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Liberty win WNBA Draft Lottery, get No. 1 pick for second straight year

Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb (left) introduces Walt

Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb (left) introduces Walt Hopkins (right) as the team's new head coach during a news conference at Barclays Center on Jan. 8, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Liberty won the WNBA Draft Lottery for the second straight year on Friday night, securing the right to select the No. 1 overall player in the 2021 draft.

With a combined record of 12-44 over the past two seasons, the Liberty had the most chances (442 out of 1,000) to land the No. 1 pick.

Dallas will pick second in the draft, followed by Atlanta and Indiana.

The WNBA made the lottery announcement during halftime of the women's college basketball game between No. 5 Louisville and No. 20 DePaul on ESPN.

The Liberty will have an opportunity to add another top player to an already intriguing young roster.

"I think if you really look at the trajectory of this franchise, where it's going from an ownership standpoint, front office standpoint, coaching standpoint, now player acquisition standpoint, this is exciting," Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said on a Zoom call after the lottery. "This is an exciting time to be a fan. So I'm mostly excited for them. It's about time some good stuff happened."

The Liberty used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft to select Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu was on her way to having a strong rookie season, scoring 33 points with 7 rebounds and 7 assists in her second game. Ionescu, however, suffered a Grade 3 sprain to her left ankle in her third game and missed the remainder of the season. Ionescu finished her abbreviated rookie season averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4 assists per game.

Kolb gave an update on Ionescu.

"She's great," he said on ESPN. "She's doing really well. She's moving really well, getting shots up. You don't find many competitors like Sabrina. I'm just really excited for everyone to see her next year as she kind of repeats her rookie year and I think you'll be excited as well. Whomever we pick here in this upcoming draft will mesh really well with her. We can't wait."

After the 2020 draft ended, the Liberty had selected five of the first 15 players in the draft and traded for another player selected in the first round. The Liberty had seven rookies on their roster last season. Louisville guard Jazmine Jones, a first-round pick by the Liberty, had a strong rookie season, averaging 10.8 points per game off the bench and was selected to the WNBA All-Rookie team.

There isn't a consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2021 draft at this point with the uncertainty of the current college basketball season and decisions still to be made by draft-eligible juniors.

"It's wide open and we're really going to do research," Kolb said on the Zoom call. "I think we're really thorough with our processes. ... We're really excited. This is a wonderful opportunity. We're excited to get going."

New York Sports