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posted: 5/10/2014 1:01 AM

Sky's Gatling ready to start her WNBA journey

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Caught up in the whirlwind of it all, Markeisha Gatling was struggling to answer the question she was asked most at Chicago Sky media day.

Gatling, a 6-foot-5 center, was the Sky's top pick in April's WNBA Draft.

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"People keep asking me what my goals are for this season and I don't really have any right now," a smiling and bright-eyed Gatling said. "I haven't really sat back and thought about it yet."

In the short-term, perhaps Gatling's biggest goal should be getting used to being away from home.

She went to North Carolina State, and grew up in Raleigh, about 15 minutes away from campus. She never took her laundry home, but she did get plenty of mom's home-cooked meals while in college.

"I love being around my family. They came to all my games, and I went home to see them a lot," Gatling said. "It's a little overwhelming (being a pro and on her own), but at the same time, it's exciting."

Gatling's also excited to get to work on one long-term goal she has settled on.

"Eventually, I want to be known as one of the best post players to ever come through the WNBA," said Gatling, who averaged 17.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for N.C. State last season.

Gatling is certainly associating herself with the right people.

It wasn't an accident that Gatling wound up with jersey No. 9. That was the number of Lisa Leslie, widely regarded as one of the best women's basketball players of all time and perhaps the best female post player. Gatling requested it.

"When I first started playing basketball, I was about 9 years old. Growing up, I watched Lisa Leslie play," Gatling said. "I want to meet her. I would tell her she's my idol.

"She's very dominant and I like the presence she has on the court. And she can dunk, so that's pretty cool."

Sylvia Fowles, another of the best centers in WNBA history, can also dunk, and Gatling is anxious to defend against that in practice. She also appreciates being able to learn every day from a player like Fowles.

Fowles is recovering from hip surgery, and has tried to work closely with Gatling.

"Syl is kind of taking me under her wing," Gatling said. "She's really helping me a lot, especially on defense. I knew about her when she played at LSU. It's going to be good for me to work with someone like her."

For now, Gatling will have to work in place of Fowles. Head coach Pokey Chatman will be counting on Gatling to fill the void left by the absence of Fowles, who isn't expected to play until mid-June.

"I'm just going to try to go in there and clean it up and rebound and play some defense," said Gatling, who is known for her strength in the paint but is also able to get up and down the floor well. "I'm just trying to help the team out the best I can."

Champion, again:

Now, Allie Quigley just needs to win a pro championship in the United States to go with her three overseas.

Quigley, a sharpshooting guard from DePaul, just returned from winning a league championship in Poland.

It's her third European championship. She's also won hardware in Hungary (2010) and Slovakia (2013).

"The plan is to get one here," Quigley said with a smile. "It's pretty cool over there when you win it. Everyone (in the town) is into it."

Quigley took less than a week off after winning in Poland. She couldn't wait to get started in her hometown.

"It was such a great experience here last year," said Quigley, who provided valuable minutes off the bench. "I was just hoping that I'd get to come back. It worked out and I'm more happy than ever."

Even though she won a championship in Poland, Quigley says her quality of life there can't compare to what she has here.

Her parents and her sister Sam, also a former star player at DePaul, came to every Sky game last season. Her two brothers came to a bunch of games, as did former teammates from DePaul and DePaul coach Doug Bruno.

"Over there (in Europe), you don't know anyone in the stands. You just leave the game and go home to your apartment alone," Quigley said. "It's nice to look up in the stands and see your family and friends every game. It reminds me of college here. You go out for pizza after the games. It's really nice."

On tap:

The Sky, which played a preseason game Friday in Orlando against the Indiana Fever, will open the regular season at Allstate Arena on May 16 against the Fever.

Follow Patricia on Twitter @babcockmcgraw, and contact her by email at pbabcock@dailyherald.com.

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