The voice gushed with excitement, making it a phone message worth saving.
“‘Mom, I’m traded to the Sparks!’ ” Noelle Quinn exclaimed after learning she was leaving the Minnesota Lynx and heading home to L.A.
Her mom, Golden Quinn, a Sparks season-ticket holder since the WNBA’s inception, has listened to the message a dozen times.
“It’s her dream come true,” the elder Quinn said. “It’s a joy to see the sparkle in her eye and her laughter. It’s a moment of joy we continue to celebrate.”
The Sparks are pretty happy too. The 24-year-old Quinn is leading the bench in scoring with eight points per game entering tonight’s game against San Antonio.
How happy is she? She told Washington guard and former UCLA teammate Nikki Blue, “I’m in heaven.”
Quinn is UCLA’s fourth all-time leading scorer and led Torrance Bishop Montgomery to four CIF Division III state titles. And now she once again can enjoy eating at her favorite restaurant, Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles, getting a haircut from her sister, Elonte, and having family barbecues.
“I always wanted to be able to play here and wear the jersey,” Quinn said of the Sparks. “I didn’t think this would happen so early in my career, though.”
Quinn was drafted by the Lynx in 2007 and averaged between two and three points in 16 to 19 minutes per game her first two seasons. But after starting the first 23 games last season as point guard, Quinn lost the position to Lindsay Harding.
Her bench role with the Sparks, however, has brought out her consistency -- she has posted double digits in three of the last four games. And though she stands only 6 feet, Sparks Coach Michael Cooper has played her at guard and forward because of her defensive range and versatility.
“We can pretty much use her wherever and whenever,” he said.
With Cooper’s assurance that her time off the bench will come in five- to six-minute spurts, Quinn said she is more comfortable taking on the aggressive role the Sparks envisioned, despite having a quiet and unassuming nature.
“As a player, that helps me out so much,” Quinn said. “Earlier in my career, I’ve had times where I’ve been in and then I’ve been yanked and I haven’t had a chance to get in a groove. With Coop being a former player, he understands that for me, I need an opportunity in a game to get my feet wet and get into the groove of the game. My game gets better.”
That was especially apparent Aug. 6 in an overtime victory against the Seattle Storm. She made a 16-foot turnaround jump shot to force overtime and then scored eight of the team’s 13 points in the extra period. She finished with a career-high 23 points, topping the previous high of 13 points she set two days earlier. Quinn also had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Last week, she scored all 10 of her points in the fourth quarter as the Sparks upset the Indiana Fever, the league’s top team.
“She’s a great role player. I thought she came in and stepped up, played some big minutes and knocked some big shots down,” guard Betty Lennox said of Quinn’s career-high performance against Seattle. “That’s what we need.”
Yet Quinn is more than a spark off the bench. Blue called her “one of the greatest people I’ve ever met,” citing Quinn’s friendship and support, which often entailed sending cards full of Bible scriptures. Sparks center Vanessa Hayden says she can “tell Noelle anything and I know it will remain between Noelle and I.”
But it is Quinn’s presence on the court that prompted Cooper to say, “She’s linoleum, because she’s all over the place.”
Quinn says there is one big reason why she has excelled.
“I feel more comfortable here because it’s my hometown, the energy we have and the people I have around to help me,” Quinn said. “I feel like my game will get better.”