TEAMS competing in the inaugural season as a professional league of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) may start building up their rosters through the its first-ever draft set for Feb. 7.

To be done virtually, the draft will allow the teams to further shore up their squads in addition to the direct-hire players they are allowed to sign.

A lottery to determine the order of the draft and the release of the official list of draftees will take place on Tuesday.

WNBL officials said 17 teams signified their intention to join the newly recognized pro league, but after thorough evaluation of their applications, only six teams made the cut.

Primary consideration in the application was the ability of the teams to sustain their operations to protect the players and help ensure league stability.

“We are very careful now that we are a pro league already. We are really very careful on this because the financial capability of the team really matters in ensuring that players will be compensated well and commitment to the players will be delivered on time,” said Rhose Montreal, WNBL executive vice-president, in a release.

Under league guidelines, teams can avail of the “protect six” rule in which they directly sign players without them going through the draft. However, teams will lose the right to select in the draft from the first to sixth round depending on the number of their direct-hire players.

Aside from the six teams, the Go For Gold Lady Sailors will also see action in the first season of the WNBL pro as a guest team and will have no draft picks.

In the lead-up to the draft, a draft combine was held at the Victoria Sports Center in Quezon City in December, where player aspirants got to show what they are capable of for selection.

The draft combine was done under strict health and safety protocols supervised by the Games and Amusements Board and the local government.

Following their recognition as a pro league last year, Ms. Montreal said giving women basketball players a platform to continue what they are doing is a driving force for them.

“Even before the pandemic, there were plans to bring the WNBL to the next level, which was to turn pro,” said Ms. Montreal.

The draft was originally set for an earlier date, but was delayed by quarantine restrictions in place. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo