Replacing Lisa Leslie is going to take some time. A season, maybe more. But that's not what the Sparks were focused on during Thursday's WNBA draft.
"Now we've got to put those pieces together who are going to play with Candace [Parker] for about the next 10 years," Sparks general manager Penny Toler said.
That's not the simplest equation to figure out considering the 6-foot-3 Parker can play all five positions on the court, but when high-scoring Oklahoma State guard Andrea Riley surprisingly fell to them with the No. 8 pick in the first round, the decision was easy.
"I can't believe how perfectly it turned out," Sparks coach Jen Gillom said. "Riley is the type of player we need in L.A. She's definitely Showtime. People are going to love to watch her."
Riley was the second-leading scorer in the country this season, averaging 26.7 points. She also led the Big 12 Conference in assists 6.5 a game.
Four picks later, the Sparks chose University of Mississippi guard Bianca Thomas. Toler compared Thomas' 3-point shooting to NBA star Ray Allen and said the team drafted her with the idea that adding outside shooters would help create space for Parker to operate in the post. Thomas averaged 20.9 points, shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc.
"She's not as well known as other players, but she didn't have a great supporting cast," Gillom said. "Had she got to the NCAA tournament, everybody would know who she is."
Earlier, the Connecticut Sun chose UConn star Tina Charles with the top pick in the draft just two days after Charles won her third straight NCAA title.
The WNBA will begin its 14th season on May 15.