Los Angeles Sparks introduce Reshanda Gray and Te’a Cooper ahead of 2020 season

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In a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Sparks introduced forward Reshanda Gray and rookie point guard Te’ a Cooper to the team’s 2020 roster. The WNBA starts its 2020 season later this month at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where the league will operate in a quarantine, bubble-like atmosphere with 22-games on the slate.

As a forward for the New York Liberty in 2019, Gray averaged five points and five rebounds in 15.3 minutes of play per game. She shot 47% from the field. During the offseason, she played in the Women’s Korean Basketball League (WKBL) for Woori Bank Wibee. When the WKBL canceled the season, Woori Bank was in first place. At the time, Gray averaged 12 points and 18 rebounds per game.

The Liberty re-signed Gray in March but released her after the cancellation of the league’s training camps and the postponement of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just felt stuck,” Gray said. “I just channeled that energy into something else, and then the opportunity presented itself.”

In her free time, she revitalized her nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of young women in the Los Angeles area. She also kept herself busy by working out and doing hair. Gray is now turning her focus back to basketball. The Los Angeles native and California graduate is returning home in what she calls a “full circle moment.”

“I don’t know many people outside of Lisa Leslie that’s from LA, went to school in California and come back home and play professionally,” Gray said, sporting black and lavender braids in a high ponytail. “I think that’s amazing, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I even get to play with some great vets.”

She adds to the Sparks’ veteran defensive backcourt of guard Seimone Augustus and power forwards Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker. Gray will likely replace power forward Chiney Ogwumike, who opted out of the season, citing medical reasons on June 26.

“I’m going to leave it on the floor, I’m going after every rebound,” Gray said. “If Coach [Derek] Fisher says, ‘Run through a brick wall,’ I’m like ‘Okay, can I get a helmet first?'”

The Sparks introduced Cooper after Gray. The rookie averaged 14 points, two rebounds, and four assists per contest as a graduate transfer at Baylor before the season was cut short. The Phoenix Mercury drafted Cooper as the 18th overall pick in the 2020 draft, but she was released before training camp.

Fisher and the Sparks did not reach out to Cooper before the draft but saw her ability to score at ease and work through defenders as an asset. Currently living in Georgia, the New Jersey native hasn’t stopped her basketball training routine.

“I’m an optimistic person, so really, it didn’t bother me much because I knew it wasn’t the end for me,” Cooper said. “I just tried to stay positive, and I stayed in the gym.”

During her college career when she played on three different teams, all had former point guards at the helm: Tennessee’s Holly Warlick, South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey. She said she’s excited to continue her growth under Fisher, who was a point guard in the NBA. She looks to learn during a tumultuous time as one of 26 rookies starting their pro career.

“I really just want to pour all my energy into the staff and my teammates,” Cooper said. “I want to learn from them and stay in the moment and experience everything.”

Aside from the two signees, the Sparks added guards Augustus and Kristi Toliver this year. However, Toliver decided to opt-out of the 2020 season, noting her physical health and a need to focus on social justice issues in her community.

An official date has not been announced for the start of the season. Overall, ten players announced last month that they will not play, and Seattle Storm head coach Dan Hughes will skip the season due to health reasons.

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