By Stephen Litel
*A quick note before the actual post. For those who have begun to check SLAM Online for WNBA coverage in the past couple weeks, this is not going to turn into “Chicago Sky-All the Time.” It’s just how the ball bounced, as players and coaches are finishing preparations to return to the States, begin camp and get the season going. There are other interviews and posts in the works and they’ll be placed here as they come in.
OK, now to the real post…
A young, rookie Head Coach will take over this season in Chicago. Steve Key takes the reigns of a young Sky team, looking to continue their development. With a roster of talented, but youthful faces, Key will find himself walking the line of continuing to grow as individuals and as a team, all while attempting to make a run at the 2008 WNBA Playoffs.
After speaking with one of his stars, Candice Dupree, I caught up with Coach Key to discuss his squad. Dupree mentioned she wasn’t sure on how things would be different this year in Chicago, so why not go to the man calling the shots?
Litel: With the addition of Sylvia Fowles, as well as with you taking over as Coach, what will be the most noticeable difference in the Sky attack this season?
Key: “The most notable thing will be an immediate inside presence on defense. I see Sylvia coming in and giving our perimeter players the confidence to really apply pressure on the ball, knowing that there is someone behind them to help out if someone drives to the basket. Offensively I see us continuing to build on our last year’s production, with a better free throw shooting percentage.”
SL: Having Fowles in the mix now, does that move Chasity Melvin to the four spot in order to play them together…or does Melvin come off the bench? Is there a possible trade there?
SK: “Chasity will also benefit from Sylvia’s presence. Chas is versatile enough that I plan to use her at both the 4 and 5 positions without any real adjustment for her. I know overseas she is asked to play facing the basket, so we will just ask her to do what she has been doing. A trade is not needed. We need Chas just as much as we need Sylvia and all our post to be able to execute our game plans. I think having two capable starting post players is an added plus for us.”
SL: Of course the entire team needs to step up this season, but what specifically do Candice and Armintie need to do to elevate their individual games, as well as lifting their teammates?
SK: “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Candice is an All-Star player. I think it’s now time for her to step up as a leader on this team for her and us to reach the consistency that would be able us to start talking play-offs or more wins. As for Armintie, we forget how young some of these players are and she is no different. With time and practice I know we will see a more rounded basketball player emerge. Stephanie White I know has big plans for her as a perimeter player. She will be continuing to work with her on a day to day basis to improve and refine her talents.”
SL: How much will this young team miss Stacey Dales both on and off the court this year?
SK: “This team will miss Stacey’s experience and good nature. She was a fiery competitor everyday and brought a caring attitude to her teammates that is not easily replaced. The good thing for us is that Stacey still lives in Chicago. Meaning I may have to invite her to come inspire her former teammates some how.”
SL: Was the selection of Quianna essentially “replacing” Dales?
SK: “I think those would be a bit too big of shoes to fill for Quianna just yet. But we did need to address the outside shooting that happened as a result of Stacey retiring. As I mentioned before, it is not like I wanted to one stop shop as LSU, but simply how the draft unfolded. We thought that Quianna was the best shooting option for us at that pick in the second round. There is talent there that the whole country got to see over the last couple years and we hope to see that here in Chicago.”
SL: This is such a young squad. Are the playoffs truly a possibility this year or are you looking to continue development?
SK: “I not going to put a target on our back at this point, but on paper we look like a team that can compete for a play-off spot. A lot will depend on how well the players continue to come together. Team Chemistry is just as important as talent. When they see they will need each other in order for us to succeed then we can realistically look at the playoffs as a possibility. The future looks very bright.”
Stephen Litel covers the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NBA for HOOPSWORLD
and is a HOOPSWORLD Magazine contributor. Litel also covers the WNBA and
Minnesota Lynx on “The Exchange” for Downtown Journal in Minneapolis,
which can be found at www.downtownjournal.com.
Litel may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org