New York Liberty: Nayo Raincock-Okunwe skipping another WNBA season

(Photo: Courtesy of the New York Liberty)

Raincock-Ekunwe, a New York Liberty representative since 2017, will turn her focus toward Canada’s Olympic efforts.

In an interview with CBC Sports, New York Liberty forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe confirmed that she will sit out the 2021 WNBA season. The Toronto-born veteran has expressed her desire to focus on the Canadian national team’s Olympic endeavors at the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo.

“The plan this year is to forego the WNBA season again and to play with Team Canada for the whole summer, not miss any of our training camps leading up to the Olympics,” Raincock-Ekunwe told Myles Ditcher. “(I am) fully committed to Team Canada.”

Raincock-Ekunwe, 29, joined the Liberty in 2017 and has played two seasons with the team. In that time, she has averaged 3.7 points and 2.2 rebounds over 11 minutes per game. During the latter campaign in 2019, Raincock-Ekunwe developed a strong rapport with fellow Team Canada representative Kia Nurse and then-rookie Marine Johannes.

Though Raincock-Ekunwe will not partake in the Liberty’s 2021 affairs, she did extend some kind words to the New Yorkers in Ditcher’s report. New York endured a 2-20 season during the WNBA’s bubble season in Bradenton, Florida last year, but are set to welcome back touted 2020 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu. The top overall choice and Oregon alumna was lost to the season with an ankle injury sustained in only her third career game.

“I think they’re making some moves this year that will be big, that will be beneficial for the team,” Raincock-Ekunwe said. “Sabrina being healthy and with the rookies they had last season getting some experience last year, I think it will be a great year for New York. So yeah, it’s tough to turn down the opportunity to play in one of the best leagues in the world. But I think Canada has a really good opportunity this summer.”

Raincock-Ekunwe was one of several New York veterans that sat out of the bubble season in the wake of the ongoing health crisis, joining Asia Durr, Rebecca Allen, Marine Johannes, and Han Xu.

In the meantime, Raincock-Ekunwe is currently partaking in overseas action with LDLC ASVEL Féminin in France, alongside Johannes and Alysha Clark of the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm. She mentioned that she endured a milder case of COVID-19 during a pause in the international season, but told Ditcher she is “not feeling any side effects”.

Team Canada is looking to earn its first-ever Olympic medal, its best finish being fourth during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Raincock-Ekunwe previously partook in the most recent showing in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where Canada placed seventh. More recently, Raincock-Ekunwe was a major factor in clinching a spot for the Tokyo Games. Canada’s undefeated three-game stretch in a qualifying tournament in Ostend, Belgium last February allowed them to clinch one of the dozen spots in the delayed Omypics. The team originally got to the Belgian qualifiers through a three-game showing in Raincock-Ekunwe’s home province of British Columbia. She notably wowed the Edmonton crowd with a double-double showing (27 points, 11 rebounds) in an 84-80 win over Puerto Rico.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags