Rebekah Gardner is getting back to her outside shot after a rookie season playing inside

She currently leads Spar CityLift Girona in scoring, averaging 15.4 points per game to go with 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals. In 11 games, she’s shooting 45% from three-point range and 58% from the field overall.

SHARE Rebekah Gardner is getting back to her outside shot after a rookie season playing inside
Rebekah Gardner dribbles the ball upcourt during the third period of the Sky’s game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena on May 24, 2022.

Rebekah Gardner’s WNBA rookie season at age 32 was one of the bigger stories in the league this year, and as 2022 comes to a close, talk has turned to what her future will look like.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Everything happened so fast for Rebekah Gardner — a blur from January, when Sky coach and general manager James Wade first saw her play overseas, until the end of the Sky’s season in September.

By the time she went home to California to spend two weeks with friends and family before another season with Spar CityLift Girona in Spain, she finally was able to slow down and rest, and to see the previous nine months through the eyes of the people who know her best.

“Everyone was so proud and excited,” Gardner said. “I went to the grocery store one day, and someone knew who I was. They asked me to take a picture with their daughter. I just thought, ‘Yeah, this is crazy.’ ”

Gardner’s WNBA rookie season at age 32 was one of the bigger stories in the league this year, and as 2022 comes to a close, talk has turned to what her future will look like. Since returning to Spain, she already has noticed a substantial difference in how she’s treated on and off the court.

Opponents are keyed in on her game like never before. She has found that her voice carries more weight.

“It’s interesting because I still feel like the same person,” Gardner said.

She scored 59% of her points with the Sky in the paint. When she returned to Spain, opponents were actively game-planning to prevent her from attacking the basket. The adjustment has forced Gardner to tap back into her outside shot, which she said is her best skill. 

Of her total points with the Sky in 2022, 9.5% came from midrange and 15.3% from three-point range as one of Wade’s first players off the bench, providing relief for fellow guards Kahleah Copper and Allie Quigley. The starting five of Copper, Courtney Vandersloot, Quigley, Emma Meesseman and Candace Parker had the best offensive rating of the lineups Wade used most often in 2022. The second-best offensive rating was when Gardner came in for Copper.

The two have a similar knack for attacking the rim. Copper scored 51.6% of her points in the paint last season, 22.1% from three-point range and 5.6% from midrange. Next season could see Copper and Gardner on the court together more, which is where Gardner’s outside shot will come in handy.

“For my next season in the WNBA, I want to presently prepare getting back to shooting my pull-up more,” Gardner said. “And, of course, shooting more threes, too. [Playing overseas] is a good opportunity to intentionally work on those things.”

She currently leads Spar CityLift Girona in scoring, averaging 15.4 points per game to go with 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals. In 11 games, she’s shooting 45% from three-point range and 58% from the field overall.

Quigley hasn’t yet decided whether she’ll return for her 15th WNBA season, according to her agent. If she does opt to keep playing, she’ll be an unrestricted free agent with the freedom to sign anywhere. Vandersloot, her wife, is also an unrestricted free agent in 2023 and is exploring her options after 12 years with the Sky.

Whether or not the Sky’s longest-tenured players return, Gardner is a valuable piece of the succession plan for Quigley’s inevitable retirement. She’s a reserved player, which means she can only negotiate with the Sky. Wade indicated during the season that she’ll be back in 2023, although nothing is guaranteed until a contract is signed.

NOTE: The WNBA’s period for qualifying offers is Jan. 11-20. On Jan. 21, free agents can begin negotiations. The Sun-Times’ free-agency tracker webpage with all 12 WNBA teams’ free agents will go live Jan. 11.

The Latest
A Brookings Institution expert explains why seniority in Congress has clear benefits for individual members and their constituents.
She left her husband of 20 years because his personality changed, but that was the result of anemia that’s now cured.
Look for Lily Gladstone, Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph to pick up statuettes as well.
Many voters told the Sun-Times they would feel more assured in their picks — and, experts say, a significant share of non-voters might be more inclined to join the process — if they had better access to clear, unbiased information to help them make choices.
Hospitals around the country have been dropping Medicare Advantage plans due to issues with prior authorizations and denials.