Chicago Sky rookies Gabby Williams, Diamond DeShields thrive early


CHICAGO — The Chicago Sky are off to a 2-0 start, with wins over the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty. Their two rookies, Gabby Williams and Diamond DeShields, are big reasons why.

More from Chicago Sky

Head coach and general manager Amber Stocks spent the majority of the offseason turning over the roster, aiming for a team to reflect her vision. But how the third and fourth picks in this year’s WNBA draft fit into that scheme will go a long way toward determining the success of that turnover.

The early returns are very promising.

There is very little that screams “rookie” about Diamond DeShields, starting with her presence on the court. The 6’1 guard left the University of Tennessee a year early and has been playing professionally at the highest level in Turkey where she averaged 16 points and six rebounds a game this past season, and it shows.

In her WNBA debut against the Fever, DeShields scored 18 points and followed it up with a seven point and six rebound performance in the Sky’s win over the Liberty on Sunday. In both contests, she showed moments of complete dominance on both sides of the floor combined with flashes of unselfishness and being a little too passive.

“Diamond will understand timing and next pass philosophy. She was over-passing today and she passed up a couple of opportunities that we want her to take,” Stocks told High Post Hoops following the win over the Liberty.

As for Gabby Williams, she’s just thankful to finally be able to focus on the game. The whirlwind of the past few weeks —a Connecticut Final Four run, a Wooden Award and then preparing to move to a new city.

“Since draft night it’s actually calmed down a lot, which has been nice. It was just so hectic and I finally got a chance just to focus on playing which has been great,” Williams told High Post Hoops immediately following the win over the Liberty. “Right now, I’m just focusing on one thing a day. Like today I’m going to rebound really well, or today I’m going to cut really well, I’m just trying to build on something new every day.”

Williams knows that her jump shot is the one area of her game she has to improve on at this level, along with the speed of her decision-making. “There are a few times when I second guess myself, I passed up on shots I should have taken or I didn’t need a dribble,” Williams said.

Evidence of that hard work was already apparent during her 12-point performance against the Liberty, sinking an 18-footer when the Liberty left her open. But Williams sees room for more growth ahead,

“It’s really early, I’m hoping this isn’t my breakout game,” Williams said. “I’m hoping there is a lot more to come in the future.”

In her view, Stocks sees the next round of adjustments for the two precocious rookies as a mental one even more than a physical one.

“Gabby and Diamond are adjusting to our style of play and understanding that it is more of a cerebral game,” Stocks said in her postgame press conference. “They’ve got to really be in tune with the timing of things. Their timing will continue to develop and we will continue to get more and more in sync with the timing and the spacing.”

The additional rookies—Ohio State guard Linnae Harper and 6’4 center Alaina Coates—will be pivotal as well in this roster turnover. Coates was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, but missed last season due to an ankle injury.

“Alaina Coates is really coming along and she has been a pleasant surprise to a lot of people,” Stocks said. “We knew she could do it, but you know what, she’s even surprised us sometimes with the way she develops every day.”

Coates, largely facing  WNBA All-Star Tina Charles during the Liberty game, finished with eight points on 4-4 shooting.

The Sky rookies play a vital role in the second-year rebuild. There is playoff-caliber talent here: whether they are still playing in the postseason comes down to how quickly their youngest players make the transition to the pro game.

The Sky and their crew of rookies will look to build on their 2-0 start when they host the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday, May 23rd at 12pm ET.