For the first time this season, the Sky could be at full strength by the middle of next week.
The Sky, who already were without point guard Jamierra Faulkner (knee), have been playing the last few weeks without first-round pick Katie Lou Samuelson (broken bone in right wrist) and center Astou Ndour (overseas commitments).
However, that’s all about to change.
After sitting out three weeks, Samuelson had her cast removed Wednesday and participated in practice Friday at Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield with few limitations.
“I feel good conditioning-wise,” Samuelson said after practice. “It’s just getting that range of motion back with my hand because it’s just super tight with all the ligaments from being stuck in a cast for three weeks.”
Coach James Wade was ecstatic to have Samuelson back in practice.
“I’m pleased to see her get out there and play because this is something she’s worked her whole life for and to have it taken away so quick, it was kind of tough for her,” Wade said. “It was tough for the team, and it was tough for me. And so now to see her happy and on the floor, it’s great.”
Wade expects Samuelson to be cleared to play against the visiting Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday, but he didn’t rule her out for the game Sunday against the Dallas Wings at Wintrust Arena.
Samuelson wasn’t the only one who received good news from the trainer this week.
Faulkner, who has been out since last July with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee, also could be back in the Sky’s rotation Wednesday, Wade said.
Faulkner has become more involved in practices over the last few weeks. She wore a bulky knee brace for two practices last month but decided it wasn’t necessary.
“I got it in my mind that my leg is stable, and I really don’t need it,” Faulkner said. “It’s really for the mental aspect of it, not to keep it stable, because it is stable.”
Without Faulkner, Wade has worked on molding guard/forward Gabby Williams into Courtney Vandersloot’s backup at point guard. Wade said that Faulkner now will be the primary backup at point, but that Williams will continue to get minutes there.
“[Faulkner is] the person who’s been playing point guard all her life, and we’re going to trust her right away,” Wade said. “Gabby is insurance. . . . Gabby will still be playing point guard but Jamierra’s a point guard, too. It’s a gift for us.”
Ndour left the Sky on June 2 to play for Spain’s national team in the EuroBasket tournament, where she has excelled. Ndour, a leading candidate to be named the tournament’s MVP, scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds in the quarterfinals against Russia on Thursday.
Spain is scheduled to play Serbia in the semifinals Saturday. The championship is Sunday.
Wade believes Ndour will rejoin the Sky before the game Wednesday. That means forward Victoria Macaulay, whom the Sky signed to a temporary contract after Samuelson’s injury, will be waived.