ROSEMONT, IL - Over the past two seasons, Chicago has been led by reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne and uber-efficient point guard Courtney Vandersloot. This year, however, forward Tamera Young has joined the starting lineup and given the Sky another all-around player to rely on.
Tonight, Young grabbed her 1,000th rebound of her career and contributed a game-high 24 points, four rebounds, four assists and one steal in the Sky’s 92-88 win over the Seattle Storm.
“At the end of the day, there’s a reason these two people are sitting here,” head coach Pokey Chapman said in reference to Delle Donne and Young during the postgame press conference. “It’s their ability to play at a high level for extended minutes. And to remain fresh and relevant, we need that moving into these next few games.”
Delle Donne played over 35 minutes tonight, while Young played a team-high 37 minutes.
The 6-foot-2 Young started her first game of the season on June 17th in a loss to the Atlanta Dream. Her addition to the starting lineup, though, has been a welcome one.
Young is an aggressive player who scraps for rebounds and thrives in an offense that caters to her desire to push the ball in transition.
“Those are shots [Tamera] practices everyday,” Chapman said. “The baseline jumper, the one dribble pull-up. I felt like I was watching her workout… that’s how open and focused she was.”
Young is the all-time leader in games played for the Sky, and the versatility she brings to this team is unquestioned.
The sleek shooting forward is averaging 7.2 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game this season for a team hoping to rebound from last year's disappointing defeat in the first round of the playoffs.
Young played her best game of the season and helped hold off a late Seattle run by grabbing a crucial rebound at the end of the game to ensure the Sky win.
The nine-year veteran gives Delle Donne a backcourt-mate that’s capable of doing-it-all: shoot, rebound, defend and run the floor.
“She’s not only versatile offensively but defensively as well,” Delle Donne said. “We always ask her to do the toughest tasks on defense. Tonight, it was fun to watch her because it felt like nobody could keep her in front of them.”
After a loose ball turnover by the Sky, Seattle’s Sue Bird began to push the ball in what seemed like an easy fastbreak score, until Young came running from behind to swipe the ball out of her hand.
“I think I bring that defensive effort every game,” Young said. “That’s one of my biggest roles here, and I love to do it. It’s the energy, and I don’t think it was just tonight, it's something I bring every game.”
Young has the ability to guard all five positions on the court as well. Throughout the game she spent time defending Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, who’s 6-foot-4, and even, the aforementioned Bird who stands at 5-foot-9.
Seattle was able to keep pace with the Sky for much of the first half. Yet the Sky, were able to jump out to a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter, before letting the Storm get within two points and nearly pulling off the comeback.
Currently, Chicago is grinding for each and every win for a higher seed in the playoffs.
Moving forward, they’ll depend on Young’s versatility, in hopes of having more success in the playoffs than in years past.