May 3, 2023 

Chicago Sky training camp Day 3: Isabelle Harrison’s introduction to Chicago culture

Harrison: I really like James Wade's pace, coaching style

DEERFIELD, Ill. – If there is one thing a new member of the Chicago Sky should know about training camp, it’s that all it takes is 35 seconds to please the coaching staff. Reaching that result, however, is much more difficult than that length of time appears.

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Sky coach/general manager James Wade and his staff have ran a drill called “35 Seconds” since he took over the reins of the organization in 2018. It is broken down like this: The defense has to get 35 consecutive seconds worth of stops. If the offense scores or gets an offensive rebound, the clock resets. However, if the defense gets a turnover, a few seconds are taken off the remaining time needed to end the drill. It’s an exercise that forces the five players on the floor to lock in for multiple possessions at a time and speaks to Chicago’s “defense-first” mantra.

Today, it only took five possessions for the Sky’s first unit (consisting of Dana Evans, Courtney Williams, Kahleah Copper, Isabelle Harrison and, I believe, Elizabeth Williams) to finish the drill. After shutting down the offense on the first possession, Copper hounded the person she was guarding and forced him to give up the ball. On a broken play, the offense was able to hit a contested jumper that forced the clock back to 35 seconds.

It’s hard for one to imagine Copper’s defensive intensity going up another notch, but after that play, she was not going to allow the ball the chance of going through the net a second time. As one of the best off-ball defenders in the league, the 2021 Finals MVP denied her man from getting open and the third possession ended with a stop. On the next play, the offense missed off a pick-and-pop action on the left wing, with Copper corralling the rebound. While it was difficult to see the right corner of the court from where the media was standing, it appeared the defense either generated a turnover or shut down the offense before it could get a shot up prior to the buzzer sounding. The drill ended and the first team celebrated.

In that span, the Sky showcased how their peskiness extending through the backcourt to the back line could slow down teams that aren’t ready for their defensive activity this season.

Sky assistant coach Ann Wauters loved what she saw from the team and Copper today.

“I think Copper sets the tone,” Wauters said. “You can see she wants to do all of our defensive drills. She wants to take that leader role. If she wants to set the tone this high [gestures above her head], everybody is going to have to follow. It’s great and shows her leadership.”

Here are some other notes from today:

  • Dana Evans knocked down both free throws at the end of practice, meaning she has taken a 2-1 “lead” over Wade in their daily, light-hearted showdowns so far in camp.
  • Like Wauters said, Copper set the tone during the portion of practice the media was able to watch. During the first two days of camp, the two-time all-star was focused on getting her teammates involved. Today, she looked like the living and wrecking ball that attacks downhill with full force.
  • As for Williams, she participated in practice today for the first time in front of the media. She had one huge block at the end of “35 Seconds,” with the second unit that was a preview of how she will greet opponents at the rim this season.

Isabelle Harrison on Chicago food, Dana Evans connection

Isabelle Harrison wasn’t ready for this.

When promised a Chicago summer undeterred by the chilling inclemency that’s usually gone by the first week of June, the former Dallas Wings forward was greeted by cloudy skies and cold weather.

While the weather in the Windy City hasn’t (yet) lived up to its reputation, Harrison has started to make her way through Chicago’s culinary classics. She recently tried a dipped Italian sandwich with hot peppers with provolone. Harrison said she plans on trying out Portillo’s and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria (for the record: this reporter correctly steered her in the direction of a Chicago favorite and the vastly superior Pequod’s pizza).

“Y’all do it right. I’ve been missing out,” Harrison said of the Italian sandwich.

On the court, Harrison has had no troubles acclimating herself to the Sky’s system. She told the media Wade hasn’t introduced to the totality of his playbook and the team is just working on its reads out of ball screens and in transition. Harrison likes the free-flowing nature of Wade’s offensive philosophy and has enjoyed the first few days of camp.

“I really like James’ pace and the way of coaching style that he has,” Harrison said. “He really allows us to think for ourselves and he corrects us when we need it. That’s going to build trust and he said it from day one that’s where we start to build our togetherness.”

There are a few familiar faces Harrison knows on the Sky’s roster, one of them being Evans. The two were briefly teammates on the Wings in 2021 before Evans was traded to Chicago halfway through the season. The two have also gotten to know each other more since both of them are signed under the Jordan brand. Harrison said she and Evans have “meshed together” even before taking the floor together in blue and yellow.

“I love playing with Dana,” Harrison said. “I love her speed and how feisty she is. If I see somebody going hard like that, I’m instantly connected to them. I want to do whatever to continue to build that bond. With Dana, it’s just that speed and how she’s able to find post players…it’s just a dream to be able to play with a point guard like that.”

Next up: The Sky will take on the Wings in Dallas on May 5.

Written by James Kay

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