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WNBA to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant at 'virtual' draft

Oregon Ducks forward Satou Sabally (pictured) and teammate Sabrina Ionescu are expected to be picked early in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Oregon Ducks forward Satou Sabally (pictured) and teammate Sabrina Ionescu are expected to be picked early in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 26 (UPI) -- The annual WNBA Draft will be presented in a different fashion in 2020, with top college basketball prospects participating remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced the "virtual" 2020 WNBA Draft on Thursday.

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"The WNBA Draft is a time to celebrate the exceptional athletes whose hard work and dreams are realized with their selections in the draft," Engelbert said. "Safeguarding the health and well-being of our prospects, players, employees, and everyone connected to our game, as well as the general public, is paramount.

"With that in mind, we will work diligently with our broadcast partner, ESPN, to create a memorable but virtual event that appropriately honors these accomplished athletes."

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The 2020 WNBA Draft will air at 8 p.m. EDT April 17 on ESPN2. No players, fans, guests or media will be there as Engelbert announces the draft's selections.

The league said it also will honor Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester during the draft. They were among the nine victims who died in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Los Angeles.

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu -- who was a close friend of the Bryant family -- is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. The New York Liberty own the rights to the No. 1 overall pick. The Dallas Wings have the No. 2 pick and the No. 5 pick. The Indiana Fever have the No. 3 pick and the Atlanta Dream have the No. 4 pick.

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The WNBA is planning for the 2020 season, which is scheduled to begin May 15. WNBA training camp is to start April 26.

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