The WNBA announced it would continue with its scheduled draft April 17 despite the COVID-19 crisis. The league will conduct a "virtual" draft utilizing video conferencing without players, guests and media in attendance.

During the event, which will be broadcast on ESPN 2 beginning at 5 p.m., the league will honor Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, three of the nine victims of the helicopter accident Jan. 26 that also took the life of Kobe Bryant.

The WNBA also announced plans to honor Kobe Bryant during the draft and upcoming season, calling him a "passionate advocate of the league."

The league is scheduled to open training camps April 26 and begin the season May 15. Both dates are fluid because of the pandemic.

The WNBA draft will go on as scheduled, albeit modified. Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, who spoke at the Bryants' memorial at Staples Center on Feb. 24, is expected to be the top selection. New York has the No. 1 pick. The Los Angeles Sparks traded their 2020 first-round pick for Chiney Ogwumike last April.

"The WNBA draft is a time to celebrate the exceptional athletes whose hard work and dreams are realized with their selections in the draft," WNBA Commissioner Cathy 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.

"With that in mind, we will work diligently with our broadcast partner, ESPN, to create a memorable but virtual event that appropriately honors these accomplished athletes."

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