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Kristine Anigwe taking nothing for granted in new beginning with Sparks

The deadline was coming and Kristine Anigwe was nervous. After being traded during her rookie season, the former ninth overall pick in the WNBA draft knows nothing is guaranteed in the WNBA.

“There’s only 144 spots,” Anigwe said Thursday, two days after a trade sent her to the Sparks from the Dallas Wings. “This is the best league in the world. … As you see, people get cut daily.”

This season, without in-person training camps because of the coronavirus outbreak, may be especially tough on young players hoping to break into the league. Less than six weeks after the WNBA draft, 19 of this year’s 36 picks were waived Tuesday when teams needed to get their rosters under the salary cap. All-Americans and all-conference players didn’t make it, including Baylor’s Te’a Cooper, a Big 12 first-teamer and honorable mention All-American who was picked 18th, and Sparks selection Beatrice Mompremier, who went 20th.

But the Sparks, “saw something in me,” said Anigwe, a versatile 6-foot-4 center who was drafted by the Connecticut Sun in 2019, traded midseason to the Wings and is now on her third WNBA team in less than two years.

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The Sparks acquired center Kristine Anigwe from the Wings in a trade and opted to cut loose their rookies to trim the roster to 12 players.

“So many people don’t get three chances and this is my third chance to really make my mark and really learn and understand my role on this team,” she continued. “It isn’t to be the highest scorer or getting the most rebounds. It’s just to be a good teammate and learn from veteran players that already made their mark on the league.”

The list of veterans nearly overwhelms Anigwe with excitement. There’s Candace Parker, who she called “one of her idols.” Chiney Ogwumike has been a long-time mentor for Anigwe, going back to the second-year pro’s college career at California, where she was named Naismith Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 22.3 points and 16.2 rebounds as a senior. Then there’s Nneka Ogwumike, Seimone Augustus and Kristi Toliver, who have seven WNBA championships among them.

“I’m just trying to be a sponge,” Anigwe said.

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A rookie overshadowed on a team with championship aspirations last year, Anigwe never played more than 12 minutes during a game with the Sun before being traded. She spent the final six weeks of the season with the Wings and finished her campaign with a modest 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

For a league always trying to carve out space in a crowded sports landscape, the WNBA says the global health crisis will test but not slow their progress.

The last-place Wings picked three players in the first round of the WNBA draft in April, including Satou Sabally and Bella Alarie, 6-4 players who went second and fifth, respectively. Anigwe’s opportunities in Dallas looked limited. She questioned whether she could hang onto one of the coveted WNBA roster spots.

Now with the Sparks, she can breathe a sigh of relief.

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“Every day, you just have to be grateful that you’re in the league,” Anigwe said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re drafted. It doesn’t matter where you’re picked, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is if you’re able to just be patient and wait for your time.”


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