Star Rookie and Veterans Steer Liberty’s Rocky Season to the Playoffs

“Michaela got here into camp in all probability the most constant shooter on the staff in preseason. She was flattening each shot,” Hopkins stated. “Her athleticism, her explosion, her defensive versatility, and then her persona is totally great, so she actually separated herself in camp.”

In the season opener, Onyenwere scored 18 factors in opposition to Indiana, in a victory punctuated by Sabrina Ionescu’s game-winning 3-pointer with lower than a second remaining. Onyenwere closed out the first month of her professional profession with a season-high 29 factors in opposition to Atlanta.

“Coming in, I didn’t anticipate any of this,” Onyenwere stated. “I didn’t put an excessive amount of strain on myself, as a result of I do know that if I do this, I gained’t play as freely as I would like to.” She continued to play with pleasure and objective, although an elbow damage on her taking pictures arm affected her 3-point accuracy.

“Mic rises to events partly as a result of the strain doesn’t have an effect on her prefer it impacts different individuals,” Hopkins stated, utilizing a nickname for Onyenwere. “I don’t assume she internalizes it. I don’t assume it turns into this emotional burden to her. I believe it’s identical to, ‘OK, cool, I received you,’ and I love that. That’s one thing that’s not regular. It’s a uncommon attribute.”

After beginning the season 5-1, the Liberty had been the toast of the league, simply surpassing their win whole from final season’s 2-20 debacle. The staff’s first season at Barclays Middle held promise largely due to the return of Ionescu, the 2020 No. 1 total decide from Oregon who severely sprained an ankle in her third W.N.B.A. recreation and missed the remainder of her rookie season.

Ionescu led the staff in hype — “The Subsequent Queen of NY” learn the April/Could cowl of Slam journal — and regularly adjusted to the challenges forward of her, together with enjoying level guard after starring as a 2-guard in school.

“It’s like Sabs performed two video games and she’s by no means performed in New York to be the queen of New York,” Hopkins stated. “She’s simply performed a really magnificent job of balancing expectations which will have been unrealistic for a rookie.”

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