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How Sky players are staying ready despite training camp being put on hold

“We all have this hunger inside of us,” Sky guard Kahleah Copper said. “This process right now is dragging it out, but we’re itching. We just want to get back at it, but everyone’s been doing [everything] possible to stay busy, stay doing something.”

Chicago Sky v Los Angeles Sparks
Kahleah Copper, who has challenged her teammates to get bikes, said she rides a minimum of seven miles each day. After cardio, Copper will practice her ball handling in her driveway.
Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

The Sky were supposed to be finishing up their first week of training camp at the Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield on Saturday. Instead, the players are scattered across the U.S. and France, uncertain about whether the WNBA season will be played.

Heading into this season, which originally was scheduled to start May 15, the Sky are looking for redemption after the Aces eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs last season with a controversial shot.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus has put the Sky’s vindication tour on hold.

“We all have this hunger inside of us,” said Sky guard Kahleah Copper, who’s waiting out the coronavirus pandemic in her hometown of Philadelphia. “This process right now is dragging it out, but we’re itching. We just want to get back at it, but everyone’s been doing [everything] possible to stay busy, stay doing something.”

But it hasn’t been easy.

Of the Sky’s 14 players, only five have access to a hoop. Ann Crosby, the Sky’s director of basketball operations who doubles as the strength and conditioning coach, has sent each player WNBA basketballs and workout programs they can do at home.

“Ann is our rock, for real,” Copper said. “She checked in last week and . . . we talked about meals, the importance of fueling our bodies right, and she sent us some workouts inside our group chats and just things we can do.”

Copper, who has challenged her teammates to get bikes, said she rides a minimum of seven miles each day. After cardio, Copper will practice her ball handling in her driveway. Other players have been using resistance bands and doing body-weight workouts to stay in shape.

“Everybody wants to get their shots up,” Copper said. “We all know that first week back is going to be crazy. But just to keep the feel of the ball, just to be able to keep it [under] control, just to handle the ball and it comes as muscle memory, but just to keep the rhythm, that’s important.

“[We’re] trying to stay mentally sharp and physically ready for whatever could happen.”

Since the WNBA Draft, which was held virtually April 17, commissioner Cathy Engelbert hasn’t offered an update on when the season might begin. She did say, though, that she expects things to return in some capacity, whether that means playing at a neutral site or without fans.

Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, which has been extended through May, the Sky won’t be able to hold training camp until June 1.

This has been the longest break between seasons for a lot of WNBA veterans, who choose to supplement their income by playing overseas during the offseason. Some players have used this downtime to address nagging injuries.

Camp will surely be different this time around, though Copper believes the Sky will pick up where they left off after establishing a special “closeness” last season.

“Everybody wants the best for everyone, and everybody has the same goal in mind,” she said. “We all want to win, and I think we all want each other to get better each and every day. So I think nobody takes it easy on each other, everybody steps up and everybody demands the best of everybody.”

Contributing: Annie Costabile