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Interview: Stefanie Dolson talks NCAAW Final Four, overseas play and the Sky’s 2019 outlook

The Chicago Sky center and Captain Morgan Pose-Off semifinalist gave her thoughts on the NCAAW Final Four, the differences between overseas basketball and the WNBA and what the Sky want to do this season.

Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson competed in the Captain Morgan Pose-Off Challenge on March 29, 2019.
Captain Morgan Pose-Off Challenge Photo

Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson is a two-time WNBA All-Star entering the prime of her professional career. She is also just as competitive off the court as she is on it.

On March 29, Dolson was one of eight current or former basketball players and analysts in the Captain Morgan Pose-Off Challenge. She went against ESPN’s Joe Lunardi for a fan vote in the first round and defeated Lunardi. Dolson moves on to the semifinals, which start April 7 in Minneapolis — the site of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

In the semis, Dolson poses off against Rachel DeMita. A prior host of NBA 2KTV show for four years, DeMita also played a year of college basketball at Old Dominion.

In an April 1 interview with Swish Appeal, Dolson said that competition and fan involvement are why she wanted to be in the pose-off challenge.

“It’s always fun, and there’s different, creative ways to be a part of March Madness and that feeling of being in a competition,” Dolson said. “It just gave me a great opportunity to be in a bracket challenge again, and for people to have fun, voting for their favorite pictures and poses.”

The interview with Dolson also touched on several topics ranging from the NCAA Women’s Final Four to her playing experience overseas and goals with the Sky this season.

Dolson happy UConn is back in the Final Four, correctly predicted two Elite Eight matches

Baylor, UConn, Oregon and Notre Dame are this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four teams. At the time of the interview on April 1, two of the Elite Eight games were yet to be played: Notre Dame was due to play Stanford and Baylor was set to play Iowa later that evening.

Dolson gave her prediction on both games, and was spot on. For the Notre Dame versus Stanford game, the center known to her friends as Big Mama Stef predicted the Irish would return to the Final Four.

“Arike Ogunbowale just is a gamer,” said Dolson. “She just lives for those big moments, as everyone saw last year. They want nothing less to make it to the Final Four, and then to win the championship.”

The Irish went on to win its Elite Eight matchup over Stanford, 84-68, with Ogunbowale scoring 21 points for Notre Dame.

For the Baylor versus Iowa game, Dolson said, “I think Baylor will pull it out because they have two bigs in Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox. I just think they have an all-around better team and are more a threat.”

The Lady Bears won in a blowout over the Hawkeyes, 85-53.

In addition, Dolson also gave her reactions to Oregon and UConn making the Final Four. She was impressed with Sabrina Ionescu’s 31-point performance in the Ducks’ 88-84 win over Mississippi State on Sunday.

“I’m a huge fan of Sabrina,” she said. “I got to play with her at USA Basketball’s training camp last year. She’s just such a good, young talent and I’m really excited to see [the Ducks] play the Final Four.”

Finally, Dolson, a former UConn star from 2010-14, was very happy to see that the Huskies returned to the Final Four with their 80-73 win over Louisville on Sunday. “I’m really happy and proud of UConn for pulling it out because they deserve to get to the Final Four. No one believed in them and thought that they wouldn’t make it to the Final Four again except, of course, family and fans.”

Basketball is more physical, faster overseas than in the WNBA

Dolson has played for several teams overseas, in Europe and China. Most recently, she played for the Henan Phoenix where she averaged 20 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in the 2018-19 season.

The game in Europe and China is often more physical than in the WNBA, Dolson says.

“Overseas referees don’t often look out for Americans, or the foreigners, when it comes to being in their country, so we get beat up a lot,” she said. “Though we don’t get calls our way, [the refs] also let us be physical [more] too.”

The pace of play in the Chinese WCBA and Europe also tends to be quicker and the crowds tend to be rowdier abroad — in Europe, especially.

“The pace is just nonstop and you have all these fans around with fog horns, making all kinds of noise,” Dolson said. “It creates this frantic type of game, which is the same in China.”

Dolson believes the Sky can make the 2019 WNBA Playoffs

Finally, Dolson was excited about the Sky’s outlook coming into the 2019 season. Chicago missed the playoffs in 2017 and 2018. But the teams is bringing back its longtime veteran All-Star backcourt of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley as well as 2018 rookies Gabby Williams and Diamond DeShields.

Dolson, meanwhile, is part of a younger veteran group which includes Kahleah Copper and Cheyenne Parker.

When asked what could have improved in the last couple of years, Dolson replied:

We all just need to get on the same page. I think that last year we all doubted things. I want us all to trust each other.

One of the key figures who will lead the charge is new head coach and general manager James Wade. Dolson hasn’t met Wade in person yet; Wade has been coaching abroad as an assistant coach for UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian PBL and EuroLeague Women. But Dolson she has kept in contact with him.

“I think that he will do an amazing job and I believe in everything that he’s saying,” Dolson said, of Wade’s arrival.