NEW YORK — The last time Sky visited the Barclays Center, star Kahlea Copper had a number of fans in the stands.
Family and friends had traveled from North Philadelphia to watch the Copper close out the playoff series he dominated last season. In the three-game series, Copper averaged a team-high 18.6 points and 4.6 rebounds.
The majority of his support group sat behind the Sky bench, cheering from about 15 rows behind. However, unbeknownst to Copper, someone else he knows has valuable advice at the right time.
”I screamed at him from Row 4 (during Game 3 of the series)” Yolanda Laney said. ” I was like: ‘Kah, you have to wake up from them. You have to hedge.' He turned around and was about to say something, and then he saw it was me and said: ‘Coach! I got you, Coach.' He thought it was just fans giving information from the stands.”
Laney is certainly a fan of Copper, but he is far from typical. Beyond Laney's own legacy, which included playing for the historic Cheyney State women's team in 1982, she was coach of the Copper on the AAU circuit in Philadelphia.
“It's just Coach,” said Copper. ”Just correcting. He really cares about the growth of his players. He's not going to be out there letting me screw up.”
Laney was in the stands that day supporting her two daughters, the Liberty's Betnijah Laneyand Copper.
The friendship Betnijah and Copper formed over the years playing for Yolanda has been well documented, particularly when the two were named their first-ever All-Stars in 2021. Something both voiced about their time playing under Yolanda was how well she prepared them. for not only challenges in court but in life.
“It was an amazing experience to learn from someone who is a star in her own right,” Laney said of her mother. “Even though she didn't play professionally in the WNBA, she did overseas. Being able to learn from him is really special.”
Laney and Copper then shared the field at Rutgers together from 2012 to 2015, playing for Hall of Fame coaches. C. Vivian Stringer.
In a 50-year career, Stringer amassed 1,055 wins at Cheyney State (1972-83), Iowa (1983-95) and Rutgers (1995-2022). She led Cheyney State to its first NCAA women's title game in 1982—with Yolanda on the roster—and Iowa to the Final Four in 1993.
Copper and Laney have also had similar professional careers. While Copper was never released – Laney was cut several times, including by Sky – it took the two years to establish themselves as the stars fans see today.
It's no coincidence these two established themselves in the WNBA in similar ways. Stringer has an unparalleled reputation for preparing their players for the professional level, with an alumni list that includes Cappie Pondexter, Epiphanny Prince And Erica Wheeleramong others.
”The biggest thing I've taken from Coach Stringer is the attention to detail on the little things,” said Laney. “They make a big difference in the game and in life.”
The Sky roster took another hit after their match Sunday against Liberty sometime Kristine Anigwe left to join the Great Britain national team for Eurobasket.
General trainer/manager James Wade has been given the WNBA's approval to use the emergency hardship exemption, but she hasn't signed anyone yet. The absence of Anigwe, combined with Morgan Bertch (sprained ankle) is still at least a week away from returning to action, bringing Sky's line-up down to eight available players.