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WNBA: The Sparks sign Ebony Hoffman and re-sign Ticha Penicheiro and Noelle Quinn

February 2, 2011 |  5:22 pm

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The Sparks signed former Indiana Fever forward Ebony Hoffman to a free-agent contract and re-signed guards Ticha Penicheiro and Noelle Quinn, the team announced Wednesday. The team also added guard Natasha Lacy and forward LaToya Pringle to its roster.

A source close to the team said the Sparks are also expected to sign former New York Liberty point guard Loree Moore. Hoffman and Moore were teammates at Harbor City Narbonne High, where in 2000  they led their team to a state title and a mythical national title.

Hoffman, a 6-foot-2 former USC standout, spent the last seven years (2004-10) with the Fever, where she averaged 6.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 232 regular-season games.

"The difference between her and what we got," said Sparks General Manager Penny Toler, "is that Ebony is a little bit bigger and a little bit wider."

That type of a player is what forwards DeLisha Milton-Jones and Tina Thompson said the team needed last season after Candace Parker suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Exasperated after a losing stretch, Milton-Jones once said she prayed the team would get a female version of Shaquille O'Neal.

At 215-pounds, Hoffman is no O'Neal but her size could take a lot of pressure off her teammates down low.

"There's going to be a battle for who's going to be in the starting lineup," Toler said.

Moore played for the New York Liberty from 2005-2009, where she averaged six points and 3.7 assists in 155 regular-season games. After being cut by the Liberty early last spring, she signed with the Seattle Storm but, two weeks into training camp, she tore her left meniscus and was released.

Moore will likely back up point guard Penicheiro, the league's all-time leader in assists (2,398) and steals (728).

Quinn, a shooting guard who started all 34 regular-season games last year, averaged a career-best 10.2 points and four rebounds in her second season with the team. A Los Angeles native, Quinn said at the end of last season that she hoped to remain with the team.

Lacy played in 16 games last year as a rookie with the Tulsa Shock and Pringle was in training camp with the Sparks last year, but the team released her after she broke her right foot.

As for other roster spots, Toler said the Sparks expect to have Thompson, who has a year left on her contract but was considering retirement. She said free agent Betty Lennox, however, is not expected to come back and Marie Ferdinand-Harris is a maybe.

"She's from San Antonio and, Marie, most likey, wants to stay closer to home," Toler said.

After the Sparks went 13-21 last season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Toler said she's looking to build a younger and deeper team.  

Toler alluded to the possibility that there could be significant changes to the Sparks' roster over the next few weeks as the team tries to negotiate for a higher draft pick than the No. 5 spot it drew in the November lottery.

--Melissa Rohlin

Photo: Fever forward Ebony Hoffman chases after a loose ball with the Sparks' Mwadi Mabika in the 2007 season. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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