After a full week of training camp, Candace Parker already has had a big impact on her teammates.
Sky coach/general manager James Wade jokingly said there hasn’t been a standout player before laughing and quickly bringing up Parker.
“Having Parker here is a big boost for our team,” Wade said. “Her presence has been felt every time she steps on the floor.”
Wade followed that statement up by saying Stefanie Dolson, Diamond DeShields, Kahleah Copper and Lexie Brown were the other standouts through Week 1, but he seemed hesitant to offer early praise.
The Sky have been without Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Astou Ndour, Ruthy Hebard and Gabby Williams because of overseas commitments. Rookie Shyla Heal has been waiting on her travel visa.
Wade expects to see Vandersloot, Quigley and Ndour on the court this week after going through the WNBA’s COVID-19 protocol, which includes returning six negative tests.
Hebard returns from Turkey this weekend and will go through the same protocol. Heal is expected to have her travel visa by this week.
The returns of Vandersloot and Quigley and the arrival of Heal will add to an already competitive guard milieu. The Sky have five guards signed to training-camp contracts, not including Heal.
Because of the salary cap, the Sky will carry 11 players instead of the league max of 12. Wade already has said that he drafted Heal with the expectation that she’d make the final roster.
Wade will have nine cuts to make by May 13, which will be challenging, he said. Some of the young guards competing on training-camp contracts are aware of the unlikeliness of being one of those 11 players.
“You have a tryout every day,” ex-DePaul guard Jessica January said. “It’s really hard to make a roster for anybody on any team. You really have to soak it all in and enjoy the experience.”
The priority for Wade will be building cohesiveness once his full roster is available with a condensed amount of time. The Sky play the Fever in their preseason games on May 9 and May 11 before their season opener on the road against the Mystics on May 15.
Dolson said the first week of camp has been extremely focused despite all the missing players. Young players such as Natasha Mack have arrived and are playing without fear, which raises the intensity level.
Dolson added that Parker’s presence gives the team another layer of leadership. She already has become the teammate players turn to with questions.
After a disappointing 2020 season, Dolson looked refreshed and said she’s feeling great. She lost 28 pounds with the goal of losing 35 by the start of the season.
Dolson enters this season healthy and more confident after a difficult time in the WNBA bubble. She said that’s a feeling the entire team shares.
“We’re excited to have a season where we all stay healthy and compete at our highest level,” Dolson said.