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Sabrina Ionescu goes No. 1 in WNBA draft to New York Liberty; Fever pick Lauren Cox

Sabrina Ionescu of the Oregon Ducks is introduced before the championship game of the Pac-12 Conference women's basketball tournament against the Stanford Cardinal at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on March 8, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, as expected.

When she’ll play for the New York Liberty is unclear.

sports on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was a draft
Friday night like no other with players in their own homes instead of a
central location, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced selections from
her home in New Jersey, holding up the jersey of the player being

“Of course it was different than what I had expected, and
just excited to be able to be here with my family and the people
closest to me and be able to spend this time,” Ionescu said from her
home in California. “Making the most out of what’s going on in today’s
society. Just really happy to be able to spend this moment with them and
excited to have gone through this process.”

Ionescu set the NCAA record for triple-doubles and was the first college player to have over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in her career. Ionescu was one of three first round picks for New York, which also had Nos. 9 and 12.

“I’ve been working for this for my entire basketball
career and super excited to see that come to fruition,” Ionescu said.
“I’m very humbled and excited for the opportunity.”

Ducks teammate
Satou Sabally, one of three juniors to forego their last year of
college eligibility and enter the draft, went second to Dallas. It’s the
third time in the history of the draft that the top two picks were
teammates in college.

“To go 1-2 with Satou is a really cool
feeling and shows all the hard work we went through this year paid off,”
Ionescu said. “Really proud of her and what we were able to do as
teammates and excited to see her future in the pros.”

Lauren Cox
went third to Indiana and Chennedy Carter was the fourth pick by
Atlanta. Dallas took Bella Alarie with the fifth pick. The Princeton
star was only the second Ivy League player to be drafted that high.
Harvard star Allison Feaster was also selected fifth in the 1998 draft
by the Los Angeles Sparks.

South Carolina players Mikiah Herbert
Harrigan and Tyasha Harris went sixth and seventh to Minnesota and
Dallas. The Gamecocks finished No. 1 in the AP poll this season.

chose Ruthy Hebard with the eighth pick — marking the fifth consecutive
season and ninth overall that three college teammates were taken in the
opening round.

“Really shows what kind of environment we had at Oregon,” Sabally said.

York took UConn’s Megan Walker with the ninth pick. Phoenix picked
Jocelyn Willoughby of Virginia 10th. Seattle took former South Florida
star Kitija Laksa with the 11th pick and New York closed out the first
round drafting Jazmine Jones from Louisville.

New York, which was
the first team ever to have five of the first 15 picks in the draft,
selected Jones’ Louisville teammate Kylee Shook at 13 and Duke’s Leaonna
Odom at 15.

The Liberty also made two trades after the draft,
acquiring Willoughby for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. New York also traded
Erica Ogwumike, who they drafted in the third round, to Minnesota for
Stephanie Talbot.

The WNBA tried to create a draft like
experience for the players, sending them a care package with hats of all
12 teams, a WNBA sweatshirt, confetti and a few other items.

Cox’s sister doused her with confetti after her name was announced.

“It was really fun and we made the most of it,” Cox said.

Coaches and general managers were spread throughout the country and
world, so they set up virtual war rooms instead of gathering in their
own team facilities.

While the draft was held Friday, its still
unclear when the league will actually start its season. Engelbert
reinforced on a conference call earlier in the day that there was no
timetable to when the season will begin. She said there were a variety
of scenarios in play, but the most important factor was the health of

Training camp was supposed to begin next weekend with the regular season opener originally scheduled for May 15.

league held its usual conference call with the teams before the ESPN
broadcast started to eliminate any chance of a pick not being in on
time. The virtual draft went off without any problems.

announced the WNBA, along with presenting draft partner State Farm and
the players’ union, will donate $20,000 for each of the 12 first-round
picks to Direct Relief to help get protective gear and medication to
health-care workers as quickly as possible.

The league also
honored Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester before the
start of the draft. Engelbert announced their names as jerseys were
shown on the screen with each of the three players on them. The
teenagers were among the nine people who died in the helicopter accident
on Jan. 26, including Kobe Bryant.

“I think it was a very
beautiful thing that the WNBA did to be able to draft those three
girls,” Ionescu said. “They deserved it. I know they’re looking down and
smiling and really excited.”