Young stepping up when Chicago needs her most

Tamera Young is the definition of a swing player. She can switch from forward to guard and back. Need her to shut down the opposing team’s best perimeter player? She’ll do it. Having problems with the point guard penetrating the Sky defense too easily? Young is on it. Heck, she’ll even play the point if Chicago head coach Pokey Chatman asks her to.

In the midst of her fifth WNBA season, Young has proven increasingly valuable – particularly as a luxury off the bench where she says she enjoys providing an instant spark with the second unit. But since the team’s leading scorer, Epiphanny Prince, went down with a broken foot on Jan. 16, Young has found herself thrust into the starting role in many games and has been asked to produce more than she ever has her previous four seasons. Luckily, she was up to the task and she’s done it with a team-first attitude that coaches can only dream about. “With Epiphanny down, a lot of people had to step up offensively. I’ve been trying to be aggressive,” Young said. “I loved to come off the bench, but if the coach needs me in the starting lineup, then that’s what I have to do because we’re all here for one goal – make it to the playoffs and get a championship.”

The 6-foot-2 jack-of-all-trades is averaging career-bests in minutes (25.7), points (9.9), rebounds (4.4) and assists (1.8), while shooting a career-high 45 percent from the field. Part of her strong shooting can be attributed to her tendency to not settle for 3-point shots (she’s only taken one attempt beyond the arc in 17 games this season) and instead go for mid-range jumpers with higher chances of going in. That’s one aspect Young had hoped to improve on during last offseason. “I was working on my outside shooting,” she said. “Each season, I try to better every aspect of my game – not just one thing.”

In March, Young tasted the sweet glory of winning a championship with her overseas team, Maccabi Ashdod, in Israel. Winning the Israeli Cup required Young’s team to get past Sky teammate Le’coe Willingham and her squad, Elitzur Ramla in the semifinals. While the two had never played together in the WNBA, Le’coe had been traded to Chicago in January, so they knew they would soon be suiting up in the Sky blue and yellow. “It was funny playing against your teammate because you know you’re going to see them all summer,” Young said of going head-to-head against Willingham. “It was a battle, so it feels good to be the winner.”

Young, who arrived in Chicago in 2009 after playing for the Atlanta Dream, knows there are more important things than winning, of course. Before the WNBA season began in May, she wanted to take care of one more thing. She lost a good friend and former teammate on Christmas Day two years ago, so she decided to pay tribute to her with a tattoo of her friend’s initials and jersey number underneath a halo. Young’s most prized body art, however, is one that displays her parents’ names along with the Bible commandment, “Honor thy mother and father.”

Young’s character and willingness to do what’s asked of her has made her the consummate pro and teammate for the Sky. With those two traits and her ever-improving skills on the court, Young can expect a long and fruitful career in the WNBA.