One-on-one with Los Angeles Sparks rookie Zia Cooke

Los Angeles Sparks rookie Zia Cooke scored 14 points in her first career WNBA game.

LOS ANGELES — The L.A. Sparks are 1-0 in this very young season. Rookie Zia Cooke turned heads on Friday when she caught fire against the Phoenix Mercury. She scored all 14 of her points in that game-changing second quarter.

We caught up with the Sparks’ first round pick on Sunday during one of their practices and had a one-on-one with her. No, not one-on-one in basketball; we’d destroy our limbs trying to keep up with her.

THE SPORTING TRIBUNE: So how are you doing in general? How are family and friends?

ZIA COOKE: I’m doing pretty good. (My family) has been down here with me. They’ll be here for the game on Thursday (against Las Vegas on the 25th) as well so it’s good to have ’em with me.

TST: Before your first official WNBA game, how were you feeling before it?

ZIA: A little nervous, just a tad bit nervous. But I just wanted to go out there and make sure I produced. I did feel like I was prepared for sure in the best way to go out there and play.

TST: Definitely prepared because you scored 14 points, all in the second quarter. Did you make a conscious effort to be aggressive going into the game or did you just kind of take what you were given?

ZIA: I’m always aggressive so that’s just part of my game. But I did let the game come to me. I just wanted to take great shots and my teammates put me in the best position where I didn’t have to take uncomfortable shots. Everything just fell for me.

TST: It’s your first win. What did you like best from that game?

ZIA: I think the atmosphere and the crowd; I got a chance to meet Magic Johnson. It was a historic night for BG (Brittney Griner) so that meant a lot as well. And just to have my family in the building.

TST: Very emotional game on Friday. How did it feel being in Brittney Griner’s first WNBA game back?

ZIA: It feels good. It feels great. Especially seeing what she went through, how she overcame, and how she’s producing on a high level from being off basketball for so long. But it felt good for me to be in the moment with her.

TST: Coach Curt Miller was raving about you in the postgame conference. It’s just been one game and you’ve only been here one month but what differences or similarities do you see between your college coach Dawn Staley and Curt?

ZIA: I think they are both competitors. Coach Staley is a huge competitor and super smart; she knows the game at a high level. (Curt) knows it at a high level as well. They both compete and they want to see the best out of their players.

TST: Did you always want to be a professional basketball player?

ZIA: Yeah, it’s something that I had dreamed of since I was 6 years old.

TST: Did you have a favorite player growing up watching? Or at least, players you take to help form your game?

ZIA: Growing up on the women’s side, (Indiana Fever guard) Kelsey Mitchell was somebody I always watched. I used to go to her camps when she was at Ohio State. That was one of the players that I looked at and I’m like, “Man, we’re alike in a lot of ways.” I saw how hard she worked so I wanted to resemble her in the best way that I could.

TST: When it comes to winning Rookie of the Year, is this something you’re going to go after or just let the chips fall where they may?

ZIA: I’m not that type of person; I’ll just let it be where it’s gonna be but I said from the start that I’m not really worried about individual goals this year. I’m just really focused doing whatever I can to help my team win and for us to rebuild our culture and come up with something really good. So right now, it’s not really about me; I think this is a team effort to make a difference in Sparks basketball and just have this franchise where it used to be.

TST: Favorite thing you like so far in L.A.

ZIA: I wish I could say the weather but not yet. But I think just the sightseeing. Every day I could just go outside and I would see something that is good to see. The palm trees. Just being able to be outside and see the nature.

TST: Secret talents?

ZIA: I don’t really have no secret talents! I think everybody know what I can do!

TST: Favorite food.

ZIA: Chicken alfredo.

TST: Most embarrassing song on your playlist.

ZIA: …I don’t know what my most embarrassing song is. I can’t even think of this off the top of my head.

TST: You’re not gonna give me anything here.

ZIA: I might have a Mindless Behavior song in my phone. Might.

TST: If you weren’t a professional basketball player, you’d be a…

ZIA: Actress.

TST: There is a street named after you. That’s pretty awesome. What would be the next coolest thing you want named after you?

ZIA: The next coolest thing I would want is a statue built somewhere in Toledo. I think if I continue to go down the right path, give back to the community, always rep my city, and show that I am with them, that’s a possibility for sure. So that’s something I would like to have.

TST: I think it’d be pretty cool to have a Zia Cooke Airport.

ZIA: That would be fire, too. I think that would be dope!

The Sporting Tribune’s Laurie Smith contributed to this interview.