts a new course for women’s basketball – and women’s sports overall – with a focus on increased player compensation, improvements to the player experience, expanded career development opportunities and resources specifically tailored to the female professional athlete.  Key elements of the agreement are supported through the league’s partnership platform, WNBA Changemakers, with AT&T, the WNBA’s Marquee Partner and inaugural Changemaker, as well as fellow inaugural Changemakers Deloitte and NIKE, Inc, and subsequent additions Google and U.S. Bank. During the 2020 season, the WNBA and WNBPA launched the WNBA Justice Movement forming the Social Justice Council with the mission of being a driving force of necessary change and continuing conversations about race and voting rights, among other important societal issues.

For more information, visit WNBA.com.

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