Courtney Vandersloot adjusting quickly
Chicago Sky rookie Courtney Vandersloot will be checking in periodically with espnW contributor and Chicago native Sarah Spain as the point guard plays her first season in the WNBA and learns the ins and outs of the Windy city. Keep an eye out for new entries!
Courtney Vandersloot made it through her first Chicago thunderstorm. And her second. The third -- well, that one nearly sent her running to her roommate for protection.
"The other night, did you hear the thunder?" Vandersloot asked me after she led the Chicago Sky to victory in the team's home opener last week. "I told [teammate and roommate Carolyn Swords] I was about to crawl into her bed!"
She might need a little more time to get used to the big, booming Midwestern thunderstorms, but the rookie point guard already seems completely at ease leading her new team. After putting up seven points, seven assists and three rebounds coming off the bench in the Sky's season-opening loss to the Fever, Vandersloot got the start Friday night and immediately made her presence felt.
"I was pretty comfortable," she said after scoring 18 points, including four 3-pointers, in Friday's 78-75 victory over the Connecticut Sun. "I've been working really hard to get the system down and all that. It helps when you have players around you that [the opponent] really has to focus on. I think I need to be able to hit those shots so we can open it up in the second half, like we did for Syl."
"Syl" is the Sky's All-Star center, Sylvia Fowles, who had 23 points in the win -- most of them in the second half as the Sun worked to slow down Vandersloot. The rookie out of Gonzaga not only scored the first points of the season on the Sky's home court, but also tied a club record with three 3s in the first period and finished the first half with 14 points. Her hot start might be the result of what she described as a calm pregame vibe.
"In college, you're so focused on, 'you gotta win, you gotta win,'" she told me. "Here, we want to win, of course, but we've all been here, and [there are] less nerves. You can just tell that we have full confidence out there, and nobody gets all excited, they're just ready to play. I just felt a little bit more relaxed."
Vandersloot has another secret weapon that helps her keep her cool: best friend and former Gonzaga teammate Carter Schick. Schick lives with Vandersloot and Swords and is working for the Sky as an intern. Schick has family in Chicago and decided it was a good time to come along with her best friend for the summer. She sat next to me courtside at Friday's game and quietly urged on her friend, whom she calls "bud."
"She's hands down my best friend, and we do everything together," Vandersloot said of Schick. "It's fun to have her around here, to get to be part of my world and for me to get to see [another] perspective. She's excited to be a part of it, and she's so happy for me."
Vandersloot helped Schick figure out the public transportation system so Schick could get from their apartment in Skokie to downtown Chicago, but the Sky's newest star hasn't been able to get into the city very often.
"I've only been to the city twice," Vandersloot admitted. "It takes too long to get there! I went on Thursday [for] an interview with Comcast, so we went there first and then we went shopping and watched the Miami Heat game at this restaurant, Dick's Last Resort. It's that restaurant where they're rude to you on purpose. When I walked in, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, they hate us!' But then we figured it out."
She's been to the mall near her apartment in the suburbs "about 85 times" but hasn't yet dipped her toe in the Chicago dating scene.
"I'm single and ready to mingle," she laughs, as teammate Epiphanny Prince calls her out as the "biggest flirt" on the team.
She continued, with a twinkle in her eye, "The shy ones are the ones that get you. I'm working on making [Prince] my wingman. Salt and pepper!"
Before the duo can take their show to the nightlife scene, they've got some work to do on the hardwood. Beginning on June 17, the Sky will start a stretch of six games in 12 days.
"Lotta games coming up," Vandersloot said. "I don't think we have a day off for a while, so I'm gonna focus on basketball."