April 16, 2024 

Sparks land talented duo with WNBA Draft lottery picks

Two new franchise cornerstones are coming to town.

The Los Angeles Sparks came into the 2024 WNBA Draft with two lottery picks at No. 2 and No. 4. And for a team that needed to make some kind of splash in LA, the Sparks couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

The Sparks went where the general consensus expected them to, selecting Stanford’s Cameron Brink with the No. 2 pick. But the direction they went at No. 4 was largely contingent on what the Chicago Sky did at No. 3.

The Sky ended up going with South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, leaving the Sparks with Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson — not a bad consolation prize at all. Jackson is arguably the most pro-ready of this draft class not named Caitlin Clark. And both Brink and Jackson will have a quick turnaround with WNBA training camp is set to open in just about two weeks.

The Sparks, who have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons now, are about embark on their first year without Nneka Ogwumike, who signed with the Seattle Storm this offseason. But in Brink and Jackson, Los Angeles has started its build for the future with two potentially foundational players.

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Both fill an immediate need on the roster. The Sparks were seeking out a mobile center who can be a force in the post offensively as well as being able to protect the paint defensively. Brink has been one of the best in the country in that aspect. Following her draft selection, she told assembled media that being able to stay close to her family was a big plus.

“I love that I get to stay on the West Coast, and I love that they took a chance on me,” Brink said. “I feel like I’m just going to show that I can work really hard and help them a lot.”

Brink left Stanford as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, three-time All-American and a national champion. In a statement following the draft, Sparks general manager Raegan Pebley said she believes Brink’s time at Stanford will no doubt have an impact on how well she plays in the WNBA.

Cameron Brink is one of the best players to come out of the Pac-12 in years. Her size and versatility will fit every well in our fast-paced offense, and her rim protection has the potential to make a significant impact,” Pebley said. “She has been coached by the legendary Tara VanDerveer and we’re confident the mentorship and coaching she has received will help her have an impact in LA.”

Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

Another pressing need for the Sparks was a capable wing scorer, which is where Jackson comes into play. Back in November, when her Tennessee team had an exhibition game against Team USA — a roster full of WNBA players getting ready for the Olympics — Jackson had a strong showing, finishing with 15 points and five rebounds.

Jackson told assembled media at the draft that it’s her versatility that makes her so effective on the court.

“I feel like I’m excited to bring my versatility, play at any position, taking advantage of whether it’s a small guard on me or bigger or slower player, I’m excited about that,” Jackson said. “Then I just want to work on getting in tip-top shape after the injury. My conditioning was in the game trying to get back. I feel like when I’m in tip-top shape, world-class shape, that’s when I’m playing my best on both ends of the floor.”

Get 24/7 soccer coverage with The Equalizer

The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribe to The Next now and receive 50% off your subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

Jackson was a First Team All-SEC selection this year and a finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award for the best small forward in college basketball. What impressed Pebley the most is Jackson’s ability to make an impact on both ends of the court.

Rickea Jackson is a competitor that will complement our quick style of play very well. She proved herself as a leader and go-to scorer on her team at Tennessee and led multiple categories in the SEC,” Pebley said. “Rickea has so much versatility in how she can score and who she can defend. We are excited about the potential she brings with her to become a dynamic player on both ends of the floor.”

While Jackson is a good defender in her own right, she can’t wait to have someone like Brink behind her protecting the basket.

“I’m so excited to play with Cam. We’re both competitive. We’re young. We’re feisty but we’re still going to bring that game offensive and defensively,” Jackson said. “I know if I get beat off the dribble, Cam is swatting into the second row. So I’m ready for that too.”

The Sparks only had one other selection on the night, thanks to a dizzying amount of trades that saw Los Angeles have the rights to four of the 12 first-round picks at some point in 2024. With their third-round selection at No. 28, the Sparks stayed in their own backyard, selecting USC forward McKenzie Forbes.

A native of Folsom in Northern California, Forbes starter her career at Cal before transferring to Harvard, where she shined as a junior. Forced to transfer because of Ivy League rules, Forbes became a key piece alongside freshman superstar JuJu Watkins, helping USC earn a No. 1 seed and reach the Elite Eight.

In what’s likely to be a highly competitive training camp, with multiple roster spots up for grabs, Forbes will now get to throw her name into the mix and see if she can crack a professional roster to start her post-college career.

Order ‘Rare Gems’ and save 30%

Howard Megdal, founder and editor of The Next and The IX, released his next book on May 7, 2024. This deeply reported story follows four connected generations of women’s basketball pioneers, from Elvera “Peps” Neuman to Cheryl Reeve and from Lindsay Whalen to Sylvia Fowles and Paige Bueckers.

If you enjoy his coverage of women’s basketball every Wednesday at The IX, you will love “Rare Gems: How Four Generations of Women Paved the Way for the WNBA.” Click the link below and enter MEGDAL30 at checkout.

David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.