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There’s no off in Sky players’ offseason

So much for savoring the WNBA title. Nine of the team’s 11 players have headed overseas to hone their skills.

WNBA Finals - Game Four
The Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot reported to her Russian team in mid-November.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Recovering after a WNBA season is different for every player.

Some fly overseas almost immediately after their season concludes. Brittney Griner, for example, played her first game for UMMC Ekaterinburg this season five days after the Phoenix Mercury lost to the Sky in the WNBA Finals.

The trip to Yekaterinburg is about 17 hours, so she really only had about four days to fly back to Phoenix after Game 4, pack and leave for Russia.

For Griner’s Ekat teammates, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, things were slightly different. Quigley waited nine days after the Sky’s first championship before reporting, and Vandersloot didn’t arrive until mid-November. Azurá Stevens also will be playing in Russia for Nika Syktyvkar.

In total, nine of the Sky’s 11 players are playing overseas in five different countries this offseason. All with varying goals in mind.

“I’m trying to be a better passer,” WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper said. “I’m trying to consistently shoot the three well. That’s major for me, making decisions with the ball.”

In her sixth WNBA season, Copper led the Sky in scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game and shooting 30.6% from three. She was fifth in assists averaging just 1.8. She played her first game for Perfumerias Avenida in Spain on November 19 and had eight points, two rebounds and one assist in 17 minutes.

Copper’s ability to finish at the rim is one aspect of her game that helped earn her Finals MVP honors. Becky Hammon recognized her for her 2021 performance, calling her outstanding. To take her game to the next level, though, she needs to improve as a facilitator. It’s safe to assume close friend and teammate Candace Parker, who is 11th on the league’s all-time assist board, has been in her ear about elevating that aspect of her game.

Parker, who has not played overseas since 2018 and Stefanie Dolson are the two Sky players who will remain stateside. Parker has been vocal with her Sky teammates about elevating their careers off the court so that playing overseas isn’t a requirement but a choice.

Diamond DeShields, Ruthy Hebard and Astou Ndour-Fall all will be playing in Italy. DeShields said she wants to get quiet during her season overseas and get back in a rhythm.

“I don’t belong on the bench,” DeShields said. “I played that role because that’s what I was called to do this season. That’s not the role that I want. I want to be able to lead a team. I’m going to work hard to show that’s the player I can be and still am.”

Sky players and staff have remained connected despite playing for different teams.

Coach/general manager James Wade returned to France, where he’ll spend the offseason with his family. He was able to see Lexie Brown in action. Brown is playing for Charnay Basket Bourgogne and leads the team in scoring and assists, averaging 17.3 points and 4.7 assists.

Meanwhile, Copper and Dana Evans, who is playing in Hungary for KSC Szekszard, played each other Wednesday. Evans is averaging nine points, four assists and two rebounds.