basketball-women-d1 flag

Amna Subhan | NCAA.com | April 10, 2022

The 8 players who went No. 1 in the WNBA draft right after reaching the NCAA title game

Candace Parker becomes 1st woman to dunk in NCAA tournament history

The gap between the NCAA tournament and the WNBA Draft is a quick turnaround, sometimes a matter of weeks or even just days.

In some cases, players compete in the national championship, declare for the draft and get selected to a professional squad all before the title game becomes a distant memory. 

Here's how many did just that and went No. 1 overall: 

1. Sue Bird, 2002 — UConn

Sue Bird battles Oklahoma in 2002 national championship Sue Bird battles Oklahoma in 2002 national championship

With the first pick of the 2002 WNBA draft, the Seattle Storm selected Sue Bird, making her the first player to go No. 1 after winning a title since the league’s inception five years prior. 

Coming off an undefeated 39-0 season and an NCAA trophy to pair with it, Bird was one of the biggest names in women’s basketball.

She was an integral part of the undefeated campaign facilitating the offense and leading the team in 5.9 assists while scoring 14.4 points per game earning her Naismith Player of the Year honors. 

In the big leagues, Bird became one of the most decorated players in WNBA history. She won four Finals in a 16-year span appearing in 12 All-Star games. In 2017, Bird became the all-time league assists leader. 

2. Diana Taurasi, 2004 — UConn

Diana Taurasi after winning third consecutive national title Diana Taurasi after winning third consecutive national title

The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi also played in the 2002 national championship accompanying Bird, but she was just a sophomore with two more years of college eligibility to do some damage. 

In the meantime, Taurasi racked up two more national titles completing the three-peat before the Phoenix Mercury drafted her No. 1 in 2004. The Huskies finished off Tennessee 70-61 for the last third serving of championship cake lifted by Taurasi’s 17 points, 10 in the second half. 

Professionally, Taurasi continued the streak of excellence winning three WNBA Finals in 2007, 2009 and 2014. She, alongside Huskies teammate Bird, won five Olympic gold medals beginning in 2004 shortly after being drafted. 
 

3. Candace Parker, 2008 — Tennessee 

Candace Parker celebrates second national championship Candace Parker celebrates second national championship

In 2004,  Taurasi beat a then-freshman Candace Parker, but Parker won two straight titles to cap off her collegiate career as the next player to go No. 1 after winning the national chip. 

Parker and company dominated Stanford for Pat Summit's eighth national title. Parker scored 17 points to go along with nine rebounds in the championship game. 

After the Los Angeles Sparks drafted her, she ended the season as Rookie of Year, WNBA MVP and an Olympic gold medalist. 

Needless to say, Parker cemented greatness within her first professional season. She later went on to win two WNBA Finals in 2016 with the Sparks and 2021 after signing with the Chicago Sky last offseason defeating none other than...Diana Taurasi.
 

4. Angel McCoughtry, 2009 — Louisville 

Angel McCoughtry surrounded by undefeated Huskies Angel McCoughtry surrounded by undefeated Huskies

Not every first pick after reaching the championship game won the title. Angel McCoughtry proved that in the following year in 2009.

McCoughtry and the Cardinals fell to UConn by 26 points in the final game despite a 23 points, 6 rebound effort from McCoughtry. The Huskies, again, went undefeated, this time beating every opponent by double-digits down to the national championship game. 

But McCoughtry rebounded from the defeat, getting selected No. 1 by the Atlanta Dream just two days later. 

After 10 seasons, five All-Star appearances and two scoring titles McCoughtry signed with the Las Vegas Aces where she currently plays. 

5. Tina Charles, 2010 — UConn 

Tina Charles celebrates second-straight national championship Tina Charles celebrates second-straight national championship

As a junior, Tina Charles beat Louisville and returned for a senior season to win the Huskies seventh national title. Charles led the Huskies to a second consecutive perfect 39-0 season, the only men's or women's Division I team to accomplish that since UCLA in 1997

While it was just a two-day period between the title game and draft, Charles didn't have to move far after the Connecticut Sun picked the UConn standout No. 1 overall. 

Charles played the majority of her professional career with the New York Liberty after four seasons with the Sun. As a dominant force in the paint, she became the fastest player in WNBA history to record 400, 500, 600 and 700 career rebounds. With five All-Star nods, a regular-season MVP and three Olympic gold medals, Charles is easily a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

But the veteran is still searching for her first WNBA title after winning two NCAA champions in college. Last season, she joined the 2019 champs Washington Mystics where she had her best statistical season in her 11-year professional career, notching 23 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game. 


6. Jewel Lyod, 2015 — Notre Dame

Jewel Lyod trying outlast UConn in national championship Jewel Lyod trying outlast UConn in national championship

For five seasons, no player who appeared in the NCAA national title game got drafted No. 1. Jewel Lyod changed that in 2015 after Notre Dame fell to — who else, but — the UConn Huskies. 

Lyod put up just 12 points on 4-18 shooting in her final game much lower than her usual 19.8 points per game that got her drafted No. 1 by the Seattle Storm in only her junior season.  

She joined Sue Bird as two No. 1 picks drafted by the Storm coming off the title game. Lyod helped win Bird two of the WNBA legend's four championships, she also won her first Olympic gold medal last summer in Tokyo. This past season, Lyod recorded a career-high 37 points as the second-leading scorer on the team behind Breanna Stewart who beat Notre Dame in 2015. 

7. Breanna Stewart, 2016 — UConn 

Breanna Stewart celebrates fourth national title Breanna Stewart celebrates fourth national title

From freshman to senior, Breanna Stewart won four-straight NCAA national championships,  the longest streak in DI women's basketball history. 

In her final season, Stewart averaged 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks while exceeding that in the championship game 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to blowout Syracuse. Less than a week later, the Seattle Storm selected her No. 1 for its second straight first overall pick. 

Two years later Stewart led Bird and Lyod to a WNBA title earning Finals MVP winning the regular-season MVP in 2018 as well. In less than a decade in the league, Stewart stacked up an illustrious career even while overcoming an Achilles injury in 2019. 

After sustaining the injury during offseason overseas competition, Stewart won another championship to pair with a Finals MVP in 2020 followed by her second Olympic gold medal. 

8. Jackie Young, 2019 — Notre Dame

Jackie Young looked to overcome Baylor Jackie Young looked to overcome Baylor

The most recent No. 1 pick that played in the national championship game was Jackie Young. Young won the NCAA title in 2018, but fell short the following year losing by just a point to Baylor. 

Young recorded only four points on 1-8 shooting in her final game, but showed enough talent throughout the season to go first overall. She was the first Irish player since Jewel Lyod to be drafted first overall, both did so after their junior seasons. 

Though there wasn't much time to mourn the defeated. Young hopped on the plane from the Final Four in Tampa, Fla. to New York where the Las Vegas No. 1 the very next day. 

In three seasons in the league, Young averages just under 10 a game. She played a limited part in three Aces playoff runs, but could see a larger role with the departing of volume scorer Liz Cambage. 

This year's WNBA draft airs on April 11 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

You have to see San Jose State's new glow-in-the-dark basketball court

San Jose State's new basketball court at Provident Credit Union Event Center is something to see.
READ MORE

Finalist cities announced for 2027-2031 NCAA Division I Women's Final Fours

Seven cities have been selected by the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee as finalists to host the NCAA Women’s Final Four from 2027 through 2031.
READ MORE

Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer announces retirement after Hall of Fame coaching career

Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer announces her retirement after a Hall of Fame career, leaving the game with 1,055 wins and countless lives improved through leadership, mentorship and guidance.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners