After yesterday’s mandated roster cutdowns, the New York Liberty are at a dozen players ready to do battle if/when the 2020 season commences.
If and when we get a 2020 WNBA season, the New York Liberty will be ready.
The team announced several roster moves this week, waiving veteran interior prescience Reshanda Gray and declaring that international young stars Marine Johannes and Han Xu would remain overseas. These transactions put the Liberty in compliance with WNBA roster procedures, which dictated that teams had to trim their roster to a dozen players at most. Such a declaration ensures players will be paid beginning on June 1.
New York’s roster certainly looks a little different from when we last saw them. The face of the franchise and all-time leading scorer Tina Charles was dealt to the defending champions in Washington. Tanisha Wright retired and fellow veteran Brittany Boyd was waived. Another guard, Bria Hartley, signed with the Phoenix Mercury.
In their place, the Liberty are now a squad that consists of the mandated 12 players…half of which are rookies. What will new head coach Walt Hopkins be dealing with when they get back to action? Meet the team below….
G/F Rebecca Allen
Experience: 6th season
Acquired: 2015 free agent
A Victoria, Australia native, Allen earned the nickname “Spida” for her tenacious defense. But Allen began to turn heads during a 2019 breakout campaign that saw her set a new career-best in scoring (7.2 points per game) and finish fifth in the WNBA’s three-point percentage rankings (.426). In an August tilt against Minnesota, Allen set a franchise record with 20 points in a single quarter, two short of the WNBA record set by Diana Taurasi. Entering her sixth season in seafoam, Allen is now the longest-tenured New Yorker after the departures of Charles and Boyd.
G Layshia Clarendon
Experience: 8th season
Acquired: 2020 free agent
The newly acquired Clarendon (most recently of the Connecticut Sun) is the most tenured member of the Liberty as she enters her eighth season of action. Injuries limited her to nine games last season but she has been highly regarded for her leadership skills on and off the court. Clarendon was a first-round selection of the Indiana Fever in 2013 and reached the WNBA All-Star Game proceedings as a member of the Atlanta Dream four years later. Her resume also boasts experience with the United States national basketball squad, helping them capture the gold medal in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Tenerife, Spain.
G Asia Durr
Experience: 2nd season
Acquired: 2019 1st-round pick (2nd overall)
The hype over Ionescu has some hidden the fact that the Liberty are set to welcome back another top-two pick. Injuries would cost Durr nearly half of her rookie season, but she managed to provide a preview of what’s to come during her abbreviated debut. Of note, Durr put up a career-best-to-date 20 points in one of her first starts, a 75-69 triumph over Minnesota last June. Durr, along with teammate Kia Nurse, is also one of the newest athletic faces of the Jordan Brand, becoming the second and third WNBA players to don the Jumpman logo.
G Sabrina Ionescu
Acquired: 2020 1st-round pick (1st overall)
We could list every collegiate accolade that Ionescu earned during her time in Eugene, but, alas, we’re not paid by the word. To sum it up, Ionescu is the first top overall pick in Liberty history and the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles (26, more than double her closest competitor). Among her potential carry-on luggage on her flight to New York will be a trio of Pac-12 Player of the Year trophies and Nancy Lieberman Awards (awarded to women’s Division I basketball’s top point guard), as well as the most recent Player of the Year titles from the Naismith committee and the Associated Press. A sign of potential things to come were on display when Oregon took on Team USA in an exhibition last winter; she tallied 33 points and the Ducks dealt the Americans their first loss to a college team since 1999.
G Jazmine Jones
Acquired: 2020 1st-round pick (12th overall)
Chosen with one of the picks acquired from the Charles trade, Jones is a former teammate of Durr with the Cardinals (despite earning a scholarship offer from ACC competitor Florida State in the eighth grade). She enjoyed a breakout season in her final year in red, averaging a career-best 14.1 points and appeared on the premier editions of the All-ACC and ACC All-Defensive squads. The Jones family is certainly no stranger to athletic heroics. Jazmine’s sister GiGi partook in hardwood exploits at Appalachian State and Jacksonville and her brother Reginald Jr. was a tight end at Florida A&M.
G Kia Nurse
Experience: 3rd season
Acquired: 2018 1st-round pick (10th overall)
If there’s a veteran face of Liberty basketball, it probably would be the Hamilton, Canada native Nurse. She partook and start in every Liberty game last season and broke out to the tune of 13.7 points per game and her first WNBA All-Star Game appearance (named a starter for Elena Delle Donne’s squad in the latter). Nurse would also partake in the league’s three-point competition, having ranked sixth in successful attempts (65). The extended hiatus has been any but an offseason for Nurse. She has become the Liberty’s social media star, hosting the socially distanced talk show “Kickin’ It with Kia” on the New York accounts and recently took home MVP honors in Australia’s WNBL as a member of the Canberra Capitals.
F Leaonna Odom
Acquired: 2020 2nd-round pick (15th overall)
Another ACC-spawned defensive lockdown artist, Odom developed a scoring game during her latter seasons in Durham. The California native not only averaged a career-best 14.3 points in her senior season and also finished fourth in the ACC with a 54.7 field goal percentage. She also served as a flexible option, playing four different positions on the floor last year. Her defensive prowess put her on numerous award watch list (particularly the Cheryl Miller and Kartina McClain accolades bestowed to the best forwards) and her athleticism allowed her to jump up the draft board.
F Kylee Shook
Acquired: 2020 2nd-round pick (13th overall)
Another Durr teammate and Louisville alumna, Shook was another player known for her defensive prowess. Ionescu, for example, will be quite pleased to have Shook on her side in the coming years. When the Cardinals and Ducks squared off last November, Shook’s box score boasted 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Ionescu was held to 6-of-20 shooting in UL’s 72-62 victory. Shook would later become the all-time leading blocker in Cardinals history, surpassing five-time WNBA All-Star Angel McCoughtry. Her newfound ability to shoot from deep could also come up big in the new system.
C Kiah Stokes
Experience: 5th season
Acquired: 2015 1st-round pick (11th overall)
The Liberty get back an exciting interior prescience in Stokes, who partook in Turkey’s EuroBasket proceedings but opted to sit out the entire 2019 WNBA season for personal reasons. Another holdover from the team’s final MSG days, Stokes is already the all-time leading blocker in Liberty history (163 over her first four seasons). More recently, Stokes has established herself on the Turkish basketball circuit, winning a pair of titles Fenerbahçe Women’s Basketball. The block master was the recipient of a new contract with the Liberty at the start of the offseason.
F Megan Walker
Acquired: 2020 1st-round pick (9th overall)
Another rookie yielded from the blockbuster Charles transaction, Walker was a rare junior entry into the draft proceedings. She show her way up the draft board with a breakout season in Storrs, putting up 19.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, a campaign that netted her first-team All-American honors and the AAC’s Player of the Year Award. Another three-point threat, Walker should work well with Nurse, her fellow former Husky. She sank 45.1 percent of her triple attempts last season, a mark good for ninth in the nation.
F/G Jocelyn Willoughby
Acquired: 2020 trade with Phoenix
Willoughby was originally chosen with the 10th pick of the WNBA Draft, but came to New York in exchange for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough’s contract (the latter was acquired from Washington in the Charles deal). Former Liberty star and ESPN expert Rebecca Lobo noted that Willoughby “can score at a high clip and high efficiency from the three-point line” Willoughby also has a pleasant knack for getting to the foul line. She shot 87 percent from the charity stripe in her senior year in Charlottesville, reaching double-digit attempts on her own eight times.
C Amanda Zahui B
Experience: 6th season
Acquired: 2016 trade with Tulsa
Zahui B took advantage of a new opportunity when she was pressed into regular starting duties for the first time in her career last season. The former second overall pick and Stockholm native put up new career-best averages of 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds over 24 games before repping her homeland Sweden during EuroBasket proceedings. She wound up guiding the Swedes to their best-ever EuroBasket finish (5th). Back in America, Zahui B stole the show in a June win in Los Angeles, tallying the best single-game output of any 2019 WNBA player with 37 points.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags