Courtney Vandersloot victorious in 'surreal' return to Chicago

ByM.A. Voepel ESPN logo
Saturday, June 3, 2023

Guard Courtney Vandersloot was the second New York Liberty star this week to return to face her former team for the first time on the road, as forward Breanna Stewart did against the Seattle Storm on Tuesday.

In both cases, the Liberty came away with victories.

Vandersloot, who played 12 seasons for the Chicago Sky and won the league title with them in 2021, had eight points and eight assists Friday night as the Liberty edged the Sky 77-76 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

"It's really hard to put into words, it's surreal. It did feel weird," Vandersloot said. "I spent so much time here, had so many memories here. I have a lot of experience in this league, and this is something I do not have experience with."

Vandersloot, drafted No. 3 by the Sky in 2011, moved to New York as a free agent in the offseason, as did Stewart, who was picked No. 1 by Seattle in 2016. The Liberty's other key acquisition, forward Jonquel Jones, came to the Liberty via trade after six seasons with the Connecticut Sun.

Jones faced her former team in last Saturday's Liberty victory in New York. The Liberty played a preseason game at Connecticut in which Jones rested; her first game at Connecticut is June 27.

Vandersloot has led the league in assists five times, and is third on the WNBA all-time assists list behind retired players Sue Bird and Ticha Penicheiro. Vandersloot for the last decade-plus has been synonymous with the Sky, and acknowledged she had some nerves Friday, although she said she tried to treat it like any other game.

"We had a lot of great times," Vandersloot said of her time in Chicago. "This is a really good [Sky] team. There's extra motivation because it's emotional for them well."

Vandersloot, 34, said she was happy to reconnect with Sky fans, adding they were "so good to me for so long." But she also said she appreciates the opportunity to experience something new with the Liberty, who are now 4-1.

"Being a little out of my comfort zone with a new team, new system, new players, that's what's helped me grow," she said. "We're learning on the fly and trying to figure this out. We're taking steps every day to get better. My challenge is just trying to figure out what this team needs from me on a nightly basis. It looks different every night. We'll continue our journey and this is just part of it. I'm glad [this game] was earlier in the season and we can all move on."

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