June 11, 2024 

Rickea Jackson, Sparks’ ‘sixth starter,’ plays key role in comeback win over Aces

Curt Miller: 'I’m just really comfortable with her on the floor right now'

During Sunday night’s matchup between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Las Vegas Aces, fans got it all: a sold out lower bowl at Crypto.com arena, some spice in the form of four technical fouls, a Sparks comeback and key moments from rookie Rickea Jackson

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Jackson started the game strong with nine second quarter points which were key in propelling the Sparks’ eventual comeback. She finished the game with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 1 huge block on 63.6% shooting, all while committing 0 turnovers in her 23 minutes.

Jackson hit a huge bucket with 3:52 left in the game to close the gap to 2, before hitting an and-one and yet another layup to bring the Sparks’ lead to 93-89. This was much to the delight of the Los Angeles home crowd, where Jackson has become an instant fan favorite. 

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Prior to Jackson entering the starting lineup on May 26, head coach Curt Miller frequently referred to his No. 4 overall pick as the team’s “sixth starter.”

“What Rickea is bringing us off the bench, the incredible spark … I can’t be more pleased with her,” Miller said early in the season. “I know it’s a coaching cliche when people say you have six starters, but you know I look at it as we have six starters.” 

Ahead of the Sparks’ matchup against the Mystics on May 21, he added “As for Rickea, you know, obviously is first off the bench for us, has embraced that six player position right now. I have a mantra that the young players on the team are repeating: fight for the role you want. Be a champion in the role you’ve earned. And they’re embracing that.”

Jackson moved into the starting lineup when teammate Layshia Clarendon entered concussion protocol on May 26. Nagging injuries and spark-plug offense have ensured she’s stayed. 

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Now, Jackson is averaging 9.6 points per game, third amongst rookies and third on the Sparks. She’s shooting 48% from the floor and a whopping 52.5% from two point range, with a deadly post-extended pull up — one of which served as the dagger against the Aces on Sunday night.

One major key to her success? Jackson’s versatility, and her ability to play two different positions in the lineup. At 6’2, the forward/guard alternates between the three and the four for the Sparks, matching up against what Coach Miller calls “the best position in the world,” at the four, and then outsizing people when she moves back to the wing.

“She’s learning. She’s learning the scheme. She’s learning our rules and our shot clock. And she’s learning our physicality,” Miller said, after a 31 minute, 9 point, 5 turnover performance from Jackson against the Mystics on May 21. “Offensively, she can just go get you a basket … I’m just really comfortable with her on the floor right now.”

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After Jackson put up 15 points off the bench in a loss to the Fever on May 24, Miller said he was “ecstatic” with Jackson’s performance. By the next game, she was in the starting line up at the wing. 

In conversation, Jackson continues to praise the Sparks’ veteran leadership. When asked how she was able to convert and execute successfully, she says she’s “just doing what was asked of me. You know, [listening] to my vets. They’ve been helping me through everything, mentally, emotionally, everything on the court off the court, they’re just always there. So they’ve been the ones that have been making this transition a little bit more comfortable.”

As Jackson comes off a high-energy victory over the Aces, she’ll have a quick turnaround to yet another star-studded post matchup in Seattle on Tuesday, taking on All-Stars Nneka Ogwumike and Ezi Magbegor.

Written by Cameron Ruby

Cameron Ruby has been a contributing writer for The Next since April 2023. She is a Bay Area native currently living in Los Angeles.

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