When Zia Cooke was drafted 10th by the Los Angeles Sparks, a dream was fulfilled for the South Carolina Gamecocks guard.
“It means the most; I put in a lot of work,” Cooke said while tearing up after being selected. “Since I was six years old, I put my life to this. My dad being here for me since I was a kid; this is something I dreamed of and I’m finally here.”
With the dream fulfilled and a new vision on her horizon, her new Sparks family quickly embraced her, with Nneka Ogwumike literally doing so at the draft, hugging her as she exited the room.
WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD @nnekaogwumike is definitely feeling @zia_cooke w/ the @LASparks ⚡️ #MadefortheW | #WNBADraft pic.twitter.com/Oakfvug0E1— Made for the W (@madeforthew) April 11, 2023
Zia Cooke is a name every women’s college basketball fan is well aware of. As the shooting guard of the Gamecocks, she accomplished every goal possible collegiately. She made the SEC All-Freshman team in 2020, was a three-time All-SEC member and helped South Carolina win it all in 2022. She ended her career eighth in points at SC and started the most games ever as a freshman for the school, with 33 starts in 2019-20.
Before college, Cooke’s high school path saw similar success. She was a McDonald’s All-American in 2019 and saw international experience with USA Basketball, winning gold medals as part of the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup team and the 2017 U16 Americas Cup team.
Her final campaign at South Carolina may have ended in a disappointing loss, but Cooke was sensational, leading the team in points (24) and minutes played (40), proving to L.A. that she was ready for the next level.
"I found the beauty in my struggle and learned how to embrace my struggle" - @zia_cooke— WNBA (@WNBA) April 17, 2023
One week ago, Zia Cooke's dreams came true of being drafted and we know she's ready to put in the work #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/p6brtKXdd6
Cooke fits a lot of L.A.’s needs, as she gives the Sparks a dynamic shooting guard that is explosive offensively and has improved as a 3-point shooter and as a point-of-attack defender. With Jordin Canada and Lexie Brown already in the backcourt, there will be plenty of top-tier competition for minutes and role positions on the roster, but Cooke is an exciting prospect and one we discussed as a good fit for the Sparks before the draft.
Seeing how Curt Miller utilizes Cooke in his new system in Los Angeles will be one of many things to keep an eye on during training camp. Can she find a role on this team? Will she be a big part of the Sparks returning to the playoffs after two years out? The future is uncertain, but one thing is for sure: Los Angeles will be an exciting team to watch all season long.