Let’s take a trip around the WNBA, where six local imprints play across the league even though the team closest to Philly is the New York Liberty.
The group is made up of two current All-Stars, a seven-time All-Star selection, and a two-time MVP. The WNBA playoffs will begin Sept. 23, so teams are entering the stretch run, where the stars shine the brightest. Some of them just happen to be from Philly, South Jersey and Delaware, or attended a Big 5 school.
Here’s an update on recent performances and outlooks for local WNBA players.
Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky
Chicago just finished one of the toughest stretches on its schedule. The Sky went 3-2 on a five-game road trip featuring matchups against the top three teams in the Western Conference.
Copper was a big part of the Sky success on that road trip and this season. The North Philly native and Prep Charter graduate averaged 17.8 points over the stretch. Her best performance came just hours before her 27th birthday. Copper slashed to the basket, knocked down big shots, and took over late against the Seattle Storm. She scored a season-high 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
The Sky are the No. 2 seed in the East and have a starting lineup that can rival the best in the league. Copper’s emergence is a big reason for that.
Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Did you forget about Elena Delle Donne? Pre-injury, she had a strong argument for being the best player in the world after winning a WNBA title and earning MVP honors with two different teams.
And in that 2019 WNBA Finals win she played through three herniated discs that required offseason surgery. Between back surgeries and her noted chronic Lyme disease, it’s been almost two seasons since Delle Donne suited up.
The Delaware native returned Aug. 22 against Seattle and scored 16 points in 22 minutes, 27 seconds. She played two more games, but the back woes flared back up, and the Mystics are playing it safe.
Delle Donne isn’t expected to travel on a road trip to Minnesota and Seattle. The Mystics are fourth in the East and have six games remaining.
Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics
Natasha Cloud sat out last season to focus on social injustices and returned to a team much different from the 2019 championship version.
In some ways, the St. Joe’s product’s role has changed. She’s averaging a career high 6.7 assists.
Known for her passion and intensity — especially on defense — Cloud had her signature performance last Saturday against the Dallas Wings, when she scored a season-high 21 points and added five assists.
Every Mystics win is magnified during this playoff push, especially with Delle Donne and Tina Charles fighting injuries.
Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty
It’s been a breakout year for the first-time All-Star. Laney may have found a home on her fifth team in sixseasons.
Laney is averaging 17.2 points and 5.0 assists. The Smyrna, Del., native is the daughter of a Philly basketball legend, Yolanda Laney, and now she’s creating her own path to greatness.
Along with former No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu, Laney figures to be a major part of the rebuilding in New York. The Liberty occupy the eighth and final playoff spot /in the East.
Candice Dupree, Atlanta Dream
The 16-year WNBA veteran is steadily climbing up the all-time ranks. Dupree is now sixth in rebounds and fourth in scoring in WNBA history. She’s also first in games played.
The Temple alumna signed with the Seattle Storm in the offseason, but she was waived after 16 games.
Dupree later signed with the Atlanta Dream and is averaging 7.8 points. She’s battled a back injury and hasn’t played since Aug. 21 because of a back injury, but a return is near.
Shey Peddy, Phoenix Mercury
Peddy burst onto the scene last year with one of the biggest shots of the season. The Temple product plays behind All-Stars Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi, so there aren’t too many minutes to go around, but she’s been a consistent option off the bench.
Peddy scored 11 points and shot 3-for-6 from three in Phoenix’s win Tuesday against the Sky. It was a big-time performance, considering the Sky are right on the Mercury’s heels for playoff positioning.