Wings take Collier, Kuier top two in WNBA draft

    Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The Dallas Wings drafted Texas post player Charli Collier with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 WNBA draft on Thursday.

Collier is the first Longhorns player to be the WNBA’s top pick and the second from the Big 12, following Baylor center Brittney Griner in 2013.

The Wings took another post player, Awak Kuier of Finland, with the No. 2 pick. The 6-foot-5 Kuier is the seventh international player who did not play U.S. college basketball to have been selected in the top five of a WNBA draft.

For the second season in row, the three-round draft is virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, who announced the picks from her home last season, was in an ESPN studio this year.

The 6-foot-5 Collier averaged 19 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.1% from the field for the 21-10 Longhorns, who advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. Collier is a draft-eligible junior because she turns 22 this calendar year.

She will be playing for a pro team in her native Texas; she is from Mont Belvieu in the greater Houston area.

“My heart is racing right now because I worked so hard for this,” Collier told ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “This is a game that I love, I deserve to be here and I’m built for it. This is my moment.”

Collier is the third true junior to be the No. 1 pick after Notre Dame guards Jewell Loyd in 2015 and Jackie Young in 2019. Tennessee’s Candace Parker was a junior in eligibility when she was No. 1 in 2008, but she had been in school four years, having redshirted what would have been her first season in 2004-05.

Kuier, 19, plays professionally for Ragusa in Italy, where she has averaged 8.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this season. She doesn’t turn 20 until August.

Kuier was born in Cairo after her parents fled war-torn South Sudan. When she was 2-years-old, her family immigrated to Finland. She becomes the first Finnish player drafted in WNBA history.

Dallas went 8-14 and missed the playoffs at ninth place in last year’s condensed season in Bradenton, Florida. Like the rest of the WNBA teams, the Wings will be back in their home market this season, playing at College Park Center in Arlington, Texas.

Vickie Johnson is in her first season as coach of the Wings; she previously was a head coach in San Antonio and played 13 seasons in the WNBA.

In Collier and Kuier, Johnson and the Wings get two players with great size and scoring and rebounding ability. The Wings have three first-round picks and four of the top 13, while the Los Angeles Sparks have two in the first round and five overall.

The Atlanta Dream took NCAA tournament star Aari McDonald at No. 3. The guard led Arizona to the national championship game, and becomes the first Wildcat player to be taking in the first round of the WNBA draft.

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