One-on-one with Sparks rookie Rickea Jackson

DJ Cabanlong-The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Rey Moralde sat down with Los Angeles Sparks rookie Rickea Jackson for an exclusive interview with her.

LOS ANGELES — The Sparks had two picks in the Top 4 of last month’s WNBA Draft. L.A. took Cameron Brink with the second pick overall and then followed up by choosing Rickea Jackson from Tennessee with the fourth pick.

If Jackson had jitters, she certainly didn’t show it. She scored seven points in her first pro game against Atlanta, which included an electrifying steal and a lay-up to beat the halftime buzzer. She did even better in her second game (which was against Las Vegas) as she scored a smooth 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting.

We caught up with the highly-touted rookie at Sparks practice on Monday for a one-on-one conversation.

THE SPORTING TRIBUNE: How are you feeling? How are family and friends?

RICKEA JACKSON: They’re great. I’m feeling great.

TST: Describe how you felt before your first-ever WNBA game. Were the nerves heavy? Or were you pretty loose going into it?

RJ: I was definitely nervous but happy nervous. Just staying within myself and having fun with my teammates.

TST: I’m pretty sure you already felt you belonged but when did you feel that validation? When you got drafted? Or was it during the first two games?

RJ: I felt like my game kind of speaks for itself. I always wanted to be in the pros and I’ve just been working at that. I’m not all the way comfortable yet but I’m going to continue to work at it.

Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Rickea Jackson poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after she is selected with the number four overall pick to the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

TST: What did you like best from your first game? There was a lot going on there.

RJ: Just us having fun on the court. Just us building chemistry. It was just something that’s amazing to see.

TST: I mean, Kim Kardashian was there. Magic Johnson was there. That’s pretty fun, right?

RJ: Yeah!

TST: And you all seem to be enjoying yourselves. The vibes are great. Seems like the perfect environment for you! 

RJ: For sure, for sure!

TST: Compared to your coaches in Miss. State and Tennessee, how is Coach Curt Miller similar or different thus far?

RJ: He is similar to Vic Schafer my first year. They’re both passionate, loving, energetic and he reminds me of that. But (Curt) is different from my other coaches as well that I had in that latest years. He just brings that fire and that tough coaching. I haven’t had a lot of tough coaching since Vic Schafer and a little bit of (Nikki McCray-Penson). He’s just different. He’s such a smart coach and you can tell he’s passionate about his players. He even got a little emotional the other day because he was seeing how excited he is to coach this group.

TST: You mentioned on SportsCenter about a month ago that your head was exploding due to information overload. How is it now? Is your head still attached to your shoulders?

RJ: It’s barely attached but it’s recovering! I feel like I’ve been really taking everything in, watching tons of film with all of my vets helping me each and every day. I’m definitely getting more acclimated in the league and learning the plays and the terminology in the defense.

TST: I really liked your answer that I asked you and Cameron on Media Day. I asked if you had any individual goals and you just said winning and it comes with a lot of things. So you’re all about, “Just work hard and let the chips fall where they may.”

RJ: Exactly!

TST: Was becoming a professional basketball player your dream since you were a child? Or was there something else on the table?

RJ: As a child, I didn’t even like basketball! I thought it was like a “boy sport.” I didn’t like to sweat. I wanted to be like a cheerleader; I was a cheerleader. But I’m used to doing everything girlie. I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Those are the things I was interested in when I was a child.

TST: So if you weren’t a professional basketball player right now, you’d be a…

RJ: A model!

Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Rickea Jackson before the 2024 WNBA Draft at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

TST: Obviously, you went to Tennessee so we can’t NOT mention a great Lady Volunteer and a former L.A. Spark in Candace Parker. She is one of the all-time greats. How does it feel to follow in those footsteps? Anyone else you watched growing up as you make your way into becoming a great basketball player yourself?

RJ: It feels amazing to follow in her footsteps. She is just the epitome of everything women’s basketball. She’s just amazing, tall, and can do everything. And that’s something I kind of model my game after.

Other players I watched in the past few years are A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Betnijah (Laney-Hamilton), DeWanna Bonner, Elena Delle Donne… every tall hooper that is versatile… those are the ones that I just love their game.

TST: That was baptism by fire because you just took on A’ja a couple of days ago!

RJ: Yeah! That was pretty cool.

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

RJ: Just the vibes. I just love L.A. There’s always something to do and you never get bored of it.

TST: Favorite food.

RJ: Steak!

TST: Favorite movie.

RJ: Cliche-wise, everyone says Love and Basketball. But… Suicide Squad!

TST: Hobbies outside of basketball.

RJ: Playing with my dogs, shopping, sleeping, and eating.

TST: Biggest guilty pleasure.

RJ: Anything blue candy. Like sour blue candy. No matter if it’s Airheads… if it’s blue, I want it.

TST: You mentioned your personality during your interview with Holly Rowe when you got drafted. So if Rickea Jackson goes Hollywood, what are we looking here? A future host? A future leading actress? Comedian? 

RJ: Definitely the first two! I’m funny but not funny enough to do stand-up comedy. *laughs* I can definitely see myself as a host and I can also see myself being an actress, too.

TST: Like The Fast and the Furious 12 or something?

RJ: Yeah! *laughs*

TST: You are part of this draft class that is a game-changer and it’s really helped change the landscape of women’s basketball. A lot of college fans have followed you, Cameron, Caitlin, Angel, Kamilla, Aaliyah, Jacy, and the rest to the WNBA. How does that feel? And what kind of legacy do you want yourself and this draft class to be known by?

RJ: It feels amazing the support that we’re getting, the support that was there. The needle is just moving in the right direction. I want to leave the legacy of winning, bringing the Sparks back to those championship days, making the playoffs, and just making a lot of noise! Just having fun out there!

TST: Anything you want to say to the L.A. Sparks fans?

RJ: I love y’all. Keep supporting us! And this is going to be a fun year!

TST: And go see her in The Fast and The Furious 12!

RJ: *laughs* Yeah! See me in there!

We’d like to thank Rickea Jackson for her time. Jackson and the Sparks will be back at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach as they take on the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.