The 2023 WNBA Draft happened on Monday night. And the Los Angeles Sparks had three picks in that draft.
While the Sparks had the second worst record in the 2022 WNBA season, their pick was traded before that season as part of the Erica Wheeler/Chennedy Carter trade. The Mystics then ended up with the Sparks’ pick in a separate trade.
The L.A. Sparks had the 10th, 14th (second pick in the second round), and 26th (second pick in the third round) picks in the draft. And they were definitely not bad at all.
Zia Cooke of South Carolina was drafted with the 10th pick. Cooke is a two-time selection of the All-SEC (SouthEastern Conference) first team in college and was part of the 2022 National Title team. And a few weeks ago, she scored 24 points in the national semifinal game against Iowa (more on Iowa later!). We know she has a knack for the big moments.
Shaneice Swain was selected at #14. She is only 19 years old and is currently playing for the Canberra Capitals for the WNBL (Women’s National Basketball League) in Australia. The Sparks have described her as a phenom.
Here’s a look at her highlight reel. She’s got very nice court vision:
And at #26, the Sparks picked Monika Czinano from Iowa. That name would also be familiar to those that caught on the Women’s Final Four a few weeks ago. She was Caitlin Clark’s fail-safe in the post. And in a time where basketball is increasingly going to the perimeter on both the men’s and women’s side, Monika’s game might be a bit of fresh air to some people.
Both Sparks general manager Karen Bryant and head coach Curt Miller were thrilled with their picks. Miller gushed about Zia Cooke’s play on both sides of the ball while Bryant emphasized having a foundation, establishing a good culture, and having good people in the locker room. And they felt Zia checked all those boxes.
Bryant said that 19-year-old Shaneice Swain isn’t going to go to the WNBA this season. Miller said that they’re looking at both the short-term and the long-term future of the Sparks and Swain falls under the latter category.
As for Czinano, Coach Miller was definitely excited to have her in training camp. He lauded her skills on the post and noted about her footwork without taking too many dribbles on the post.
It’ll be real competitive come training camp. The Sparks are only returning five players from last year’s roster (Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Jordin Canada, Lexie Brown, Rae Burrell; Katie Lou Samuelson will not play this year). They did acquire some very good players through trade and free agency such as Dearica Hamby, Azura Stevens, Jasmine Thomas, and Layshia Clarendon.
It’s currently not the greatest time for the franchise but with the new regime in Bryant and Miller, the moves made during the offseason, and the new draftees coming into training camp, it feels like the Sparks are moving in the right direction. Just like their counterpart in the Lakers, though, championships are what it’s all about for the Sparks. And they hope to get to that point again sooner than later.
Special thanks to Corrie Hemry and the Los Angeles Sparks for letting us into the post draft media conference.