The Chicago Sky enter 2020 with unfinished business, following their second-round exit, by a single point to the Las Vegas Aces.
Third-year guard Diamond DeShields was clear on the ambition of this basketball team.
“Last year left us with a sour taste in our mouth. Although we did accomplish our goal of making the playoffs, also we have our sights set on something greater, and that’s a championship….It’s not enough just to play in the finals, we wanna win everything.”
When asked about life in the Bubble and finding ways to unwind, DeShields was clear. “Just do what you’re supposed to do. We’re not here on vacation, at least I’m not, The Chicago Sky is not here on vacation. We came here to play basketball, to compete to win a championship.”
On a personal level, DeShields is looking to build on her successes from last season. “The biggest thing for me is going to rely heavily on consistency. I caught a rhythm, I found my pocket in the second half of the season last year just keeping that up. Also, being more of a leader. I’m going into my third season I’ve been here a little bit, being more vocal and allowing my teammates to feed off my energy more.”
DeShields told FocusHoops that she’s spent the offseason like you would any other. “You try to learn and improve, been in the gym, working out, watching film. It is interesting because for the first time I feel we’ve actually had an offseason. It’s been cool to see all the pick up with women’s pros, college players, trying to make each other better.
In terms of specific areas of focus, DeShields said that she’s been working at all aspects of her game, with a little bit of focus on how she plays around the basket, with her back to the basket.
DeShields certainly has the backing of her Head Coach James Wade who said: “We are going to lean on her to continue to grow in our system. We’ve only seen the beginning of potentially what she could be so hopefully she can step into that role and keep on growing and as a potential star in this league.”
Courtney Vandersloot is coming off her best season in the WNBA, a record-breaking year with 300 assists in the regular season and making the All-WNBA first team.
Vandersloot, entering her tenth season in the league, is glad to be back with her teammates. “My favourite part about being in camp is being back around my teammates. This is the first time since college I’ve lived with teammates, that’s been a fun experience, we already have really good chemistry, I think this is just going to bring us a lot closer.”
”Motivation is to be the best that we can for each. This one is special.” Vandersloot went on to outline the Sky’s motivation for the season. “We’re here to win a championship. That’s the motivation, that’s the mentality going forward.”
When asked if she feels pressure because of her excellent season last year, Vandersloot was clear on what 2020 means. “I think it’s business as usual… I put pressure on myself because I think we had a really good opportunity last year that was cut a little short.” In terms of improving her game Vandersloot continued “I’m always trying to get better as a player, as a leader, I’ve been doing this long enough, whatever this team needs from me, that’s what it is.”
The Chicago Sky has headed into the Bubble with 10 players, but the Head Coach and General Manager James Wade is confident on the roster he has, despite the difficulties of building a roster during the pandemic hit off-season. “You’re always happy with more [players in camp] but the quality of players we have is actually pretty solid.”
Wade remarked on how the Sky have found the start of the camp. “The players are anxious to play but their bodies need to catch up to where their minds want to go. We’re trying to make sure they’re healthy, that we build our chemistry in this Wubble. I think that our chemistry is pretty solid now, it’s just about getting them in game shape.” Wade told the media, that practice is up-tempo and that’s what we can expect to see from the Chicago Sky in 2020.
In terms of what success will look like in 2020, Wade isn’t ready to limit his club’s ambition. “I don’t wanna put a limit on us, I don’t have expectations, I don’t know what success looks like. Success what it would look like if you’re talking for me as a coach is for us to get everything out of what we could. I don’t know what that means in terms of playoffs, championships, I don’t know what that means, but I can tell you once we get there.“
In terms of adjusting to life in the Bubble, DeShields has the quote of the day. “The bugs are big! I ain’t never seen a grasshopper with knee caps!”