With their 10th, 12th and 26th pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft, the Los Angeles Sparks acquired guards Zia Cooke and Shaneice Swain and forward Monika Czinano. Head coach Curt Miller noted how the picks will have a short-term and long-term impact on the franchise.
Cooke of the University of South Carolina was the Sparks’ first-round pick. She was the leading scorer of the top-ranked Gamecocks women’s basketball team, scoring 15.4 points per game this season. Cooke dropped a season-high of 31 points in their 68-51 win over the Georgia Lady Bulldogs.
A starter in all 137 games she played in, Cooke helped the Gamecocks win the 2022 NCAA championship and three SEC Tournament titles. She was also named the 2023 Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year.
“We had one of the most impressive interviews with Zia Cooke,” said Sparks chief administrative officer and general manager Karen Bryant. “You can just tell her maturity, her growth, her reflection on the last four years of her career was really authentic.”
Miller called Cooke one of “the best two-way players” in the 2023 Draft, noting her abilities on offense and defense. According to Miller, the 2022-2023 season was her most efficient year with the Gamecocks.
“An outstanding offensive player that scores on multiple levels, can attack, get into the paint, play in transition,” he said. “Defensively, you saw her beat a lockdown defender at times and put on the opponent’s best players.”
Cooke enjoys being in the gym to keep her gameplay consistent. She noted how she focused on improving her shot the summer prior to the 2022-2023 season.
“There was some days I would go in there and I would just do form shooting, an hour of form shooting,” Cooke said. “I’m still learning what is Zia’s good shot and I think once I finally get it all the way down, my shot will become automatic.”
In the second round, the Sparks drafted the Australian-born Swain. She was a member of the Australian National U15, U17, and U19 teams. Miller noted how acquiring Swain was part of the franchise’s long-term goals.
“She’s crafty, she’s flashy, and she has great upside and at only 19 or 20,” Miller said about Swain. “If you think what she would be like if she was just in college right now, with other people her age.”
Czinano averaged 17.1 points per game this season for the Iowa Hawkeyes and she has a season high 36 points against Drake. She started in all 38 games the Hawkeyes had this season. Czinano was named on the Big Ten All-Tournament team and the 2022-2023 All-Big Ten First Team.
“One of the most efficient post players in the country,” Miller said about Czinano. “Really understands how to play with her back to the basket.”
Czinano noted how she had played alongside great guards throughout her career.
“Phenomenal passing, knowing when to hit me when I’m most successful,” Czinano said. “I think throughout my entire career, I’ve put my head down and done what I needed to and that ended up turning into being low posted, back-to-basket play.”