Having traded away this year’s top pick in order to acquire seasoned veteran talent, the New York Liberty looked to the 2021 WNBA Draft as a means of rounding out its new roster. With the sixth pick, the Liberty chose Michaela Onyenwere, a forward from UCLA.
“I know this is what people dream of,” said Onyenwere. “My legs were shaking for a while after. It might be because of these heels, but I’m just going to stay with my excitement.”
There is already a familiar face on the Liberty for Onyenwere. She played AAU basketball with Kylee Shook. She played against Sabrina Ionescu in college and is looking forward to having her as a teammate. Head coach Walt Hopkins and general manager Jonathan Kolb both expressed their positive impression of Onyenwere and she of them.
“Getting to have interviews with Michaela is really what moved the needle,” said Hopkins, who said Onyenwere will blend well with other Liberty players. “She’s got a motor that just is unbelievable. Her confidence is really high, but she’s humble. She’s selfless, but she’s really confident.”
Onyenwere, who celebrated with friends and family, hopes to be versatile on both ends of the floor and is excited to transition to playing more on the perimeter. She’s eager to become part of the Brooklyn community. Onyenwere also takes inspiration from UCLA’s women’s gymnastics team, which has garnered a lot of attention for bringing hip hop style to their floor routines.
“We had them on our Bruin table talk [a show with the basketball team] because they impacted us that much,” said Onyenwere. “Representation is so important, and I think sometimes people don’t understand how important it actually is…For there to be four [Black girls] on the UCLA team excelling at every single avenue is so inspiring and so cool.”
In the second round, the Liberty selected DiDi Richards from Baylor. “Camp is one of the hardest things, I hear. Just trying to get ready for it,” said Richards. “Mentally just keeping my mindset on what I want to be when I get in the league, which is a different player, more composed player, more improved player.”
In the third round, the Liberty picked Valerie Higgins of University of the Pacific and French player Marine Fauthoux. Training camp begins April 25. The Liberty, one of only three original WNBA teams (the others are the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury), open the season with a home game at Barclays Center May 14 against the Indiana Fever.