Parker and Anosike Expect Greatness in LA
The former Tennessee teammates will reunite in Los Angeles this summer and have big plans.
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
As Pat Summitt steps down as head coach at the University of Tennessee’s, two players from her final national championship squad in 2008 are about to reunite in Los Angeles. Candace Parker and Nicky Anosike have each had their own levels of success in the WNBA in their four seasons and the opportunity to wear the same colors on the basketball court again is something that brings a lot of excitement.
“I am extremely excited about playing alongside Nicky,” said Parker. “In college, we did something extremely special and we hope we can carry it over to the WNBA. As her teammate in the pros I expect nothing short of ‘College Nicky.’ She will bring effort and energy every night and I look for her to return to playing, just as she did the year she was selected as an All-star in the West. She is one of those teammates I enjoy playing with because she brings out the best in me as well. At Tennessee, she challenged me on numerous occasions to take over games, play better defense and to lead by example. Besides, she’s like a sister to me so it’s nice to have some family on the team.”
While Los Angeles wasn’t able to acquire a postseason berth last summer for a myriad of reasons, they have made a significant amount of changes to their roster. It may still be a few weeks before the WNBA season tips off, but the Sparks have high expectations of themselves, knowing they always seem to have a target on their backs being a “big market team.” The addition of Anosike should help in the areas the Sparks were most lacking last year, outside of health, which were rebounding the ball and defense in the post.
“The last time I won a championship was when I played with Candace and I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” said Anosike. “I missed playing with her the last 4 years. We had a true partnership when we played together and I think that’s what made us so fun to watch. She was always strong where I was weak, and I was always strong where she was weak.”
With their history, the two tough-minded and competitive players are confident they will be able to recapture the chemistry they had on the court at Tennessee when they report for camp in Los Angeles. Of course, if this combination of post players plays anything like their college days, the Sparks are going to be contenders.
“I think with the both of us we’re so smart and stubborn that no matter what we’re going to figure it out and make it work,” said Anosike. “It definitely hasn’t always been there. It took a whole season to build trust, but I think by the time we were seniors there was no doubt in my mind that CP had my back every second of the game and I’m sure she knew I had hers.”
Somewhat lost in all the media regarding Los Angeles selecting Nneka Ogwumike as the number one overall pick in the draft and Anosike’s addition is the presence of Alana Beard on the roster now. After sitting out the entirety of the 2010 season recovering from surgery to repair a tendon in her ankle, Beard is looking for a fresh re-start of her career in Los Angeles. When healthy, she is one of the best perimeter players in the league.
“I went thru high-school watching Alana play basketball at Duke,” said Parker. “One of the very reasons why Duke was on my short list was a result of Alana and her development as a player. She is an extremely hard and fierce competitor. Many people have forgotten how good Alana is and will be, but like me, she has been bit by the injury bug. If we can stay healthy, I think we could be scary good with her in the backcourt.”
“I’ve talked to AB,” adds Anosike. “We mostly talked before we both ended up in LA about which teams would be the best fit. As far as what she’s expecting for herself, I don’t think it needs to be said. You can tell by the work she’s put in that she’s expecting to have a great season and I know she will.”
A lot of new faces on the roster and this is the season the WNBA takes its “Olympic break,” pausing mid-season as many players around the league take part in the Summer Games, including Parker. While this may cause issues for a team learning to play together like the Los Angeles Sparks will do this summer, they aren’t worried that it will be much of a problem.
“The Olympic break poses a problem to a lot of teams,” said Parker. “Especially the teams that hit their rhythm early and going into the Olympic break have to stop for a month and regroup. It’s not something the LA Sparks only have to face. Everyone in the league takes the break and it’s our job to either pick up where we left off or try and forget the past and move forward.”
In one summer, it feels as if the Sparks have set themselves up for another long stretch of success. Of course, collecting big names is one thing and molding them into a team is another. They still have the hard work to do, which is the part that actually counts. However, the players are confident it will happen because they are committed to the cause of winning.
“We have added some key components to our team and they will definitely improve our chances at competing in the West,” said Parker.” I know we will work hard, but there will be an adjustment time. We have a new coach, a lot of new faces and we all have to gain that trust and chemistry. On paper we look great, but historically ‘on paper’ teams don’t win championships. I hope that with this youth movement it sets us up for a long stretch of success in the coming years.”
They also know the eyes of the WNBA world are watching, as Los Angeles teams are always in the limelight. Without question, they want to reclaim their time in the spotlight and hold on to the attention for a long, long time.
“The Sparks have a long history of winning,” said Anosike. “I think after great players retire, coaches leave, etc., it takes a while to rebuild, but I definitely see success in our future. It won’t be easy we have a lot of work to do to get there, but that’s what makes it so fun.”
Normally, Los Angeles teams have the cliché “target on their backs,” as teams and their fans love to take down the big city team. However, in the WNBA this season, the Sparks are one of the teams that are hunting, not the big hunt themselves. That honor goes to the reigning champion Minnesota Lynx. Having a team to compare your squad to and aim to defeat provides another constant motivation, although the Los Angeles Sparks don’t need any additional motivation.
“Every great and competitive team compares themselves to the reigning champions,” said Parker. “Minnesota had a great season last year and I think it will be interesting to see how we match up against them. They definitely are a tough matchup and I think we did a good job in the offseason of at least getting the pieces that on paper match up and could give them a challenge.”
So, how do they think they match up with the reigning champions? Do they believe they can take them out in the postseason this summer?
“I think that’s a question that we’ll have to show you, rather than tell you,” adds Anosike.
Brace yourselves, Sparks fans. It’s about to get interesting in Cali.
What do you think, WNBA fans? What would constitute a successful season for the Sparks this summer? Give a follow on Twitter @stephenlitel and let’s get the conversation going.