As Sky set about reshaping roster, they leaned heavily on ‘assistant GM’ Kahleah Copper
When the 2022 Sky season came to a close at Wintrust Arena, fans started speculating as to what this team could look like in 2023. Would all those free agents, like Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot, don the Sky blue uniform again?
As the new year came around, so did a brand new Chicago Sky roster with the only remaining members from last year’s team being Dana Evans, Rebekah Gardner, Ruthy Hebard and All-Star guard Kahleah Copper. All eyes went to Sky head coach and general manager James Wade to see how he would build around Copper.
What was the best way to do that? Involve Copper in the free agency discussions.
“We had numerous discussions about that, and she was very much a part of them. You like that. It shows that you’re invested,” Wade said in a press conference. “It affected a lot of our decisions on what kind of team we were trying to put around her.”
Wade and Copper communicated more so this offseason than years prior. Both parties sent player profiles and highlights to each other, discussing how each player could possibly fit into the Chicago Sky system as well as Wade’s thoughts on how each player could complement Copper’s style of play and ‘fit her psyche.’
“Kah’s the one that you really enjoy brainstorming with, and it’s the trust level amongst all of them,” Wade said in a press conference. “At the end of the day, when you have your franchise player, you want to make sure that they understand and they know. You want to get their input on certain moves and certain players, because sometimes their ears are closer to the ground than yours, especially when it comes to player personnel.”
It all started with the acquisition of former Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams.
“Yeah, Kah hit me and was like ‘I need a killer at the wing spot with me. I already know how you get after it,’” Williams said in her introductory press conference.
wake em’ uppppppppp 😼 https://t.co/VZNCN9Xdwk— Kahleah Copper (@kahleahcopper) February 2, 2023
“I asked her a couple questions about the city, but when it came down to it, she’s hungry, I’m hungry. When you bring players together that have that same mentality, it’s gonna be something special. That’s all I really needed to hear.”
It didn’t stop there. Both Copper and Wade are a part of Team USA Basketball as well as newly acquired guard Marina Mabrey.
“I actually went to see [Marina] first in free agency,” Wade said. “So she was the first player that I flew in to see. So the pitch was already done. By the time we got to Team USA [in February of 2023], I was just smiling, because we already did my pitch. I got a chance to see her play with Kah, and I thought it was a really, really special connection.”
There is no better advantage for Wade than seeing your two guards go to work before the WNBA season even begins, and Mabrey’s playing time with Copper is something that she really enjoyed.
“She gets up and down the floor, she’s easy to find in transition, and she’s great at finishing,” Mabrey said in her introductory press conference. “Just as a point guard and as a guard that likes to get people involved and pass, I’m excited just because she’s an easy target.”
Not only was the chemistry clicking on the hardwood at Team USA minicamps in February, but Wade is starting to give the Copper the opportunity to step into a leadership role, both on and off the hardwood.
“She’s the one that’s been around to see our culture grow,” Wade said, “She’s going to be a main proponent of that on the floor, at practice and off the floor as well. She’s been that throughout the recruiting process, and that’s something I’m very proud of.”
While the culture and chemistry of the team is still yet to be seen by fans, the new “assistant GM” is ready to prove the naysayers wrong.
“I’m assistant GM over here,” Copper said laughing. “It’s a lot. I’m excited. People are saying it’s a new era, whatever you want to call it. I’m ready to compete and really take this leadership to another level.
“I think over my career and the last couple years, I think that my leadership has been great and I’ve had great leaders. Shout out to those great leaders that showed me how it was supposed to be done. I think I’m ready to step into those shoes. It’s time and I’m prepared.”