Former UConn women’s basketball center Olivia Nelson-Ododa earns spot with WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks

Former UConn women’s basketball center Olivia Nelson-Ododa survived training camp cuts and has officially earned a spot on the Los Angeles Sparks’ opening day roster.

The WNBA season starts Friday with the Sparks facing the 2021 champion Chicago Sky.

However, per the team’s injury report release, the 6-foot-5 center will miss Friday’s season opener with a hip injury.

Nelson-Ododa was the only one of UConn’s three draftees to make a WNBA roster this spring. Evina Westbrook was one of two remaining rookies on Seattle before being waived by the Storm on Wednesday.

Christyn Williams was off to a good start in training camp before suffering a season-ending knee injury three days in. She will spend the summer recovering through the support and resources of the Washington Mystics.

Nelson-Ododa was selected No. 19 overall by LA in last month’s draft. Sparks’ head coach and general manager Derek Fisher said the team drafted Nelson-Ododa to provide support in the frontcourt while some of the team’s veterans remain overseas to start the season.

She joins Katie Lou Samuelson (who will arrive late to the season due to her overseas commitment) as former Huskies on LA’s roster.

“We may not have even drafted Olivia if the circumstances were different,” Fisher said. “We knew Lauren Cox was gonna be late to training camp. We knew weren’t gonna see Amanda (Zahui B, who was placed on full-season suspension by LA) potentially until maybe mid-June depending on when the season ended in EuroLeauge and there were some visa things that we were managing that just comes as a part with international players. …. we knew we had to provide a little bit of insurance with Olivia in the draft.”

The rookie had an impressive preseason performance last weekend to secure her spot on the roster. In her first game as a professional — against Westbrook and the Storm on April 23 — she led LA in points (25) and rebounds (12).

Last Saturday against Phoenix, the Georgia native recorded eight points, six rebounds, one steal and one block in 15 minutes.

“She’s, I think, proven that she’s probably here to stay,” Fisher said. “She does a lot of really high-level things as a basketball player. She’s smart. She’s high-character, high-integrity and that’s the type of players and people that we want to build with.”

Nelson-Ododa left UConn as the No. 6 on the Huskies’ all-time career blocks list with 262. She led UConn with 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while also averaging 9.2 points in 27.2 minutes as a senior last season.