Kiah Stokes’ summer of shooting allowed her to set a new career-best in the New York Liberty’s penultimate game of the 2020 season.
Trips to Florida can provide full of life-changing experiences. Visiting the Sunshine State for business purposes, Kiah Stokes has had one in her return to the New York Liberty.
The Liberty fell to the Washington Mystics on Saturday by a 75-58 final in their penultimate game in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble. But personal history awaited Stokes, who tallied all of her 15 points on five successful attempts from three-point range. Stokes tied for the lead in scoring with Kia Nurse.
“I was excited to get a new feel for everything. Basically, for as long as I had been in New York it was Tina Charles’ team,” Stokes said of her new role as both a shooter and veteran leader. “I was a little nervous going into this season, but I think Walt Hopkins has done a great job with the system. He’s really put a lot of confidence in me.”
“It was nervous for me in the beginning, but the coaching staff and all my teammates have a lot of confidence in me. I’m thankful for that, thankful for the coaching staff putting me in this position, trying to expand my game.”
In her fifth season, Stokes is by far one of the longest-tenured players on the current Liberty roster. She maintained a traditional interior prescience in her first few seasons, becoming the Liberty’s all-time leading in blocks in 2018. After spending all of last season overseas, Stokes joined the Liberty (2-19) for their Floridian adventure overseen by new head coach Walt Hopkins.
Under Hopkins, Stokes developed a new role as a shooter, particularly from three-point range. The Connecticut alumna took over three shots since her WNBA entry in 2015. She’s taken 83 this time around with one game to go.
“She’s been doing what she’s been doing from three. The shots went down for her tonight. She sees one go in, that helps her confidence,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been trying to tell everybody about how much we believe in her. I was really happy she was able to have that day from three.”
The shots fell on Saturday for Stokes, who helped the Liberty keep pace with the defending champion Mystics. Even in defeat, the New Yorkers were happy to revel in Stokes’ big day.
“We’ve been seeing her shoot the ball like that in practice since we got here, since day one,” Nurse said. “We’ve been really encouraging her to keep shooting it and knocking down three’s like we know she can. It was fun to see her go on that little run she had today.”
Washington (8-13) was able to secure a split in their pair with the Liberty. The Mystics are current holders of the eighth and final playoff spot in the bubble standings. They can clinch with a win in Sunday’s season finale proceedings or if the Liberty beat the Dallas Wings in the first of three games across the league (12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Go/CBSSN).
Myisha Hines-Allen had a double-double for the Mystics, tallying 25 points and 11 rebounds. Washington pulled away with a 21-11 advantage in the third quarter, with nine of the New York points scored by Stokes. The Liberty had a bit of a scare in the second quarter when star rookie Jazmine Jones left the game with an ankle injury, but she returned after the halftime break. Jones, the final pick of the WNBA draft’s first round, made her first career WNBA start.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags