Meet the 2021 New York Liberty draft class

ESM keeps track of all the New York Liberty’s happenings at the 2021 WNBA Draft, where they will first choose in the sixth slot.

The New York Liberty have four selections in Thursday night’s WNBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN). ESM has the live tally below, as well as any Liberty-related draft happenings.

1st Round (6th overall): F Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA 

Onyenwere, standing at 6’0, could help at least partially fill the interior void Amanda Zahui B left behind and with Han Xu’s status in question. The former Bruins was second in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.1 per game) and fifth in rebounding (7.2). If the Liberty truly wish to embrace their youth movement, Onyenwere could work her way into the lineup fairly quickly. For her junior efforts, Onyenwere was named to the all-conference team alongside teammate Japreece Dean. She also has three-on-three experience and was part of Team USA’s Pan-American Games efforts in Lima. If the Liberty truly wish to embrace their youthful revolt, Onyenwere could well find herself a place in the starting lineup.

2nd Round (17th overall): G Didi Richards, Baylor

However long her stay in New York becomes, Richards hauls over a sizable trophy case, including the Big 12 and Naismith Committee’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Though Richard’s shooting leaves something to be desired, she can be a decent offensive facilitator. In terms of training camp bodies, Richards should certainly keep things interesting on the practice courts.

3rd Round (25th overall): F Valerie Higgins, Pacific

The Liberty brought in yet another conference’s defensive heroine, with Higgins hailing from the West Coast Conference after spending her first year at USC. She led the conference with 99 steals, cementing her status as a strong ball defender and placing ninth in the nation.

3rd Round (29th overall): G Marine Fauthoux, France

The few, the proud, the Marines? That appears to be the case, as Fauthoux joins her fellow French national star Marine Johannes. The two previously collaborated on the team’s run to a silver medal EuroBasket Women’s 2019 in Latvia and Serbia.

Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb and select picks will speak at approximately 9:15 p.m. Follow @GeoffJMags for updates.

New York Liberty legend Vickie Johnson to take Dallas HC job (Report)

An original star of the New York Liberty is set to take her second head coaching job after spending the past 15 years with the Aces franchise.

Per Chantel Jennings of The Athletic, New York Liberty legend Vickie Johnson is set to become the new head coach of the Dallas Wings. Johnson, 48, would be the 11th head coach of a franchise that began life as the Detroit Shock in 1998.

The Coushatta, Louisiana native has spent the past 15 years in some capacity with the Las Vegas Aces franchise, which was previously known as the San Antonio Silver Stars (later simply known as the Stars). She spent the final four seasons (2006-09) of her WNBA career with the team before serving as an assistant coach under Sandy Brondello (2010) and Dan Hughes (2011-16). Johnson would later oversee the final season in San Antonio (2017), going 8-28 before the team moved to Las Vegas. She was retained over the last three seasons on Bill Laimbeer’s staff, working alongside another Liberty alumna, Tanisha Wright, in the last.

Johnson began her WNBA career as an original member of the Liberty, drafted by the team in the “elite” portion (reserved for players who had previously played internationally) of the inaugural draft in 1997. Working with fellow former Louisiana Tech Lady Techster Teresa Weatherspoon and several others, Johnson helped the Liberty reach four of the first six WNBA Finals (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002). The team earned a franchise-best 21 wins in 2001, a record that stood until 2015. Johnson reached two All-Star Games as a member of the Liberty (1999, 2001). Upon her departure in 2005, she was the Liberty’s all-time leading scorer with 3,246 points, which was broken by Tina Charles in 2019. Johnson remains the Liberty’s all-time leader in games played (282) and is one of five players in the team’s Ring of Honor (joining teammates Weatherspoon, Becky Hammon, Kym Hampton, Rebecca Lobo, and Sue Wicks).

In joining Dallas, Johnson inherits the only team in the WNBA that’s younger than the Liberty in terms of age. No one on the team has more than four years’ experience in the WNBA, the roster headlined by 2020 first-rounders Satou Sabally, Bella Alarie, and Tyasha Harris. Sabally was the second overall pick in last April’s draft, chosen immediately after the Liberty took her Oregon teammate Sabrina Ionescu at No. 1. Also present is Arike Ogunbowale, the 2019 Rookie of the Year. Johnson takes over for Brian Agler, who went 18-38 in two seasons at the helm. Johnson will also be the first Black female to service in a head coaching capacity since Pokey Chatman in Indiana (2016-19).

The Liberty and Wings will each partake in the 2020 WNBA Draft Lottery on Friday night, set to be held during halftime of the college basketball game between Louisville and DePaul (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). New York will own the best odds in the lottery with a 44.2 percent chance of gaining the top overall pick. General manager Jonathan Kolb is expected to represent the team.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: 2021 WNBA Draft Lottery staged for Friday

The New York Liberty will have the top odds in the 2021 WNBA Draft Lottery, which will be held on Friday night.

‘Twas three weeks before Christmas, but the New York Liberty could gain a special early gift later this week.

The WNBA has announced that the 2021 Draft Lottery will be staged on Friday night during halftime of the anticipated college basketball matchup between No. 20 DePaul and No. 5 Louisville. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, which will carry lottery proceedings for the ninth consecutive season. LaChina Robinson will host the reveal, which will be overseen by WNBA Head of League Operations Bethany Donaphin.

New York will have the best odds entering Friday’s drawing, which takes into account cumulative records over the past two seasons for the four non-playoff teams. Weighed down in a rebuilding effort, the Liberty went 12-44 over the past two showings, including a 2-20 mark in the WNBA’s abbreviated bubble season in Bradenton, Florida.

This gives them a 44.2 percent chance of securing the top overall pick for the second straight season. Last time around, the Liberty leaped from the second-best odds to essentially “win” the Draft Lottery for the first time in team history. New York used that selection to take college basketball sensation Sabrina Ionescu out of Oregon in the most recent selections last April. Ionescu partook in three games in the Bradenton bubble before an ankle injury prematurely ended her debut season.

Behind the Liberty, the Atlanta Dream (15-41) have the second-best odds at 27.6 percent, followed by the Dallas Wings (18-38, 17.8) and Indiana Fever (19-37, 10.4). The remaining picks in the first round, consisting of 2020 playoff teams, have already been sorted through the inversion of regular season records, which will likewise determine the full order for the second and third rounds as well.

Staging the Draft Lottery during a Louisville basketball holds a sense of irony for the Liberty. Three former Cardinals currently reside on the Liberty roster, including 2019’s second overall pick Asia Durr. While Durr opted out of the bubble endeavor, the team was nonetheless represented through Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook, who were respectively taken with 12th and 13th picks during last spring’s draft. Jones was later named to the WNBA’s All-Rookie team, becoming the first New Yorker to do so since Brittany Boyd and current teammate Kiah Stokes earned the honor in 2015. Modern Louisville senior Dana Evans (18.0 points, 4.2 assists per game in 2019-20) is expected to be a first-round choice next spring.

Other big name prospects at the top of the 2021 draft board will include Rennia Davis (Tennessee), Destiny Slocum (Oregon State), and Didi Richards (Baylor). Texas junior Charli Collier has been pegged as a potential early entrant.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Meet the (Draft) Class of 2020

The draft dust has settled, and the New York Liberty have emerged with several young players to begin a new era.

The New York Liberty might well be America’s oldest expansion team at this rate.

New York’s WNBA franchise looks a tad different than it did a week ago, literally and figuratively. The team unveiled a new logo and uniform this week and later dealt franchise face Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics for extra draft capital. When they do get back to basketball, the Liberty will also make themselves a new home: Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. On Tuesday, the Liberty also bid farewell to Brittany Boyd, one of their longest-tenured players.

Speaking of Friday’s WNBA Draft (witness by 837,000 viewers), the Liberty were immediately able to fill Charles’ empty slot of franchise face with the addition of Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu. What do you need to know about Ionescu and her new comrades? ESM has you covered…

1st Round (1st overall): G Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon

Lottery ping-pong balls finally bounced New York’s way, leading them to one of the most electrifying players in college basketball history. Ionescu hopefully has a large carry-on bag for her eventual flight to New York, as she’ll be hauling plenty of hardware to Brooklyn. Her most recent accolades include the Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press and the Pac-12 (her third in the latter category), matching perfectly with the NCAA’s all-time lead in triple-doubles (26). When we get back to shooting again, Ionescu’s New York arrival has a chance to change not just a premier franchise, but a league entirely.

1st Round (9th overall): F Megan Walker, Connecticut

What’s a draft without representation from Storrs? With the first pick obtained in the Charles transaction, the Liberty went with one of the few early entries in Walker. Her breakout junior year paced the team with 19.7 points, and she also tallied 8.4 rebounds en route to first-team All-American honors. Walker’s scoring prowess should help a Liberty squad that struggled to consistently score in the latter stages of last season.

1st Round (10th overall): F Jocelyn Willoughby, Virginia

The Charles trade indirectly yielded the arrival of Willoughby, as the Liberty dealt the contract of former Mystic Shatori Walker-Kimbrough to Phoenix for the rights to Willoughby. Some were surprised to see Willoughby go in the top ten, but her flexibility could turn her into a diamond-in-the-rough selection. One of Willoughby’s greatest qualities is her ability to get to the foul line. Over the second half of the season, the Liberty averaged less than 15 foul shots per game. Willoughby reached double-digits on her own in six games of her senior season.

1st Round (12th overall): G Jazmine Jones, Louisville

With the second pick acquired in the Charles move, the Liberty opted to take one of Asia Durr’s Cardinal teammates. No one has appeared in more games in Louisville red than Jones, who reached the All-ACC and All-ACC defensive teams. Her shooting needs some work, but Jones nearly doubled her career scoring average in her senior campaign (14.1 PPG, good for second on the team).

2nd Round (13th overall): F Kylie Shook, Louisville

Ionescu is trying to forget the exploits of Shook, who paced the Cardinals with a double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds) in a head-to-head matchup last November that saw Louisville gave Oregon their only loss. More impressive may be Shook’s defensive abilities. She took the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and departs KFC Yum! Center as the program’s all-time leader in blocks.

2nd Round (15th overall): F Leaonna Odom, Duke

Another strong defensive talent from the ACC, Odom’s versatility (able to the one-through-four) and length (6’2 with a 27.5 vertical) makes her a solid defensive find in the second round. The versatility was on perfect display when she appeared on watchlists for the Katrina McClain and Cheryl Miller awards (earned by the nation’s top power forward and small forward respectively).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty select Sabrina Ionescu with No. 1 Pick of WNBA Draft

The Oregon alumna will don the seafoam and black of the New York Liberty next season after a record-breaking career in Eugene.

The New York Liberty have chosen Sabrina Ionescu with the top overall pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Ionescu will bring a historic amount of hardware with her to New York City. The former Oregon Duck is the first player in NCAA history to earn a de facto triple-quadruple: she put over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists over her four seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s a historic night for the New York Liberty,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb. “Sabrina is a generational player whose resume speaks for itself and we are thrilled to have her as our first-ever No.1 pick. We look forward to adding her to the Liberty family, as we work to reestablish ourselves as one of the top teams in the league for years to come.”

“I’m blessed. I think I’ve been working on this for my entire basketball career,” Ionescu said in a conference call shortly after he selection. “Just to see that come to fruition, I’m very humbled and excited for the opportunity.”

Ionescu’s storied collegiate career ended prematurely thanks to the NCAA Tournament’s cancellation. Nonetheless, she will bring numerous trophies and accolades with her to the east coast including three Pac-12 Player of the Year Awards, two John Wooden Awards, and a Naismith Player of the Year Award.

However, the only thing Ionescu was focused on was improving before she made her New York entry.

“I’m looking to do everything that I possibly can to get better in every aspect,” she said. “Whether that’s scoring, defending, rebounding, passing. I’m really just excited to be playing against professionals and learning from them and just seeing where that takes me.”

The Liberty will play their home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on a full-time basis starting with the 2020 season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags