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Dallas Wing players wait for the referee to make a call during a game against Phoenix Mercury on June 20 at College Park Center. 

Before they became the Dallas Wings in 2016, they were known as the Tulsa Shock from 2010 to 2015, and from 1998 to 2009, they were known as the Detroit Shock, three-time WNBA Champions.

Since their inaugural season in 2016, the Wings have made back-to-back playoff appearances in 2017 and 2018, never had a winning record and are on their third coach in five years after parting ways with former head coach Brian Agler in October.

Once the 2020 season ended, the Wings found themselves holding the first, second, fifth, seventh and 13th overall picks in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

The plan to rebuild went well for Dallas after sending forward Katie Lou Samuelson and a 2022 second-round draft pick to the Seattle Storm in exchange for the 2021 first overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

Along with the first overall pick, the Wings held the second overall pick because of their 8-14 record in 2020. They became the first team in WNBA history to hold the first two picks of the draft.

The picks didn’t stop there. The Wings also held the fifth overall pick after a trade with the Washington Mystics in 2020 where Dallas sent a player and two picks in exchange for the Mystics 2021 first and second-round picks.

With the first overall pick, the Wings selected UT-Austin forward Charli Collier. Collier was widely regarded as the top prospect going into the draft.

Dallas followed the route of many mock drafts with their second selection being Finland center Awak Kuier and then followed that up by selecting University of Arkansas guard Chelsea Dungee as the fifth pick.

The Wings’ draft continues to show fans, like Dallas resident Jonathan Dantzler, that the future is really bright for this team, even after the 1-4 start to the season, he said.

“They started off a little rough, but they’ve rided the ship,” Dantzler said. “Now they’ve won three out of their last four [games].”

Despite a quarter of the roster being made up of rookies, head coach Vickie Johnson has high expectations for everyone on the team.

Johnson, a first-year head coach, said her expectations are different from the previous coaches that her roster has experienced. She expects her players to play both offense and defense, play hard, play together and continue to uplift even when things get hard.

Even with the underwhelming start to the season, Johnson said she loves what she saw in the first 10 games from the team.

“I’m proud of them, and we just got to continue to push and continue to grow as a team,” Johnson said. “Once we get it on both sides of the basketball, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch.”

As for the rookie, Collier said she’s seen a growth in her confidence and her defense.

“I just want to improve each and every day and just not be content with where I’m at,” she said. “I always want to get better in all areas of my game.”

The transition from college to the WNBA has been one that Collier feels she’s fulfilling.

“Definitely a huge transition,” she said. “It’s different, you know, in the post as far as a rookie coming in. So, I’m just learning to become a tougher basketball player.”

As far as assignments, Collier said she is learning how to rebound on the move, switch on and off opponents and become a better defender in the post, and she is learning from watching the veterans on the team.

Second year players like Bella Alarie, Wings center and former first round pick out of Princeton University, who saw most of her action come in bubble play last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said this season is like a true rookie year.

“It kinda feels like another rookie year, especially when we are on the road,” Alarie said. “I feel like I’m adjusting to the league again.”

After the 2020 season ended in September, being able to play overseas with Galatasaray Basketbol in Turkey allowed her to develop her game and gain confidence, she said.

Overall, the 5-7 record doesn’t reflect the amount of excitement the team has. Collier said the ceiling is high for this roster, and like her coach, she’s looking forward to what's next without looking too far ahead.

“We’re just getting started,” she said. “We keep working hard and keep doing what [Johnson] asks us to do. We’re going to have a great season.”

Johnson believes that hard work will help the team, but as far as postseason goals, she said the team is taking it one day at a time. She said the team focuses on being their best versions each night rather than looking too ahead into the season.

“We take it one game at a time,” Johnson said. “We’re too young to be focusing on the playoffs right now.”

@JayRod003

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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