The Liberty’s 2020 home-opener was originally scheduled for May 17, against the Los Angeles Sparks at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. While the 2020 WNBA season remains postponed due to COVID-19, let’s take an in-depth look into what to expect from the New York Liberty team.
The ‘New’ in New York Liberty carries greater meaning heading into the 2020 season. It is a year full of ‘new’ for the Liberty, including a new arena, coaching staff, logo, jersey sponsor and six rookies added to the roster. The franchise will enter its 24th season with a ton of newness and the hope that it translates onto the hardwood.
New Coaching Staff
The Liberty will be under the direction of an entirely new coaching staff, led by first-year head coach, Walt Hopkins. Hopkins, who became New York’s 8th head coach in franchise history this past January, joins the Liberty after serving as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx since 2017 where he won a WNBA Championship.
Joining Hopkins is a strategic trio of assistant coaches who each bring unique skills and experiences to the Liberty. This includes 30-year coaching veteran Shelley Patterson, former WNBA champion and coach Kelly Raimon and player development specialist Dustin Gray.
A Historical 2020 WNBA Draft
For the first time in franchise history, New York held the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. The team selected college basketball’s most decorated player, Sabrina Ionescu. In trading Tina Charles, the team’s franchise player of the last six seasons, New York acquired a franchise-record amount of draft picks in a three-team deal with the Washington Mystics and Dallas Wings. Going into draft night, the Liberty held the 1, 9, 12, 13, 15 and 26 picks.
After selecting Ionescu, the Liberty continued to win big in the 2020 WNBA Draft. The front office used the remaining picks and made several draft-night trades to bring Megan Walker, Jocelyn Willoughby, Jazmine Jones, Kylee Shook, and Leaonna Odom to Brooklyn.
For the New York Liberty’s full 2020 WNBA Draft recap, please visit here.
Style of Play
Over the past few months, both Walt Hopkins and general manager Jonathan Kolb, have been interviewed at length regarding how the 2020 New York Liberty team will play. Stylistically, both of them share a vision for the Liberty that entails speed, versatility, efficient decision-making, high-percentage attempts, and stretching the floor with long-range shooting.
Throughout the draft process, Hopkins and Kolb addressed selecting prospects who are not only talented, but are also high-character people who possess a team-first mentality. They believe that they now have the right pieces in place to establish a winning culture that reintroduces the Liberty as contenders for years to come.
Fountain of Youth
The New York Liberty’s average player age is currently 23.7 years old. Between the young core of returners and the addition of six rookies, the Liberty are poised to grow and develop as a cohesive unit.
Beyond the Arc at Barclays
With a long-list of skilled three-point shooters returning to the Liberty in Kia Nurse, Rebecca Allen, Asia Durr, Marine Johannès, and Amanda Zahui B, this offense will aim to stretch the floor and rank among the top W teams in all three-point related categories.
Rookies Megan Walker, Sabrina Ionsecu, Jocelyn Willoughby, Jazmine Jones and Kylee Shook will add to the Liberty’s long-range threat. Walker joins New York after ranking No. 8 in NCAA Division I three-point percentage during her final campaign at UConn, shooting 45.1% (78-173).
Welcome to BK, Layshia!
On February 10, 2020, the New York Liberty signed guard Layshia Clarendon at the start of the WNBA open free agency period. Clarendon, a seven-year WNBA veteran, was drafted 9th overall by the Indiana Fever in 2013 where she spent three seasons. The 5-9 guard then logged over two years in the Atlanta Dream’s backcourt where she led the WNBA in assists in 2017. In the second-half of 2018, Layshia was traded to the Connecticut Sun where she spent the rest of the season, as well as 2019 where the Sun reached the WNBA Finals. Over the course of her career, Clarendon has averaged 6.9 points, 2.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game over 198 total regular-season contests, also seeing action in 21 playoff games.
A member of the USA Basketball national team and former college teammate of Reshanda Gray at University of California- Berkeley, Clarendon will add familiarity, experience and leadership to this young Liberty roster. Her valuable leadership is not limited to the hardwood, as Layshia is an active member and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, and continues to shed light on social issues in our society. She embodies the very meaning of #BrooklynLoud, and was one of the key figures in shaping the league’s new collective bargaining agreement as First Vice President of the WNBA Player’s Association.
Kia Nurse, From Rookie to Vet in a New York Minute
After a breakout second season in 2019, where she ranked 16th in the league in points per game (13.6), as well as being named an AT&T WNBA All-Star starter, Kia Nurse quickly finds herself as one of the most experienced players in the Liberty’s backcourt. Nurse, 24, made her WNBA debut just two short seasons ago, and will now be looked upon as a veteran presence on both sides of the ball for this young New York lineup.
Second-year shooting guard, Asia Durr, is returning to the hardwood after a shortened rookie campaign due to injury that caused her to miss 16 games. The second overall selection in the 2019 WNBA Draft underwent successful hip surgery on Sept. 18, 2019. She will now return to the Liberty’s lineup and look to flourish in this new system.
In addition to a healthy Asia Durr, the Liberty will look to second-year players Marine Johannès and Han Xu. Johannès joined the Liberty in 2019 after completing her overseas commitment and had two games where she shot perfectly from the field. Xu, who was the WNBA’s youngest and tallest player in 2019, quickly became a fan favorite. Xu’s unique ability to stretch the floor as a 6-9 center will be a positive for the Liberty.
It is a very exciting time to be a part of the New York Liberty family, and we all look forward to the return of the WNBA. For continued Liberty coverage and updates, please follow our social channels at @NYLiberty, and be sure to visit our website.