Just a few months into the WNBA’s offseason, Chicago Sky superstar Elena Delle Donne made it publicly known that she wanted out of Chicago, and that Washington D.C. was her preferred destination.
It’s nearly impossible to get fair trade value when moving a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Delle Donne. By forcing her way out of Chicago, the three-time All-Star didn’t leave the Sky’s front office with much leverage.
But two months after Delle Donne expressed her desire to be traded, the Sky and the Washington Mystics agreed to a deal that benefited all parties involved.
In exchange for Delle Donne, Chicago received Washington’s second overall pick in the 2017 draft, which they used to select South Carolina’s Alaina Coates. The Sky also acquired 2016 first-round draft pick Kahleah Copper and 2015 WNBA All-Star post Stefanie Dolson.
The center piece of the trade was Dolson. A two-time NCAA Champion with the Connecticut Huskies, Dolson is a winner, a natural leader, and a threat on offense and defense who had established herself with the Mystics.
During Chicago’s shaky start to this season, the team lost their first two games and Dolson averaged 8.5 points, three rebounds and four fouls. Hungry for success, Dolson went into beast mode to help get her team into the win column on Sunday. In their 75-71 win over the Atlanta Dream, Dolson posted a career-high in points and blocks (23 and five) while grabbing eight rebounds and shooting a stellar 77 percent from the floor.
At 6-5, Dolson is a unique talent that has the ability to bang in the post and fill it up from outside. She plays hard and smart on both ends of the floor, and embodies everything that Chicago sports fans love. It’s safe to say that the Sky will go as Dolson goes.
Sherron Shabazz: When you heard that you’d be coming to Chicago what was your initial reaction?
Stefanie Dolson: I was a little nervous. Obviously I’ve never been traded before. It was three years in D.C. that were great, but after thinking about it, I was really excited. I thought about the personnel here in Chicago, and it was an opportunity to get here and play with Imani (Boyette), Cappie (Pondexter), and TY (Tamera Young). The whole roster is filled with a lot of great players, so I was excited to get it started.
SS: Was any part of you worried about how you’d fit in with Imani and Cheyenne (Parker) in the post?
SD: Yes and no. I think we’re all pretty versatile posts. I knew somehow I’d fit in. I have little things to my game that I do that are easily utilized. I was just going to come here, do what I do best, and hopefully fit in somewhere.
SS: Has it been difficult to adjust to playing the four a little bit?
SD: No, not really. When I played with Emma (Meesseman) and even when I played with Kia Vaughn, sometimes I played the four. Emma and I were very interchangeable. Pick and pop is a big part of my game anyway. It’s something that I have become comfortable with. I’m also enjoying adding new parts of the four to my game, like driving. Four defense has been the most difficult part. I’m working on it. I’m working on my foot speed, and I’ll just keep trying to get better.
SS: Would you say the defensive aspect is what you’re working on most right now?
SD: Yeah. I’m definitely not used to guarding fours, but I’m up for any challenge. I was excited to be able to show that I can do that.
SS: How would you describe coach Stocks’ coaching style?
SD: She’s very intense, but in a good way. She focuses on the little things and makes sure we still have fun in practice and are enjoying ourselves. She’s very smart and she makes sure we’re all focused 100 percent of the time and ready when game time starts.
SS: Last season you shot the most threes of your career…
SD: Did I?
SS: You took 30. You can take some more [laughs].
SD: Yeah, I can.
SS: You’re making them! Do you have the freedom to take that shot with this team?
SD: Yeah, absolutely. Coach Stocks – a good part of her coaching is empowering us. She’s really empowered me and put a lot of confidence in me that I can make that shot. She has pretty much told me if I’m open, shoot it. So I’m just making sure I’m practicing a lot so I’m ready for that shot.
SS: You’re only 25, but you’re one of the veterans on this team. Has it been a comfortable transition for you being one of the veteran leaders on such a young team?
SD: Yeah, it has. I’m a talkative person already as I play and I think that’s one of the hardest parts to becoming a leader is being able to talk so much and encourage your teammates. That’s something I do naturally. Being one of the oldest posts especially, I’ve kind of taken a leadership role with that and made sure the posts are doing what they need to do. It’s something that I enjoy doing. I love being a leader and making decisions. I’ve been told I’m bossy [laughs]. So it’s pretty comfortable.
SS: In the opening game I saw you travel and you were mouthing to yourself “Just shoot the ball.” Was that just opening night jitters?
SD: No, just frustration. Coach Stocks has put a big emphasis on just getting to the basket and making sure we’re always attacking, attacking. It was a frustration thing but I was OK with it because at least I was thinking “attack the basket.” I’ve always been told that although I’m slow, I go too fast. In that moment I was like, “Ugh, just shoot the ball Stefanie!” If all else fails just shoot it.
SS: Have any of your teammates helped to make your transition from Washington to Chicago easier?
SD: All of ‘em. This team is amazing. There are a lot of fun personalities. TY and Cappie have just been such great vets and showing me around Chicago and making me feel comfortable and like I’ve been on this team for a few years. That’s exactly how I feel. It’s been really nice to be here.
SS: What’s your favorite thing about Chicago so far? The weather?
SD: Hell no. Although when it’s nice it’s beautiful. When it’s sunny out, driving down Lake Shore Drive is so amazing. Other than that though, I had the pizza the first time the other night, and it was delicious.
SS: You really liked it?
SD: I loved it. I love cheese [laughs]. How can you not like that?
SS: It’s a lot of cheese.
SD: It is a lot of cheese. It was a full meal. I’m really enjoying Chicago.