Nicole Kubik, the Sparks' top draft pick, is a true-to-life Nebraska farm girl who has been driving since she was 11, but she nonetheless approached her first trip on the Southland freeway system Monday with moist palms.
"I was a little worried, but I didn't have any problems," said Kubik, whose first question to the Sparks on draft day was: "What are the freeways really like?"
Kubik, speaking with reporters Wednesday at the Great Western Forum, is a 5-foot-9 guard who Coach Michael Cooper hopes can be a major backcourt defender.
Kubik, the 15th pick in the WNBA draft, has come a long way since starting out in an ancient pickup truck on her family's farm, just outside Cambridge, Neb. (population, 1,100).
The Sparks' second draft pick, Paige Sauer, is a 6-5 center who hadn't started a game at Connecticut for two years but was still the league's 31st pick. Cooper looks for her to bring a physical inside game and to back up Lisa Leslie.
The Sparks have set their 19-player training camp roster, starting with Tamecka Dixon, Allison Feaster, Ukari Figgs, La'Keshia Frett, Leslie, Mwadi Mabika, Clarisse Machanguana and DeLisha Milton; and draft choices Kubik, Sauer, Marte Alexander of Arizona and Nicky McCrimmon of USC.
Rounding out the group are players selected from invitational tryouts: Carly Funicello of UCLA, Abby Garcheck of New Mexico, Vedrana Grgin of Croatia, Nicole Ramage of Kansas State, Felicity Willis of Arizona, Charlie Rogers (Nebraska) and Megan Dickerson (Montana State-Billings).
The club begins its first week of two-a-day closed practices today at Los Angeles Southwest College.