The 2021 WNBA season starts May 14, and hopes are high that the New York Liberty will reverse the downward spiral the team has been on the past three seasons. With a significantly revamped roster and an almost back to 100% Sabrina Ionescu, the possibility of climbing out of the basement looks good.
In addition to bringing on outstanding veterans such as Natasha Howard and Betnijah Laney, Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins gained valuable experience coaching in Germany during the off-season. Unfortunately, the Liberty will be without second-year player Jocelyn Willoughby, who tore her Achilles tendon during the team’s scrimmage with the Connecticut Sun. The team will likely start the season without Howard, Rebecca Allen and Kiah Stokes, all of whom are still playing overseas, but training camp has gone well.
“Having so many sophomores and then vets, it changes the whole feel,” said Hopkins, who described the team as tough and gritty. “There’s so much more teaching of nuance now because we’re not as worried about just putting in the basics and having people learn the league and what’s expected of them.”
The players all emphasized the value of having a full training camp, which wasn’t possible during last year’s bubble season. “In terms of goals or outlook for the first couple of games, we’re focused on us. We’re focused on getting better at the things we know we need to get better at, things we work on every day,” said Hopkins prior to the season opener against the Indiana Fever.
Training camp has enabled the players to develop team chemistry. Apparently, Jazmine Jones, the only Liberty player to receive a 2020 post-season honor (WNBA All-Rookie team), has brought good humor.
“She is a comedy every single day—in the locker room, on the court. She’s really fun to be around,” said rookie Michaela Onyenwere, who in addition to laughing is working on her three-point shot, enjoying Instagrammable moments and relishing being a newly signed Nike athlete.
Rookie DiDi Richards is bringing her positive energy and glamour. In addition to working hard and meshing with her teammates, Richards is looking for some extra-long eyelash strips that match her individual vibe. Of course, she’s also anticipating game action.
“[I’m looking forward to] playing against people that you kind of looked up to your whole college career and even before you got into college,” said Richards. “I can’t wait to see Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker on the court.”