New LA Sparks big Kristine Anigwe will use experience with GB Basketball

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GB Women’s Basketball would have benefitted from Kristine Anigwe’s defensive mindset and athleticism during the recent Olympic qualifiers, “Unfortunately, I twisted my ankle the day before we were able to play so I only played limited minutes, which was devastating, but it was like a really amazing experience.”

The center would have been a useful secondary offensive option in the post, while Temi Fagbenle got some much needed rest, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead Great Britain went 0-3 and failed to punch their ticket to Tokyo 2020, before the competition’s delay.

After logging time with the Connecticut Sun and the Dallas Wings during the 2019 WNBA season, Anigwe showed she would not back down from the increased physicality of the professional game. This was on full display against the Phoenix Mercury’s Britney Griner.

Tussles aside, Anigwe’s impressive play warranted league-wide interest and resulted in this off-season’s move to the Los Angeles Sparks. Where she was acquired in exchange for a draft pick and subsequently named to the final cut of players after attracting the attention of head coach Derek Fisher. Fisher said “Kristine Anigwe is a versatile, two-way post player who will provide additional athleticism and rebounding to our frontcourt rotation. She was an efficient and prolific scorer at the collegiate level, and our coaching staff is looking forward to working with her.”

On paper, the Sparks roster is a championship contender this season. Their treasure trove of women’s talent includes two MVP candidates in Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, as well as a talented frontcourt that includes the likes of Chiney Ogwumike and Marie Gülich. As such, Anigwe’s role will be limited this season, but she understands that and said in an opening statement at her press conference that she could not be happier.

“I could not be happier, being back in California and playing on a team that I dreamed of playing with since I started playing basketball. It’s like a dream come true. Playing with legendary players, I learned so much from the other two organizations that I was at, especially in Connecticut where they ended up almost winning the championship. But now I have the opportunity to play alongside so many great legends and I’m so excited.”

For Great Britain, any experience Anigwe gains this season will be useful going forward, especially after GB achieved a best-ever fourth place finish at EuroBasket last year and were just one win away from making the Olympics.

Former LA Sparks and current Dallas Wings guard Karlie Samuelson, said she was gutted when GB crashed out in fourth place but was proud of the team’s achievement, “I’m still so proud of how we got there, so I think we did feel pressure, because it was a frustrating situation, but I’m still so proud of it.”

Teammate Anigwe also shares Samuelson’s enthusiasm for their past performances and GB’s future on the international stage. “The chemistry was so good. I’ve never played on a team that like. They wanted to win with all their heart, every practice was so much fun, and watching them was really fun. I loved it. I’m really excited for the future, that of the GB team too, and I think that even with the LA Sparks, I’m gonna learn so much from them. Become a better player just so I can bring what I learned from them onto the GB team so I’m excited about that connection and I’m excited about just creating new friendships, creating new teammates, bonds, connections and learning.”

With more GB women taking their place in the upper echelons of the WNBA, the level of competition for spots is sure to rise and ultimately benefit the national team across this side of the pond.