In the battle to be the WNBA’s youngest team, as it seems is the case in 2020, the Dallas Wings are in contention.
After an offseason roster overhaul that gave them three first-round draft picks, seven of the 12 on the roster have just 1-2 years of experience in the league.
But the intensity of quarantined living and practice conditions has allowed the young team to learn faster and get more quickly acclimated with one another than they would in normal training camp. Through the first six days, athletes are already beginning to settle into their roles.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up Arike Ogunbowale was forced to play point guard in her debut campaign, and even in that role she was the team’s leading scorer. This season she will revert to the shooting guard position thanks to the acquisition of two true point guards: Moriah Jefferson and rookie Tyasha Harris.
Ogunbowale said she is excited to have them, as they will allow her to play more freely with the ball out of her hands.
“I am definitely happy with the way training camp has been looking and my position on the team,” Ogunbowale said. “I am a scorer, and coach is going to want me to do the exact same thing (this season), so that is my mindset.”
Despite the new faces, there are three sets of college teammates on the team: Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey out of Notre Dame; Jefferson and Katie Lou Samuelson from Connecticut; and Harris and Allisha Gray from South Carolina.
For Samuelson, the familiarity with players on the team has allowed her to come in and play more like herself.
“I have been able to come in a fill a spot that I feel like I am able to play like myself and not need to be or fit into a specific role or expectation,” Samuelson said. “I have been able to grow and learn what I can contribute to the team on my own space and ability.”
The three rookies have a short learning curve, despite their deep skill sets.
No. 2 pick Satou Sabally does not see anything changing with the versatility of her game, but said she is working to get stronger. And playing to each athlete’s strength could be the key to success for this team.
“We’ve only practiced for six days, but we seem like a really good squad – we are super talented,” Sabally said. “We’re the underdogs, we’re going to play, we want to win every game and we are not different from other teams in terms of our competitiveness.”
Sabally said the coronavirus pandemic kept her from returning to her native Germany after she graduated from the University of Oregon, and said she hasn’t seen her family for a year. But both she and Ogunbowale said the “bubble” all players are living in isn’t bad.
Ogunbowale said she is normally a homebody anyway so being in the bubble has not been that big of an adjustment.
“I don’t go that many places, honestly this is not much different, (except) obviously you’d have more freedom to go somewhere,” she said. “But I am pretty content in my lodge or apartment here in the bubble, so I am good.”
Sabally said the compacted season wasn’t the way she envisioned her rookie year, but she is grateful to be able to play.
“We are here right now, we can play we can do our best and we’re really in a lucky spot,” Sabally said. “Despite all of the circumstances, we are still here, will have a season and we will play.”
The Wings top off their schedule July 26.