July 2, 2020
Reshanda Gray; Te’a Cooper ready to play
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Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
Reshanda Gray New York Liberty 2019. Photo Credit Chris Poss
With the 2020 WNBA season set to tip-off at the end of this month, teams have been moving to fill their open roster spots vacated from players choosing to sit out this season.
The Los Angeles Sparks moved quickly to fill the vacancies left by Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver last weekend by signing a veteran and a rookie. The Sparks added Reshanda Gray the frontcourt and Te’a Cooper to the backcourt, and both players were introduced on Wednesday evening on a conference call with reporters.
Gray comes to the Sparks with a couple of years of WNBA experience in addition to playing overseas. A Los Angeles native, Gray was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in 2015 and spent half a year with them before being traded to the Atlanta Dream.
She participated in training camp in 2017 with the Connecticut Sun and 2018 with the New York Liberty but wasn’t able to make their final rosters those seasons. It wasn’t until last season that she managed to catch on with the Liberty for the duration of the regular season.
She was one of the Liberty’s roster cuts this year, and it was about a month after her release before she signed on with the Sparks. Since she’s been in the WNBA, her trademark has been her toughness and skill in the paint. That’s how she grew up playing basketball, and that’s what she’s hoping to bring to the team.
“Where I come from, I’d definitely say blacktop ball played a big part in it. I think that’s why my game is the way that it is because, in blacktop ball, there’s no fouls. No harm no foul, so you just got to either suck it up or sit down on the side,” Gray told reporters. “I think that plays a big part of who I am today and why my game is so aggressive. I just want it, and all I was taught was just to go hard.”
In the case of Cooper, she brings a different sort of skill-set to the team, one that was much needed with the absence of Toliver. She’s a true point guard and ball-handler with a solid three-point shot. She is also well-traveled in the college basketball world, having played for some of the great minds of the game.
She began her college career at Tennessee where she played for Holly Warlick before transferring to South Carolina and playing for Dawn Staley. She ended her college years this past season as a graduate transfer at Baylor playing for Kim Mulkey.
Cooper was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury this past April, but with no formal training camp, and teams needing to trim down their rosters in order for players to start getting paid, she was one of the roster casualties. Despite that, she was always confident that another opportunity would present itself.
“It was very hard to just be okay with at the time,” Cooper told reporters. “But once it happened, and I got waived, I’m an opportunistic person. It didn’t bother me much because I knew it wasn’t the end for me and I just tried to stay positive and I stayed in the gym. And it just so happened, I got a call from my agent one day and he was like, ‘I hope you are in shape.'”
With teams and players set to embark for Florida very soon, both players are eager to begin this new chapter in their journey. For Cooper, she’s just trying to soak everything up and learn what it means to be a rookie in the WNBA.
“I really want my rookie season to be the most selfless season. I really just want to pour all my energy into the staff and the team and my teammates and just learning from them,” Cooper said. “Getting to know them and staying in the moment and experience everything. No one’s promised tomorrow so I really just want to be there…enjoying every second, every moment I get with the team.”
For Gray, this opportunity holds a little bit more significance than in the past. Being born and raised in Los Angeles, she grew up a Sparks fan watching the team. She admitted it’s going to be an emotional moment when she steps on the court this season.
“When I put that Spark jersey on, I think I might cry. It’s a dream come true that I get to rep the purple and gold, and I get to play for my home team,” Gray said. “I don’t know how many people, maybe outside of Lisa Leslie, that I know who are from LA, went to school in California, and they finally come back home and play professionally. I think that’s amazing.”