LAS VEGAS – Speaking before her Chicago Sky recorded the biggest comeback in WNBA history, Courtney Vandersloot offered a coy smile when being labeled a “silent assassin.”
“Yes, I love it,” the Kent, Washington, native said. “That’s where I like to be.”
Deep in the shadows of some of the greatest guards the league has seen – where veterans Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, or up-and-coming superstars such as Kelsey Plum and Jewell Loyd can create a buzz by simply walking into an arena – a decorated résumé can quickly be overshadowed.
And Vandersloot couldn’t care less.
“Anybody will tell you I’m not a spotlight type, I don’t want to be in the spotlight,” the three-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year at Gonzaga said. “I like being around my teammates and being a great team player. The accolades that come, they’re gonna come whether you’re silent or not. I just want to work in silence and keep it that way.”
She did Tuesday in Vegas, where the Sky overcame a 28-point deficit and handed the Aces just their third loss of the season.
“Sloot’s tremendous,” former Washington Husky Plum said before that game. “I think people don’t talk about her competitiveness enough, what she brings to the table. She’s just a winner. She’s tough as nails. Obviously, everyone knows she can pass as good as anyone in the world. It’s always fun playing against her, every night. I know I’m in for a dogfight.”
Plum couldn’t have described her better, as the dog in Vandersloot came through again, to the tune of 10-of-14 shooting from the floor, including 3 of 5 (.600) from 3-point range, to finish with game highs of 25 points and eight assists.
The 25 points were a season-high for Vandersloot, while it marked the 10th time in 16 games she registered double digits in scoring.
“She’s never been someone that wants so much attention,” her wife and teammate Allie Quigley said. “But I think that she’s getting that later on in her career and getting what she deserves. She just lets her game do the talking, that’s just who she is, and I think that’s how she likes it.”
While Vandersloot’s 2022 scoring accomplishments are no surprise, neither are the ones that decorate a 13-year career that has seen her climb the all-time assists ladder.
Vandersloot, who has led the league in assists in each of the past five seasons, ranks second this season just decimal points behind Washington’s Natasha Cloud with 7.1 per game.
She’s also averaging 12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
The 33-year-old ranks fourth on the WNBA’s all-time list at 2,291 assists behind Bird (3,122), Tina Penicheiro (2,600) and Lindsay Whalen (2,348).
Last year, the three-time All-Star helped Chicago to its first WNBA championship, one of the things that had eluded her for so long.
“I think a lot of her time in the WNBA has been overshadowed by other great players, but it just goes to show you the talent level that we have,” Chicago coach James Wade said. “She’ll probably go down as the most decorated and probably the best point guard of all time. And she’ll probably go down as one of the players that we hardly talked about.”
Wade believes the credit she deserves, and the spotlight she avoids, are still on their way, only more toward the twilight of her career.
Wherever she ends her career.
After helping the Sky win last year’s title, the negotiations to bring her back took longer than expected before she signed a one-year deal.
In between, Vandersloot confirmed to The Spokesman-Review that she spoke to Seattle about the possibility of bringing her home to finish her career.
“I thought about it this past off-season, ’cause I did meet with them,” she said. “It’s always something, because home is special to me and so they’ll always be on my radar.”
It certainly would make sense for next season, considering Bird recently announced this will be her last year. Storm assistant Pokey Chatman was a former head coach in Chicago, not to mention she played with Seattle star Breanna Stewart in Russia.
For now, though, Vandersloot is adamant Chicago is where her heart is, and she’s vowed to stick by her commitment as the team strives for a second consecutive championship while battling through a rugged Eastern Conference.
There’s something to be said, she added, about building toward a goal with the same franchise for 12 years, a grind she’s proud of and will never discount.
“I want to win more championships in Chicago,” said Vandersloot, who is on a package deal with Quigley and both facing unrestricted free agency next off-season. “I think everyone would say after their first one they’re on the hunt for more. You’re never satisfied and that’s why we do this, is to continue to get championships.
“I’m lucky that we have one, but we’re always looking to get more.”
W.G. Ramirez is a 35-year veteran covering sports in southern Nevada, and a resident of 50 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez
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