April 26, 2022 

Chicago Sky training camp diary: Day 7 and Sky-Wings

Vandersloot: I think about [Brittney Griner] every day

The Chicago Sky are 10 days away from their home opener and there are still some pieces missing from their roster. Candace Parker, Kahleah Copper, Ruthy Hebard and Julie Allemand have all been absent so far in camp. However, that might not be the case soon.

James Wade told The Next Parker is expected to join the team the day after tomorrow. He mentioned before the Sky’s first preseason game, Hebard is also going to arrive in the coming days after her overseas team was eliminated from the postseason this week.

Here are some quick notes on the Sky’s first preseason game:

  • Emma Meesseman scored 24 points (10-15 FGM-A) in 26 minutes of action. She was virtually unstoppable yesterday. From effortless turnaround jumpers from the block to finding her teammates after drawing attention from the defense, she was in her bag the entire afternoon. Vandersloot told The Next, “I’ve always said this about Emma: she makes the game look way too easy. Basketball is a very simple game when it comes to Emma.”
  • Allie Quigley, Vandersloot and Azurá Stevens all sat out for precautionary purposes. All three were vocal throughout the exhibition and have continued to show their leadership on this team as some of the only vets on the roster.
  • Dana Evans shot 2-9 from the field yesterday but she looks like she has made a lot of progress since she came to the team midseason in 2021. She dished out seven assists and displayed the improved defense she has provided all of camp. James Wade said after today’s practice, “She can be important to us by being a pest, which we have talked about. She’s so coachable and she is responding right away.”

The Sky practiced at Wintrust Arena today after being at Sachs Recreational Center the first week of camp. Here are some notes from the day:

Courtney Vandersloot moving on from UMMC Ekaterinburg

Before practice today, the news came out; Vandersloot has decided to move on from UMMC Ekaterinburg after playing there during the WNBA offseason since 2018. Instead, she landed with Sopron Basket and will play in Hungary, where she hasn’t played since 2016.

There were a lot of factors that went into Vandersloot’s decision to leave UMMC. She pointed to not knowing if the team would be back in Euroleague or how the economy would be impacted by the Russia-Ukraine War. Vandersloot has a Hungarian citizenship and both she and Allie would qualify as domestic players in Euroleague if they both end up playing on Sopron.

“Allie doesn’t know what she is going to do, so that is up in the air,” said Vandersloot, “but [being able to play as domestic players] definitely played a role in going to Sopron. I didn’t get a long stretch with the Hungarian national team and it helped my career tremendously. So that played a part in [her decision].”

Then there is the case of Brittney Griner‘s detainment in Russia which has weighed heavily on the three-time all-star. The two have developed a friendship since they started playing together in 2018 on UMMC.

“That’s my friend,” said Vandersloot. “It was hard to see her go through this and to know there was nothing we could do about it. It’s really unfortunate it has come to this where we even have to go over there in the first place. If we were paid what we deserve here, she wouldn’t be there in this situation.

“I think about Brittney every single day. I just want her back home with her friends and family because that is what she deserves.”

Griner has been detained in Russia for two months after officials found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage as she tried to leave the country.

Dana Evans looking spry despite battling injuries early on in camp

Evans might be entering her second year in the WNBA, but she has been one of the veterans leading the charge so far in camp. In a sea of rookies and players with limited WNBA experience on the Sky’s training camp roster, Evans has tried to ease the learning process for the newbies.

“It’s been fun,” said Evans. “I’m getting more comfortable and starting to understand my role more. I’m being more vocal and trying to help everybody else out, just knowing what I need to do and also knowing what everybody else needs to do as well.”

Evans has had to overcome many obstacles in her short time in the league. She broke camp with the Dallas Wings as a second-round pick before she was dealt to the Sky in the middle of the season last year. Without a training camp in 2021, Evans had to learn Chicago’s system along the way and eventually earned being the primary backup for Vandersloot.

Having arrived in camp on day one, Evans is grateful to have some normalcy in a league that doesn’t guarantee it.

“I’m learning so much more,” said Evans. “I’m building a better relationship with Coach James where we are able to talk more. I’m able to ask him questions about what he is seeing and what I need to do better. Also, watching Sloot is like having the best teacher–especially being able to see it every day and going against her. It’s made me push myself.”

Dana has looked more polished in camp so far despite dealing with tears in her hip labrum, core area and adductor. During a game overseas, she tried to backcut behind her defender when she did a middle split (which she attributes to the floors being “dangerous” to play on). Evans has had to come into camp two hours early each day for rehab and took three months off to rest so she could be ready for the WNBA season. She said she never had that much time off and is “excited for this season” even though she is battling injuries early on.

“I feel more comfortable now,” said Evans. “Obviously your rookie year, you are still in shock. This is my dream and it’s like ‘Wow I am playing against Diana Taurasi, I’m playing with Candace Parker, Vandersloot. And the best of the best.’ Now, it’s like, ‘okay, I’m good. I’m just as good and I know I can do this.’ It’s more of a confidence builder.”

The Sky are off tomorrow and will be back in Deerfield.

Written by James Kay

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