April 15 draft to air in prime time

For the first time in the 17-year history of the league, the WNBA will hold its annual draft in prime time.

The first round of the draft will be telecast on April 15 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and, for the third consecutive year, will originate from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Rounds 2 and 3 will be shown on ESPNU beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

"To schedule the WNBA draft in prime time is a significant commitment by our broadcast partner, ESPN, and is indicative of the growing interest in the league and the women's game overall," WNBA president Laurel Richie said in a statement. "We are very much looking forward to the 2013 season and that tips off with what we anticipate will be one of the most exciting -- and followed -- drafts in league history."

The Phoenix Mercury won the draft lottery in September and have the No. 1 pick. Baylor center Brittney Griner is expected to be the Mercury's selection. The Chicago Sky (second), Tulsa Shock (third), Washington Mystics (fourth) and New York Liberty (fifth) will draft in the top five.

The Mercury (7-27) had the second-worst record in the league and a 28 percent chance of getting the No. 1 choice through the lottery.

Griner headlines a talented class in the coming draft. Delaware's Elena Delle Donne led the nation in scoring last season and is a versatile 6-foot-5 guard who can score from almost anywhere on the court. Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins has guided the Irish to the past two national championship games and is one of the most followed female athletes on Twitter.

Also among the top seniors currently playing on the collegiate level are Georgetown guard Sugar Rodgers and Maryland forward Tianna Hawkins.

The draft telecast also will be available online at WatchESPN.com and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app.