Astou Ndour: A big return for Sky

The forward is thrilled to be back, and she’ll add needed depth to the frontcourt.

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Astou Ndour

Chicago Sky’s Astou Ndour plays defense during the second half a WNBA basketball game against the Las Vegas Aces, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, in Chicago.

Mark Black/AP

When forward Astou Ndour found out earlier this month that she would be back with the Sky — the team with whom she said she played “her best game” — she couldn’t have been more ecstatic.

“It was a privilege to come back to Chicago,” she said in a phone interview this week. “It’s where I feel comfortable on the court and off the court. So honestly, I’m happy to be back.”

Ndour signed a one-year deal with the Sky last week after the Wings waived her one year into her deal worth more than $570,000 following an underwhelming 2020.

Ndour didn’t live up to her contract and played in only 13 games, averaging a measly 3.5 points and 2.9 rebounds in 11.7 minutes.

But now she’s determined to return to 2019 form — or perhaps even better, she said.

“Why not? [I] can do a lot more,” Ndour said.

Not that the Sky necessarily expect her to put up the numbers she did as a starter in 2019.

Ndour joins a loaded frontcourt that includes Candace Parker, Azura Stevens, Stefanie Dolson and Ruthy Hebard. She primarily was brought back to be a role player off the bench, adding veteran depth and familiarity in an area that the Sky historically have needed it. Last season, the Sky were forced to play with a short roster due to mounting injuries, especially among their bigs.

“You have to be deep at the post spot,” coach James Wade said. “Look at how last year where we started off deep and [where] we ended up — we’re looking for post players and we had to trade for one. So I think we have to play it out, we have good pieces, we know that all five of our post players can play and they will play, but it’s going to be competitive.”

With Ndour already comfortable and familiar with the Sky’s system, the hope is for a smooth transition.

“It’s a really good gift for us, and I’ve been coaching Astou for a while now, I’m just happy to have her back,” Wade said.

Ndour feels the same way.

The week before 2020 WNBA free agency began, Ndour, then a restricted free agent, pledged her loyalty to the Sky — and more specifically, to Wade.

Ndour credits Wade as the reason why she made it to the WNBA after he played a major role in getting the San Antonio Stars to draft her 16th overall in the 2014 draft. Leading up to free agency, she discussed her desire to return to Chicago and compete for a championship after a heartbreaking second-round loss to the Aces.

Wade didn’t want to part ways with Ndour, but the new collective-bargaining agreement complicated last offseason. Under the new deal, the league’s top veteran players’ maximum base salaries nearly doubled, while the salary cap increased by only 30%.

The Sky had seven free agents, including Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Dolson and Kahleah Copper. And Ndour’s market value skyrocketed after she seamlessly stepped into the starting lineup for an injured Jantel Lavender.

Last February, Wade and Ndour met for dinner in a small town in Russia, where the two were based with their offseason teams. Wade explained that the Sky couldn’t match the max offers she received.

“They wanted me back and I knew the situation and their circumstance so we were talking about that and I understood,” Ndour said.

But all that is history. And Ndour is turning the page to the upcoming season.

“I like pushing myself to break records,” Ndour said. “If I want something right now, I want to do it again, that’s going to be motivation to push myself and help the team.”

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