Wings' Satou Sabally named to WNBA All-Rookie team

"I have fulfilled my dream to play in the WNBA and I don’t take it for granted."

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Satou Sabally #0 of the Dallas Wings handles the ball against the New York Liberty on July 29, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center inPalmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Early in the season, Dallas Wings rookie Satou Sabally felt like she was in a bit of a playing slump.

Then she talked to mentor and NBA great, fellow German Dirk Nowitzki.

“I was talking to Dirk and he told me to just be aggressive and try to get every rebound that I can,” Sabally recalled during a post-game media session. “I  feel like that really freed my mind up to continuously go and get the boards, play aggressive and run the floor hard and that really took my mind off the game being hectic.”

The 6’4 forward - the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA draft - took the advice to heart and dialed up both her energy and aggressiveness.

The result: She ended the season as just the fourth rookie in WNBA history to average at least 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists, joining Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker and Breanna Stewart. 

Among rookies, Sabally ranked first in rebounds and third in scoring. She started 14 of the 16 games she played and led the Wings in all rebounding categories, including defensive rebounds (5.2 rpg) and offensive rebounds (2.6 rpg). She also posted five double-doubles in her rookie season. 

And on Sunday she was named to the 2020 WNBA All-Rookie Team, alongside Minnesota Lynx forward Crystal Dangerfield - the 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year - Indiana Fever guard Julie Allemand, Atlanta Dream guard Chennedy Carter and New York Liberty guard Jazmine Jones.

Saballay, Dangerfield, Allemand and Carter each received the maximum 11 votes from a panel of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches, who each selected five players regardless of position and were not permitted to vote for players on their own team.  Jones received six votes.

“It was an amazing season for women’s sports,” Sabally said from Istanbul where she is preparing to play for the Turkish club Fenerbahçe. “Not only was I surrounded by the greatest female athletes but I was also able to be around like-minded people who stand for more than sports. 

“Playing with Breonna Taylor’s name on my back made every game even more valuable and I did everything I could to say the names of Black female victims of police brutality,” Sabally continued.  “Basketball was played at the highest level and games were a challenge. I’ve learned so much and can’t wait to be back.”

Sabally - who played collegiate ball at Oregon - made a difference off the court this season as well. The WNBA season was dedicated to social justice and a commitment to the #SayHerName initiative and ensuring the names of Black female victims of police brutality were remembered. Sabally was the only rookie named to the league’s Social Justice Council which spearheaded efforts on behalf of the players. Other council members included Layshia Clarendon, Sydney Colson, Breanna Stewart, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and A’ja Wilson.

On the court, Sabally was a key piece of the Wing’s rotation this season, starting 14 of 16 games. She missed several games due to back spasms then landed in concussion protocol after colliding with Seattle Storm star Sue Bird when the two teams played each other. The collision happened in the third quarter of a game where Sabally had already scored 25 points to go along with seven rebounds. It would be her last game as she missed the last two games of the season in protocol.

“Satou had a great rookie season although she missed over one quarter of the season,” Wings Head Coach Brian Agler said. “We found her spot and niche, and in doing so she excelled at  an extremely high level. 

“She has a tremendous future in the WNBA,” Agler continued. “Satou is extremely versatile in her ability to post up, hit 3s , rebound at both ends and distribute the ball. At such a young age she has a plethora of offensive skills.”

Sabally knows her skills, dedication to  the game and commitment to improve will carry her far in this League. And it’s a long ride she’s looking forward to taking.

“I have fulfilled my dream to play in the WNBA and I don’t take it for granted.

“It’s an honor to compete against all-time greats and be a part of a new generation in Dallas that is so talented and will fight for a title shortly.”