With the first week of training camp in the books, the Los Angeles Sparks are excited about the upcoming season. The new roster is packed with 15 players who quickly established a competitive environment.
“We have plenty of championship experience with veterans that are on our team and we have a lot of young players who have years behind them,” said Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike. “We have really hungry rookies as well … the energy is really fresh.”
General manager and head coach Derek Fisher is happy to see players who fit into the system of basketball that he wants to implement.
“As we go through practice, some of the plays that are being made, the finishes at the basket, the speed and athleticism, the change in direction,” he said. “It’s really exciting to see where we could be if we can stick together.”
Although she was drafted two weeks ago, Sparks rookie guard Stephanie Watts is ready to compete on the pro level. She feels blessed to have the opportunity to learn from the veterans on the team. Her passion to compete helped her move from being a college player to becoming a pro.
“Being a competitor, this is what I live for,” Watts said. “As soon as the college season ended, I was right back into training, getting ready for this moment because I knew it was going to come pretty quickly.”
Training camp marked the first time Watts met Ogwumike in person, Watts noted that Ogwumike is “overly helpful” and “the sweetest person ever.”
“She is almost like having another coach on the court that’s able to orchestrate and help the team run smoothly,” Watts said.
According to Ogwumike, one of the biggest strengths the team has is their room to grow. There are currently seven frontcourt players on the Sparks roster, all with different levels of experience. Center Amanda Zahui B looks forward to playing along side Ogwumike. Upon reminiscing on her 37-point game against the Sparks in 2019, Ogwumike is happy to have Zahui B on her side.
“She brings a lot of personality to the team and I think that’s something that we always love to have,” Ogwumike said about Zahui B. “I love that I can learn from her, I don’t limit myself to learning from players with more experience than me, I try to learn from everybody.
The coaching staff is challenging themselves to maintain a competitive environment daily with the hope that players will take that energy into games. So far, the players have been taking the initiative.
“We’re taken that into every practice plan and every discussion that we’ve had,” Fisher said. “I think we’ve done some things right in terms of the right players being in the gym that aren’t forcing us to have to bring the competitive nature to the gym, it’s already there.”