Dream believe they found draft-and-stash gem in Raquel Carrera

Dream coach Nicki Collen accepts the congratulations of her fans. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dream coach Nicki Collen accepts the congratulations of her fans. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Credit: Scott Cunningham

Credit: Scott Cunningham

Dream coach Nicki Collen had no choice. She had to flex her international basketball knowledge when the 15th pick came around in Thursday evening’s WNBA draft.

There were plenty of prospects with first-round caliber on the board. The Dream could’ve had Oklahoma State’s Natasha Mack or Rutgers guard Arella Guirantes, who was a projected first-round target of the Dream and remained on the board. Collen chose to go a different direction.

She had Spanish center Raquel Carrera penciled in. Collen watched Carrera play with a pair of current Atlanta players, Tiffany Hayes and Maite Cazorla. She saw talents in the 6-foot-2 post presence that resemble many of the WNBA’s best. Not too many on the outside knew of Carrera, but Collen and her staff did.

The Dream wasn’t going to miss out on their potential gem.

“I probably watch as much international basketball as anyone,” Collen said. “Raquel was a personal favorite of mine.”

The Dream focused on a long-term approach in the 2021 draft. After making waves by selecting Arizona’s Aari McDonald with the third overall pick, the team went with Carrera in the second round while knowing she wouldn’t be on the roster this season. Carrera will compete with the Spanish national team in hopes of making the final Olympic roster in Tokyo.

Collen remembers Carrera posting 20 points and eight rebounds in the EuroCup semifinals with Valencia. In the following game, Carrera was called upon with the final possession on a tip play. She was fouled with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation and made both free throws to win in the finals.

“I know she’s not as tall, but she’s got the moves like Emma Meeseman,” Collen said. “She never takes a bad shot and has range to the 3-point line.”

Oddly enough, Carrera had desires to play collegiately at the Division I level and was nearly teammates with McDonald at Arizona. Carrera received a scholarship offer from Wildcats’ coach Adia Barnes and met McDonald on an official visit. She craved the college experience and had potential to burst onto the college scene, but then Valencia offered a five-year contract and that became Carrera’s college-like experience.

Collen did add, too, that the second-round selection has significant interest in a prolonged WNBA career.

“She’s a great person with a great family,” McDonald said. “I remember our interaction well, and I am excited to reconnect with her.”

The addition of Carrera could pay dividends when the Dream have six major free agents in the next offseason, including long-time veteran post player Elizabeth Williams. Carrera’s young age, 19 years old, did not make Collen hesitate.

The plan of development, growth and a prolonged stay in Atlanta perfectly fit the Dream’s long-term objective entering the draft.

“She’s a player who doesn’t quite know how good she is,” Collen said. “She’s got a bright future.”

Now, Collen awaits to see her international knowledge pay off. She knows Carrera’s potential while others might’ve second-guessed the pick.

“This is someone who can develop into a really special player,” Collen said.

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