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Sparks Welcome NCAA Contenders to Roster
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Editor
Published April 21, 2022

Former Tennessee guard Rae Burrell was the ninth overall pick of the 2022 Draft (Courtesy Photo)

In the 2022 Draft, the Los Angeles Sparks selected Tennessee forward Rae Burrell, Kianna Smith of Louisville, UCONN center Olivia Nelson-Ododa, and Hawaii guard Amy Atwell. Head coach and general manager Derek Fisher was seeking out players who were positionless on defense and scorers on offense.

“As we look at different lineups, different ways that we want to be able to play against our opponents, we wanted to have that type of versatility in our training camp,” Fisher said. “We felt like that would give us the best chance to evaluate the best 12 players to go into the season.”

Burrell has been a player the Sparks have been observing throughout her career with the Lady Vols. During her career, Burrell scored 10.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. During their Sweet 16 game against Louisville, she scored a season-high of 22 points.

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Fisher believes that her willingness to play multiple positions on offense and defense will make Burrell an asset to the Sparks.

“Her shooting, her size, and being able to also handle the basketball with that type of length is a positive thing,” Fisher said.

Las Vegas native Burrell has a mother that played basketball and a father that competed in track and field at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her parents taught her the importance of focusing on things that she can control during games, like the amount of effort she contributes.

“Make sure you’re bringing 100 percent effort every single day because you control the hard work that you put in and getting extra hard work in,” Burrell said. “They taught me to have that next play mentality as well; don’t let things frustrate you and when adversity comes, make sure you just stay level-headed.”

Smith developed her overall game during her last year of eligibility, leading her team in total assists (92). She spent two seasons with the cardinals, transferring from the University of California.

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She hit a Louisville career-high of nine assists against North Carolina in February. During her time at Cal, she made 12 assists during one game. Fisher mentioned how he liked her “ability to do some things with the basketball in addition to being able to shoot it.”

“With [Smith], we felt like was an underrated player in terms of her skill set and what she’s capable of doing,” he said. “Great shot mechanics and an ability to knock the perimeter shot down, but I think a better ball handler, decision maker than we assume she is.”

Nelson-Ododa got a season-high of eight blocks and five steals against Xavier in January. Last season, she earned Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year, All-Big East Second Team honors and Big East All-Tournament Team honors.

“[Nelson-Ododa] have played at UCONN for four years and played in four Final Fours. That’s special, played a lot of high level games against the best players in the country,” Fisher said. “We’re excited to have her size, her length.”

Atwell averaged 17.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game this season, ultimately leading her to be Big West Player of the Year.

Former UCLA guard Chantel Horvat and former Duke guard Lexi Gordan signed training camp contracts with the Sparks.

The 2022 season will tip off for the Sparks when they travel to battle the Chicago Sky on May 6 at 5:00P.M. PST.

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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