WNBA, Chicago Sky star Kahleah Copper surprises Philly kids

When Kahleah Copper started playing basketball as a child in North Philly, she never had the chance to be exposed to professional athletes, especially ones that looked like her.

Once the Chicago Sky star made a name for herself in the WNBA, winning the Finals MVP in 2021 and making All-Star appearances in ’21 and 2022, Copper knew she wanted to give back to her hometown in hopes of next generation of youth to inspire female athletes.

While girls ages 8 to 9 were having basketball practice at Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philly, Copper walked in and surprised the youth group. The first thing she told them as they gathered around her and looked at the 6-foot-1 guard was, “I didn’t have this growing up, and I want you guys to be successful .”

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As part of Copper’s partnership with Gatorade, she donated $10,000 to the recreation center, which provided new equipment for the youth basketball program.

“Community is big and flows into the community because it also shaped who I am today,” said Copper, a graduate of Prep Charter. “It’s important for young girls who look like me and from where I come from to see how they too can be successful in whatever it is they want to do in life.”

After speaking to the group, she helped them run through shooting and ball-handling drills. As a few tripped and loose balls went into the stands, Copper got involved and gave them a hand and helped them shake back their shots.

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Steve Bandura, the founder of the youth program at Marian Anderson, was grateful for the donation and to have Copper’s representation at the facility, especially as organizers try to expand their girls’ programs.

About two years ago, the center created a girls league for soccer and basketball. But before that, the girls competed in the boys’ teams. That’s where Mo’ne Davis, now a center fielder at Hampton University, trained as a member of the Anderson Monarchs.

» READ MORE: Mo’ne Davis, once a child prodigy herself, hopes to inspire the next generation.

Bandura FaceTimed Davis as he ran through drills and asked, “Do you want to meet Kahleah Copper?”

Davis and Copper shared a laugh as Bandura handed her the phone. The two had never met, but they shared a commitment to seeing the next cycle of female athletes have opportunities.

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“It gives them examples of what they can be,” Bandura said of the younger girls in the Monarchs’ program. “Show them what they can do if they stick to it. A lot of girls have no idea what’s out there.”

Copper believes the girls will not forget this day. As practice wrapped up, the kids hugged the WNBA star with all their might – it didn’t look like it was going to be one they’d forget.

“I want to show them what’s possible,” Copper said. “When they see it, they know it’s something they can do. Only for them to be able to really see, touch and feel is important.”

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