The Los Angeles Sparks’ season came to an end on Sept. 19 with an 87-84 loss to the Dallas Wings. Second-year guard Te’a Cooper put up a team-leading 24 points, 6 assists and a rebound in the effort.
Now, as she heads back to her metro Atlanta residence, the area where she went to high school, her attention shifts to support her little brother Sharife Cooper in his NBA rookie season with the Atlanta Hawks.
“I’m super excited,” Te’a said in her Sparks exit interview Friday. “When we played in Atlanta, I had gotten the chance to get in the gym with him and we were working out. Just to see him playing and being out there with them is- it’s so heartwarming.”
Te’a began to smile when the topic of her brother came up in the Zoom availability, similar to the supportive energy she brought to Sharife’s NBA Draft night party at Lifestyle Sports Bistro in Marietta.
“I’m so excited, I can’t wait, you already know I got my whole (out)‘fit planned out for the first game,” Te’a said. “Sitting courtside, yeah. I’m super excited.”
Te’a and Sharife are one of six notable, if not the sixth-ever, brother sister NBA-WNBA pairs. Candace and Anthony Parker, Amir and Nia Coffey, Javale McGee and Imani McGee-Stafford, Rudy and Marta Fernandez, and Ime and Mfon Udoka.
“It’s crazy to even think about,” Sharife told Bally Sports’ Autumn Johnson at the Sparks-Dream game. “Growing up with her, always playing basketball, playing against her team in high school, finally getting to see her live out her dream, it’s special to see.”
Sharife will spend time in the same Gateway Center Arena Te’a played in less than two weeks ago this year, as the 6’1 guard signed a two-way contract with the organization this past summer.
“‘(I’m looking forward to) just the experience,” Sharife said. “Getting in, learning new guys, just getting my feet wet in the NBA. Really just the experience to get used to (the NBA).”
Through four games in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League, Sharife averaged 14.8 points and 7.2 assists per game. Sharife’s signature moment of the exhibitions was the game-winning corner three-pointer he made against the Indiana Pacers as time expired on Aug. 10. Cooper fell to pick No. 48 in the draft this summer after being projected as high as a lottery prospect before draft night. What made Sharife’s game winner sweeter is two of the critiques on the former Auburn guard were his 6’1, 180-pound frame and his inability to shoot three pointers.
It appears the professional journey of Te’a has foreshadowed Sharife’s to this point, as she also fell to the second round of the 2020 WNBA Draft to the Phoenix Mercury before getting cut and signing with the Sparks before her rookie season. Te’a was widely regarded as a top five prospect in the draft class, but her shooting ability and maturity were both in question after she played for three programs in college (Tennessee, South Carolina and Baylor). This past season, Te’a found herself playing a larger role for the Sparks after point guard Chelsea Gray signed with the Las Vegas Aces. Te’a responded well throughout the season, and averaged 19 points and 3.3 assists over three games in the final week of the season.
As for Sharife, he’s recently been in the Hawks’ practice facility working ahead of the team’s preseason slate, which begins on Oct. 4 in Miami.