New York Liberty 2016 Training Camp is presented by Blueprint for Athletes.
New York Liberty 2016 Training Camp presented by Blueprint for Athletes officially got underway on Sunday morning at MSG Training Center with the first of two practices on the first official day of the year for the Liberty.
There are 15 players in camp to start the season, with Tanisha Wright and Lindsey Harding slated to report later in the preseason. Wright recently wrapped up an Israeli League championship with her club team Maccabi Ashdod, while Harding concludes a stint playing for Dynamo Kursk in Russia.
Amongst the 15 players in camp, seven are rookies, including a pair of draft picks in Adut Bulgak and Ameryst Alston, along with Danielle Ballard (LSU/Finland), Talia Caldwell (Cal), Elin Eldebrink (Sweden), Alisia Jenkins (USF), and Annie Tarakchian (Princeton).
Additionally, free agent acquisition Shavonte Zellous also made her first appearance in a Liberty uniform, signing with New York in February after playing the previous five-plus seasons with Indiana, where she won a championship in 2012, and earned an All-Star appearance in 2013.
“First practice, my eighth season, it feels good, it felt kind of weird just being with a new team since I had been with a new team for so long and you are trying to transition, but it feels pretty good, and I’m excited,” said Zellous.
The benefits of having one of the most impressive coaching staffs in the league are not lost on Zellous, as she learns from two-time WNBA Coach of the Year and three-time champion Bill Laimbeer, a pair of WNBA legends in Katie Smith and Teresa Weatherspoon, and Herb Williams, who enters his second season with the Liberty after more than a decade on the coaching staff with the Knicks.
“Look what Spoon did in her career, look what Katie did in her career. Just to have two vets that have been in the WNBA, they know what it takes to get to the next level, know how hard you have to work, it’s important,” said Zellous. “That’s my goal, to work with them every day before practice.”
While there are plenty of new faces, learning quickly how to compete at the next level, there is a great deal of rollover from the previous season, as New York attempts to take the next step after falling one game short of reaching the WNBA Finals a year ago.
Once Wright rejoins the team, the Liberty will have eight players from last year’s team competing in camp. Since Laimbeer took over as head coach prior to the 2013 season, New York has seen a 100 percent turnover in its roster, so searching for that consistency will be key during the three-week camp before the season begins on May 14.
“At this point last year we were trying to figure out how to get a very new group to work and play together,” said Swords. “This year there is a good group of us that understands what the coaches are looking for, we’re familiar with the sets. Not only are we familiar with how some of us play together, but we can help some of the players coming in.”
The Liberty’s season opener is at the Washington Mystics on Saturday, May 14, at 7 p.m. The home opener at Madison Square Garden will be on Sunday, May 15, against the Dallas Wings at 5 p.m. Tickets are ON SALE NOW.