Liron Goes to Hollywood
Lior Klinger ,03/06/2008
Liron Cohen's great performances in the Spanish league and cup drew the WNBA's attention, and after a brief negotiation Cohen signed with the Los Angeles Sparks and will join Lisa Leslie and probably Candace Parker in L.A this summer.
"I still can't believe it but I'm truly happy", said Cohen in a phone call from Spain, "I've been chasing this dream for three years and started to realize it might not happen, and that's when it did happen".

Say hello to Israel's 2nd WNBA player. Liron Cohen, the 25 year old 5'9 Israeli national team guard, signed with the Sparks. Cohen, originally from Jerusalem, grew up in Maccabi Raanana and won two Israeli Cups with the club in the 99/00 and 00/01 seasons. She then moved to play in Ramla and won the Championship and Cup with the team in 03/04. Following that season Cohen played in Greece, before returning to Israel in 05/06 to play for Ramat Hasharon. After winning the Israeli Cup for the 4th time in 05/06, she stayed another season with Ramat Hasharon before signing with Leon, Spain, for this season.

"Everything happened so fast, in the last two days. All the credit goes to my agent John Spencer", Cohen told 'Safsal'. "Penny Toler [L.A's General Manager] called me yesterday and said she's very interested in me", said Cohen. "She spoke with Murriel Page, my teammate in Leon who plays for the Sparks, she asked her about me and she recommended. She told me she's been following me in the last month and in general, and that she wants me to sign with her team", Cohen continued.

"I obviously didn't think twice, I said I'm very happy and flattered that she called. This is all happening too fast to be true, I still can't believe it but I'm truly happy. It's funny because after three years of thinking about the WNBA and trying desperately to get there I just stopped thinking about it. I focused on basketball and it suddenly happened", said Cohen. It still hasn't sunk in with her that she'll be boarding a plane across the ocean straight from Spain. "I was just talking about how I'm dying for a vacation in Israel and now I'm flying to a completely different place, but who wouldn't want that as their troubles".

In the Spanish league, Cohen is averaging 13.7 points and 2.7 assists in 29.0 minutes per game. She led Leon to a 14-4 record, 3rd best in the league, and to a historic performance in the Cup Finals where they lost to Valencia by 2. Cohen was named the tournament MVP.

The Sparks' training camp starts in early April, but the regular season in Spain only ends on April 26th. The top 4 teams qualify for the semi finals, a best of 3 series. The finals are also a best of 3 series. L.A's first preseason game in on May 3rd, and the actual season tips off on May 17th. "I asked Toler about my late arrival and she just told me to be calm and play, and that it's ok if I get there when we finish", said Cohen. "It was very nice talking to her, she was a player herself and even played in Israel so she knows all about it", she added.

The Sparks had a tough season last year, with Lisa Leslie taking the season off to give birth and Chamique Holdsclaw's sudden retirement. They finished last in the west with a 10-24 record, which helped them snatch the #1 pick in the upcoming WNBA draft. There's no question they're going to select Candace Parker from Tennessee, already a member of the senior USA national team and one of the biggest talents in American basketball in recent years.

Aside from Lisa Leslie who will return to the court and Parker who's supposed to join, L.A has point guard Temeka Johnson who only played 11 games last year due to injury. In 2006 she started 30 games and averaged 8.0 points and 5.0 assists in 25.3 minutes per game. Johnson's back up last season was Marta Fernandez, who started 20 games and put up 8.7 points and 3.0 assists in 26.2 minutes per game. At the 2-guard spot L.A recently signed Marie Ferdinand Harris, an All Star who spent the last six seasons in San Antonio. One player who won't be in L.A after 11 years is Mwadi Mabika, who signed with Houston. Two more familiar faces for the Sparks are Ramat Hen's Taj McWilliams Franklin and Ramla's Sherill Baker.

There's no doubt that L.A needs another point guard, especially since Frenandez is more of a 2-guard. "From what I understand they wanted me to fill a need for them, a point guard who can also play the 2. As far as I'm concerned this is the best situation I could have asked for, it's a great opportunity I plan to take with both hands", said Cohen.

The Sparks open preseason on May 3rd in Atlanta, and play in Chicago on the 8th. Their last preseason game is at home vs. Minnesota on the 11th. L.A will visit the defending champions Phoenix Mercury for the season opener on the 17th, in a game broadcasted nationally in the States.

The lone minus in all this for Cohen is of course missing the Israeli national team games in August, the qualifying games for the European Championship. "Unfortunately I will probably miss the national team games this year and that's something that's very important and dear to me. I hope that maybe I will be able to join towards the end if it'd be possible" said Cohen, but there's no question that this time she has to put herself first.

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