Wings' Satou Sabally named WNBA's Most Improved Player

Satou Sabally told Dallas Wings coach Latricia Trammel this past offseason that after a tumultuous previous two years in the league, she wanted 2023 to be her season.

This week has further solidified a fulfillment of that goal: Two days after Sabally helped the Wings win their first playoff series since the franchise's relocation to Dallas, she was named the WNBA Most Improved Player on Thursday.

Sabally earned 37 of 60 votes from a national collection of sportswriters and broadcasters, while the Los Angeles Sparks' Jordin Canada garnered 18.

The 6-foot-4 forward, who grew up in Gambia and Germany before coming to the United States to attend college at Oregon, has averaged career highs across the board in 18.6 points (on 43.5% shooting), 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game, while compiling 14 double-doubles, fifth-best in the league, and recording the Wings' first triple-double. Her 3-point shooting improved from 23.3% last year to 36.1% this season.

The former Oregon star and No. 2 overall pick from 2020 earned her second All-Star Game bid in July, when she was named a first-time starter.

After being hindered by various injuries over the previous two seasons, Sabally spent the offseason changing her physical and mental approach to the game. She delayed her overseas season with Turkish club Fenerbahce and even took a break from basketball before delving into work with renowned trainer Susan King Borchardt, who helped her figure out how she best recovers.

"This is my career, this is my money, this is my life now, so I really need to take care of myself," Sabally told ESPN about her mindset shift. "I saw the seriousness of it, and it's showing."

Sabally's emergence has been key to the Wings finishing as a top-four seed in the regular season and their semifinals run.

"We're not in this position we are right now without her. She has been the glue for this team," Trammell told ESPN before the playoffs. "I could coach her the rest of my career. She's just that type of player."

Regardless of how the postseason pans out, Sabally has not just lived up to her billing as a lottery pick, but at 25 has shown she's capable of being, if not having already arrived as, one of the league's very best. She is expected to receive votes on MVP ballots as well.

"I feel like I'm slowly stepping into a circle of greatness that I've always wanted to be in," she told ESPN, "but I think I'm now setting the foundation for my legacy in the pros."

Sabally and the Wings are back in action Sunday at 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2) when they take on the defending champion Las Vegas Aces in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series.