Last week the New York Liberty announced the signing of free agent guard/forward Betnijah Laney, who was named the WNBA’s 2020 Most Improved Player for her work with the Atlanta Dream. Laney, who played her college basketball at Rutgers, has previously played for the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun and Indiana Fever before hitting her stride with the Dream last summer.
“My overall goal is to continue expanding each area of my game,” said Laney, who is currently playing in Israel during the WNBA’s off season. “I think I did that last year, so trying to stay on that same foot and continue to get better—whether it’s my shooting percentage, my free throw percentage, assist to turnover ratio—all the little things that help make myself and the team better.”
Laney, 27, grew up in Delaware, and she’s pleased with being closer to home so family can come to games in Brooklyn. She is looking forward to playing with last year’s WNBA top draft pick Sabrina Ionescu, whose rookie season was cut short by injury.
Growing up, Laney spent quite a bit of time in Brooklyn. Her great aunt lived there. “It’s kind of like coming home for me,” she said. “I have a lot of family and friends in the area, and I’m excited to be around them.”
Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said the team has been pursuing Laney for a while. “In terms of leadership, we’re trying to assemble a group of players that are wanting to be in the gym and wanting to work on their games and not only wanting to work on their games for themselves, but for each other,” said Kolb. “That’s who she is. She leads by example.”
Laney, whose mother played basketball in college, picked up the game while hanging out at the gym with her mother. She first saw the Liberty play when she was in high school. “It was really exciting and I remember thinking, ‘One day, I want that to be me,’” Laney said. “The fact that I’m here now, it does mean a lot and I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
In probably the biggest free agent signing, two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker has signed with the Chicago Sky. Parker, 34, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Naperville and is excited to spend the season close to her parents. As for players with New York roots, Tina Charles has signed with the Washington Mystics, Kia Vaughn has signed with the Phoenix Mercury and Epiphanny Prince has signed with the Seattle Storm.