LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nikki Fargas, then known as Nikki Caldwell, was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee when she successfully recruited Candace Parker in the early 2000s.
Parker would go on to lead the Volunteers to national championships in 2007 and 2008, earning AP national player of the year both seasons.
Fargas, now the Las Vegas Aces president, found herself again successfully recruiting Parker last month, convincing the two-time WNBA MVP to sign with the defending champions.
“The Las Vegas Aces just from a basketball standpoint, it meets all my needs,” Parker said Tuesday in a virtual news conference. “And then also from a family standpoint, it meets all of my needs. ... I’m extremely excited to be coached by Becky Hammon and obviously the front office putting together an amazing team.”
A super team, as the Aces are being called by some WNBA experts. The New York Liberty fall into that category as well, already prompting speculation of a potential all-star game of a finals matchup given both teams have separated themselves in terms of pure talent from the rest of the league.
Just on the Aces, Parker is one of four former No. 1 overall draft picks in the starting lineup, joining two-time MVP A'ja Wilson and All-Star Game starters Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young. WNBA Finals MVP Chelsea Gray is the point guard.
The Aces not only signed Parker, they brought in four other players and re-signed two.
While the Liberty are trying to catch the Aces, Las Vegas is aggressively trying to maintain its place at the top.
“Looking at the pieces that we felt like we needed to fill in order to defend our title, (Parker) fits the piece,” Hammon said. “Obviously, her skills, her mind for the game, her past — she does everything. So to be able to add not just her championship culture and mentality that she brings in, but also the human aspect of it. I’m super excited to bring her in and have her in our locker room and get to work.”
The Aces cleared salary cap room for Parker, who led her hometown Chicago Sky to the 2021 championship and Los Angeles to the 2016 title, by trading two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby to the Sparks on Jan. 21.
Hamby posted on social media that she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child. She didn't back off those words during her introductory news conference last week with the Sparks.
Fargas didn't mention Hamby by name, but noted “our players and their families will always be in the forefront of who we are as a franchise.”
“We are here to assemble the best team possible, and when putting together a team, there are times when trades will happen," Fargas said. “But that’s for us to also remain competitive. The moves we’ve made, obviously, have given us the flexibility we needed to sign (those) players.”