September 21, 2023
Satou Sabally wins 2023 WNBA Most Improved Player after breakout season
Stephanie White wins Coach of the Year; Alysha Clark wins Sixth Woman of the Year
On Thursday, the WNBA announced that Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally won the 2023 Most Improved Player award.
“It’s an acknowledgment of my growth and what I’ve done in this league and contributed,” Sabally told reporters.
Sabally earned 37 out of 60 votes from a panel of national media members, including writers and broadcasters. Jordin Canada of the Los Angeles Sparks came in second with 18 votes, and Alanna Smith of the Chicago Sky finished third with three votes.
Sabally, who was raised in Germany and has played for the German Women’s National Team, spoke about how much the award represents to her:
“It means a lot for German basketball, to get a significant prize like that, it’s really cool and I’m really happy,” Sabally said. “It means a lot for the overall thing that I stand for [which] is international basketball and basketball in general for women, so having my name on there and hearing that was me, means a great honor.”
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Sabally is the second player from the Dallas Wings franchise to win the award, following Skylar Diggins-Smith in 2014, when the team was in Tulsa. Additionally, Sabally became the fourth top-2 draft pick to receive the award, having been selected No. 2 overall from Oregon in 2020.
Last season, Sabally was limited to just 11 games due to injuries and averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for the Wings. Dallas finished sixth overall and was eliminated by the Connecticut Sun in the first round of the playoffs.
In the 2022–23 offseason, Sabally played for Fenerbahce in Turkey and won the EuroLeague Women championship earlier this year. She is also a three-time Turkish Super League champion.
Sabally had an outstanding 2023 season with the Wings, leading the franchise to its first WNBA semifinal since 2009, when they were known as the Detroit Shock. She played a significant role in the team’s 22–18 record, which secured their highest winning percentage (.550) since 2008.
“My main goal was winning with the team and showing what I can do,” Sabally said. “I had a lot of trust in my abilities coming into the season and I just wanted to show that I wanted to be out there and help support my team in any way.”
Sabally’s performance was remarkable, with career-high averages of 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 33.1 minutes per game. Additionally, Sabally made her second career All-Star appearance and was named a starter for the first time.
“I’m grateful,” Sabally said. “It shows that I did something great and was better than the previous year. So it’s some acknowledgment that I cherish.”
But with a matchup against the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces around the corner, Sabally is focused on even higher heights: “Obviously I really appreciate it, but right now, my focus is still on the game,” she said. “So, I take it with me and take it with gratitude, but my focus is not on that right now. So it’s really hard for me actually to indulge in them too much.”
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According to Her Hoop Stats, Sabally became the first player in WNBA history to increase their scoring average by at least five, rebounding average by at least three, and assists per game by two compared to the prior season (min. 200 minutes played in the prior season).
“I give credit to my coaches and teammates,” Sabally said. “It helps if you have a good team around you. My assists would not be assists if my teammates didn’t make the basket. I cannot rebound as freely if I don’t have a [Teaira McCowan] in the paint or Kalani Brown. It’s many things that come with increasing those stats, and I think we increased our team level — and the numbers show that, I think, all too well.”
Sabally has also made improvements defensively, as she works with defensive-minded head coach Latricia Trammell: “I would say one thing that I’m proud of is my defense,” Sabally said. “I think that has improved the most, so I’m just gonna take this as my little defensive prize.”
“I think it’s hard to transition from the core position to outside, defending wings and running around and fighting through screens. And I take a lot of pride in that, I can do that. So that was an improvement for me,” she added.
Alysha Clark wins Sixth Woman of the Year
Las Vegas Aces forward Alysha Clark, a two-time WNBA Champion, won the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year award on Monday after receiving 35 of 60 votes from a national media panel. DiJonai Carrington of the Connecticut Sun finished second in the voting with 13 votes and Dana Evans of the Chicago Sky finished third with nine votes. The Las Vegas Aces now have the most wins for Sixth Woman of the Year since the award was introduced, with all four wins coming in the last five seasons.
After winning the award, Clark dedicated it to her father, Duane Clark, who passed away in September of 2022.
“He would be beaming with pride right now,” Clark told ESPN. “That’s the part that was hard after finding out: I just wanted to pick up the phone and call him, ‘We finally got one.’ He would be so happy, because he’s seen my journey through this league; he’s constantly been in my ear telling me how valuable I am.”
Clark has impacted the No. 1 seed Aces on both ends of the court. After coming from the Washington Mystics as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, Clark averaged 6.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game in 39 games for Las Vegas.
The Aces swept the No. 8 Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs and will take on the No. 4 Dallas Wings for Game 1 of the Semifinals on Sunday.
Stephanie White wins Coach of the Year
On Sept. 17, the league announced Connecticut Sun head coach Stephanie White as the winner of Coach of the Year for 2023. White received 36 of 60 national votes, while Latricia Trammell of the Dallas Wings and Sandy Brondello of the New York Liberty earned 11 and six votes, respectively.
White is in her first season as the head coach for the Sun, who are coming off a finals appearance in 2022. She led the team to a 27–13 record and a No. 3 seed, despite losing Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas in the offseason.
On Sunday, the Sun will travel to Brooklyn to face the No. 2 seed Liberty for Game 1 of the semifinals.
Written by Aya Abdeen
Aya Abdeen is a student in sports journalism at Arizona State University and has been a contributing writer for The Next Hoops since December 2022. Her work has also appeared on AZPreps365.