April 28, 2022 

Chicago Sky training camp diary: Day 8

James Wade: "It's a pretty cool experience to be able to host" WNBA All-Star Game

DEERFIELD, IL. — While Ruthy Hebard’s return to Chicago was the highlight of the day in Deerfield, the news of the Sky hosting the 2022 All-Star game made its way through WNBA stratosphere. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on April 7 that the league was planning to hold the two-day event at Wintrust Arena. Three weeks later, it became official the reigning champs would be playing host on all-star weekend.

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“It’s a pretty cool experience to be able to host,” said Sky head coach and general manager James Wade during a phone call with The Next. “All the stuff I have been able to experience that hasn’t been a part of women’s professional basketball in Chicago is so cool. I’m pinching myself myself a little. It’s pretty awesome.”

Over the last four years, Wade has built a winning culture in Chicago. The Sky have pushed their way to the upper echelon of the league and created an environment that attracted stars like Candace Parker and Emma Meesseman to come to the organization. Wade and the front office also managed to keep franchise cornerstones in Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley in Sky uniforms after they went through a rebuilding period after Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles requested to be traded after the 2016 season.

The payoff came in the form of a championship and, now, the opportunity to host the team’s first WNBA all-star game.

“It’s good validation that we’ve arrived,” said Wade. “I really do believe that. A championship comes, and an all-star [game] comes right behind it. We have had at least three all-stars in the last two all-star games since we have been here. I think that’s the most of any team in that time and it says a lot about what we are trying to do here.”

Allie Quigley told The Next on the second day of training camp she was leaning towards not participating in the three-point contest despite it being held in Chicago. Now that the news is official, Wade is going try to convince her that with the exhibition being played at Wintrust.

“Let me work on that one,” said Wade. “I can’t promise anything but it’s just a beautiful thing to see her shoot. I’ve seen her shoot in workouts and I don’t want her to cheat the people in Chicago so give me some time.”

Chicago is back at Sachs Recreational Center tomorrow for their last practice of the week. The Sky play the Indiana Fever on April 30 and have the day off the following day. Here are more notes from training camp.

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Sky make two cuts, Ruthy Hebard makes brief appearance at training camp

The second week of training camp is always one of the most brutal periods for WNBA players vying to occupy a spot on the roster. With veterans coming in late to camp after the conclusion of their overseas seasons, tough decisions have to be made by the front office on who to let go. That was the case today, as the Chicago Sky announced they waived Kamiah Smalls and Kayla Wells. This move made room for forward Kaela Davis, who was in camp today after getting back to the United States last night (more on her tomorrow).

Despite business decisions being made, the mood at camp brighten when Ruthy Hebard walked into practice. She was greeted with a hug by both Vandersloot and Dana Evans on the sideline as the team was scrimmaging. Hebard flew back in from Germany last night and took her physicals this morning in Chicago. Even on her birthday, Hebard wanted to come see her teammates after time away from them this offseason.

“I had to come here because I love this team, I love Coach and it just makes me happy,” said Hebard.

Hebard was sidelined with an ankle injury during her season in Italy but says it is feeling “a lot better” as she starts back up with the Sky. One element of her game she has focused on during the offseason has been her outside shot, which has been a talking point since she was drafted two years ago.

“I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted since I got hurt but I’ve worked out my outside shot and speed,” said Hebard. “Coach James likes my agility and being a fast post and just getting stronger down low. I want to help the team however I can and make people smile.”

Sparkle Taylor has “best practice” during training camp

The biggest question the Sky have to answer heading into the season is who will backup Kahleah Copper once she returns from Spain. So far in camp, Sparkle Taylor has been the only traditional wing to practice with the Sky and has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Taylor was close to making the team last season before being cut prior to the season opener. She started at the three in the Sky’s first preseason game against the Dallas Wings and had one of her best practices today, according to Wade.

“She’s gotten better everyday,” said Wade. “Sparkle is going to give you everything she has and I like that she has a bucket-getting mentality which every team needs. She’s tough. You have to like those type of players.”

Taylor struggled defensively versus the Wings but bounced back today, according to her teammates. She said she has been working on her defense and ball movement since she was last with the Sky. Even with Kaela Davis’ presence on the roster, Taylor is someone the Sky could see as a potential option on the wing heading into the season.

“It’s a blessing to be back here and play with legends and people who are experienced in the game,” said Taylor. “I’m learning everyday about myself and their system. It has been great playing alongside them and actually have fun.”

Written by James Kay

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