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South Carolina’s Zia Cooke ‘primed to receive her dream’ in WNBA

A four-year starter at South Carolina, Zia Cooke is wasting no time in her first WNBA season with the Los Angeles Sparks. (Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Zia Cooke has hit the ground running as a rookie in the WNBA. To those that know her, that’s not a surprise.

“She’s being coached and coached to play, not really coached to sit on the bench and be a roster spot,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley told the Los Angeles Times. “She’s primed to just receive her dream.”

A four-year starter at South Carolina, Cooke helped the Gamecocks to three Final Fours and a national championship in 2022. She led the team with 15.4 points per game on 40.5% shooting in her senior season, then went No. 10 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft.

And she’s started her WNBA career the same way she ended her collegiate one. In her debut last week, she had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting through 15 minutes while adding two rebounds and two assists in the Sparks’ 94-71 win against the Phoenix Mercury.

“She’s not afraid of the big moment because she’s played in the big game,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said. “She’s ready.”

While she was limited to just 4 points in the Sparks’ second game, a 94-85 loss to the Las Vegas Aces, she again had two rebounds and two assists. Cooke credits her performance so far to the Sparks allowing her to be herself. Veterans have welcomed her off the court and helped empower her to perform the way she does on the court.

“When you’re a rookie, you don’t know who you should be,” Cooke said. “But for [my teammates] to let me openly be myself, I’m super thankful for that.”