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Sky's unheralded but all-important rookie

The Chicago Sky are one game out of first place in the Eastern Conference. And while Elena Delle Donne has been the focal point, deservedly so, there's an unheralded rookie who is playing a major role in the Sky's success.

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

With the first half of the WNBA season in the books, the MVP level play of Elena Delle Donne has been one of the biggest stories of the 2015 season. With the absence of Sylvia Fowles Chicago was a question mark heading into the season. How do you make up for 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game?

By committee is how.

Delle Donne has not only upped her scoring average by nearly 7 points from last season; her rebounding has improved by six caroms a game, and she's blocking one more shot per contest.

One thing that Delle Donne is not doing is guarding the opposing teams best post player. That assignment has been given to Brazilian rookie, Clarissa Dos Santos. The play of Dos Santos has been the second biggest story of the Chicago Sky's season.

At just 6'1", 196 lbs. Dos Santos is overmatched every night in the post, but what she lacks in height, she makes up for in energy and strength. Chicago Sky defensive guru Christie Sides and head coach Pokey Chatman have both called Dos Santos "the strongest player they've ever seen" which says a lot.

"She's a 27-year old rookie who played on the national team, so she has some experience under the lights," Sky Coach Pokey Chatman said of Dos Santos. "She's a brute, you forget her height because she's strong. On top of that she can put some points on the board and get some rebounds."

In just 16 minutes per game, Clarissa Dos Santos is averaging 5.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. She also leads the Sky in field goal percentage, shooting 53% from the floor. Due to her aggressiveness she has a propensity to foul, but that's okay. She's still learning the league.

Many pundits wrote the Sky off at the start of the season citing the loss of Fowles as being too much to overcome. Here they sit at the halfway point at 11-6, second best in the Eastern Conference and third-best in the entire league. While Delle Donne deserves most of the credit for Chicago's success, it's the dirty work of Dos Santos that makes life easier for the frontrunner for MVP. The Chicago Sky may have found their new defensive anchor in the most unlikely of people -- Clarissa Dos Santos.

Swish Appeal: I saw you getting ready for the game earlier and you were singing. What were you listening to?

Clarissa Dos Santos: [Laughs] It was Brazilian gospel music.

SA: Is it easy for you to communicate with your teammates on the court?

CDS: Now would be better. I come to here my first time and everything is so new. My teammates have so much patience with me on the court to understand the system. It helps me so much. I don't feel so lost. Sometimes somebody will call and explain me some things. I think it's great.

SA: How long have you been speaking English?

CDS: I learned English maybe four years ago a little bit. I have a friend who is an American player but she played in Brazil. The first time she goes there four years ago I couldn't say "hi," I couldn't say nothing. She started talking to me, and I couldn't understand her. I would look in her face like, "What are you talking about?" I started listen more and started talking some things. My English no perfect but now I can understand a little bit better and talking better, too.

SA: Why'd you decide to come to America and play in Chicago?

CDS: I have this opportunity for come here and this one best on God. Everything in my life I think God give me, and he make me do, and everything I do is to him. Coming here for me is so great because it's the best basketball in the world. I come here and learn so much, and I give my best every day.

SA: What did Pokey tell you she needs from you every day?

CDS: I think I'm a post player you know? I do how a center (does) - box out, get some rebounds, that's good. I can do everything a little bit. I'm working and thinking I need to just do my best. She tell me something new every day. I try to learn it and give it my maximum best.

SA: What part of your game are you working on?

CDS: I'm working everything. I think everything is an opportunity for be better. We have a lot of guys with us every day for make us be better. Everything can be better if you put some energy there. I say, "God, please help me and show me what I need to do," and he help me so much I can do what I like to do.

SA: Are you teaching your teammates Portuguese?

CDS: Yeah, some words like "obrigada," and "oi." Some words they're learning but a little bit difficult, you know? It's just me who speaks Portuguese. T[amera Young], she play in Brazil, and I see her every day and say, "Entao tudo bem?" like, "How are you?" We have fun every day.

SA: What's the difference in playing in Brazil and playing in the WNBA?

CDS: The system's different. Here you have a lot of games in short days. Have travel days one day; next week you have travel, and six games. I like it. It's different, but I like it.