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Hard work paying off for Liberty's Essence Carson

TRACY JUSAY Special to the AmNews | 7/1/2011, 1:53 a.m.
Things are finally beginning to look up for the New York Liberty. On Sunday afternoon,...
Hard work paying off for Liberty's Essence Carson

Things are finally beginning to look up for the New York Liberty. On Sunday afternoon, the team notched its first win at home, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 77-67.

Afterwards, Essence Carson sat in the Liberty locker room with a smile on her face, satisfied with the victory but also pleased with the progress she's made and her contributions to the team. Born and raised in Paterson, N.J., Carson looks at the 2011 season as a new lease on life as a player. She admitted 2010 wasn't her best year, but says she's made an effort in the offseason to improve.

Now looking like a re-energized player on the court, her hard work has definitely paid off. "I've just been working on a lot of things, and I dedicate a lot of it to what I did in the offseason. Last year, to me, was a test of my character," she said. "This year is a complete 180 and I just want to keep it going."

Now in her fourth year, Carson is on pace for a breakout season as the Liberty's most consistent and improved player thus far in 2011. After averaging 3.6 points per game in 2010, her offensive production has more than quadrupled, with 14.8 points per game to date. Whether she is a starter or the first player off the bench as the sixth woman, Carson remains a stable force for the Liberty and a player head coach John Whisenant has been able to count on as a defender and an aggressive scorer.

"She's just tremendous," said Whisenant. "I think she's a tremendous athlete with a great upside, and she's proving that. I've been encouraging her to be aggressive to score and still be a great defensive player."

The encouragement from Whisenant has gone a long way for Carson, but she also attributes having New Jersey-based family and friends who watch her play at the Prudential Center as an extra boost of confidence. "It's really exciting. A lot of my friends, family and supporters from when I was in elementary school are able to see me play now," she said. "That feels good, just to have those who were a part of your support staff. Those who were part of your inner circle coming to support you feels great."

The Liberty will play Atlanta tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. and return to the Prudential Center Friday, July 1 at 7 p.m. to host the San Antonio Silver Stars.