Yang Liwei Signs Sparks Contract; LA's 2nd China-Born Player in Team History

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 20, 2023

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: China's Yang Liwei drives towards the basket during the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Semi Final match between Australia and China at Sydney Superdome, on September 30, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Steve Christo - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Steve Christo - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Sparks announced Sunday they signed Chinese guard Yang Liwei.

"We're excited to have the opportunity to bring Li to LA," general manager Karen Bryant said. "She adds quickness, athleticism and international experience to our current roster."

Should she make the final roster, Yang will be the second Chinese-born player to represent the Sparks after Zheng Haixia, who appeared in 34 games for L.A. in 1997 and 1998.

This past fall, Yang helped China collect a silver medal at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup. She had 18 points and four assists in the semifinals to help spur an upset of host Australia.

Across the tournament, the 5'9" guard averaged 9.3 points, 3.9 assists and 1.6 assists while shooting 46.5 percent overall and 50 percent from the perimeter.

The Sparks had a busy offseason, bringing Bryant aboard and hiring two-time Coach of the Year away from the Connecticut Sun. The pair haven't executed any transformational moves but have improved the roster enough to where Los Angeles should be a top-four contender.

Yang joins what is a crowded backcourt.

Chennedy Carter returns for what could be a pivotal year since she's due to be a restricted free agent in 2024. Lexie Brown and Jordin Canada both re-signed. Miller also traded for Jasmine Thomas, whom he coached for seven seasons in Connecticut.

Simply earning a roster spot could present Yang with a stiff challenge.