Candace Parker by Scott Cunningham/ NBAE via Getty Images
new ad campaign
prepares fans - and skeptics - to "Expect Great" this season. Exhibit A: rookie
, a high school and college phenom who should make an immediate and profound impact on the professional level. The Naperville, Illinois, native was drafted No. 1 overall last month by the L.A. Sparks, whose coach, Michael Cooper, compared Parker to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. She led the Tennessee Lady Vols to the last two NCAA championships and is expected to be named to the U.S. Olympic team for August's Beijing Games. Right now, however, she's focusing on her WNBA debut,
against defending league champion Phoenix Mercury (May 17, 3:30 pm/ET, ABC). We spoke with Parker about her move to "the W."
TVGuide.com: You dislocated your shoulder during the NCAA tournament. How is the recovery going?
The time off [while recovering] has done me well. It's allowed my body to rest. Not just my shoulder, but my legs, my back, and mentally as well. So I feel confident going into this season.
TVGuide.com: You looked extremely relieved when they called your name first at the draft. Was there any doubt in your mind that you'd be No. 1?
There was doubt. Obviously our 2008 college class is the deepest class in the history of women's basketball so I wasn't sure if my shoulder would affect anybody's decision.
TVGuide.com: How are you adjusting to life in Los Angeles?
I'm very excited about it. I feel like it's a lot a different than Knoxville [
], just how fast things are. I had a burger today and I paid like $10 for it. But I'm very excited to be out here. I've learned a lot about traffic, and you have to leave early for things! But other than that everything's great.
TVGuide.com: Lisa Leslie is one of the premiere players in the league and her return to the Sparks this season is getting a lot of attention. Does that help take the pressure off you?
Well Lisa coming back after having her daughter is amazing. She really worked hard in the off-season to get her body back. I'm very excited to play alongside her. And yeah, I do think it will take some of the pressure off me. I'm coming into a great situation and I feel blessed for that. Obviously things didn't go as well as they wanted last year [
the Sparks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998
], but they were without their best player. Now she's back.
TVGuide.com: The Sparks have all these great tools now. What do you guys have to do to win the WNBA title this season?
Well, I'm not an expert, since I'm a rookie coming in, just trying to learn the ropes, and learn from the best, Coach Cooper and Lisa Leslie. I don't know what it takes, but they do, so I'm just going to follow their lead.
TVGuide.com: How do you see your role on the Olympic team?
I'm in the pool for the Olympic team and I'm very excited because that's exactly where I wanted to be. I'm just anxious to hear if I made the team. I've played with USA Basketball
for a number of years
, so I feel like I know their system and I know what's expected of me, so I'm just waiting to get the call.
TVGuide.com: What would it mean to you to win an NCAA championship, a WNBA title and an Olympic gold medal in the same year?
Y'know, that's something that I talked about all last year. I don't see how you could go anywhere but down after winning that. It would be amazing feeling and something I look forward to.
The WNBA's full national TV schedule can be found here.