2012 Chicago Sky History
As one of the most active wheelers and dealers last offseason, the Chicago Sky entered the 2012 campaign with good reason to believe this year would be their best yet. After all, they were returning the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year in superstar center Sylvia Fowles, and another pair of All-Stars in guards Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot. They made headlines by snagging the biggest acquisition of the year, Swin Cash, from Seattle as well as two-time champion Le’coe Willingham. And, not least of all, they brought in Ticha Penicheiro, one of the WNBA’s Top 15 greats, in addition to former WNBA Finals MVP Ruth Riley to shore up the depth and provide a steady influence to Chicago’s talented youngsters. Sky head coach Pokey Chatman, back for her second year with the team, had all the ingredients to improve on a 14-20 showing in 2011.
On May 19, the new-look Sky finally took their revamped roster to the floor and it wasted no time in dismantling Washington, 69-57. What came next was a glorious string of victories that marked the best stretch of basketball in franchise history and illuminated what the Sky’s roster was capable of at full strength. Chicago began the season on a tear, winning seven of eight thanks in large part to Prince’s late-game heroics. For one week in June, the nation was treated to “Prince-sanity” as Prince scored 30-plus points in three straight comeback games to keep alive the Sky’s six-game win streak. Prince’s 24.3 points per game led the nation as the 5-foot-10 guard broke into the WNBA’s stratosphere of elite players by equaling a long standing record of consecutive 30 point games held by Cynthia Cooper.
Unfortunately, the Sky’s dream run came to a halt in mid-June, beginning with a foot injury to Prince that caused her to miss the next eight games. Without their top scorer, the Sky struggled at times to find the offensive firepower needed to contend with the league’s top players. Apart from a victory on July 1 against Atlanta and due to a month-long break for the London Olympics, Chicago would have to wait until August 26 before registering their ninth win – a gutsy triumph at Connecticut. Prince’s return in August breathed life into the Sky’s postseason chances as Chicago dueled with New York for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. But injury would strike again – this time to Fowles’ knee, causing the center to sit out nine games. Though the Sky would split the final 12 games with a respectable 6-6 record, they narrowly missed out on the playoffs to New York, which sneaked in with an overall record of 15-19. Chicago finished one game behind at 14-20.
There was no shortage of highlights in what was ultimately a remarkable season for the Sky. At 18.1 points per game, Prince finished as the fourth leading scorer in the league and demonstrated the powerful offensive force she can be. She surpassed Candice Dupree as the Sky’s all-time steals leader and established herself as one of the game’s most complete players. Prince is surely in line for many future All-Star appearances and honors. After Fowles became the second player in league history to average a double-double in 2011, the 6-foot-5 post player did it again in 2012 with averages of 16.2 points and 10.4 boards. Her scoring wasn’t needed as much with the emergence of Prince and the addition of Cash, but her defensive presence remained important as ever. She set a WNBA record in field-goal shooting with 63.8 percent and was the league’s most efficient player with a 22.7 rating. Fowles also became the Sky’s all-time scorer (2,140 points) and was named to the All-WNBA Second Team. And Cash showed why the Sky gave up a lottery pick for the 6-foot-1 forward as she started in all 34 games, averaging 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds. She and Fowles represented the Sky well by taking home the gold medal as part of Team USA at the London Olympics in August. Cash stepped up her game, particularly in attacking the glass, to help make up for Fowles’ absence late in the season.
The stars were truly aligned for the Sky to have a special season. But injuries curtailed a promising start and what was, at least on paper, one of the league’s most talented teams. Still, the Sky managed to give their fans another unforgettable year built on hard work, dedication and a passion for the game. The future looks bright for Chicago, which holds the No. 2 pick in the upcoming 2013 WNBA Draft in April. The Sky will likely have their pick of surefire game-changers such as Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Della Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins.