New York Liberty 2016 Training Camp is presented by Blueprint for Athletes.
Last year, New York Liberty training camp opened with a lot of eyes on a pair of rookies the franchise traded into the first round of the WNBA Draft, twice, to pick up, in guard Brittany Boyd and center Kiah Stokes.
The consensus seemed to be that the Liberty had picked a pair of dynamic young players, but there is always uncertainty adjusting to life in the WNBA. For Boyd and Stokes, while there were certainly ups and downs during their rookie campaigns, the end result was two new fan favorites with tons of upside.
Both were named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team, Stokes was runner up in the league’s Rookie of the Year voting, emerging as a star on the defensive end of the floor while wielding a great deal of potential offensively.
For Stokes, the defensive numbers speak for themselves. She set the Liberty single-season record for blocked shots (67) and the single-game mark, swatting eight shots in a remarkable night in July against the Connecticut Sun. Stokes also averaged 5.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, posting three double-doubles.
“I think we know what to expect,” said Stokes. “The coaches had told us both what we need to do better, what we did well last year and need to continue to do. So they expect a lot from us and I know and know we can do it, just have to put it together.”
Boyd boasted explosive athleticism that made her a game-changer from the outset. She Led all rookies with 1.1 steals per game, and practically stole a game away on the road against Phoenix, recording three steals in the final 2:41 to help the Liberty beat the Mercury on the road.
Boyd also averaged 6.6 points and 2.3 assists per game. If not for a wrist injury late in the regular season, she could have proven to be a different maker in a tight Eastern Conference Finals series against Indiana.
“For me at point guard, I have to talk at my position,” said Boyd. “I think I’ve been trying to talk a little bit more. Last year I didn’t really talk that much, but Tanisha is not here in camp right now, so I have to be that vocal leader for the team, get us in our offense and be on point.”
Heading into 2016, both players know the drill. Rookies no more, the expectations are higher. Boyd is a point guard for the future, and Stokes is one of the premier defensive threats in the WNBA. They both possess tremendous potential, the key will be tapping into it, and making sure they make their second season even more impressive than the first.
“I think Boyd has advanced more than we thought she might,” said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer. “She’s really taken to heart being a lead guard, which is very positive. Kiah, it is always a work in progress to make her aware of when she has shots. She is shooting the ball well, but she has to have that awareness that when the ball is being swung, she instantaneously recognizes she’s open.”