Former Gonzaga women’s star Courtney Vandersloot is among several American basketball players who reportedly are exploring ways to leave Russia as tensions rise during the war with Ukraine.
Vandersloot and her wife Allie Quigley are playing during the WNBA offseason for a club in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg, which lies in middle of Russia near the Ural Mountains.
They played a home game on Sunday, defeating a team from Moscow. Their next game is scheduled for March 8.
On Sunday, the United States Embassy in Moscow issued a statement recommending that American citizens leave the country.
“An increasing number of airlines are canceling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines. U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available,” the statement said.
Agent Mike Cound, who represents several WNBA players (though not Vandersloot), told ESPN he’s been working to help get players out of Russia as the crisis escalates.
“For me, it’s way past ‘considering’ leaving. I’ve been on the phone with two players in the past few minutes working out flights,” Cound said.”
“It’s really urgent now in terms of there being a dwindling number of flights leaving Russia, and they are going to be hard to get real soon. They are probably fine if they stay put, but if things get worse, that may not be the case,” Cound said.
According to ESPN, several agents said they didn’t believe their clients “are in immediate danger but that if the situation worsens, they could be or might be unable to leave at that point.”
Other WNBA players currently playing in Russia include Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard and Epiphanny Prince.
Vandersloot and Quigley helped lead the Chicago Sky to their first WNBA title last year. Vandersloot, the top point guard in the league, signed a one-year contract extension on Feb. 22 that will keep her in Chicago.
Vandersloot is considered the greatest female player in Gonzaga history. An All-American as a senior in 2011, she led the Zags to the Elite Eight that season.
Gonzaga was poised to retire Vandersloot’s jersey number on Dec. 30, but the game and the event were canceled by COVID-19 protocols.
Most WNBA players join overseas leagues during the WNBA offseason. Cound predicted that some players may move to Western Europe as a safety precaution.
All WNBA players based in Ukraine have left the country, Cound said.
Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins, who plays for a Ukrainian club during the WNBA offseason, wrote on Instagram last week that she was out of the country after playing a game with the team in Bulgaria.
“Can’t even put into words how proud I am of my Ukrainian teammates for drying up their tears and giving their best tonight,” Atkins wrote. “A big part of me is angry of what’s happening in the world.”
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