'The best version of me': Why being wanted in Chicago means the world to Sky guard Chennedy Carter

May 14, 2024, was a difficult day in the WNBA. It was roster cut day, where 12 teams with 12 roster spots needed to make difficult decisions.

On that day, Chennedy Carter cried.

Only this time, her story wasn't taking a tragic turn. This time, she was told what she had been hoping to hear.

The Chicago Sky wanted her. First-year head coach Teresa Weatherspoon told this to Carter in her office. It was a long time coming for Carter.

"I'm finally somewhere where somebody wants me and they'll put me in the best position and it made me feel amazing," Carter told FOX 32 on Tuesday. "I literally cried when she told me I made the team. I cried for sure."

Carter has endured a difficult path to being the Sky's sixth-woman, a role that's different for Carter but one she's excelling at all the same averaging 10.2 points per game through five games and playing as an elite finisher at the rim.

That path included taking the 2023 season away from the WNBA. She wanted to watch and study the league. 

She also needed to heal from some of the struggles she experienced playing for two teams in three years.

"It was just necessary just because all of the things that I had dealt with." Carter said. "I had injuries, then I had some things like that set me down and just kind of some stumps in the road. So I just had to get over those. And I just needed a little break, man. I just need to take some time away from the game and actually be a spectator."

Since entering the league in 2020, Carter has been traded and waived. Carter was the fourth-overall selection in the 2020 WNBA Draft after a stellar college career at Texas A&M. She starred in her rookie year in Atlanta, averaging over 17 points per game for the Dream.

In Atlanta, Carter was suspended in July during the 2021 season, her second year in the league, for what the Dream described as "conduct detrimental to the team." She didn't play for Atlanta again. 

After two seasons in Atlanta, Carter was traded to Los Angeles. It made sense after the Dream changed ownership and team leadership. Sending Carter to Los Angeles offered more than just a fresh start.

Carter's nickname is "Hollywood," the Sparks had then-head coach Derek Fisher and the Sparks were gearing up for a run after Candace Parker's departure with Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Liz Cambage, Jordin Canada, Kristi Toliver and Carter.

It was the beginning of a difficult year for Carter.

Carter played in 24 games that year, starting just two, and averaged just over eight points per game. She wanted to know why the team wasn't using her in ways that could help the team win.

"The biggest roadblock for me was Los Angeles," Carter said. "Trading for me, a player who was drafted, a player who nobody can stay in front of, a player that is as quick as me, not playing me, not utilizing me, not saying why you didn't do any of it. That was one of the biggest things to me. That just was like, all right, like it's not even making sense."

The 2022 season was a disaster for Los Angeles as a whole. Fisher was fired on June 7, Cambage was waived on July 26 and the team finished with a 13–23 record. Even during the turmoil, Carter didn't see a change in her playing time. That made her wonder why.

It wasn't just Carter asking why. Fans were asking why she wasn't playing. Then, the media started asking, too.

It was enough to make Carter decide to take time away from the WNBA. She wanted to get away from a situation that was not healthy for her.

"The media's asking questions," Carter said. "Why are you not playing Chennedy Carter? What's going on? Nothing's being answered. So for me, personally, I want to get away from people that A. Don't wanna play with me, B. don't know me and C. don't want to take the time to get to know me."

Carter played just one season in Los Angeles. The team waived her after hiring Curt Miller as its head coach, and she took a year off. 

Los Angeles is a different team now than it was in 2022. Carter said she doesn't have any ill will towards the franchise, but it differs from how she feels about the Atlanta Dream.

It'll be on her mind as the Sparks come to Wintrust Arena on Thursday evening.

"I have a special place for Atlanta in my heart. They drafted me, so I'll always love Atlanta," Carter said. "I don't have any feelings towards L.A. When I see you, I see you straight."

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 15: Chennedy Carter #7 of the Chicago Sky brings the ball up court against the Dallas Wings at the College Park Center on May 15, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Once she was waived by the Sparks, Carter took her year off.

It was needed. She learned plenty about the league by just studying players from afar.

It was also a struggle. Carter wanted to play and didn't want to let down her fans. But, she stayed ready from afar.

"The way my body is self set up, I cannot not do anything," Carter said. "I can't just sit on my butt, my muscles, I jump out of the gym. I'm a guard that is grabbing rim at 5-9 so I have to always make sure that my body is intact, taking care of my body, recovery, things like that. So that was one of the main reasons why it was hard for me to stay away because I wanted to come back ready."

Carter said she turned down opportunities to play in 2023 to take her break. She needed to wait for the right opportunity.

That opportunity came with the Sky.

This year, Carter is usually the first player off the bench for Chicago. She's a force in transition for a team that's atop the WNBA with 15.3 fast break points per game. 

Carter plays fast and is an elite finisher at the rim. She's also endearing herself to the Sky.

"I love that kid," Weatherspoon said. "She's an incredible talent. We're just trying to let the world see what she's about."

It goes beyond the coaching staff, too.

"Her teammates love who she is," Weatherspoon said.

Carter isn't shy to admit the Sky have her playing out of position, but that's okay. Carter is learning different ways she can affect the game and help the Sky win.

It might have been uncomfortable to start, but Carter is learning more about herself. That's another victory in her eyes.

"I'm thankful for (coach Weatherspoon) for putting me somewhere and making me uncomfortable because now I'm seeing what all I bring to the table," Carter said. "It's sure not just scoring."

Carter said she'd tell the rookie Chennedy Carter she's right on time.

The adversity she'd face would be difficult, and it would seem insurmountable at times, but the reality is Carter would eventually find her place in the WNBA.

Finding out her true potential after that is what's next.

"I feel like you're going to get the best version of me," Carter said.


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