“When I got to St. John’s, it really wasn’t talked about,” said Nadirah McKenith, 21, who became the first Red Storm player to earn a spot on a WNBA roster last week. She will be the backup point guard for the Washington Mystics. “My recruiting class made it to the [NCAA] Tournament four times in a row. We kind of put St. John’s on the map, taking it to the Sweet 16 [in 2012].
“To actually make the roster, to be the first person ever, it’s incredible,” she added. “I give credit to my teammates and my coaches, because without them, I wouldn’t have been such a great leader to have the opportunity to play here.” McKenith, who grew up in Newark, N.J., also credits four years of Big East Conference play, which made her bring her best to every game.
“The Big East got me mentally and physically tough for the next level,” said McKenith. “I knew I had to push to make it through training camp. You have to be 110 percent mentally and physically tough. Once I found out I was on the team, it was a dream come true.”
The New York Liberty roster has also been set. St. John’s other draftee, Shenneika Smith, was cut at the end of training camp. Making the team were the Liberty’s two first-round picks, Kelsey Bone and Toni Young. They and fellow rookie Kamiko Williams will play alongside veterans like Cappie Pondexter under the guidance of coach Bill Laimbeer.
“Everything [in training camp] goes really fast,” said Bone, 21. “You have to pick up on things quickly. It gave me a crash course in understanding that this is a business. Someone can be here today and gone tomorrow. For me, being able to catch on quickly and adapt to the system were key. The good thing is we were all learning.”
Assistant coach Tamika Whitmore said Bone is a “beast,” and that once she puts her mind to it, she’s going to be really difficult for other teams to handle. Bone has appreciated all the invaluable lessons she’s learned. Now she and her Liberty teammates are ready for action.
“Everybody has the same goal,” said Bone. “We’re all on the same page. That’s all you can really ask for when you start talking about a team.”
The Liberty season tips off tomorrow, Friday, May 31 (7:30 p.m.) at their Prudential Center home in Newark.