Kahleah Copper is in the midst of a breakout season for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and she’s not surprised one bit. Neither are her head coach or teammates.
Copper, a Philadelphia native and Prep Charter graduate, is playing a career-high 30 minutes this season. Her playing time has more than doubled, and so has her scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
For the first time in five seasons, Cooper is a full-time starter. Her success isn’t because of a drastic change to her practice routine.
“I think the key for me is trusting the process, staying confident, staying ready,” Copper said. “Opportunity came this year, and it’s just important for me to be ready, and I was ready.”
Through 15 games, Copper is averaging 15.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. She’s doing it efficiently, too, shooting 50.6% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
Copper’s shooting numbers have jumped significantly. Last season, she shot 38.7%. No major mechanical adjustments were made. Instead, her success was because of the opportunity.
“I’ve been really efficient, but I know I can be much more efficient,” Copper said. “I’m shooting over 50% now, but I can get it to at least 53, 55%.”
Copper’s improvements have been a major reason why the Sky have turned into a championship contender. Two years ago, they missed the playoffs. Now, they have the fifth-best record in the WNBA at 10-5.
Head coach James Wade was hired last season. In his first season, the Sky made the postseason after missing it the previous two seasons. The Sky are right back in the hunt again.
This time, it’s with 2019 All-Star Diamond DeShields being limited with injuries, and center Jantel Lavender out for the season. Most coaches may have been concerned, but Wade knew what he had in Copper.
“We knew that she deserved the opportunity. We knew that she wanted the opportunity, and I told her in the offseason that we would give her the opportunity,” Wade said. “I said it all along that I felt like we had three all-star wing players with her, Diamond and Allie [Quigley].”
Count Lavender as one of Copper’s biggest fans. Lavender is out for the season after having surgery on her left foot in June. She’s not inside the bubble, but she’s constantly contacting Copper with tips and feedback.
“I always send motivational things to her because her potential is endless with the talent that she possesses,” Lavender said.
Being in the bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., can impact players mentally, but Copper is making the most of it. When she’s off the court, she usually goes to her room, watches NBA games, cartoons, or jams to some old-school R&B.
If you’re going to be stuck somewhere, most people would want it to be with people they can have fun with. In the case of the Sky, that seems to be true. One look at the bench during the games, and you’ll see a highly energetic squad.
“That makes it a thousand times easier,” Cooper said. “We just hang out with each other a lot and it makes it a lot easier to be here away from your family, away from your friends.”
Copper makes it known that she’s from Philly. She carries that pride and mentality with her everywhere. Ask her, and she’ll tell you that Philly basketball players are “just different.” Just like the Eagles did on their way to winning the Super Bowl in 2018, Copper is playing Meek Mill’s Dream and Nightmares before every game.
Philly is known for its edginess, among other things. When Lavender described Copper, it sounded just like a Philly basketball player.