If it’s anything we all can agree on, it is that 2020 has been a wild ride thus far. While the Sparks two newest players have experienced their fair share of turbulence, Reshanda Gray and Te’a Cooper never doubted they would reach their destination. The Sparks officially introduced Gray and Cooper, in a virtual press conference, on July 1st. Exuberance and joy were abundant, in both of these young ladies. They were extremely thankful for this opportunity, which will undoubtedly yield positive results on the court.
Reshanda Gray, a LA native, went from screaming at the top of her lungs at Sparks games as a kid, to lacing up her sneakers to play in them. She said she might cry the first time she dons the purple and gold. Gray hit a downturn earlier this year, when she was cut from the Liberty. But she kept the faith and remained positive. Next thing she knew, her phone rang with an invitation to play for her favorite team. She couldn’t be happier to be in LA. Lining up against the likes of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike everyday in practice, excites her more than anything. She’s going to bring that grit and aggressiveness she got from playing on the blacktop with her brothers , to the Sparks, to fuel them on this championship run.
I asked her if she felt any pressure coming back to her hometown team, while they’re in full championship mode. Her response: “You know pressure creates diamonds right?” She said she might take those diamonds and make a pair of custom Tiffany’s earrings. Hey Tiffany’s, if you’re listening, endorsement deal? I’m just saying. Her confidence undoubtedly comes from perseverance. In recent months, she played through a pandemic, as her South Korean team trekked through part of their season amidst the Coronavirus outbreak. The season was eventually cancelled, and she returned to the US. This was naturally a scary and unsettling experience for her, coming from one quarantine to another. Then after being cut from the Liberty in May, she just stuck to her guns and stayed ready. Gray said she’s already been through the worst, so pressure is non-existent to her at this point.
Te’a Cooper had an equally tumultuous road to the Sparks. Her final collegiate season was cut short, due to the pandemic. This was her last shot to win a title and Baylor was in a prime position to do so. She said it also stung, because they ended the season on a loss. While getting drafted eased some of the pain from not finishing the season, it was short lived. The Mercury waived Cooper before the June 1st deadline. Without a training camp to prove herself, she was understanding of the situation, but that still didn’t make it any easier. Yet, just like her new teammate, she was steadfast. Te’a stayed in the gym, and sure enough, she got the call. Her phone rang and her agent was on the other line saying,”I hope you’re in shape”.
Her being ready, at a moment’s notice, is a testament to her stick-to-itiveness. It would have been easy for her to relax. Given everything that’s going on, the likelihood of getting another immediate opportunity was highly unlikely. The WNBA rosters were set, and the overseas option wasn’t available. But as things progressed a door opened up, and Te’a walked straight through it. She considers herself truly blessed to be in this position. She gets to play for a historic franchise, as they are preparing to add to their legacy.
When asked what she expected out of her rookie season, Cooper said she just wants to be selfless. This is a moment she’s been working for her entire life, and she just wants to soak it all in. She says it hasn’t really hit her, that she’s a WNBA player yet, but it probably will once she’s officially united with her team on the 6th.
Both Gray and Cooper emphasized gratitude, hard work, and an eagerness to learn. Those attributes will make them the quintessential teammates. With everything they had to endure to get to this point, I can only imagine how fiercely they’re going to attack the upcoming season. Much success to Reshanda, Te’a and the Sparks. Can’t wait until the W gets back, so we can see the new look Sparks in action.