Rookie Reflections – Courtney Vandersloot
As one of the most exciting players to watch in her rookie season, Courtney Vandersloot foreshadows a bright future for the Sky. Coming out of an impressive college career at Gonzaga where she became the first Division I player (man or woman) to notch more than 2000 points and 1000 assists. Vandersloot was a highly anticipated rookie in the WNBA. There was a lot of hype, and it turned out to be well warranted. In the home opener, Courtney dropped 18 points, (4-of-4 from three-point range) and had five assists. Her success continued throughout the season as she was selected to the WNBA’s 2011 Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve player and set a Chicago Sky franchise record of 127 assists in a single season.
Vandersloot is having continued success this WNBA offseason, as she plays overseas for Besiktas in Istanbul, Turkey. Vandersloot is currently averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game but she took time out of her busy schedule in Turkey to reflect on her first WNBA season and talk about what she expects in 2012.
How did the game differ from college?
The game is very different from college as everyone is better, smarter and the margin for error is a lot smaller. There is never an easy night in the WNBA. Everyone is always coming after you and getting each and every win is so important. You literally cannot take even one possession off or that could cost your team a game.
How did if feel that first home game, having such a great game, scoring 18 points and going 4 of 4 form three with your family being there to see it?
It was a great way to start the season at home with a big win and it was even better that my family was there to see me play. Being as they are based on the West Coast, it was special to me that they were able to be there as I started a new chapter in my basketball career.
How did it feel to be an All-Star your first season?
It was an incredible honor. It was an amazing, fun weekend and I was lucky to be apart of it. I was especially glad that my teammates Piph and Syl were there to help me out all weekend and enjoy the experience with me. It was special to be able to play on the same court with some WNBA legends that I had watched throughout my junior career in high school and college.
What was the hardest moment of the season?
Our West Coast trip was definitely a difficult time as we had three tough games in a very short period time. In four days we had such long distances to travel to each game. It takes a real toll on your body when you are sitting on planes and buses and have no time to rest and recover before you have to dress and get on the floor to play against some of the best players in our league – Sue Bird, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore etc. Having our West Coast road trip as the last games of the season was also mentally tough, as we knew at that point we were not participating in post-season play. You really needed to find a way to stay focused and continue to get better and finish out the season on a high note.
What do you think you need to improve on? What did coach tell you to improve on?
As a point guard I think there are multiple aspects to my game that I can improve, such as I need to be more vocal and be more of a leader on the court. I need to help bring the coaches game plan to life by directing my teammates and making sure the ball is getting into the right people’s hands. I also need to handle the ball better and be able to handle the full court pressure that comes from some of the amazing defenders I have to face each game.
How did you unwind after the long season?
I was thankful to have some time to rest seeing as it was such a quick turn around between graduation and arriving at training camp. I went on vacation to the beach and spent some quality time at home with family and friends. Knowing I had to pack up and head overseas so soon really made me value every minute I had to spend with my family.
Are you excited to play overseas?
It has been great to experience the culture in Turkey and the different style of basketball that they play in Europe. It has also been fun to play with new teammates. Playing overseas is a good experience and I believe it will help me to improve for the next WNBA season. I can tell you I already miss Chicago and my coaches and teammates and am looking forward to getting back to training camp next May.
What is it like to be playing against Tamera, Erin, Sylvia, and Epiphanny over in Turkey?
It’s was really different, after spending all summer practicing and playing with them. It’s definitely strange seeing them on the opposing team but at least I know their strengths and weaknesses, which is helpful when we play their teams. It has worked out very well that we are all in Turkey and most of us being located in Istanbul. It’s nice to know that in my rookie overseas season I have Tamera, Syl and Piph close by if I get homesick or struggle.
What do you expect next season with the Sky?
I am really looking forward to next season and the chance to make improvements and I think as players we have learned a lot from last season. I am expecting a big growth in our on-court performance and the goal of post-season play will be there to continually push us and remind us of the efforts. We need to put in every day at practice and at games to be successful next year…I can’t wait.