Guard Courtney Vandersloot became the second New York Liberty star this week to return to face her former team away from home for the first time, as did forward Breanna Stewart against the Seattle Storm on Tuesday. In both cases the Liberty won.
Vandersloot, who played 12 seasons for Chicago Sky and won the league title with them in 2021, had eight points and eight assists on Friday as the Liberty defeated Sky 77-76 at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena.
“It’s really hard to put into words, it’s surreal. It actually felt weird,” Vandersloot said. “I spent so much time here and had so many memories. I have a lot of experience in this league and that’s something I have no experience with.”
Vandersloot, who was drafted No. 3 by Sky in 2011, joined New York as a free agent during the offseason, as did Stewart, who was drafted No. 1 by Seattle in 2016. The Liberty’s other major acquisition, forward Jonquel Jones, came after six seasons with the Connecticut Sun in a trade deal with the Liberty. Jones faced her former team in the Liberty win in New York last Saturday. The Liberty played a preseason game in Connecticut in which Jones took a break. Their first game in Connecticut will be on June 27th.
Vandersloot led the league in assists five times and ranks third on the WNBA all-time assists list, behind retired players Sue Bird and Ticha Penicheiro. Vandersloot has been synonymous with Sky for more than a decade and admitted she had some nerve on Friday despite trying to treat it like any other game.
“We’ve had a lot of great times,” Vandersloot said of her time in Chicago. “That is really good [Sky] Team. There’s extra motivation because it’s emotional for them.”
Vandersloot, 34, said she was delighted to reconnect with Sky fans, adding they had “been so good to me for so long”. But she also said she appreciated the opportunity to experience something new with Liberty, who are now 4-1.
“Being a little bit out of my comfort zone with a new team, new system and new players has helped me grow,” she said. “We learn spontaneously and try to figure that out. We take steps every day to get better. My challenge is simply to find out what this team needs from me every night. It looks different every night.” . We will continue our journey and this is only part of it. I am happy [this game] was earlier in the season and we can all move on.