April 18, 2022
Chicago Sky training camp diary: Days 1 and 2
Vandersloot: 'It feels really good to be here'
DEERFIELD, Ill. — When the Chicago Sky arrived at Sachs Recreational Center for the start of training camp, they were greeted by a fresh look at the facility. Newly painted Sky blue was wrapped along the sidelines while the team’s logo found a new home at center court. For years, the facility they played at was Chicago Bulls-themed until the organization made an upgrade this offseason.
The reigning WNBA champs had 14 players in the first two days of camp. The positive energy was palpable, and it even led the Sky’s fearless leader to dance in the team huddle.
Before the WNBA draft, Chicago head coach and general manager James Wade had expressed the desire to have a competitive training camp. So far, it has been just that. Here are some notes from the first two days in Deerfield.
Vandersloot attends first day of training camp since rookie year
For the first time since her rookie year in 2011, Courtney Vandersloot was in attendance on the first day of training camp. She, Allie Quigley and Emma Meesseman all returned from Russia early (they play for UMMC Ekaterinburg) after the Russia-Ukraine war intensified. Usually bound to overseas commitments, those three are typically late arrivals to training camp.
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Vandersloot tore her plantar fascia in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals and has used the time off to recover from the injury. However, the all-star point guard is ready to set the tone with a lot of new faces in the fold.
“It feels really good to be here,” said Vandersloot. “I always thought I came in a little behind every time I missed training camp. It’s harder to gel with your new team and staff when that happens. It’s been nice to be able to focus on my game and then come into training camp locked in.”
As for Vandersloot’s foot, she said it is “getting there.”
If Vandersloot is at less than 100% health, it hasn’t looked like it based on the first two days of camp. The connection she and Meesseman developed in the pick-and-roll while in Russia has been on full display in Deerfield thus far. The comfort they have playing with each other is obvious even when they are just walking through plays.
“[Vandersloot]’s so fluid,” said Kysre Gondrezick. “As soon as she got out here, she split one of the screens and I stopped in the middle of the play and I looked back like, ‘That was a blur.’ I felt like a kid at the candy store when I finally picked off one of her passes.”
Meesseman already finding a new home in Chicago
After signing a one-year deal with the Sky in February, the 6’4 forward has found some time to explore the city. Meesseman recently went to the Skydeck at the Willis Tower and the areas around Navy Pier. Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault told The Next last week that it is in Meesseman’s nature to plan team outings and explore every city the team travels to on the road.
“She is adventurous. That is who she is now,” said Thibault. “She has grown so much, like any person does. I think that coming to the U.S. was the start of that adventure and getting outside of her comfort zone.”
Meesseman made sure to point out that, while she has visited two tourist hot spots, she plans on becoming acclimated with more areas of the city.
“I just like to walk around,” said Meesseman. “I want to find more hidden gems, and I have been listening to people about where I should visit. I don’t like the super-touristy stuff, which you can’t do every day, but I like finding the little spots. I love nature. I’m sure I will find nature parks when I go around.”
Meesseman will have some familiar faces around her when she makes her in-game return to the WNBA on May 6. She has played with Vandersloot and Allie Quigley for four years in Ekaterinburg and with Sky assistant coach Ann Wauters for Team Belgium in the 2020 Olympics. Julie Allemand, who hasn’t reported to camp yet, also played with them in Belgium.
Even after Washington made a push to bring her back, Meesseman was ready for her next challenge and found the familiarity up and down the roster was worth making the jump to Chicago.
“Just knowing Allie and Sloot, I knew they wouldn’t be here for so long if the Sky wasn’t a good place to be,” said Meesseman. “[Signing with the Sky] wasn’t even about them winning a championship last year. I’m away from home, so I need a place where I can feel close to home. I love the basketball and I loved being in Washington because it made me grow up.
“But I think that there was a moment where I thought I need to teach myself how to step out of my comfort zone and teach myself change … because I hate change. Sometimes in order to get better, you need change.”