New York, NY—-The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft featured three rounds with 12 picks each. The 2023 draft was held at Spring Studios in New York City. This year’s top draft picks included Aaliyah Boston, Diamond Miller, Maddy Siegrist, Stephanie Soares, and Lou Lopez Senechal.
They were five South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball players selected in the 2023 draft and a proud coach Dawn Staley patiently waiting to give them their flowers.
In the 2023 WNBA Draft, forward/center Aliyah Boston was selected by the Indiana Fever. Boston is the second South Carolina player to be drafted with the No. 1 overall pick as A’ja Wilson was drafted by the Las Vegas Aces with the first pick in the 2018 Draft. Boston will team up with former Gamecock Destanni Henderson who was selected by the team in last year’s draft.
But WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert stole the show when she greeted and spoke to the media at the opening of the 2023 draft.
The WNBA announced that the league will pay for the flights. The WNBA will allow five teams to fly charter when they are playing on a back-to-back with travel in between games.
It is also expanding its charter flights program from covering just the Finals and the Commissioner’s Cup championship to the entire playoffs and select regular season season contests.
In a press release, the commissioner said she continues to work on “transforming the business of the league, and the ability to expand this program is a direct result of that.”
“Since joining the league a few years ago, a goal of mine has been to enhance the overall player experience and, in that regard, make incremental improvements where we are able to do so and when we believe the economic model would support it for the long-term,” Engelbert said in a statement. “I’m pleased that we are able to broaden the program this year for the players. As the league continues to grow, we will look to do more in the future.”
The WNBA has previously provided charter flights to teams that played in the WNBA Finals the last two years and to the road team for last year’s Commissioner’s Cup championship.
Engelbert also talked about the travel arrangement for Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner, who was released in a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia last December.
“We’ve been working with Brittney and Phoenix since she signed and our security experts,” Engelbert said. “Working on a plan, but we want it to be confidential. She wants to travel with the team sometimes. Work as much as we can making sure we are following the advice of our team. We have a very good plan, but I’m not going to share more specifics.”
Travel arrangements have been a major problem for the league for a few seasons, the New York Liberty were fined $500,000 for paying for some charter flights during the 2021 season.
Engelbert also told the media that charter flights may not be back next season, as the WNBA’s season will be condensed by the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
In closing Engelbert talked about diversity and inclusion:
We embody diversity and stand for social justice and the power of women. You look at companies, and they all want to make their mark around diversity, equity, and inclusion. They all have these big initiatives internally. Now’s the time to use women’s sports as part of supporting that diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We are hoping that all the leagues follow Engelbert’s example of diversity, equity, and inclusion because we have a long way to go regarding Black publications gaining access to cover professional and college sports. Tonight, we felt included and accepted in the WNBA.
The WNBA are not just talking about diversity and inclusion, they are fully embracing the concept thanks to Engelbert.