University of Hawaii forward Amy Atwell was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks in the third round of the WNBA draft Monday, becoming just the second Rainbow Wahine ever to have her named called on draft day.
Atwell, who recently completed a stellar graduate season during which she earned Big West player of the year honors and led UH to the conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, was taken with the 27th overall pick. The 6-foot forward from South Perth, Australia, joins all-time UH great Judy Mosley as the only Wahine to be drafted — Mosley was picked sixth overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in the first-ever WNBA draft in 1997.
The Sparks receive one of, if not the most prolific shooters in UH women’s basketball history. Atwell leaves Hawaii as the school record holder for most career 3-pointers (205) and single-season 3-pointers (76). In early March, Atwell was named the Big West player of the year, becoming the first-ever Rainbow Wahine player to claim the honor after averaging 17.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
In her sixth year with the program, fifth as an active player, Atwell capitalized on her opportunity of being granted an extra season by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She dropped 534 points over 30 games, including 13 games of 20 points or more and two 30-point contests.
Behind Atwell, the Rainbow Wahine had one of the best seasons in program history. For the first time, they won the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles in the same season. UH made its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament, falling to second-seeded Baylor in the first round to finish at 20-10.
The WNBA draft started off on a poignant note as Commissioner Cathy Engelbert took a moment to say the league is working very hard to help bring Brittney Griner back to the United States.
Griner, one of the league’s biggest stars, has been detained in Russia since arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“I want to take a moment to reiterate the WNBA’s support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner,” Engelbert said before the draft started. “Please know that getting her home safely continues to be our top priority and while we are facing an extraordinarily complex challenge, there is strength in community, especially the WNBA.”
Engelbert said there will be a league-wide charity initiative spearheaded by the Mercury to support Griner’s philanthropic project, called BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. The drive has gathered new or gently used shoes for homeless people in the Phoenix area.
“This is an unimaginable situation for BG to be in,” Engelbert said. “She continues to have our full support. Certainly, we’re trying everything we can, every angle, working with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration. Just everybody in our ecosystem to try and find ways to get her home safely and as quickly as we can.”
Rhyne Howard became the first Kentucky player to go No. 1 in the draft, selected by the Atlanta Dream.
Indiana, who had four picks in the first round, drafted NaLyssa Smith from Baylor with the No. 2 pick and her Bears teammate Queen Egbo at 10. The Fever also snagged Louisville’s Emily Engstler at No. 4 and Lexie Hull of Stanford at 6.
The Mystics chose Shakira Austin from Ole Miss third and New York drafted Oregon’s Nyara Sabally in between Indiana’s top two selections. Dallas took Veronica Burton of Northwestern with the seventh pick.
Las Vegas drafted Mya Hollingshed of Colorado eighth. The Aces then took Florida Gulf Coast’s Kierstan Bell at 11.
Los Angeles drafted Tennessee’s Rae Burrell ninth and Connecticut finished off the first round by picking Nia Clouden of Michigan State.