Former Atlanta Dream forward Monique Billings (25) moves the ball during a WNBA basketball game against the Dallas Wings, Thursday, May 27, 2021, in College Park, Ga. The Atlanta Dream won 101-95. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

The Los Angeles Sparks recently acquired guards Aari McDonald and Kia Nurse, and forward  Monique Billings with a hope to speed up the pace on offense.

“I love the hard-nosed, gritty, tough players that we’re adding to this ’24 roster,” said Sparks head coach Curt Miller. “These three really embody that.”

Billings spent her entire six-year career with the Atlanta Dream. She has a career average of 5.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game. She recalled a conversation that she had with general manager Raegen Pebley where they “talked about being underdogs.”

“I love being in a position to be able to prove people wrong and make people respect my game,” Billings said. “I think that that’s what we’re going to try to do just with our work that we’re gonna put in with the Sparks.”

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Billings is a native of Riverside Ca. and attended Santiago High School. She was also a standout for the UCLA Bruins. During the 2017-2018 season, she helped the Bruins reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Former Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald (2) during a WNBA basketball game against the Las Vegas Aces, Friday, June 2, 2023, in College Park, Ga. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

McDonald is also a California native, hailing from Fresno. She looks forward to pick-and-roll actions and playing fast. That is the style of play she is currently doing while competing in Australia for the Perth Lynx.

“I’ve seen just me taking care of the ball just knowing when to play fast and play slow and creating for myself, creating for my teammates, being a great playmaker,” McDonald said about playing in Australia. “Going back to pick-and-roll action, making those reads, that’s something I haven’t done in a while.”

She was also playing run-and-gun basketball during her career with the Arizona Wildcats. She led Arizona to the NCAA Championship game in the 2020-2021 season. McDonald noted the Wildcats’ Final Four 69-59 victory over the UConn Huskies was a highlight in the run.

“Bonding with my teammates, that’s something I’ll take away from that,” McDonald said. “I’ll just remind myself confidence is everything and just you have to feed off that and just remember who you are.”

Miller has a long relationship with Nurse; when he was head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers women’s basketball team, he tried to recruit Nurse.

Former Seattle Storm guard Kia Nurse (0) runs on the court against the New York Liberty during the first half of a WNBA basketball game, Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Nurse spent the first three years of her career with the New York Liberty where she had WNBA icon Tina Charles as a teammate. She was also a teammate to current WNBA all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi during her stint with the Phoenix Mercury.

“The way she prepares as an old person and still being able to come in the gym and the shots she gets before, the shots she gets after, the time that she takes,” Nurse said about Taurasi. “The efficiency and in which she does her work … I think is really impressive as well.”

Miller is going into his second season as head coach of the Sparks. He was the head coach of the Connecticut Sun for six seasons, leading the team to two WNBA Finals.

“I’ve watched how [Miller] builds cultures, I watched how he tinkers with teams,” Pebley said. “He’s a master coach, I think he’s a future Hall of Famer.”