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Dallas Wings take Charli Collier, Awak Kuier 1-2 in WNBA draft; Towson’s Kionna Jeter, ex-Terp Destiny Slocum selected by Aces

NEW YORK — Charli Collier said she wrote down goals with her late father when he was hospitalized with cancer five years ago, and being selected No. 1 in the WNBA draft was one of them.

She checked off that goal on Thursday night when the Dallas Wings took her with the first pick.

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“He’s here with me. He’s with me in the moment,” Collier said of her dad, who died in 2016. “My dad is so proud of me. Wish he could see this in real life. Nothing can take this moment away from me.”

The Wings also had the No. 2 pick and a rare opportunity to transform the franchise. They chose Awak Kuier, who became the the first Finnish player to be drafted in the WNBA.

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It’s the first time in league history that a team had picks No. 1 and 2. The Wings acquired the top pick in a February trade after being awarded the second choice in the draft lottery.

The 6-foot-5 Collier helped the Longhorns reach the Elite Eight. The junior center finished the season averaging 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.1% from the field.

The 19-year-old Kuier played professionally in Italy, averaging 8.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots.

“An elite basketball player, so happy that she will be my teammate. Been following her, watching her game,” Collier said Kuier. “Six-foot-5, long, versatile. Can’t wait to get to play with her and know her as a basketball player and a teammate.”

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The Wings added Chelsea Dungee with the fifth pick.

Between the Dallas picks, Atlanta chose Arizona guard Aari McDonald, who had a stellar NCAA tournament, and Kysre Gondrezick of West Virginia went fourth to Indiana. New York chose Michaela Onyenwere of UCLA with the sixth pick.

Towson's Kionna Jeter, right, shoots and scores over Charleston's Shai Blanding during a game Feb. 7, 2021.
Towson's Kionna Jeter, right, shoots and scores over Charleston's Shai Blanding during a game Feb. 7, 2021. (Kenneth K. Lam)

With the final pick in the draft, No. 36 overall, the Las Vegas Aces selected Towson guard Kionna Jeter. In just 83 games in three seasons, Jeter left the program as its No. 3 all-time leading scorer with 1,582 points. The 5-8 Jeter decided to forgo final year of eligibility to enter the draft, thanking the Tigers for continuing to recruit her even after she was struck by two bullets on Feb. 3, 2018, in her hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, to attend her uncle Quincy’s funeral.

Jeter, who finished the season 10th in the nation with 23.0 points per game, is the first player in the history of the program to be selected in the draft.

“Kionna Jeter is an exceptional athlete,” Tigers coach Diane Richardson said in a statement. “She came to Towson with serious focus. She wanted to help her team win and we did that. In the meantime, she set the record book on fire in just three short years. Our relationship is special and I’ll follow her until she’s old and gray.”

In the second round, the Aces picked Arkansas guard Destiny Slocum with the 13th overall pick. The 5-foot-7 Slocum was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year at Maryland in 2016-17, averaging 11.5 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game to help the Terps reach the Sweet 16, where they fell to Oregon. She transferred to Oregon State the following season, where she became a two-time All-Pac 12 selection, and spent her final season at Arkansas, averaging 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists to earn second-team All-SEC honors.

In the third round, the Atlanta Dream picked Northwestern guard Lindsey Pulliam with the 27th overall pick. The 5-10 Pulliam, a Silver Spring native and former standout at Good Counsel in Olney, was named to the All-Big Ten second team after averaging 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists, helping the Wildcats reach the second round of the NCAA tournament.

For the second straight season, the draft was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced picks from an ESPN studio in New York and players were at home appearing virtually when they were drafted.

With potentially as few as 144 roster spots in the WNBA and so many players under contract or still on their rookie-scale deals, there are not many spots open for players to make teams. There’s a good chance that less than a dozen draftees will be on opening-day rosters this season.

Training camps open around April 25 and the season starts on May 14.

Baltimore Sun staff contributed to this article.

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