Rebekah Gardner’s hard work came into fruition on Aug. 25, after being named to the 2022 WNBA All-Rookie Team.
From ranking fifth in rookie scoring to second in rookie steals, the Chicago Sky guard has proven her worth in the league throughout the duration of the regular-season.
Gardner said it was the belief in herself that ultimately allowed her to contribute to the Sky in a big way.
“The team is already great, so I really look to bring in the spark and extra boost when I sub in,” Gardner said. “[My confidence] comes with knowing what I can bring, knowing what I can do and then doing it well.”
But her first-year in the WNBA didn’t come easy.
The Chicago Sky guard joined the league after a decade of experience playing overseas. After going undrafted in the 2012 WNBA draft, Gardner built her professional basketball career in Spain, Israel, Turkey and Romania — until Chicago Sky Head Coach James Wade gave her an opportunity to compete in the states.
The championship-winning team previously had seven free agents during the offseason and no draft picks for the upcoming year, so Wade said he “scoured the universe” to only discover that Gardner would be someone that would benefit the roster and compliment the core players that were already on the Sky.
“She’s come in and done something I don’t think any other rookie has ever come in to do,” Wade said. “She’s come in after 10 years of never playing in the league, playing like a vet and being a valuable piece to a No. 1 team.”
Gardner has put up big numbers during her first year in the WNBA, averaging 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 21.7 minutes of playing time per game during the regular-season. She most recently tallied a career-high of four steals and three blocks against the New York Liberty and recorded a double-double of a career-high 18 points and 10 rebounds early last month in Los Angeles.
“She’s impacted us in great ways offensively with her ability to move without the ball, her ability to play-make for her teammates and her ability to knock down shots, while also impacting the ball defensively,” Wade said.
But without her love for basketball, her dream of playing in the league might have not turned into a reality.
“My passion for the game just kept me going,” Gardner said. “There were times where I didn’t think that I would make it to the WNBA, but because I love the game so much, I set other goals for myself overseas, and by setting those goals, it helped me get to [the WNBA].”
Her passion and willingness to succeed was apparent when she made her first WNBA appearance in May. After being state-side for only four days and participating in just two practices with the Sky, Gardner recorded double-figures for the Sky and made the starting line-up during her debut against the New York Liberty.
“Since the first game, we saw that this wasn’t a lucky performance [for Rebekah], this is who she is,” Wade said.
Gardner’s journey has been anything but ordinary and she hopes it inspires others to continue pushing toward their aspirations.
“When I’m out there playing, it’s not only for myself, but it’s to help those people who were in the same situation as me, “ Gardner said. “[My journey] is a reminder to just stay ready, because you never know who’s watching.”
With the 2022 WNBA season coming to a close, Wade is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Gardner’s career in the league and how she can impact others along the way.
“I’m excited about her becoming a household name,” Wade said. “If someone is discouraged about not making the league, and not making the league again, and not making the league again, she’s their measuring stick, she gives them hope.”