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A peek inside the Sparks' training camp

May 3, 2010 |  7:02 pm

Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom has an unanticipated issue.

Over the past week at training camp, she said almost every player has exceeded her expectations.

"It's hard to say who's going to be on this team and who's not," said Gillom, a former assistant for the Minnesota Lynx who's in her first season as the Sparks head coach. "It's making my job harder."

With many of the veteran players still overseas, some less familiar faces came through in a big way during the team's 78-58 preseason victory over the China national team on Saturday.

Rookie Rashidat Junaid, who averaged only 5.7 points this past season at Rutgers, led all scorers with 15 points, training camp invitee Aisha Mohammed had 11 points and 12 rebounds and rookie Andrea Riley added 10 points.

"You look and see what these girls are doing," Gillom said, "and if they're your bench, man, you've gotta be happy."

The Sparks' first regular-season game is May 15 at Phoenix against the Mercury.

Taking on many roles 

Ticha Penicheiro, a 12-year veteran who the Sparks acquired in February, knows her role on the team extends well beyond being a point guard.

To Gillom, she's an assistant coach on the court. And to Riley, she's a mentor.

After the team's first practice on April 25, Penicheiro pulled Riley aside and said, "When you're a point guard, you're not a rookie anymore. That title goes out the window."

Penicheiro wants to help the nation's second leading scorer from Oklahoma State take on her newfound responsibility -- but she also wants Riley to know that she doesn't have to do everything.

"When I was younger, I'd put too much mustard on the hotdog," Penicheiro said. "I'm here to help her."

Two-a-days are cold

When practice ended this afternoon, guard Noelle Quinn wrapped her legs in ice from the bottom of her shorts to the top of her shoes.

"I'm feeling a lot better than I look," Quinn said.

Gillom is hoping that Quinn has a breakthrough season this year and said that her performance thus far in camp has been outstanding.

"She's been consistent more than any player out here," Gillom said.

Even though the past week of two practices a day has been grueling, Quinn acknowledged that her wind is improving and the team is bonding.

But before she goes to bed, she said, "my body feels like I'm 60-years-old."

-- Melissa Rohlin

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