Sky star Kahleah Copper is taking an unexpected career turn in the offseason

She’ll try her hand as an assistant coach at Purdue Northwest.

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Kahleah Copper

Kahleah Copper #2 of the Chicago Sky dribbles up court in the first half against the Connecticut Sun during Game One of their First Round playoff at Feld Entertainment Center on September 15, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Sky guard Kahleah Copper said she never really considered coaching as a post-playing career.

OK, maybe the idea casually crossed her mind once or twice, she later admitted in a conversation this week. But she definitely never would have thought she would be an assistant coach for a college team between WNBA seasons.

“I could see myself as a coach, but not so soon — and I never thought that . . . the opportunity would come this quick,” Copper said.

Copper was preparing to head overseas at the beginning of November after taking some time off to address her nagging but minor injuries from last season. Then her friend, Purdue Northwest coach Courtney Locke, asked her to join the Pride’s coaching staff.

At first, Copper was hesitant — coaching had never been part of her life plan and she was still set on playing for an Israeli team, Elitzur Ramla, this offseason. But with coronavirus cases surging worldwide and her body still recovering from the condensed WNBA season, Copper decided to give coaching a try.

Purdue Northwest on Monday announced Copper as its newest assistant women’s basketball coach, making her one of only two active WNBA players who spend their offseason on the sidelines with a clipboard. (Sparks guard Kristi Toliver is an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards.)

Copper has no prior coaching experience, other than leading her annual youth basketball camps in her hometown of Philadelphia. However, she does have instant credibility with the players as a fifth-year WNBA pro who was the Sky’s second-leading scorer in 2020, averaging 14.8 points.

The players and coaching staff — led by Locke, who knows Copper from her playing days at Rutgers — welcomed the WNBA star with open arms. At her first day of practice this week, Copper said players bombarded her with questions after analyzing her highlights.

“It’s funny, I forget how inspiring and how important the WNBA is,” Copper said. “They’re super-excited. They’re like sponges right now. They want to learn so much because they see the level that I’m playing at.”

Copper wants to focus on player development this season with Purdue Northwest, a Division II program in Hammond, Indiana.

“I know how important it is to work on the skills and how good it is when you have somebody who knows what they’re talking about, who’s played at the highest level and how inspiring that is,” Copper said. “I played under Chelsea Newton [at Rutgers]. She played in the WNBA and she won a championship, and I knew she knew what she was talking about.”

Barring a COVID-19 disruption, Purdue Northwest is scheduled to open its 18-game regular season Jan. 8. Once the season begins, Copper believes she’ll take on more of a scouting role.

Copper never has thought about coaching in the WNBA one day. She said she prefers to stay at the collegiate level.

“Right now it’s more of the younger generation that I really enjoy,” Copper said. “Helping someone grow into themselves, helping them grow as a woman on and off the court, I think you have so much to learn once you’re in college, so that’s the part of the process that I would like to be a part of.”

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