Contact Form

    News Details

    Sparks see Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson as keys to ‘core four’
    • May 2, 2024

    TORRANCE — With less than a week on the job in the WNBA, it is only natural that Sparks rookies Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson are still trying to figure things out. The lottery picks are working hard to position themselves in the organization’s “core four” players, a concept detailed by first-year general manager Raegan Pebley on Wednesday at the team’s media day at El Camino College.

    “I’m still figuring that out to be frank. I think we’re with a great group of vets, a great group of girls, they really take us in,” Brink said. “I think we need to listen to the coaching staff. We’re only three days in really, so still figuring that out but continuing to play hard and be myself.”

    “Continue to be a sponge and lean on our vets,” Jackson added. “That’s been helping us get through training camp, all the overload of information, so we’re going to continue to do that.”

    The Sparks, led by coach Curt Miller, opened training camp Sunday.

    After a 17-23 record last season, which ended with missing the playoffs for a franchise-record third straight season, the organization was rewarded with the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA draft, which the Sparks used to select Brink from Stanford. During the WNBA’s free agency period, the Sparks acquired 2019 All-Star guard Kia Nurse and the No. 4 pick from the Seattle Storm, which the franchise used to draft Jackson from Tennessee, in exchange for the Sparks’ 2026 first-round pick.

    “Our goal is that we are building organizationally a core four,” Pebley said. “We want our top six to arguably be starters for any other team in this league.

    “We want every player on this roster to be high EQ, high IQ, great culture fits, great skill sets that fit the system that Curt’s building and we believe that those things can all lead in the end to WNBA championships. Championships aren’t usually built overnight, it takes time.”

    The Sparks have 18 players on their training camp roster, well above the league’s 12-person roster limit. Brink and Jackson should be considered locks for the opening-day roster.

    “Ultimately, the goal is to play and win championships,” Miller said. “We are pros, we all can have that adult conversation. It does take a process and what a foundation we get to start working with two lottery picks, with a lot of young professionals. I’m excited and the challenge of superstars developing and developing into an elite player and not just always acquiring in the arms race superstar players.”

    However, Miller is also high on guard Julie Allemand, who is overseas temporarily while rehabbing an ankle injury, and 6-foot-7 center Li Yueru as potential starters. The Sparks acquired Allemand and Yueru from the Chicago Sky in a trade for the eighth overall pick in the draft.

    “We believe, when I mention building a core four, a top six becoming arguably starters for any other team in the W and the entire roster being highly skilled players, Li fits that in every way,” Pebley said.

    “Li is the biggest surprise of our game so far,” Miller added. “She has absolutely been outstanding the first three days. She is a bona fide center internationally. She is going to impact this league.”

    In that scenario, after the two rookies and two former Sky players, that leaves eight available roster spots, the majority of which will likely be filled by protected veterans like two-time All-Star forward Dearica Hamby, forward/center Azurá Stevens (who has been ruled out with an arm injury and will be re-evaluated in approximately eight weeks in mid-June), forward Stephanie Talbot, (who missed last season with a torn ACL injury), guard/forward Rae Burrell (Sparks 2022 first-round pick), the aforementioned Nurse and guards Lexie Brown and Aari McDonald (acquired via trade for Jordin Canada).

    “For me going through a short training camp, I want to come in and show that I can run the team, organize the offense and just set the tone defensively,” McDonald said.

    Other experienced players battling for roster spots include guard Layshia Clarendon (Cajon High) and forward Monique Billings (Santiago High and UCLA).

    “Just taking into account what coach is asking for and executing that at a high level,” Billings said. “Communication, doing the intangibles, high energy, work ethic. I think those are the things that you start with at a baseline and then from there making your shots, doing the things you worked on in the offseason, being a great teammate.”

    The Sparks front office could also lean into building out the roster with one or more of the team’s promising young players who are currently on rookie-scale contracts like second-year guard Zia Cooke (Sparks 2023 first-round pick), third-year guard Nia Clouden and rookie guard/forward McKenzie Forbes (Sparks 2024 third-round pick).

    Meanwhile, guards Blake Dietrick and Taylor Mikesell both signed training camp contracts.

    “It bodes for a very competitive camp, a lot of healthy competition,” Miller continued. “A lot of people fighting for those last roster spots, which ultimately competition in camp only raises the level of play.”

    After less than a week of practice, the Sparks will play their first preseason game against the Seattle Storm and former Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike in the WNBA Canada Game on Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta.

    Final roster cuts must be made by May 13, which is a mere 16 days after the start of training camp. The WNBA regular season begins May 14, with the Sparks tipping off their season with a home game against the Atlanta Dream on May 15 at Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid.

    Related Articles

    LA Sparks |

    Candace Parker, a 3-time WNBA champion and 2-time Olympic gold medalist, announces retirement

    LA Sparks |

    Sparks rookies excited to start a challenging year

    LA Sparks |

    WNBA draft: Sparks select Stanford’s Cameron Brink with No. 2 pick, Rickea Jackson at No. 4

    LA Sparks |

    WNBA draft: Sparks have big options with No. 2 and No. 4 picks

    LA Sparks |

    Swanson: Sparks don’t deserve Caitlin Clark anyway

    Sparks Training Camp Roster

    (as of Wednesday, May 1)

    Zia Cooke, guard, 2nd year, South Carolina

    Rickea Jackson, forward, rookie, Tennessee

    Lexie Brown, guard, seventh year, Duke

    Dearica Hamby, forward, tenth year, Wake Forest

    Stephanie Talbot, forward, sixth year, Australia

    Kia Nurse, guard/forward, sixth year, Connecticut/Canada

    Rae Burrell, guard/forward, third year, Tennessee

    Blake Dietrick, guard, sixth year, Princeton

    Taylor Mikesell, guard, second year, Ohio State

    Aari McDonald, guard, fourth year, Arizona

    Julie Allemand, guard, third year, Belgium

    Cameron Brink, forward, rookie, Stanford

    Azurá Stevens, forward/center, seventh year, Connecticut

    Nia Clouden, guard, third year, Michigan State

    Layshia Clarendon, guard, eleventh year, California

    Li Yueru, center, second year, China

    McKenzie Forbes, guard/forward, rookie, USC

    Monique Billings, forward, seventh year, UCLA

    ​ Orange County Register