WNBA training camps and the league’s season opener will be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced Friday.
It had been expected, with the extended social distancing guidelines by the federal government and various sporting entities canceling events into July.
“While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.
Engelbert, in her first full season on the job, has said the league would wait to make any announcements because things were changing on an hour-by-hour basis during the pandemic. She said she didn’t want to make any decision prematurely. Training camps were scheduled to open this month with the season opener set for May 15.
Players returning from overseas
Most players go overseas to continue playing during the WNBA offseason and have made their way back over the last few months as the COVID-19 virus has spread and forced cities and countries to lock down.
Las Vegas Aces star Liz Cambage said she might have had the virus while playing in China, though it was an “unknown virus” at the time. Many American players in the Chinese basketball leagues were on a break back home when the country started to shut down events.
Aces teammate and Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby was in Italy and had to be quarantined after playing a game in an epicenter of the virus. She was able to get home to her mother and young daughter, whom she hustled to get out of Italy before flights were booked, canceled or halted completely.
The Connecticut Suns’ Theresa Plaisance detailed for Yahoo Sports’ LaJethro Jenkins what having the virus was like, and Sydney Wiese of the Los Angeles Sparks announced last week she tested positive for the coronavirus after repeatedly trying to get tested.
Virtual draft will go on ESPN
The league will still hold its 2020 WNBA draft on April 17, but it will be virtual rather than held in New York. It was originally scheduled for ESPN2, but after some pushback it is now on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET.
The top prospects, including likely No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu, will take part remotely on a live feed. Qualifying underclassmen who turn 22 this calendar year have until April 7 to declare. Chennedy Carter of Texas A&M, Satou Sabally of Oregon and Megan Walker of Connecticut are the big-name juniors to leave school for the WNBA. Arizona’s Aari McDonald and Louisville’s Dana Evans have decided to stay in school.
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