Sky Look to Shake The ‘Fever’ in Season Opener at Indiana

The Chicago Sky head into Saturday’s season opener against Indiana with a “fever” they hope to shake. The Fever has dominated the all-time series against their Eastern Conference rival holding a 16-4 mark, including a 7-1 record at Conseco Fieldhouse. A new coach and a revamped roster give Sky fans a reason to believe the spell will soon end.

New Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman brings with her a history of winning. She led Russian Spartak Moscow Region to a perfect 16-0 record and a EuroLeague Championship in 2010. In three seasons as head coach of Louisiana State University from 2003-2006, Chatman compiled an overall record of 90-14, including three trips to the Final Four. Chatman also owns two gold medals with USA basketball, one as a player for the Junior National Team in 1987 and one as an assistant coach of the World University team in 2005.

Building around all-star center Sylvia Fowles and second-year sensation Epiphanny Prince was a key to Chatman’s offseason with the Sky, and she accomplished that by adding pieces to the front and backcourt. Joining Fowles and Prince as the probable starters against the Fever is nine-year veteran Michelle Snow who was picked up via free agency in mid April. Snow was brought in to add another dimension to the Sky’s inside game and relieve some of the defensive burden placed on Fowles.

Dominique Canty and Tamera Young return to the Sky as the final two probable starters at the guard and forward positions, respectively. Canty enters her 13th season in the WNBA and has started 27 or more games in each of her four seasons with the Sky. Young’s athleticism is a good fit for Chatman’s plans for defensive intensity.

Rookies Courtney Vandersloot, Angie Bjorklund and Carolyn Swords are looking to add more than just make the Sky roster. Vandersloot, taken with the third pick in the WNBA draft, comes off a stellar career at Gonzaga and should see considerable time in the backcourt with Prince and Canty. Bjorklund and Swords have shown considerable skills as well in the preseason.

Recently acquired forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton will help fill the void left by the injured and recently waived Shameka Christon, and forward Cathrine Kraayeveld and guard Erin Thorn wrap up the Sky roster as quality reserves.

But even with a new-look team in 2011, it will not be an easy task for the Sky to record their first victory on Saturday against the Fever. Indiana is coming off of a 2010 season in which they finished 21-13, just one game behind New York and Washington for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Fever is led by four time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner Tamika Catchings and 6-foot guard Katie Douglas. Catchings is coming off of a monster 2010 season in which she averaged 18.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game. The 6-foot-1 forward was the only WNBA player to crack the top 15 in all three major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists), and she was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the second-straight season.

The Fever added WNBA all-time games played leader (415) Tangela Smith in the offseason via free agency, and bring back starters Tammy Sutton-Brown and Briann January to present a “sick” starting five.

Coach Chatman’s defensive minded style should help the Sky starve this fever and create an exciting start to the 2011 WNBA season.