Q&A: Chicago Sky coach James Wade on former Wildcat Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah goes up for a shot. The former Wildcat forward spent three days at training camp with the Chicago Sky this month.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Earlier this month, Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah took the first step on the path to playing professionally, scoring an invite to training camp with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s tenure with the Sky was short-lived — she was cut three days into camp — but The Daily spoke with James Wade, the Sky’s head coach and general manager, about what the soon-to-be Northwestern graduate showed and whether or not she has a chance to play in the league this year.

This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

The Daily: Why did you bring her into camp?

Wade: While she was here, she was the most athletic player in the gym. I was pleased with her attitude, I loved her three days that I had her. But it just was a problem with numbers and having more experienced players. She just needs time.

The Daily: What did you see from Pallas when she was here?

Wade: I saw who a player who I think has the tools. She needs more experience, but she’s very athletic, a willing learner and she had great energy when she was here. And I told her that we’ll keep up with her, because I don’t think this is the end of her coming into WNBA training camps.

The Daily: Did any play she made any time in practice stand out?

Wade: We were doing a drill and she was supposed to run a play, but I told her that she needed to always be in triple-threat and ready to attack. She caught the ball at the 3-point line, and our post player was guarding her, and she was so explosive to the rim that she ended up laying it up and everybody was still in the same place, but she was at the rim. She was that quick off the first step, so that was impressive.

The Daily: How did Pallas look defensively?

Wade: It’s just about execution. It’s hard to defend on this level because there’s so many rules that coincide with the speed of the game, so you have to be able to do things faster. That’s one thing I think she’s not used to and will probably take her a little time.

The Daily: What can she do between now and the end of the season to be a midseason pickup somewhere?

Wade: She can stay in shape and continue to watch the games and get ready to play overseas. But for her to be a midseason pickup, she has to stay in shape. And she has to work on her jump shot. I told her that. Because she’s someone who has one of the quickest first steps that I’ve seen, and if she had deeper shot credibility, it’d be something that could make her even better.

The Daily: Did Northwestern prepare her well for the WNBA?

Wade: Yeah. I could say I was pleasantly surprised with how well she took things, how well she was able to get to the next play. I know the coaching staff, and they did a great job.

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Twitter: @2021_Charlie