Former East Oktibbeha player April Sykes (24) goes after a loose basketball during her playing career at Rutgers. (Photo by Mel Evans, AP)
The next step in the basketball career of former East Oktibbeha basketball player April Sykes will be in Los Angeles.
After being taken with the fourth pick in the third round (28th selection overall) by the Los Angeles Sparks in Monday's Women's National Basketball Association Draft, Sykes sets her sights on training camp so she can earn a spot on the team.
Sykes will make the trip from the East Coast to the West upon finishing her school obligations at Rutgers this week. She anticipates leaving for California Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
There was some anticipation for what might come during the draft for Sykes.
"I'd say I knew I would be drafted, but it was just a matter of time and who was going to draft me," Sykes said.
During her career with the Scarlet Knights, Sykes played in 129 games and started 74. She had 53 double-digit scoring games and scored 20 or more points 12 times.
Sykes found her way into the Rutgers record book and stands fourth in career 3-point field goals attempted with 468, sixth in 3-point field goals made with 138, tied for eighth in games played with 129 and 24th in points scored with 1,162. She is the 31st player in school history to score at least 1,000 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Even though Sykes enjoyed a solid four-year career at Rutgers, she was not totally satisfied.
"I'll always say I could have done better," Sykes said. "I always hold myself accountable to do better.
"It was a good experience for me to go to the East Coast and play for a phenomenal coach like coach (Vivian) Stringer. She teaches you and coaches me up to the point where I'm at right now and it's great."
Now Sykes turns her attention toward a possible pro career and playing for Sparks coach Carol Ross, someone she has known since she was 10-years-old.
Sykes won't be alone as Rutgers teammate Khadijah Rushdan was also taken by Los Angeles with the third pick in the second round (15th selection overall).
Stringer was thrilled to see both players get an opportunity with the Sparks.
"They have worked extremely hard throughout their careers and have come a long way," Stringer said in a statement on Rutger's athletic website. "It's a joy to do something you love and they definitely share a genuine love for the game of basketball. This is a great opportunity for both of them and I know they will do whatever it takes to make themselves, their families and Rutgers very proud."
Sykes said she may not have gotten the opportunity to go to the next level if it had not been for Stringer and the Scarlet Knights.
"With the history of what Rutgers players have done thus far, it helped me to get to this point," Sykes said.
Rutgers has had at least one player selected in the WNBA Draft in six of the past eight drafts. The exception was 2007 and 2011 when the Scarlet Knights had no draft eligible players.
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