Alaina Coates’ senior season at South Carolina was bittersweet. She averaged career highs in nearly every statistical category before going down with an ankle injury just prior to the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks went on to win their first National Championship without her.
The Chicago Sky selected Coates second in the WNBA draft, but rehabilitation kept her out of action for the entire season. She played in Hungary over the winter, and will make her rookie debut this year.
Chicago was able to acquire Coates due to a trade with the Washington Mystics that also earned them Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper, while sending All-Star Elena Delle Donne to D.C. Many wondered why the Sky drafted Coates when they already had posts Dolson and Imani McGee-Stafford on the roster. The answer was simple: Coates’ toughness was imperative to the team, and worth waiting on.
“We are all eager for the productivity and depth that Alaina’s imposing physical presence, strength, and accuracy around the rim will bring alongside the other cast of front court players,” coach Amber Stocks said. “She has made a full recovery and is ready to rock and roll.”
Coates is not afraid to go hard in the paint. She averaged 12.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in her career at South Carolina while shooting 62 percent from the floor. Coates just might be the X-Factor that Chicago needs to rebuild, reboot, and return to the playoffs.
How was training camp?
It (was) different. The pace (was) a lot different. Coach Amber is really particular about what she wants, so it’s just kind of making sure you do what you need to do, when you need to do it, where you need to be, and do your defensive assignment. Sometimes it can be a little much, but for the most part everybody is getting it. We’re still learning chemistry with everybody, but so far so good.
What’s been the toughest thing to pick up?
Just kind of reading everybody else. It’s still kind of new……we still have to learn each other’s chemistry – what people can do, what people can’t do – those kinds of things.
How did your time playing in Hungary helped you to get ready for the WNBA?
It definitely got me prepared for professional basketball. We’ve…..had two preseason games. Of course, I haven’t played against a lot of people in the WNBA, but I kind of knew what to expect from a professional level. So that definitely helped me go into this new chapter in my life, understanding exactly what it is that’s going to be coming my way.
What would you say is the part of your game that you need to improve on the most heading into the season?
I feel like being very mobile when I’m not on the ball. I’m known for being aggressive when I get the ball and defensively, but off-the-ball type stuff I know I need to be more active, more aggressive, and make it harder for people to guard me.
What did coach Stocks tell you your role is on this team?
We haven’t gone over roles yet, but I feel like she’ll probably tell me to be a scorer, be a defensive presence, and basically just bring that same energy that I brought to Carolina here.
You were around the team a little bit last year. Did you build any relationships with players on the roster during that time?
It was kind of hard to, simply because my schedule wasn’t the same as theirs. We did get to spend a little bit of time together, but not long enough to form bonds. The longer I’m being here, the more I’m getting to know them. Being able to be around them last year definitely helped to get a head start on making some connections.
What do you hope to achieve in your rookie season?
I take pride in rebounding. I definitely want to if not lead, be a top five rebounder. Of course, I’m gunning for Rookie of the Year. I really want to be one of those players that’s considered a problem. When they see that Chicago is coming up next, they’re like, “Dang, we have to deal with her.”
What’s your favorite thing about Chicago so far?
I really enjoy the breeze that we consistently get. When it’s hot that breeze is amazing. I’m still trying to find some time to go out and explore, but right now the breeze is really hitting me.