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WNBA draft: While Sparks look for a good fit, Aces likely to make Jackie Young first pick

WNBA draft: While Sparks look for a good fit, Aces likely to make Jackie Young first pick
Guard Jackie Young declared Monday night that she'd forgo her senior season at Notre Dame. (John Raoux / Associated Press)

Expectations for how the WNBA draft will unfold came undone with one tweet posted Monday evening, two days before the draft.

Jackie Young, Notre Dame’s junior point guard, announced she was bound for the WNBA.

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“I have waited for this day all of my life and I can’t wait to continue this journey,” Young wrote.

After the announcement, ESPN and CBS Sports changed their WNBA draft projections. Young is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick. The Las Vegas Aces have the first pick again this spring after selecting center A’ja Wilson at No. 1 overall last year. Louisville guard Asia Durr is projected to be drafted second.

Young’s announcement came two days after Oregon junior Sabrina Ionescu declared the opposite, that she would stay with the Ducks for one more season after leading the program to its first Final Four appearance this season. Ionescu was the potential No. 1 pick before she decided to stay at Oregon.

“WNBA — I’ll see you soon,” Ionescu wrote in the Players Tribune. “Real soon, I promise. Just have some business to take care of first.”

Even with Ionescu waiting another year, the talent in this year’s draft class is deep.

The Sparks have the seventh, 19th and 31st picks in the draft, but no obvious holes to fill. The Sparks have not yet re-signed starting point guard Chelsea Gray, a restricted free agent who averaged 14.9 points and 5.1 assists last season. Otherwise, the team returns talented veterans — including forward-center Candace Parker, forward Nneka Ogwumike, guard Odyssey Sims, guard-forward Alana Beard and center Jantel Lavender.

Another veteran who could join the mix is Liz Cambage, the Dallas Wings center who led the WNBA in scoring at 23.4 points per game and was second in rebounds at 9.8 per game. Cambage requested a trade from the Wings in January. She has expressed interest in playing for the Sparks and is close with the team’s new assistant coach, Fred Williams.

In a teleconference last Tuesday, Sparks coach Derek Fisher declined to address trade rumors regarding Cambage. He said he is focused on the Sparks’ already-deep roster.

“Even for our pick at No. 7,” Fisher said, “she's going to have a hard time just breaking through in terms of opportunity and minutes with the type of veterans we have at every position.”

The Sparks’ No. 1 draft pick last year, Russian center Maria Vadeeva, averaged eight minutes a game last season.

Fisher said the Sparks aren’t necessarily looking to choose the player with the most talent.

“I think it's important to draft a player that you think will be the right fit for who you are as a team,” Fisher said, “my leadership style, our roster, the personalities we have and the skill sets that we have.”

As the Sparks weigh their draft decisions, several local prospects await their fate. UCLA’s Kennedy Burke is a projected second-round pick, according to ESPN, and USC’s Mariya Moore and Aliyah Mazyck also are WNBA hopefuls.

WNBA DRAFT ORDER

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4 p.m. PDT, Wednesday

TV: First round (ESPN2), second and third rounds (ESPNU)

Pick, Team (2018 record)

1. Las Vegas (14-20)

2. New York (7-27)

3. Indiana (6-28)

4. Chicago (13-21)

5. Dallas (15-19)

6. Minnesota (18-16)

7. SPARKS (19-15)

8. Phoenix (20-14)

9. Connecticut (21-13)

10. Washington (22-12)

11. Atlanta (23-11)

12. Seattle (26-8)

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