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Candace Parker’s Signing Has Changed The Chicago Narrative

The addition of Candace Parker is incredibly exciting, perhaps even monumental, for the future on-court success of the Chicago Sky. But beyond that, it also symbolizes a significant new era for a franchise that has suffered more than its share of big-name break-ups.

In 2015, Sky center Sylvia Fowles sat out the first half of the season in order to force the Sky’s hand in trading her to the Minnesota Lynx. At that point, the 2008 second overall draft pick was a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and three-time Eastern Conference All-Star. After the Sky finally agreed to her trade in July 2015, Fowles and the Lynx went on to win the WNBA Championship with Fowles earning Finals MVP, adding an extra sting to the sore spot for Sky fans.

Just a couple years later, the Sky endured another heartbreaking departure when superstar Elena Della Donne decided she wanted out of Chicago. Della Donne, the 2013 second overall pick and WNBA Rookie of the Year, carried the torch in the wake of Fowles’ departure, earning league MVP in 2015. But after four seasons with the Sky, she made it clear she would no longer play in the Windy City. Della Donne followed in Fowles’ footsteps by forcing her own trade, in this case to the Washington Mystics, where her family lives nearby.

In addition to Della Donne and Fowles, the Sky have suffered a few other premature departures over the years: Candice Dupree after four seasons, Epiphanny Prince after five seasons, and Kristi Toliver after only a single season.

Needless to say, after Della Donne left in 2017, some changes needed to be made if the Sky were going to right the ship. Hiring James Wade as head coach in 2018, adding key draft picks in Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams, and retaining veteran stars Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, and “Big Mama” Stef Dolson moved the Sky back into playoff contention for the past two seasons. With bench support from Kahleah Cooper, Azurá Stevens, and Ruthy Hebard, the Sky were already on track to be playoff contenders again in 2021.

And now in walks CP. The woman, the myth, the legend. Someone whose proven greatness is even more potent than what was lost in Fowles and Della Donne at the time of their departures.

Candace Parker is a WNBA Champion (2016), two-time league MVP (2008, 2013), Finals MVP (2016), five-time All-Star, and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Oh and by the way, her 2008 league MVP was earned as a ROOKIE. Granted that was thirteen years ago, and as the 34-year-old Parker admits herself, the bulk of her career is behind her. But in 2020’s Wubble season, she shot a career high in 2-point field goal percentage, came in third in league MVP voting, and was awarded Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in her career. She oozes greatness, and that in and of itself will raise the bar in Chicago.

We’ll have to wait and see how she’ll be incorporated into the Sky’s on court system and if it’s enough to push them deep into the playoffs. For one thing, we’re excited to see the 6’4” center use her guard-level ball-handling skills to initiate the offense and give Vandersloot some needed breaks.

The fact Candace Parker chose the Chicago Sky out of many eager admirers does as much for them off the court as it does inside the lines. Her signing has put an end to the era in which Chicago was a place where players didn’t want to play, while also solidifying the franchise’s refreshed, cohesive, Championship-caliber identity.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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