Rolling Out

Exclusive: Dawn Staley proud of her ‘baby’ Zia Cooke in outstanding WNBA debut

The college coach opened up to ‘rolling out’

Los Angeles Sparks guard Zia Cooke had an outstanding start to her WNBA career, and Dawn Staley was her biggest cheerleader witnessing it. Staley, who coached Cooke at the University of South Carolina for four years, sat courtside at the Sparks’ season-opener against the Phoenix Mercury on May 19.

Cooke finished the first half with 14 points.

“My baby,” Staley told rolling out. “That’s my baby. She’s wanted to do this since the first conversation I had with her when we were recruiting her. This is what she wanted to do. For her to perform as well as she has in the first half, again, my heart is full.

“Our future in the WNBA is safe because players like Zia just really love up on the game in a way that you see it and you just want the best for them.”

Another big story in the matchup was the return of WNBA legend Brittney Griner to the court. It was Griner’s first game back since being released from a Russian prison in December 2022.

“My heart’s full knowing that BG is back.” Staley said. “I know she’s probably a little uncomfortable receiving as much love as she’s received, but we had it bottled up waiting for her and this moment. My heart is full knowing she’s back with us, and she’s given us the BG of old. We appreciate her.”

Staley coached Griner in the 2021 Olympics.

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