May 1, 2023
Chicago Sky training camp Day 2: Alanna Smith looks to take overseas success back to the WNBA
Anneli Maley: The Alanna [Smith] you see now is not the Alanna you would have seen before
DEERFIELD, IL— Sometimes, revenge is best served cold.
As noted yesterday during the Chicago Sky’s first day of training camp, Dana Evans was given the early designation of the player who has to knock down two free throws at the end of practice. The consequence if she misses? Everybody on the team has to run from baseline to baseline after every miss. If she nails both? The squad is spared of having to get extra cardio in following a two-to-three-hour practice.
Yesterday, Sky’s head coach/general manager, James Wade, light-heartedly trash-talked Evans after she made her first free throw, saying she would miss. She pushed back at that notion but ended up not converting the second attempt.
Today was a different story, with both the results and stakes being altered from the session before.
After Evans made her first free throw attempt, Wade walked next to her and appeared to announce that if Evans made her second free throw, the coaching staff would run instead of the team. A competitor like Evans wasn’t interested in an alternative result. She buried the second attempt and got to spectate as her coaches made the trip down the floor instead of her teammates.
Something tells me James only gave 50% here and Tonya, Emre and Ann gave us a light jog. pic.twitter.com/o9bTPj9f7m— Annie Costabile (@AnnieCostabile) May 1, 2023
The unofficial score of Evans’ and Wade’s Battle of the Baselines is now tied at one apiece.
Here are some other notes from the Sky’s second day of training camp.
- It’s only been two days of training camp. The excitement of the WNBA season can easily overwhelm a rational person’s mind when it comes to early-season conclusions. Putting that caveat aside, Evans looks exponentially more polished than at any point in her young WNBA career.
- Evans spoke to The Next in the offseason about maturing as a passer and has exhibited her development in that area of her game so far in camp. In the portion of practice the media has been able to watch so far, Evans has looked unbothered operating out of the pick and roll. There have been two separate instances where Evans has delivered a perfect pocket pass while evading the defense. One of them came versus 6’4 center Kristine Anigwe, who is nearly a foot taller than Evans. It didn’t matter. Evans looked comfortable finding the roller for an easy basket.
- Don’t be mistaken: Evans hasn’t deviated too far from her scoring roots. Her instincts are still sharp when it comes to exploiting the weak points of a defense. Evans made a 24-foot stepback 3-pointer in transition today that looked as effortless as a player going through a layup line. Even as she has refined her skillset as a passer, Evans knack for scoring the ball will be must-see entertainment this season.
Alanna Smith readying for larger role in Chicago
Alanna Smith is ready for a fresh start in the WNBA.
After two stints in the league (three seasons with the Phoenix Mercury and one with the Indiana Fever), Smith found her groove overseas and was named the 2022-23 MVP of Energa Basket (which is based in Poland). The former Stanford standout averaged 21.5 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 60.9% on two-point attempts and 37.8% from beyond the arc. During her introductory press conference, she told the media that she had multiple WNBA teams vying for her services before the Sky came in and offered her a spot on the roster and an unprotected $100,000 one-year deal.
Following a brief one-week break, Smith is ready to carve out a role in Wade’s uptempo offense.
“I feel like my style of game is a high pace and training camp is a really good opportunity to build that fitness up so we can play at a high pace for the entire game,” Smith said on the first day of camp. “The first session was a bit of a shock to the system, but it was really good to hit the ground running. We did a good job of being able to do that at an elite level.”
The Sky and Smith are a perfect match, given their current circumstances. After losing Candace Parker and Emma Meesseman in the offseason, Chicago was seeking a big who could stretch the floor for them while Smith was looking for a more consistent role in the WNBA. After being drafted by a Mercury team operating on a win-now timeline, Smith didn’t get the consistent minutes needed to develop at the professional level. In Chicago, she will get that opportunity as the only non-traditional big on the roster.
Smith credits being in the “right mental state” as the reason she has developed into the player she is now.
“When I was in Phoenix, it was a battle,” Smith said. “It was really, really challenging. When I got my opportunity, I shot my shots, but I didn’t think I was at my most confident, whereas, over the last year and a half, I think it showed in Poland that I’m feeling really good about my shot. Like really, really good.”
Sky assistant coach Ann Wauters, who works with the team’s post players, already has liked what she has seen from Smith. She told The Next she has been impressed with Smith’s energy and “willingness to learn” the Sky’s new offensive system so far in camp. The same goes for forward Anneli Maley, who is from the same hometown as Smith. The two have played together since they were young, while Maley’s fiancee, Marena Whittle, played with Smith in the WNBL.
“Everyone grows every year,” Maley said when asked about the difference between Smith now versus when she came into the WNBA. “She’s just gotten more stronger, athletic, more confident and skilled. The Alanna you see now is not the Alanna you would have seen before. She’s continuing to level up and I’m excited to see what she can do in the league this year.”
Smith has been working with what appears to be the first team (Elizabeth Williams, who signed a two-year deal with the Sky this offseason, has not been seen at practice during the portion of training camp the media has been allowed to see). However, her unique skillset has a chance to raise Chicago’s ceiling–especially if she carries over her success from Poland back to the WNBA.
More on Maley’s return to Chicago in the next edition of our Sky training camp summaries.