Courtney Vandersloot, former Gonzaga star and four-time WNBA All-Star, leaves for the New York Liberty
Feb. 2, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:13 p.m.
Chicago Sky guards Courtney Vandersloot, left, and Allie Quigley talk on the bench in the third quarter against the Connecticut Sun in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals on Aug. 31, 2022, at Wintrust Arena. (Tribune News Service)
CHICAGO – For the first time in 13 years, the Chicago Sky will have to define themselves without Courtney Vandersloot.
The four-time All-Star, longtime Sky captain and Gonzaga University product confirmed Thursday that she will sign with the New York Liberty after announcing Tuesday evening that she won’t return to Chicago for the 2023 WNBA season.
The Sky already lost star center Candace Parker, who announced Saturday she will sign with the Las Vegas Aces. Replacing Vandersloot’s impact will be impossible for the Sky, who have been anchored around the point guard since drafting her out of Gonzaga with the No. 3 pick in 2011.
“Although I never planned for this day to come, I have decided that it is time for me to pursue a new beginning,” Vandersloot wrote in a post on Instagram. “I will forever be grateful for the memories I have made during my time here. As I look ahead to a new chapter, with a new team, in a new city, know that Chicago and the Sky organization will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Over the past decade, Vandersloot boosted the Sky from bottom-rung outliers to consistent title contenders.
On the court, she earned the nickname “Floor General” for her ability to marshal offensive plays and sling spot-on passes through heavy traffic. Off the court, Vandersloot solidified a winning culture for the Sky alongside her wife and co-captain, Allie Quigley.
With Vandersloot and Quigley at the helm, the Sky attracted top talent such as Parker and nurtured up-and-coming stars such as Kahleah Copper to accomplish their ultimate goal – winning the WNBA title in 2021 and redefining Sky basketball in the process.
“Sloot is Chicago,” Parker said after Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals last year. “This is her franchise. I came here to play with her.”
Vandersloot forged a legacy as the league’s greatest ball distributor. She led the league in assists for six of her 12 seasons in Chicago. In 2020, she broke Ticha Penicheiro’s single-game assist record with 18 en route to setting another league record with 10 assists per game.
Vandersloot’s court sense appeared almost preternatural, flinging full-court passes and scooping no-look passes past unsuspecting opponents. Her greatest strength was her ability to stoke the talents of her teammates, elevating the Sky offense to a new echelon. Under her steady hand, the Sky followed their 2021 WNBA title with a franchise-best 26 regular-season wins in 2022.
“To the Sky organization who drafted the little guard from a midmajor and believed in me from the jump, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Vandersloot wrote. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have realized my dreams because of you.”
There’s no like-for-like match for Vandersloot in the WNBA – and as true point guards continue to dwindle in the modern game, the Sky are unlikely to find a replacement.
Vandersloot will join former Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart in New York, confirming rumors that swirled throughout the past month that the pair would make their free-agency decisions together.
Stewart and Vandersloot have never played on the same WNBA team, but they are well-suited to one another after several years as teammates abroad. They play together for Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Super League and previously teamed up to win a EuroLeague championship with UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia.
Combined, they make a lethal duo – Vandersloot as one of the most precise facilitators in the history of the league and Stewart as an almost unstoppable scoring force both around the rim and the perimeter.
Their decision to join the Liberty – paired with Parker’s move to join an already stacked Aces roster – could signal the start of a new era of “super teams” in the WNBA as free agency continues to offer more control to players.
Vandersloot’s exit follows that of Quigley, who announced her decision to take this season off after 15 years in the WNBA. Quigley signaled an impending retirement – or change in her career – when she elected to not play in Europe during the most recent offseason for the first time in her career.
The couple played a decade together for the Sky, racking up a legacy of trophies and records. As they leave Chicago, the Sky will now enter the 2023 season without the entirety of their veteran core.
Uncertainty already hung over the Sky after their semifinal exit from last year’s playoffs. Now it’s clear: They must begin to rebuild in earnest to keep pace with the rest of the WNBA.
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