canada africa partner reservation ‘I feel like I’m still in my prime’: Courtney Vandersloot enters 14th WNBA season with a lot to give

‘I feel like I’m still in my prime’: Courtney Vandersloot enters 14th WNBA season with a lot to give


By WG Ramirez

The spokesperson review

Courtney Vandersloot may have turned 35 in February, but she certainly doesn’t act like one.

Vandersloot, ready for her 14th WNBA season, just enjoyed her first offseason away from going overseas and said she has been doing the right things – mentally and physically – to prepare for her second season at the New York Liberty.

Vandersloot arrived in camp after a much more enjoyable offseason than her previous one, mainly because she knew where she would be playing. In contrast, she didn’t sign with the Liberty until February 2 of last year, about three months before training camp.

Now that she has a better understanding of what New York coach Sandy Brondello needs from her, she knows exactly how her skills fit alongside Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu and Jonquel Jones.

“I feel like I’m still in my prime most days,” the former Gonzaga star said. “There are days when I feel my age a little more. But when I’m out there, I can still move however I want. In that respect my body is still in good condition.

“Of course I know I’m going to determine the point, but I have to be efficient without the ball so that Sabrina can sometimes get to the point. I think I understand that much better and that I can just be efficient when I’m not on the ball. That’s the mentality I have going into camp, just finding different ways to impact the game.”

An impact that is even greater than during a rather decorated career.

“Sloot,” as she is affectionately known, won the title with Chicago in 2021. She is a five-time WNBA All-Star, has been named to the All-WNBA first team twice, has led the league in assists seven times and was named to the all-rookie team in 2011.

She also ranked second in WNBA career assists, 533 behind Sue Bird, and people started asking her if she was thinking about the record.

“I try not to; if it happens, it happens,” she said. “But I get questions about it, so I think about it. I keep trying and just be myself. And if it gets assists, it results also in assists. I just really want to stay away from the, ‘Oh, I have to break this record. I want to do this’ (story). playing the right way and doing all those things. I’ve been playing for a long time and a lot of times they result in assists. So I just let that take care of itself, if you like, and just keep playing my game.

The former three-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year spent her offseason in and out of New York, making public appearances for the Liberty, but more importantly, making critical runs on the court with whatever teammate was on the market. .

“That, and listening to my body,” says Vandersloot, who turned 35 in February. “I had to take time off. I’m grinding and working really hard and then something comes into my body and I have to listen to it. That’s the hardest thing about this age. It’s not always perseverance, it’s not always just grinding. I need to let my body recover. So that is a new phase for me. I’m definitely learning about that while also trying to stay in shape. I have to be in competition shape. So there is a balance.”

Camp Freedom

With a balanced lineup of veterans and younger players, Brondello has mixed up her rotations and thrown different lineups on the floor during training camp ahead of Tuesday’s preseason opener in Chicago. By doing this, Brondello can put people in different positions, as Vandersloot mentioned, whether it’s with Ionescu on the ball more, or with Stewart as a point forward.

New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, left, celebrates a 3-pointer by Courtney Vandersloot, right, during overtime against the Washington Mystics in last year's WNBA playoffs on September 19 at the Barclays Center Brooklyn, NY (Getty Images) )

New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, left, celebrates a 3-pointer by Courtney Vandersloot, right, during overtime against the Washington Mystics in last year’s WNBA playoffs on September 19 at the Barclays Center Brooklyn, NY (Getty Images) )

“We just have to get more comfortable so we can fill those different roles,” Vandersloot said. “But also because we’re leaders for the younger (or) new players and we can get them up to speed a little bit quicker because they feed off what we’re doing on the floor and what we’ve already built.

“It was important for us to keep our core together, which we did, and then just add a few pieces that we think can help us off the bench. We talked about how much our bench will help us this year, with the season being what it is and the schedule being a little crazy. I think we added some good pieces that will really help us off the bench.”

Her leadership and impact are certainly felt, as rookie Jaylyn Sherrod called Vandersloot a balanced mind.

“I will also say that she really commands the court and always seems to be two steps ahead of the defense, which is what you want to do as a point guard,” Sherrod said. “Just very, very calm (and) collected. Doesn’t really seem to step outside of herself and always thinks ahead about what she is doing and how she can put her teammates in the best position.”

It’s an astute observation from a rookie who played in the NCAA Tournament for Colorado just two months ago, considering one of the league’s best had a similar sentiment during her Media Day availability with the Seattle Storm.

“Control, just control,” said Storm newcomer Skylar Diggins-Smith, who faced Vandersloot in the 2022 WNBA Finals. “Someone I really admire, the way she plays the game. … I always learn something about myself when I play against her on both sides of the ball. Or maybe she’s just exposing those things. She is definitely an all-time great in our league when it comes to point guards and players in general.

“So selfless, always trying to get others involved. I like the way she can lead her team. She can see things two or three steps ahead, her vision. But it’s really just her mentality. She has an incredibly high IQ, and you could hear that on the pitch, in the way she puts people in their place, maneuvers and manipulates them on offense and defense.

“It’s an honor to compete against her.”

Mentally tough

Vandersloot said one of the biggest things she learned later in her career is to remain disciplined in disconnecting from the game she has loved since she wrote a school paper in third grade that detailed her dreams of one day playing in the to play WNBA.

“Just taking a day to just do things you enjoy, spend time with your family,” she said. “I rely a lot on Allie, my wife. But to prepare for big games, I lean on the people we’re in the trenches with. You should. That’s why we’re here. We have been through a lot of things together and people around you are part of this team, they believe in you. So I make sure I lean on them.

“I talk to a therapist once a week, just stay on top of it, stick with it, because you never know. We all have lives out there and you never know what people are going through. It’s not always just to come in here and it’s a sanctuary. We like to think that, but sometimes you bring things with you and it is tough and difficult to perform at that level. Making sure you take care of ‘me first’ is what it’s all about.”

That’s what it will take if Vandersloot is going to play in her third WNBA Finals in four years, and second straight with New York.

“That’s what I came here for,” she said. “I wanted to compete for the championship. I wanted to be in the finals year after year, because there is nothing better than that as a competitor. That is always the goal. This involves a long process. Just making sure we’re taking the right steps takes care of our bodies, especially me because I get up there.I insist on that. But even with that said, I feel like I still have a lot to give.”