The 2020 WNBA Draft will be held on April 17 as originally scheduled, the league announced on Thursday. Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the draft will not take place in one specific venue. Instead, the league will conduct a virtual draft without players, guests and media.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert says she is working diligently to "create a memorable but virtual event that appropriately honors these accomplished athletes." Engelbert will announce the draft picks and the players will participate remotely.
"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 in a statement. "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."
Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu is widely expected to be the top pick in the draft after she became the first player in NCAA Division I history toover the course of her collegiate career.
During the draft, the league plans to honor Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester. All four died in a tragic helicopter crash earlier this year.
While the draft date remains unaltered, changes may be made to the season's schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it stands, training camps are supposed to open up on April 26 and the season is scheduled to tip off on May 15 Much like the NBA, the WNBA is conducting ongoing scenario planning around the situation, as the health and safety of all involved takes precedence over the game.
"The health and safety of players and employees – with our teams and at the league level – is of the utmost importance," Engelbert said. "With regard to COVID-19, we are in touch with the teams, consulting with infectious disease specialists and monitoring guidance from the CDC and WHO. The WNBA is currently not in season, but together with the WNBPA and teams, we have been in close communication and will continue to connect with and offer resources to players in the U.S. and those playing overseas."
The situation remains fluid, and more will be known about the league's plans regarding the 2020 season in the coming weeks.