Morgan Bertsch capitalizing on opportunity first WNBA season with Sky

Chicago Sky forward Morgan Bertsch, the only player ever drafted from the UC Davis Aggies, found a home four years after being drafted into the WNBA.

Bertsch, UC Davis’s all-time leading scorer in both men’s and women’s basketball, continues to translate her college success over to the professional level in her rookie season as a key contributor during the Sky’s playoff push.

“I’m really thankful every day that I’m here and I am proud of myself that I got to this point,” Bertsch said. “Now it’s just trying to take advantage of the moment and enjoy every second that I’m here.”

Bertsch had a standout college career with UC Davis and continued to grow her game during her four years of play. In Bertsch’s redshirt freshman season with the Aggies, she averaged 13.9 points per game on 58.2% shooting from the field.

By the time her final year at UC Davis came around, Bertsch was the team’s leading scorer with 23.6 points per game, shooting 49.5% from the floor and 47.9% from behind the arc. She took 48 three-point attempts in her senior season, 37 more than in her first three college seasons combined.

Now the school’s all-time leading scorer, Bertsch’s increased production from the three-point line put her on WNBA draft radars as a stretch four prospect. The Dallas Wings ultimately drafted her in the third round of the 2019 WNBA Draft.

“[Three-point shooting] was just the next step in my game,” Bertsch said. “I had always had kind of a midrange, but that next step was developing that three, so I definitely worked on that the summer going into my senior year (at UC Davis). Ever since I’ve gotten out of college, I’ve just been trying my hardest to be as versatile as possible because it’s significantly harder for people to guard a scorer at every level.”

After being drafted by Dallas, Bertsch fell short of making the opening-day roster with the Wings. Bertsch got three more training camp opportunities in the following years, from Dallas in 2020 and 2022 and from the Connecticut Sun in 2021, but fell short on making final rosters.

Each year, Bertsch returned overseas to work on her overall game. During the 2022-23 season playing with Belgium’s Kangoeroes Basket Mechelen in EuroLeague, Bertsch averaged 17.3 points per game, shooting 36.7% from the three-point line.

At long last, Bertsch’s perseverance paid off. Her continual growth overseas caught the attention of the Chicago Sky and the 2021 WNBA Champions signed her to a training camp contract in April 2023.

“You definitely have to have a lot of perseverance trying to get into the ‘W,” Bertsch said. “It’s one of the hardest leagues to break into in the world, so you have to have a bounce-back mentality because you’re going to hit adversity every step of the way, and the way you respond to that dictates if you’ll be successful or not.”

The UC Davis alum is capitalizing on every opportunity and began showing what she can do right away.

In her first preseason game against the team that drafted her, Bertsch showed just what she can do in the league. In just eight minutes in her first preseason game of the season, Bertsch ended up recording nine points and three rebounds, shooting 80.0% from the floor and hitting her only three-point attempt of the game. Bertsch averaged 9.3 points per game during the preseason.

After a standout preseason showing for Chicago, Bertsch was named to the Sky’s opening day roster.

Bertsch immediately received a major role with the Sky in her first game in the league. An opening-day starter, Bertschscored six points, grabbed two rebounds, dished four assists and swatted away two shots in the 77-66 win against the Minnesota Lynx.

Unfortunately, Bertsch exited early on May 26 against the Washington Mystics, playing just 13 minutes after suffering an ankle injury. Bertsch missed three weeks before her next appearance.

Since her injury, Bertsch’s minutes are down — she’s averaging 13.3 minutes per game compared to 22.0 before missing time. Still, Bertsch brings a lift off the Sky’s bench, scoring 4.5 points per game on the season, shooting 45.8% from the floor and 44.1% from downtown this year.

Her ability to hit big time shots from beyond the arc gives her a similar offensive profile to Alanna Smith, who stretches the floor for the Sky. Smith missed a pivotal game on Aug. 29 against the Los Angeles Sparks, the Sky’s direct competition for a playoff spot, but Bertsch filled in. In that game, Bertsch scored the second-most points in a game in her career with 12. She hit two major threes in the first half.

“I think, coming into the W, that’s something I feel like I can contribute on this team, so it’s something I’ve been focusing on a lot more,” Bertsch said. “Just being ready to catch and shoot because when that opportunity comes, I need to be able to hit that for the team.”

Even when her minutes fluctuate, Bertsch continues to be an integral part of the Sky’s bench rotation, more than ever with Ruthy Hebard, Isabelle Harrison and Rebekah Gardner on the sideline at points during the season.

With playoff contention still up for grabs for Chicago, Bertsch is looking to be a valuable playoff contributor in whatever role that may be. Regardless, Bertsch is appreciative of her time in Chicago.

“It’s really amazing,” Bertsch said. “I’ve been working for a couple of years to try and get to this point, so to finally have succeeded and to get to be on this team and get some time on the floor has been really special. Such a unique opportunity that not that many people in the world get to experience.”