On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Sparks drafted five new prospects, including two first rounders. Here’s what you need to know about the newest additions to the team.
Â Sparks 2021 Draft Picks
No. 7 pick: Jasmine Walker (F, Alabama)
No. 10 pick: Stephanie Watts (G, North Carolina)
No. 22 pick: Arella Guirantes (G, Rutgers)
No. 28 pick: Ivana Raca (F, Wake Forest)
No. 34 pick: Aina Ayuso (G, Spain)
Walker was a regular starter in her final three seasons with Alabama. However, her true breakout came in the 2020-21 campaign. In 27 contests, the 6’3″ forward averaged 19.1 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. She was a very efficient scorer, shooting 43.7% from the field and 39.8% from three-point land. On February 14, the 23-year-old set a Crimson Tide record for most points scored in a game, dropping 41 on rival Auburn. She helped guide the Crimson Tide to NCAA Tournament Round of 32. Walker voiced her determination to succeed with Los Angeles:
“I’m used to having to work 10 times as hard as everybody else,” Walker said. “Working for something would be the least of my worries because I’ve been working all my life for what I want.”
Watts was a fixture in UNC’s starting lineup since her freshman year. This past season, the 24-year-old averaged 12.0 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game. She shot 38.5% on field goals and made 85.9% of her free throw attempts. The 5’11” guard led her team in assists, steals, and blocks. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Watts and the Tar Heels fell to the Jasmine Walker-led Alabama Crimson Tide. However, Watts scored a season-high 29 points in the game, going 7-11 from downtown. The Sparks selection marks a return to Los Angeles for Watts, who transferred to USC for the 2019-20 season but only played in four games due to a season-ending injury, before returning to Chapel Hill the following season. Watts voiced excitement about being picked by the Sparks.
“I’m just overwhelmed and so excited to be heading back to LA,” Watts said. “I just can’t wait to get to work.”
Guirantes may have been the steal of the draft. She was a star scorer and all-around threat for Rutgers in the 2020-21 season. She averaged 21.3 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 2.2 steals per game. The 23-year-old was also a highly efficient three-point shooter, hitting 37.8% of her shots from deep. Though the Scarlet Knights lost to BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the 5’11” guard led all players with 30 points. She holds Rutgers single-season record for made free throws with 171 in the 2019-20 campaign. Meanwhile, she was selected to the All-Big Ten first team twice and was named an All-America honorable mention twice.
Raca was a strong contributor for Wake Forest throughout her collegiate career. She is ninth place in career points (1,469) for the Demon Deacons and 10th in career rebounds (705) for the program. In the 2020-21 season, the Serbian national put up 16.7 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game. The 6’2″ forward was named All-ACC first team this past season, becoming just the fourth player to earn the honor in program history. Meanwhile, she helped lead the Demon Deacons to their second ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Though they were defeated by Oklahoma State in the first round of the tournament, Raca recorded a double-double, scoring 13 points and corralling 10 rebounds.
Â Aina Ayuso
While the Spanish national played one season for the Oregon Ducks in the 2017-18 season, she has spent the past few seasons playing in Spain. Ayuso’s career highlights include an Elite 8 appearance with Oregon in her only season with the team, earning best 3-point shooter honors in the 2018 U20 European Championship on her way to winning a Gold Medal, and being named best passer in the 2019 U20 European Championship.
These women hope to build the future of Sparks’ basketball. Are you ready?
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