Following the opt-outs of Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, the Los Angeles Sparks signed two players with points to prove and an eagerness to play.
In their introductory press conference, forward Reshanda Gray and guard Te’a Cooper expressed how ready they are for the opportunity to play for the Sparks this season.
Gray had gotten released from the New York Liberty following a productive season in 2019 as a rebounder averaging 5.2 rebounds and posted a career-high 15 rebounds. The veteran forward just didn’t make the cut on a Liberty team that signed a plethora of rookies for the start of a new era.
Having been cut from multiple teams in her career, Gray thought she would be able to bounce back and have something stick. When speaking to media on Wednesday evening, Gray spoke about her feelings about being cut from the Liberty and how she leaned on her faith to help her persevere and channel her energy.
“I just really tried to leave everything out on the court,” Gray said. “So I just leaned on my faith at the time and I was like, God, I know you’re trying to tell me something like what exactly are you trying to tell me?”
Gray continued to stay in shape while building up her foundation No Gray Areas that is dedicated to empowering young girls within low-income communities.
The Los Angeles native is excited to be donning the purple and gold jersey that she has spent years seeing at games growing up and playing against throughout her career. She even mentioned that she might cry upon wearing the Sparks jersey.
“I remember waiting outside after the arena and seeing some of the WNBA players. They had a chance to come to us and just say hello and take a picture. It was just really exciting to be a fan, and to watch the game,” Gray said as she reminisced.
Cooper was a player that many thought would have a roster spot for the season. The Phoenix Mercury drafted Cooper with the 18th pick and would have been a good addition off the bench for them. Due to no training camp because of the coronavirus, Cooper wasn’t given an ample opportunity to show more and was waived.
“I really want my rookie season to be the most selfless season,” Cooper said. “I really just want to pour all my energy into the staff and the team and my teammates and just learning from them and getting to know them and it’s just staying in the moment and experience and everything.”
For a team who bolstered their roster to compete for a championship, Cooper had to explain over the phone with Head Coach Derek Fisher and Assistant GM Michael Fischer how she would be an asset for the team.
“I think most of the questions were just [about] being a team player and buying into a system, just being selfless and playing together and not really caring about self-accomplishments and just wanting to be there for your teammates,” Cooper said.
Gray was playing overseas in Korea when the coronavirus spread there. Her club was in the midst of their season and had to halt play for two weeks. Being self-isolated and quarantined in Korea prepared her for when it was time to come back to the states.
Cooper tried to maintain staying in shape throughout quarantine to be ready as much as she could for basketball play.
“Georgia hasn’t really been on a lockdown, lockdown like a lot of other states but I feel like I’ve tried to stay in the gym,” Cooper said. “The only thing that we can’t do is really like play five or five or have a defender so just trying to stay in shape, without being able to play against other people, has been hard but being in the gym hasn’t had to stop so just stay in there and just being ready as much as I can.”
Cooper is very optimistic about how the bubble with play out. She would like for her family to be there but understood why the league has parameters in place.
Gray and Cooper are excited to have the opportunity to bring their best every night with this team and leave it all on the floor. Gray is looking forward to be able to blend into the team’s chemistry and fit in with her skillset, bringing her “A” game every night.
“If Coach Fisher says run through a brick wall, I’ll be like “Okay, can I get a helmet first,” Gray said.
Cooper is ready to play and soak in everything from her teammates and coaching staff as she strives to live in the moment and experience everything around her.
“I really want my rookie season to be the most selfless season,” Cooper said.
Great story, Megan.