Kahleah Copper has been making an impact on the Sky’s starting five since she was traded to the team in 2017.
In her first season with the Sky, Copper averaged 6.7 points in 14.2 minutes off the bench. It wasn’t the same impact she’s having now as a starter, but she came in and made her presence known immediately.
‘‘I started doing the handshakes for the starting five,’’ Copper said.
Amber Stocks was the coach at the time, and players such as Cappie Pondexter and Tamera Young were still part of the organization. The energy of that team was completely different, and Copper committed herself to playing her role.
Part of that role was being the Sky’s energizer. So she turned what formerly was a ‘‘blah’’ introduction for the starting five into what fans see today. She even persuaded veteran guard Courtney Vandersloot to showcase her latest and greatest dance moves.
It was a way for Copper to lighten the mood right before tipoff and to emphasize that having fun is just as important as playing well.
The Sky are doing both right now, and Copper’s offensive and defensive production is a large factor in their success.
However, they lost to the Wings 100-91 on Friday night. Copper finished with 11 points, four assists and two rebounds.
On Wednesday, Copper was named a first-time WNBA All-Star. The grind it took to play at an All-Star level isn’t something she will forget. Two of the teammates who have had the biggest effect on her growth are Vandersloot and guard Allie Quigley.
‘‘[Vandersloot] would call me ‘Zero,’ ’’ Copper said. “She would say, ‘Every time you come in the game, we’re running this iso.’ ’’
Vandersloot gave Copper an added level of confidence in her first two seasons with the Sky, running plays for her every time she came off the bench. Quigley added to that by telling Copper early on that she could start on any team in the league, but the Sky needed her here.
Fast-forward to the 2020 season. In Copper’s fifth year in the league, she went from being a role player to a starter and was more than ready for the opportunity. Her production more than doubled in almost every stat during the Sky’s bubble season.
This season, she was ready to take on even more. After working as an assistant coach for the Purdue Northwest women’s team, she had a whole new skill set to add to her repertoire.
She was seeing the game from a coach’s perspective and told coach James Wade before the season that she never would mess up another scouting report.
In 19 games, Copper leads the Sky in scoring at 13.9 points per game. She’s one of the most athletic guards in the WNBA, and her speed and court vision have allowed her to dominate in transition.
Defensively, she’s in opponents’ faces and typically picks up the toughest defensive assignment of the night.
These are all factors that have contributed to her first All-Star selection and to a team chemistry demonstrated by the fact that six players are averaging in double figures in scoring. From top to bottom, Copper thinks the Sky are the best team in the league.
Less than 24 hours before the All-Star team was announced, Copper wasn’t sure she would see her name on the Team WNBA roster. The outward confidence she had been exuding, telling fans to vote for ‘‘Kahleah Freaking Copper’’ in more than one news conference, had given way to a more reflective attitude. She said she thought she deserved to make the roster.
Fans, fellow WNBA players, league coaches and a panel of sports journalists agreed.
Wade said it was a great moment when he told Copper the news that she had made her first All-Star team because it was a dream they shared.