In March, Chicago Sky All-Star center Sylvia Fowles underwent arthroscopic surgery of the hip to repair a torn labrum and impingement. The surgery will most likely keep Fowles sidelined for the first month of the WNBA season. Back up center Carolyn Swords also reinjured her knee in the offseason that was initially injured last July causing her to miss half of the season. Swords was waived by the Sky just a few days before the 2014 WNBA Draft.
So Chicago Sky Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman entered the draft looking for a post player to hold down the fort until Fowles returned. With the 10th overall pick the Sky selected North Carolina State center Markeisha Gatling.
Gatling is an efficient scorer who put up 17.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a game in her senior season at NC State. The 6'5" center had the highest field goal percentage in the nation (66.3%), and is the most accurate scorer in NC State women's basketball history (62.8%). Gatling's size and scoring ability in the paint will make life easy for her teammates and open up the floor for Chicago's shooters, namely Elena Delle Donne.
Swish Appeal spoke Markeisha Gatling about being drafted by the Sky, learning under Sylvia Fowles, and her goals for her first season in the WNBA.
SwIsh Appeal: How has training camp been so far?
Markeisha Gatling: It's good, man. It's exciting. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd be in a WNBA training camp all the way in Chicago, but it's fun.
SA: Did you have any idea on draft night that you might be picked by Chicago?
MG: Like the whole night starting at 8 o'clock my coach was sitting beside me and he said, "You're going to go seventh, eighth, ninth, or tenth." The seven pick came and I didn't get it, the ninth pick came and I didn't get it and he was like, "You're going to Chicago," and I was like, "Alright, we'll see," and that's what happened.
SA: How did it feel to have your name finally called?
MG: I can't even describe it. I feel like I went blank because I don't even remember walking up on the podium to take the picture. It was exciting. I was happy.
SA: Have you been picking up any pointers from Big Syl?
MG: She be getting on me every day. She always pulls me to the side after every drill we do to tell me something new. She's been a great role model for me since I've been here.
SA: There's talk about playing you and her together. How do you feel about the idea of two 6'5' post players out there at the same time?
MG: That'd be great, honestly. We got me, Syl, Delle Donne, and T. Young, that'll be a big lineup.
SA: Has Coach Chatman told you what she needs from you on the floor?
MG: Not too much. She hasn't said too much but she's a very good coach.
SA: What part of your game do you feel needs the most work?
MG: My defense [laughs]. In college every now and then you have a couple of post players that you really didn't have to guard like that, but being in the WNBA everybody can step out and shoot the three or shoot the jump shot. So help side defense being that the lane is wider and you can't stand in the lane, stuff like that I have to get accustomed to.
SA: Why'd you pick the number 9?
MG: This is Lisa Leslie's number and she was my role model. I got picked tenth so nine teams skipped over me.
SA: What do you bring to the Chicago Sky?
MG: Rebounding, scoring a little bit - whenever they need a bucket, getting those cheap little points in, getting people open, stuff like that.
SA: Who has impressed you the most so far in practice?
MG: Elena Delle Donne.
SA: She's bad, right?
MG: Yeah, she's real nice. I'll give it to her, she's good.
SA: [Laughs] She's a little bit more than good.
MG: Yeah, she's good, she's great.
SA: What are your goals for your rookie season?
MG: Everybody keeps asking me that but I haven't thought too much about it. Eventually I want to be known as one of the best post players along with Sylvia in the WNBA and just trying to help my team whenever they need me.