After Caitlin Clark is drafted No. 1, Sparks select Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson

Stanford's Cameron Brink, left, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected by the Sparks.
Stanford's Cameron Brink, left, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected second overall by the Sparks on Monday night in New York. (Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

For the first time in franchise history, the Sparks had two of the top four picks in the WNBA draft, and the team chose Stanford center Cameron Brink at No. 2, then University of Tennessee forward Rickea Jackson at No. 4 on Monday evening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Brink was selected Pac-12 player of the year after leading the nation in blocked shots (3.74 per game) while averaging 17.4 points and 11.9 rebounds. The 6-foot-4 senior also won the Lisa Leslie Award as the country’s best center and was the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year. As a freshman, Brink helped the Cardinal win the NCAA title.

“This is a nerve-racking environment, but I’m so proud of all of us who are here today,” said Brink, whose mother, Michelle, and NBA superstar Steph Curry’s mother, Sonya, (Brink’s godmother) were roommates at Virginia Tech. “It takes a village and I’ll keep leaning on all the people in my life," said Cameron Brink. "My passion is reignited being here.”

Jackson, who averaged an SEC-leading 20.2 points while grabbing 8.2 rebounds a game, was an all-conference first team honoree and scored 33 points in her last game for the Volunteers. The 6-foot-2 post player finished her college career with 2,261 points (17.8 per game) and 773 rebounds (6.1 per game) and started 106 of 127 contests in three at Mississippi State and two at Tennessee.

“I’m versatile and want to continue to be a better player,” Jackson said. “My family is the reason I’m here… I do everything for them and keep God No. 1. I’m excited to bring my personality here, build new relationships and I’m ready to win. Candace Parker played for Tennessee and played many years here in L.A., so that’s pretty cool.”

Caitlin Clark, who became the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader in March while leading Iowa to the national championship game, was selected No. 1 by the Indiana Fever, as expected. Indiana also had the top pick last year and chose Aliyah Boston from national title winner South Carolina.

The Chicago Sky had the third pick and chose South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, a 6-foot-7 senior who averaged 16.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 63.8 percent from the field during the Gamecocks’ run through the NCAA tournament.

The Sparks did not have a second-round pick, but with the fourth pick in the third round (28th overall), they nabbed USC graduate student McKenzie Forbes, a 6-foot guard-forward who grew up in the Sacramento area and played one season at California and two more at Harvard before transferring to USC, where she helped the Women of Troy reach their first Elite Eight since 1994.

Interviewed after the draft, new Sparks general manager Raegan Pebley could hardly contain her excitement: “We came in prepared and we’re thrilled with the direction we’re going. We want our defense to fuel the offense, we want to attack the rim and protect the rim and Cameron and Rickea will both do that. As for McKenzie, I’ve watched her since she was at Harvard and knew we may need help from above to get her but we’re thrilled to keep her close to home.”

The Sparks want to end their franchise-record three-season playoff drought and Pebley is confident the organization has planted seeds that will bear fruit.

“When we contacted them [before the draft], all three were fired up and talked about winning and being in LA and with the pieces we’ll have around them it sets them up for success.”

Embacing her first executive role in the WNBA after a long college coaching career, Pebley was busy in the free agency period, adding ex-UCLA standout Monique Billings at forward and bringing more depth at guard with Kia Nurse and Aari McDonald to complement Layshia Clarendon, Lexie Brown and Zia Cooke.

Read more: Why can't JuJu Watkins enter the WNBA draft early? And even if she could, should she?

Despite not having an established star thanks to former No. 1 pick Nneka Ogwumike becoming a member of the Seattle Storm in free agency, the Sparks will be young and talented and coach Curt Miller is looking forward to what he believes will be a competitive camp.

“I love to teach and I can’t wait to get these players on the floor,” Miller said. “We were low [in the league] in rebounding and rim protection last year and Cameron will help us a lot in those areas with her ability to block shots. We have a lot of depth in the post.”

Among the list of athletes and executives who attended the Sparks’ watch party at Level Hotel in downtown Los Angeles were former USC women’s basketball great Cheryl Miller and Lakers Hall of Famer and five-time NBA champion Magic Johnson, who is also a part of the Sparks’ ownership group.

“I’m so excited for the Sparks,” Cheryl Miller said. “Cameron is a banger who is real mobile and Rickea is just a beast. This is a real stepping stone for them. There was no head scratching. These are great picks!”

Sparks guard Rae Burrell expressed optimism at the draft results.

"I'm super excited to play with a fellow Lady Vol," she said of Jackson. "We're headed in a great direction, we've added length and more defense. We're pretty young, but we'll use that to our advantage and play freely. Our team will be fun to watch."

Added McDonald: “Being a lottery pick means nothing, honestly. You just do your thing. Everyone in my family was so happy when I got traded to L.A. We’re going to be running like crazy and I’m excited to talk to the girls and hope they ask a lot of questions. My rookie year I had to navigate myself, so I look forward to giving them advice and helping them any way that I can.”

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne, who averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists, was taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the 25th pick overall, the first pick of the third round. The only other local player taken in the third round was USC forward Kaitlyn Davis, who went to the Liberty with the 35th pick overall. Davis averaged 10.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. She shot 48.5% from the floor.

With the fifth pick, the Dallas Wings selected Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon. Three forwards were then taken: the Washington Mystics chose Connecticut's Aaliyah Edwards, the Chicago Sky took Louisiana State's Angel Reese and the Minnesota Lynx selected Utah's Alissa Pili.

Foreign players were selected with three of the last four picks in the first round. Guard Carla Leite of France went No. 9 to the Dallas Wings, Guard Leila Lacan of France went No. 10 to the Connecticut Sun and forward-center Nyadiew Puoch of Australia went No. 12 to the Atlanta Dream. Mississippi guard Marquesha Davis was selected by the New York Liberty at No. 11.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.