Players who were recent opponents in the NCAA women’s tournament championship game now become teammates on the Los Angeles Sparks.
Los Angeles gained players in the 2019 WNBA Draft who are able to contribute and become sponges with their veterans with credit to their individual championship success last night at the Nike New York Headquarters in New York City, New York.
With the seventh pick in the WNBA Draft, the Los Angeles Sparks selected the newly minted champion in Kalani Brown from Baylor University.
For Sparks’ General Manager and Executive Vice President Penny Toler, it was shocking to see that Brown fell to 7th and into their lap.
“With her [Brown] sitting at number seven, it was a no brainer,” Toler said.
Brown was unstoppable playing in the middle for the Lady Bears from the start of their game against Notre Dame. In the 82-81 win for Baylor, Brown ended her collegiate career with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Brown is a dominant post player who will fight for boards and score in double digits on a given night. Whenever she is on the floor, her presence is definitely felt in the paint. Brown averaged 15.8 points on 61.4 percent of shots from the field, eight rebounds, and about two assists in her senior year.
Her fit with the Sparks gives them some versatility with their frontcourt players. Brown is a different type of big in contrast to veterans Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Jantel Lavender due to her size and impact on the game. Brown can not only work her way in the paint but can pop out and shoot the midrange shot.
“She’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Toler said.
Brown’s presence is just the newest addition to the Sparks’ high caliber frontcourt. This allows for the team to tinker with different big lineups to see fits and to maximize the talent in the frontcourt.
It just so happened that the Sparks ended up with championship level players in the first two rounds.
Joining Brown, the Los Angeles Sparks then selected Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey with the 19th pick in the second round. Mabrey won the national title in 2018 with the Irish and contended with Brown’s team in this year’s title game.
Both Mabrey and Brown’s experience playing through a tournament until the very end prepared them for playing with this team in the Sparks that is full of experience and talent.
“They were willing to fit in and play a role that was best for their teams,” Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher said.
Night in and night out, Brown was a team player. Whether it was passing the ball to an open teammate while double teamed or being a menace in the paint, Brown’s teammates always counted on her to contribute to the team’s success.
Fitting into what works for a team is what Mabrey seamlessly did with Notre Dame. Mabrey and the rest of the Notre Dame starters were all drafted last night. Starting with Jackie Young being drafted number one for the Las Vegas Aces to Mabrey being the last of the group to be picked, it was the luck of the Irish doing its work.
Mabrey was a three-point terror for the Irish in the championship game and made plays when the team needed some offense going. She scored 12 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter against Baylor to try to help the Irish make a late comeback.
Mabrey is a combo guard that will be a great fit within the Sparks’ positionless roster. She can be a facilitator on the floor or play off the ball in different situations. As a player for the Sparks, a position on the floor isn’t heavily defined due to many others handling the ball throughout contests.
Mabrey’s ability to move without the ball adds value to the Sparks as there are players like Parker, Odyssey Sims, and Chelsea Gray who can handle the ball on offense.
“A lot of ways in the game, we need that versatility and is capable of providing that,” Fisher said.
Outside of the X’s and O’s, Mabrey brings some fierce competitiveness to the Sparks. She plays with a great deal of heart and passion that will match her teammates and get them going on the floor each night.
With the 31st pick in the draft, Los Angeles took Angela Salvadores from Spain as their final draftee of the night. She briefly played at Duke during the 2015-16 season before going back to play in Spain. Salvadores is a versatile guard and a great scorer with a high basketball IQ.
Salvadores boasted a career high at Duke with 19 points on 5-8 field goals in a contest against Georgia Tech. She also won the Hungarian League championship with Sopron Basket in 2018.
The big takeaway from the Los Angeles Sparks’ draft moves is that they are adding players that fit with the roster they went into the draft with. After a second-round exit in the 2018 postseason and a need to bolster the roster with new talent, the Sparks look equipped to maintain a competitive and contending team this upcoming season along with a new head coach in Fisher.