WNBA Draft Will Be Held Virtually Due to Coronavirus Concerns

The WNBA Draft is scheduled to take place on April 17, marking the first event for the WNBA or NBA since the suspension of play on March 11. The draft is still going to take place, but there will be some major differences due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The players will not be in attendance, and the selections will be made via live stream.

"We want to make sure that the players who are the draftees get their moment in the limelight," the WNBA's commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, said in a phone interview with the Times. The draft will be televised on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on April 17. Top players will be streamed from their home or current location while Engelbert will be "somewhere in New Jersey, announcing the draft picks live." The entire process will take place virtually due to health and safety concerns.

The commissioner said that this will still be an honor for those players that are selected. She won't be with them to celebrate, but these draft picks will potentially be with their families. For example, Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu is expected to be selected first overall by the New York Liberty. She will hear her name called while sitting at home instead of in a green room.

"The prospects deserve to be drafted, and this is part of their dream," Engelbert said, per ESPN. "It was a collective decision made by the league, in consultation with the teams. We felt it was really important to celebrate and recognize their hard work and accomplishment.

"While it's premature to say what the circumstances will be for training camp and the tip of the season, we're scenario-planning around the start of the season. And part of that is we have to have a draft. The teams are strategizing about their rosters, and the draft is also an important part of that."

WNBA training camps were originally scheduled to begin April 26, and the first game was planned for May 15. However, the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in several leagues halting their seasons. Whether or not the WNBA season begins on time is currently unknown.

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The WNBA draft will be held virtually, but the various aspects are still expected to take place. The league announced that it would be honoring the victims of a Jan. 26 helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people. Young players Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant, and Payton Chester will be honored during the event. Additionally, the WNBA will honor Kobe Bryant for his advocacy of the league.

(Photo Credit: Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)