Kiah Gillespie decides to sit out 2020 season as Sky trim roster to 11 by deadline

There were no surprises this week as the Sky waived forward Alexis Prince and 2020 third-round pick Japreece Dean to trim their roster to 11 players by Tuesday’s deadline, which was established last week in order for players to get paid starting June 1.

SHARE Kiah Gillespie decides to sit out 2020 season as Sky trim roster to 11 by deadline
Last season, Kiah Gillespie led Florida State in scoring (15.6), rebounding (8.7) and field-goals made (195).

Last season, Kiah Gillespie led Florida State in scoring (15.6), rebounding (8.7) and field-goals made (195).

Courtesy of Chicago Sky

Kiah Gillespie already had missed out on opportunities because of the coronavirus pandemic. She wasn’t able to lead Florida State on an NCAA Tournament run. Her college graduation ceremony was canceled.

Then, most recently, the third-round WNBA draft pick found herself on the chopping block of the salary-cap-hindered Sky without ever having a chance to show her talents.

“It’s been intense,” Gillespie, a forward, said of the many disappointments, “but I’ve just been trying to find the positive in it.”

So, with teams forced to make roster cuts by Tuesday before starting training camp, Gillespie decided to sit out the season, allowing the Sky to retain her rights for next year. In the meantime, she aims to continue developing her game overseas.

“If all goes as planned in 2021, she has the opportunity to come into training camp and really be comfortable,” Sky general manager and coach James Wade said. “What it allows us to do is have the rights to a player

who potentially down the road can be an

effective player.”

Gillespie said there are “a lot of advantages” to taking a gap year.

“They have the time to see me and critique me at the level where I’m playing with a lot of professionals,” she said, “rather than just having me coming straight in from college and not . . . knowing what it’s like and [having] a level of professionalism before I even step into the league.”

In addition to Gillespie making her decision, the Sky waived forward Alexis Prince and their other 2020 third-round pick, Japreece Dean, to finalize their roster by the deadline, which was set last week in order for players to get paid starting June 1 despite the season being postponed indefinitely.

Although cut players won’t get paid, they’ll receive health benefits through June 30. The WNBA started offering those benefits to 2020 rookies on May 1.

Wade said the cuts were especially difficult because he didn’t have an opportunity to see players in a training-camp setting.

“It’s really tough,” he said. “You always want to give the players an opportunity to show themselves, to maybe magnify the strengths that you thought you saw and minimize the weakness that you thought you saw on video or scouting them. So it’s a little unfair in that regard, but . . . there’s bigger things going on, and you just can’t get overwhelmed with thinking about what’s unfair or not.”

The Sky now have an 11-player roster that looks similar to last season’s team, which was eliminated by a controversial Hail Mary lob by the Aces in the second round of the playoffs.

Wade kept the 2019 team’s core intact and shored up the areas where it was thin. He added Sydney Colson to back up Courtney Vandersloot and bolstered the frontcourt by trading for Azura Stevens and drafting former Oregon star Ruthy Hebard with the eighth overall pick.

“We felt like we were competitive last year,” Wade said. “We’re at a place where our young players are getting more experience and getting older and getting better, so we want to continue to build on that.”

The Sky are a well-rounded team with established chemistry, but will they be title contenders?

The answer will depend on whether Diamond DeShields will be able to elevate her game from All-Star to potential MVP candidate.

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