Sparks take Tennessee’s Rae Burrell in first round of WNBA Draft – Press Telegram

LOS ANGELES – The Sparks were more than happy to select Tennessee baseman Rae Burrell with the ninth pick in the first round of the 2022 WNBA Draft on Monday night.

Feelings are mutual.

“I’m honored to be able to play with such great players,” Burrell said when asked what it means for her to be selected by the Sparks. “This is probably one of the best days of my life.”

Burrell, a 6-foot 2-foot athletic wing from Las Vegas, shot 40.2% from the 3-point range as a junior and 32.5% from behind the arc as a senior. Outdoor shooting, length and athletics are three traits coveted by Sparks coach / general manager Derek Fisher.

“Specifically with Rae, he’s the one we’ve surrounded and seen all four years in Tennessee,” Fisher said. “We prioritize length and versatility (this low season). E Rae is a player we think can help us move forward in that direction.”

Fisher said he wasn’t sure Burrell was available for the Sparks to select the ninth pick, but his coaching staff has already spent hours crafting strategies to improve his team.

“We love the versatility he has on the offensive side … his defensive length,” said Fisher, who later added that he sees Burrell as a longtime player in the organization.

Burrell, meanwhile, said he met Sparks captain Nneka Ogwumike during a recent meeting and a greeting for future rookies with the WNBA Players Association (WNBPA).

“I have to talk to Nneka,” Burrell said. “I asked him a lot of questions, he was very helpful to me.”

The annual draft, held in New York City, began as expected, with the Atlanta Dream making Kentucky baseman Rhyne Howard the No. 1 overall pick. Indiana Fever took Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith second and the Washington Mystics selected Mississippi’s Shakira Austin third.

In addition to No. 9, the Sparks had 16, 19, and 27 picks in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Three of their four picks come from the top women’s college basketball programs in Tennessee, Louisville, and Connecticut.


With the No. 16 pick (second round), the Sparks recruited 6-foot Louisville baseman Kianna Smith.

Smith, who graduated from Troy High School in Fullerton, was named Orange County Register 2017 Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. She attended Cal during her freshman and sophomore seasons before moving to Lousiville, where her career culminated in a trip to the 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis.

Smith is also the daughter of a college basketball coach. His father John Smith, who played college at UNLV, is Cal Poly’s men’s head coach. Meanwhile, his grandfather Fred “Lucky” Smith was selected in the 1968 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.


The Sparks had another pick in the second round and used the 19ª pick to select 6-foot-5 Connecticut center-back Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

“She’s played in a lot of high-level games (at UConn),” Fisher said.

Nelson-Ododa was the starting player for a UConn team that reached the national championship game against South Carolina earlier this month.


The Sparks used No. 27 pick to select Hawaii-based Amy Atwell, a 6-foot player from South Perth, Australia, whom Fisher described as a high-level shooter. She was the Big West Conference Player of the Year last season as she led Hawaii to the regular season and Big West Conference tournament titles.

The draft added an infusion of new talent to a team that currently has 14 WNBA players under contract for the training camp, but will have to reduce the roster to 12 before the start of the season.

“Overall, we felt great about the project,” Fisher said. “It’s a difficult league to enter … when you only have 144 players in the world adapting to each season … it’s not easy.”

While browsing free agencies and acquisitions that brought in WNBA All-Star center-back Liz Cambage and talented guard Chennedy Carter to the Sparks, Fisher said he always knew he wanted to save enough money to pay a 12º player’s salary.

“We’ve done everything we can to make sure we can get 12 players … it’s important to have that extra place on the roster so we can keep that relationship with a player that we think can help us now and in the future,” Fisher said. he explained.

Sparks take Tennessee’s Rae Burrell in first round of WNBA Draft – Press Telegram Source link Sparks take Tennessee’s Rae Burrell in first round of WNBA Draft – Press Telegram

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