The Los Angeles Sparks are in the midst of a seven game road trip and they come into Saturday's game against the New York Liberty having started the trip 0-5. Not only that, but they're going to be a little short-handed. To address the Sparks' recent rash of injuries, they signed free agent center Queen Egbo to a hardship contract prior to their game against the Liberty.

With the Sparks below the requisite number of ten available players, they were allowed to sign Queen Egbo to a hardship contract. The Sparks are currently without Cameron Brink and Azurá Stevens due to injury and will be without Lexie Brown for Saturday's game against the Liberty due to illness.

Under a hardship contract, Egbo will remain with the team until a player comes off the injury report. Once the Sparks are back to  ten available players, Egbo's hardship contract is immediately terminated. Sparks head coach Curt Miller spoke pregame about what he's anticipating Egbo will bring to the court.

“It's really difficult for hardship players to get acclimated in 24 hours without a practice. We didn't have a shoot around so we had a film session. I walked through some things with her but what are you going to teach her in 15 minutes about our 78 plays? That doesn't even start the defensive game plan,” Miller said. “What I know and what I told her. . .I said when in doubt remember your R's; run, rebound, roll, rim protect and be relentless. You can always have your R's. If you don't know the playbook, you don't know anything, she can be that and offensive rebounding is something she can help us with.”

Queen Egbo began this season with the Connecticut Sun where she appeared in three games before being cut earlier this month. The No. overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, Egbo has also played for the Indiana Fever and Washington Mystics in her two-year career so far.

Her best season came her rookie year with the Fever in 2022 when she averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in 33 games. She's a tough defensive player in the paint who has a knack for rebounding.

“One of the things that stood out was her physicality. Her physicality in Washington bothered us last year,” Miller said. “I believe she can bring physicality, I believe she can bring some rim protection. She can bring some rebounding. . .she's gone from a starter her rookie season to a role player and now she's navigating, like a lot of young pros do, to find her place.”

Sparks injury issues brings opportunity for young players

Indiana Fever center Temi Fagbenle (14) reaches for the ball against Los Angeles Sparks center Li Yueru (28) on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, during the game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Indiana Fever, 88-82.
Grace Hollars/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK

With the absences to the Sparks roster, opportunity and minutes appear to be available for some of the younger players on the team. One player in particular who looks to benefit from extending minutes is backup center Li Yueru.

Yueru is only in her second season in the WNBA having played with the Chicago Sky in 2022. She was acquired in an offseason trade and has been the Sparks' first big off the bench this year. But with the injury to Cameron Brink, Yueru has become the starting center.

She had a strong game against the Sun when Brink initially went down. She finished with 11 points, two rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot in 26 minutes. Her best game of the season came at the start of the road trip against the Seattle Storm when she dropped a career-high 18 points and seven rebounds.

In 16 games for the Sparks this season, Yueru has been averaging 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 86.4 percent from the free-throw line.