When it came to navigating the WNBA free agency, Los Angeles Sparks head coach Curt Miller and general manager Karen Bryant made re-signing Nneka Ogwumike their main priority. They even traveled to Houston to recruit her.
“Free agency for us with [Ogwumike] was as much about a re-signing as it was about fostering alignment and inviting her into a conversation that would help shape the vision for the Sparks,” Bryant said.
Ogwumike then became a key piece to the signing of several players, including Stephanie Talbot and WNBA champion Azurá Stevens. The Tomball, Texas native noted how she feels blessed to be drafted by the Sparks.
“It’s more than just about putting together a team to win a championship,” Ogwumike said. “For me, it’s definitely about the vision, about how we see this organization going and just achieving and sustaining the rich history and the success of an iconic franchise.”
A first-round pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Stevens can play and guard multiple positions. She desires to be more consistent in her versatility. As her former team, the Chicago Sky, worked toward their 2021 WNBA title victory, Stevens learned the importance of togetherness.
“There was so many things that I learned but I think one of the main things was the importance of being on the same page,” Stevens said. “Right before the playoffs, we all got on the same page and it really propelled us through the playoffs.”
Chiney Ogwumike also re-signed with the Sparks. Because of her off-season exercise routine, she feels confident that she can play for a whole season. Chiney mentioned how hot yoga has helped her mentally and physically.
“Last season was a lot of exploring what could work for me and this season is like I know what works for me,” Chiney said. “It’s been a lot of getting my body to the point where it’s optimal performance.”
Talbot would have been a solid three-point shooter for the Sparks, but she suffered a torn ACL in Australia and will be out for the season.
“I’m definitely known in the WNBA for three-point shooting,” Talbot said. “When I played for the Opals, something I’ve really improved over the years is being able to get downhill, come off the pick and role and facilitate.”
Another way Ogwumike helped was through finances to get the right players to L.A.
“Her willingness and generosity with respect to her own salary and her own contract and providing us with the flexibility to do what we wanted and needed to do,” Bryant said. “There simply aren’t enough words to talk about how important it was for us to re-sign her.”