After her rookie contract expired, Courtney Vandersloot took all of five minutes to re-sign with the Sky.
Former coach Pokey Chatman laughed when retelling that story, sharing that Vandersloot asked, “What’s the max number of years I can sign for?”
The 2022 season will be Vandersloot’s 12th in the WNBA, and for the first time in her career, she truly will be a free agent. It’s somewhat of a head-scratcher considering she technically has been a free agent multiple times already but never for real. She always has signed with the Sky, driven by the goal of bringing a championship to the organization that drafted her.
Vandersloot isn’t sounding the farewell alarm by any means, but after securing a title for the Sky, she’s open to the free-agency process and all that it entails.
“I haven’t thought a lot about it,” Vandersloot said. “I told [Skycoach/general manager James] Wade I was going to be a free agent this offseason. Whatever that means. I told him we will stay in constant conversation. I just want to be open and transparent. I really have no idea what’s going to happen next season.”
Vandersloot said Wade will have the first call, but it’s hard for her to commit without knowing what the team will look like.
Vandersloot spent the Sky’s championship parade and rally wearing a boot. She has been recovering from an injury to her plantar fascia, which for the most part, has meant a lot of rest. This week, Vandersloot began treatment and is expected to be back on the court for UMMC Ekaterinburg sometime in mid-December.
Taking time off isn’t easy for the 11-year veteran. Sticking to a very detailed, full schedule has become a habit. Since the Sky’s championship, Vandersloot has taken a break from the game before reporting to Russia for her fourth season. Typically Vandersloot doesn’t take weeks off following the WNBA season, so the mental break has been a welcome one.
“For me, the first week to 10 days after a season are hard,” Vandersloot said. “I’m so used to the everyday grind. I’m a creature of habit. After that, I’m OK and start to think, ‘I can get used to this.’ ”
Don’t worry, Vandersloot isn’t talking about retiring, just the possibility of relaxing more.
If the 2021 season was any indication, she’s in the prime of her career. Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper were the only two Sky players to start all 32 regular-season games. Vandersloot led the league in assists for the fifth consecutive season, averaging 8.6. She’s fourth on the league’s career assists leaderboard with 2,178 behind Sue Bird (3,048), Ticha Penicheiro (2,600) and Lindsay Whalen(2,345).
Her career average (6.66) is first in WNBA history, with Penicheiro in second (5.73) and Bird third (5.55). Her triple-double in Game 1 of the semifinals against the Connecticut Sun was the second in playoff history. Vandersloot was Chatman’s first draft pick (selected third overall in2011) in her six-year coach/GM career for the Sky. Wade has been vocal in crediting Chatman for seeing in Vandersloot what many others missed.
The trust developed between Vandersloot and Wade has played a significant role in the Sky’s success over the last three seasons. Vandersloot said their relationship is more profound than player/coach; they’re like family. Regardless of whether Vandersloot resigns with the Sky or plays for Wade the rest of her career, she said she’ll stay connected with him for life.
“As long as I’m coaching, I’m going to do everything for [Allie Quigley and Vandersloot] to be back in Sky jerseys,’’ Wade said. ‘‘As long as they’re playing basketball, I want to be their coach.”
Wade signed a four-year extension with the Sky ahead of the 2021season that runs through the 2025 season.