Point guard Courtney Vandersloot passed the ball to center Stefanie Dolson who drove through the lane for a layup in the second quarter of the Sky’s 82-75 win over the Mercury on Tuesday.
Dolson celebrated by pointing at Vandersloot, who smiled and returned the gesture.
That assist was Vandersloot’s sixth of the game and anchored her eighth on the WNBA’s all-time list. She surpassed former guard Shannon Johnson, who recorded 1,424 assists over 11 seasons. She’s behind Fever legend Tamika Catchings, who had 1,488 helpers in 15 seasons.
For Vandersloot, though, climbing the WNBA all-time rankings isn’t at the forefront of her concern at the moment.
“I don’t necessarily dwell on it or think about [individual achievements],” said Vandersloot, who finished with 17 points and eight assists. “But I think later in life I will.”
That’s not to say Vandersloot isn’t proud of her accomplishments.
“It’s really cool to be mentioned amongst some of the best passers and players that have ever played in this league,” she said. “It’s kind of just something I take pride in, getting assists because it gives my teammates open shots.”
Over the last seven-plus seasons, Vandersloot, the Sky’s all-time leading assist leader, has evolved into a more confident player. She’s long since adjusted to the speed and physicality of the league.
“It just comes with time,” Vandersloot said. “Being out there, getting comfortable again at this level, learning what’s open, what’s not, being able to know when to shoot and when to pass, those are all the things I think I’ve developed. I still struggle with it on a nightly basis, but it’s something I’ve gotten better at it.”
Though Vandersloot has improve exponentially over the years, she hasn’t received an All-Star nod since her rookie season in 2011.
Coach James Wade believes Vandersloot is underrated.
“She’s very valuable to us,” Wade said. “But to the league, I think she can be valued more.”
Last season, Vandersloot was on track to make the Eastern Conference All-Star roster. She averaged 10.94 points and 7.72 rebounds in 18 games. But the names were released and Vandersloot was left off.
Vandersloot has never said how she felt about being left off. Asked about the snub before this season, Vandersloot brushed it off as no big deal.
But her second half production last season tells a different tale.
Sky fans witness a Vandersloot they’ve never seen before. Not being included in the All-Star game seemingly fueled Vandersloot’s second half surge.
In the final 12 games of the season, she recorded six double-doubles and one triple-double and averaged 14.75 points and 9.92 assists. She also destroyed the previous single-season assist record (236), finishing with 258 helpers.
Vandersloot has carried that high-level of production and consistency into this season. In the first four games, she’s averaged eight points, 8.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds. She’s also had one double-double.
Vandersloot is overly modest about her abilities.
“To be honest, I don’t think my game is really All-Star material,” she said. “And that’s OK. I’m OK with that because that’s not what I’m out here doing, trying to be an All-Star. But if it does happen, it says a lot about my teammates, how they make me better. We work all as one.
“Every single game, I go out there and I’m trying to make it easier for them. ... I’m surrounded by good scorers and just to be able to get the ball where their strengths are and not have to worry about anything else. That’s what I carry every day.”
And Vandersloot remains a staple for the Sky and their success.
“She’s kind of like our motor and she gets us going,” Wade said. “We appreciate her so much because she’s one of the faces of our team.”