Satou Sabally, one of the WNBA’s brightest young stars, will return to the Dallas Wings after being a restricted free agent, she told ESPN on Tuesday.
Sabally, who turns 26 in April, won Most Improved Player last season while finishing fifth in MVP voting.
Sabally told ESPN she kept an open mind throughout the free agency process, but was drawn to the goal of winning a championship in Dallas, where she has played her entire career since the organization drafted her second overall in 2020.
The franchise won three titles (2003, 2006, 2008) when based in Detroit, but prior to last season, it had not won a playoff series since relocating to Tulsa and then Dallas.
“Just engaging in those basketball conversations really made us realize that we want to work together and we want to bring a championship to Dallas,” Sabally said. It could really be termed as unfinished business.
Sabally’s one-year deal is fully protected and worth $195,000, a source told ESPN, below the regular max she could have earned ($208,219). But she was willing to take a bit of a discount to allow Dallas to bolster the talent around her.
Six other WNBA teams reached out to Sabally over the past few weeks, a source said. As a restricted free agent, other organizations could extend an offer sheet to her, and Dallas would have the opportunity to match that offer.
The interest in the 6-foot-4 forward emerged after she posted career highs across the board (18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game) in 2023, the product of a mental and physical transformation she had undergone in the previous offseason following a host of injuries that hindered her early years in the league.
Sabally also compiled 14 double-doubles, fifth best in the league, while her 3-point shooting improved from 23.3% in 2022 to 36.1% in 2023.
The former Oregon star earned her second All-Star bid in 2023 and was named to the All-WNBA first team for the first time in her career. Under first-year coach Latricia Trammell — and helped by Sabally’s breakout season — the Wings finished in the top four in the regular-season standings at 22-18 and reached the WNBA semifinals after sweeping the Atlanta Dream.
The Wings lost to the eventual champion Las Vegas Aces in the semis, but have a core of experienced players (mainly Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard and Teaira McCowan) coming back, plus an array of other players from last year they could look to retain.
Sabally believes the growth Dallas has experienced each year since she joined will translate to the Wings taking an even bigger step in 2024.
“I think when you’ve already had so many years together as a squad, you’re willing to actually sacrifice more and put more results on the table,” she said. “And I think we’re at that point now.”
Sabally’s community work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has also been close to her heart and will remain an integral part of her time with the Wings. Her off-court initiatives include engaging with Café Momentum, a Dallas restaurant that helps reintegrate youth who’ve been through the justice system, as well as Black-owned businesses and women’s shelters.
After playing in China earlier in the WNBA offseason, Sabally will soon head to Brazil to compete with the German national team as the squad looks to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Then her focus turns to preparing for the Wings’ season, which gets underway in May.
“The most important thing for me next year is really finishing the mission of actually being the greatest team in the league and being a leader, developing as a leader, and really paving the way for the future,” Sabally said. “I think the WNBA is at such an amazing point right now in women’s sports and history, so being one of the faces that can be part of that is such an honor to me. … I’m grateful to be able to come back to a place that I call home. That is also super special and something I’ve worked hard for, so I’m just really excited and happy.”