Courtney Vandersloot wasn’t sure about signing with New York as a free agent.
NEW YORK-NEW YORK (AP)- Courtney Vandersloot was unsure about signing with New York as a free agent, knowing that otherwise she would miss a chance to be part of a Liberty team that is shaping up to be a championship contender.
However, the move would mean the WNBA All-Star guard would be on one shore and her mother Jan, who lives in Gig Harbor, Washington and was diagnosed with advanced multiple myeloma last July, on the other .
On the eve of Mother’s Day, Vandersloot reflected on the difficult decision.
The point guard has been on an emotional and very private rollercoaster ride since she first received the call from her mother about her cancer diagnosis right after Chicago lost to Las Vegas in last summer’s WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
“I found out at the end of July, that’s when the diagnosis came, and you know it obviously came out of the blue,” Vandersloot said. “I was shocked. There was every emotion imaginable and only the unknown. I was lucky with the people around me, I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Vandersloot, 34, struggled with the news. It helped that Jan, who has declined to be interviewed for this story but has always been Courtney’s rock solid, was in a good mood.
“You try to be strong,” said Vandersloot. “It was heartbreaking to hear that from you. She was incredibly positive and strong and that helped me a lot.”
There is currently no cure for the cancer Jan Vandersloot suffers from, but medical advances have helped people to live with it.
“The more I talked about it and learned more about it, the more I realized it affected people you know,” Vandersloot said. “She was in the hospital straight away and we didn’t get a chance to come up with a plan. It was so quick.
Vandersloot decided to wait until Sky had played their last seven regular-season games before returning to Washington to visit her mother. After the final in Phoenix, Vandersloot flew home.
When she arrived, Vandersloot had to sneak into her mother’s hospital room due to COVID protocols limiting visits to one visitor at a time, and her father was constantly at his wife’s side.
“I saw her for a while. I needed that, she needed that,” Vandersloot said. “Her expression as I walked in showed she had no idea I would be there. That was a big deal. It gave me perspective.”
On the pitch, Vandersloot turned to her mother for further career advice – both at home and abroad.
Vandersloot, who played abroad in Russia during the WNBA offseason, wasn’t sure what she would do last winter. Because of Brittney Griner’s imprisonment and the country’s war against Ukraine, she did not want to return to Russia. Because of her mother’s illness, Vandersloot was unsure if she even wanted to play abroad.
She went home and spent five months with her family in Washington. She helped her father care for her mother by making sure Jan did her exercises and taking her to cancer treatment appointments.
The former Kentwood High School star had planned to play in Hungary during the off-season and signed before her mother’s diagnosis. Another opportunity arose in Turkey, where she spent the first years of her career abroad. Fenerbahce, a Euroleague powerhouse, understood the guard’s personal situation and that gave her the confidence to sign. She arrived in Istanbul in February.
As she pondered her overseas decision, Vandersloot weighed her WNBA options – which led to another conversation with her mother.
She’d spent her entire WNBA career in Chicago since the team drafted their third team in 2011, but knew it was time for a change. The only question was where.
“I can’t move to New York. Are you kidding me?” “My mom is my biggest fan. She’s the biggest basketball junkie. She loves it. She understood the chance I was given.” .
“She wants this for me. To get her blessing, she understood.”
Last season, Vandersloot shared her family situation with only a few people in the Chicago organization, but was more open about her personal challenges with Liberty’s front office and her potential future teammates.
“During the free agency process, I knew Sloot’s mother had cancer,” said Liberty teammate Breanna Stewart. “It made this process even more difficult for her and her family. For so long she spent her time away from her family in Chicago and abroad. Ultimately it had to come down to her decision with her family and her opinion.” The best. I really wanted her to come to New York but didn’t want to be this pushy girlfriend. I wanted to be the friend who would support her no matter what.”
The Liberty will dedicate their annual Women’s Health Game on August 6 to raising awareness of cancer, a nod to Jan Vandersloot and others who are coping with the disease. Liberty’s new point guard also raised money for cancer research when her wife, Allie Quigley, competed in a bike race in New York last weekend. Vandersloot was originally scheduled to take part but is still recovering from a concussion he sustained early in the training camp.
It’s all part of a new chapter for the Vandersloots.
Courtney said Jan is doing better and they are ready to tackle the long journey that lies ahead together.