Erica Wheeler excited for new beginnings with Los Angeles Sparks

For the All-Star, the opportunity to play in Los Angeles is “super unreal.”

Erica Wheeler became the first undrafted player in the WNBA history to receive All-Star MVP honors. (Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports)

Newly signed Erica Wheeler has a message for fans of the Los Angeles Sparks.

“You’re going to get a player that’s going to play with passion and the will to want to win,” the undrafted guard said in her opening press conference to media on Wednesday.

Wheeler signed a two-year deal as a free agent with the Los Angeles Sparks, leaving behind an Indiana Fever team, for new beginnings and championship aspirations.

Leaving Indiana was a hard decision for Wheeler because of how much that team and the fans rallied for her. It was especially hard telling Indiana Fever General Manager and former teammate, Tamika Catchings that she was not returning.

“It was kind of hard but I know she still loves me and she’s happy for my journey,” Wheeler said about Catchings who was also a mentor for her.

The Rutgers alum came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013. She was able to get a try out with the Atlanta Dream in 2015 and played in 17 games that season before getting cut. Her next stop was New York then she was cut after three games. The Indiana Fever finally picked her up in 2016 and during her time with them she was their second leading scorer and leader in assists.

Fans last saw Wheeler have a stellar year in 2019 where she averaged about 10.1 points on a field goal percentage of 42.6, five assists, and three rebounds. Most notably, this was Wheeler’s All-Star year in which she showed up and out during the 2019 All-Star game winning the MVP honors.

Wheeler was sidelined in the 2020 season due to testing positive for COVID-19. She has been cleared to play since October and was able to suit up for her overseas team in Turkey. With Wheeler feeling healthy and in basketball shape again, she is ready for what Los Angeles has to offer.

“LA is LA. They’re going to always be good,” Wheeler said on the Sparks franchise. “They are going to always figure out a way to be good.”

Even with the departures of Chelsea Gray leaving to Las Vegas and Candace Parker going to her hometown of Chicago, Wheeler believes that with the pieces still left such as Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, there’s much more to expect from the team with championship aspirations moving forward.

In her Player’s Tribune letter that she penned thanking Indiana for their hospitality of her, Wheeler also addressed her new beginnings and intentions with Los Angeles. She mainly named Ogwumike and asked if she was “ready to create one of the most unstoppable pick-and-roll combos in the W.”

Consistency is something that Wheeler will be taking seriously this season as well. Due to her All-Star and status, Wheeler knows that she has to live up to that moving forward in her career.

The veteran is one of three guards on the Sparks, whose skill sets are different but can also blend with one another when efficiently schemed up. Wheeler is a “run the floor” type of player that can work the pick-and-roll, shoot the ball at a high level, and be a playmaker as well.

Wheeler welcomes the many ways she can be productive for the system that Sparks Head Coach & General Manager Derek Fisher creates.

“Playing off the ball, I love that,” Wheeler said. “Give me a wide-open shot, please.”

The signing with Los Angeles has not soaked in yet for Wheeler but she expressed to media in her opening press conference that she was happy and excited to be in this position.

“I might tell Derek I don’t even need no days off after overseas,” Wheeler said, “That’s how excited I am and I just can’t wait for the season to see what it’s going to bring us.”

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