Chicago takes Courtney Vandersloot by storm
Chicago Sky rookie Courtney Vandersloot will be checking in periodically with espnW contributor and Chicago native Sarah Spain as she plays her first season in the WNBA and learns the ins and outs of a new city. Keep an eye out for new entries!
CHICAGO -- Within seconds of arriving in Chicago, Sky rookie Courtney Vandersloot knew she was in for a change.
"I say I'm from Seattle," the Washington native said. "But I'm really from Kent, which is not a big city at all. As soon as I got to the airport [in Chicago], it was just ... wild."
Drafted third overall by the Sky, the 5-foot-8 point guard won't just be a rookie in the WNBA this year, she will be a rookie in a big city.
"There [are] so many people!" she said of being in Chicago for the first time. "And the traffic. It takes forever to get anywhere. It'll take some time to kind of settle down and get to know the area. Everything is new."
Vandersloot grew up in Kent, Wash., about 20 miles outside of Seattle, then headed east to Spokane, Wash., to attend Gonzaga, where she became the first player in Division I history to amass 2,000 points and 1,000 assists. Just a month after being selected by the Sky in April's draft, she found herself halfway across the country in her new home in Skokie, a northern suburb of Chicago.
Her first week in the city was for the most part a chilly one, and though I assured her the sun will come out, she told me Friday she was a little worried about the extreme weather in the Midwest.
"The humidity -- I heard that's pretty bad," she said. "And I'm terrified of thunderstorms. I've heard they're pretty bad here. The thunder rumbling, you know, that rattle ... that scared me when I was younger. I'm not scared of getting struck by lightning or anything, but [thunderstorms] just put me on the edge."
Right on cue, two days later, Vandersloot got a taste of that unique Chicago weather. After a gorgeous Sunday afternoon of sunshine, massive storms hit the area and a tornado watch was issued for parts of the northern suburbs.
"Yep, they are scary," she tweeted me that night. "Just like I remember."
Luckily for Vandersloot, roommate and fellow rookie Carolyn Swords also is afraid of thunderstorms, so she has a friend to hide under the covers with. Vandersloot, Swords and the rest of the rookies have been so busy with their first WNBA training camp that they haven't had the chance to explore much of Chicago.
"All we do is play, eat and sleep," Vandersloot said, but she did get a break last week to hit up a Bulls game with teammate Sylvia Fowles and coach Pokey Chatman.
"I had a lot of fun," she said of watching Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. "The atmosphere was really intense. I could definitely tell it was a playoff game."
It was Vandersloot's first NBA game since she was a kid, when her family had season tickets to Seattle SuperSonics games. She found fellow point guard Derrick Rose dazzling in Game 2, even in a losing effort, but next time she gets to the United Center her first priority will be to pay a visit to the patron saint of Chicago hoops.
"I didn't get to see the Michael Jordan statue," she said. "So I would really like to go back up there and see all that, really look around."
Also on her checklist are a visit to some of the restaurants suggested by Sky owner Michael Alter and a trip to Lake Michigan to check out Chicago's beaches.
You can expect to hear about a lot of Vandersloot's firsts here on espnW over the next few months, from her first WNBA game to her first real slice of deep-dish pizza.
She seemed ready for the big leagues in her first exhibition game, recording seven assists in Monday's 84-45 win over China, but we'll see how tough she is when she comes face to face with the ladies of the Wieners Circle.
But that's a story for another day ...