Former Iowa women’s basketball center Monika Czinano picked in third round of WNBA Draft, headed to Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks drafted Czinano with the 26th pick in the WNBA Draft on Monday night.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa center Monika Czinano walks during introductions before a 2023 NCAA Elite Eight women’s basketball game between No.2 Iowa and No.5 Louisville at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA on Sunday, March 26, 2023.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa women’s basketball center Monika Czinano put her medical school goals on hold to pursue a professional basketball career. Now, she’s heading to the WNBA.

“I want to play pro basketball, however that looks for me in the future,” Czinano previously told The Daily Iowan. “It’s crazy the opportunities that basketball has given me. So as long as my body is willing and able, I’ll kind of do that for as long as I can.”

Czinano was picked 26th overall in the third round of the WNBA Draft on Monday night by Los Angeles Sparks.

With a 67.1 field goal percentage, Czinano averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds during her fifth season with Iowa in 2022-23. She was an integral part of the Hawkeyes’ first run to the Final Four in 30 years.

Czinano finished her career as a national runner-up, as Iowa fell to LSU in the NCAA Tournament title game. She is the Iowa women’s basketball program’s third all-time leading scorer with 2,413 points, behind former teammates Megan Gustafson and Caitlin Clark.

“We’re so proud of Monika,” head coach Lisa Bluder said in a statement. “She’s an incredibly hard worker that deserves everything she’s getting. I couldn’t ask for a better student-athlete to represent the University of Iowa in the WNBA.”

The 6-foot-3 center will join guard Zia Cooke out of South Carolina and guard Shaniece Swain, who is from Australia. The Sparks went 13-23 in the 2022 season, missing the playoffs. Los Angeles then hired head coach Curt Miller, who spent six seasons with the Connecticut Sun, in October 2022.

Czinano is the 15th Iowa player to be drafted into the WNBA.

Gustafson was picked 17th in the 2019 WNBA Draft to the Dallas Wings. She’s spent time with the Wings and the Washington Mystics and currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury.

Both centers, Czinano and Gustafson spent one year together as Hawkeyes in 2018-19.

“Monika to LA!!!” Gustafson tweeted on Monday night. “Love you and so so proud!!”


And Czinano says she credits everything to Gustafson’s teachings.

“Megan just really took me under her wing,” Czinano said. “She got me into the gym, just kind of modeled for me what it meant to be a really not only a great person, but like a really highly successful Division I athlete.”

Former Hawkeye guard Kathleen Doyle went 14th in the 2020 WNBA Draft to the Indiana Fever. Doyle no longer plays in the WNBA, but she plays for Botasspor Adana, a Eurobasket team in Turkey.

Czinano, whose family is from Hungary, hopes to play overseas in the WNBA offseason.

“That’s like a huge goal of mine is to play in Hungary and get into that culture a little bit more than I have been able to living in America,” Czinano said. “So, I think that is kind of the next step for me. It’s a really exciting time. It’s a lot of unknowns, which I’m not really used to, but it’s a good thing.”

Gustafson also played in Hungary for NKE-Csata in the 2019-20 season. She traveled to Greece for the 2022-23 season and won the Greek League Finals with her team, Olympiacos.

Czinano was one of three players from an Iowa school to be drafted Monday.

Iowa State’s Stephanie Soares, who only played 13 games with the Cyclones before tearing her ACL, was drafted by the Mystics with the fourth pick in the draft. Almost immediately after, the Mystics traded her to the Wings.

Soares will have a familiar teammate in Ashley Joens, who the Wings picked with the 19th pick in the draft on Monday night. Joens was the 2023 Big 12 Player of the Year.