Courtney Vandersloot wants to keep playing as long as she can – no matter the circumstances.
And recently the circumstances have been extraordinary for the former Gonzaga All-American.
Last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vandersloot led the Chicago Sky to their first WNBA title.
This winter, she returned to Russia to play another season in the Siberian city of Ekaterinburg, but she and teammate Allison Quigley were forced to flee the country when the Russians invaded Ukraine.
Left behind was teammate Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February after Russian authorities claimed that her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis.
“You know, we were obviously there when it happened, and it could have been any of us, and you know, it’s been really hard to know that she’s still over there,” Vandersloot said.
“She has the right people fighting for her, you know, obviously, you never know,” Vandersloot said.
One thing for sure: Vandersloot won’t be returning to Russia any time soon.
However, she has no intention of ending her overseas career, stretches back to her 2011 graduation from GU.
Last week she signed with Hungarian club Sopron Basket for the 2022-2023 European season. The spot opened up when another player with Spokane ties, former Lewis and Clark star Briann January, opted to leave the team.
“I still have more to do,” Vandersloot told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m Hungarian; I felt like (Sopron) was a good situation for me. I’m ready for a new challenge.”
Vandersloot is slated to join Sopron after the conclusion of the WNBA season in mid-October.
In the meantime, Vandersloot and the Sky are ready for another championship run, though perhaps with fewer speed bumps.
The 2021 season was a roller coaster. At one point the Sky lost seven straight games, but recovered to make the playoffs with a 16-16 record before running the table to win the first title in franchise history.
Vandersloot made more history along the way, averaging a double-double of 13 points and 10.2 assists along the way.
She also became the second player in league history to have a triple-double in the playoffs.
The Sky brings back much of its championship core. Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, sharpshooter Allie Quigley and versatile Candace Parker should make Chicago the team to beat.
When the WNBA season ends, Vandersloot will be off to Hungary. When the Euroleague season ends, she could face another obstacle because of a slight overlap with the WNBA calendar.
Beginning next year, any player with more than three years of WNBA experience who doesn’t arrive at training camp on time will be fined 1% of their salary for every day of camp missed. If players don’t arrive by the start of the regular season, they’ll be suspended for its entirety.
“I don’t think it’s the right move,” Vandersloot said. “We have a great opportunity to make very good money overseas, and I don’t think anybody should be able to take that from us. I’m going to continue to play, do what’s best for my career and make the decisions as I come to it.
Jim Allen can be reached at (509) 459-5437 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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