Liberty

Betnijah Laney Continues to Answer the Liberty’s Call

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When the New York Liberty were at the bottom of the WNBA standings following the 2020 season, they called on Betnijah Laney. They signed the 2020 Most Improved Player to pair alongside their young phenom Sabrina Ionescu and newly-acquired veteran Natasha Howard.

When Howard suffered a knee injury, forcing her to miss three months, the Liberty called on Betnijah Laney. She led the team in scoring and represented New York as their only All-Star in 2021. Her addition also resulted in a 10-win improvement from the previous season, and the team’s first playoff appearance since 2016.

When the Liberty compiled a star-studded roster this offseason — and they needed someone to sacrifice minutes and touches — they called on Betnijah Laney. Her usage rate dropped to the lowest it’s been since 2019.

And when the Liberty were on the brink of a devastating second loss at home in the WNBA Semifinals, they once again called on Betnijah Laney. And once again, just as she had since her arrival in 2021, Laney answered the call.

Queen B

In a season-defining Game 2, Laney took charge on both ends to seal a victory for the Seafoam and Copper. She scored 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, all while playing stellar defense in the Liberty’s new zone scheme. 

When asked about Laney’s clutch play after the game, Sandy Brondello spoke highly of the veteran wing.

“It says a lot about B, it’s all about winning,” Brondello said. “She loves the moment…Just super proud of B and how she’s embraced the role, and really has continued to get better as a player.”

Laney didn’t just garner praise from her coach; her teammates were quick to acknowledge her importance in Tuesday night’s victory.

“B hit huge shots for us,” Ionescu said. “Everyone made the plays that helped us win this game and did their job.”

That job changed quite a bit for Laney when the Liberty added Courtney Vandersloot, Jonquel Jones and newly-crowned 2023 MVP Breanna Stewart to the team this past winter. No longer would she be a primary initiator on offense. No longer would she be expected to lead her team in scoring.

Other players might have struggled with such a dramatic change. But not Laney— she embraced her new role, and even added to her game. 

Long May She Rain (Threes)

The veteran stepped up on defense all year long, earning a selection to the All-Defensive second team. Knowing she’d be playing off the ball more often, she improved on her three-point shooting. This year, she boasted career highs in attempts and conversions from deep. Laney’s also been efficient when she gets the opportunity to score, posting a career-best .574 effective field-goal percentage. 

https://twitter.com/nyliberty/status/1706857670022701150?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Laney has certainly left an indelible impression on her coaches, teammates, fans and perhaps most importantly, the front office. Earlier this month, they signed her to an extension that will keep her in New York through the 2025 season. 

After the win, ESPN’s Holly Rowe asked Laney how she was able to come back from a disappointing loss in Game 1.

“Just letting that game go,” Laney said, “And just coming out knowing what I’m capable of and sticking to it.”

Her team will be calling on her to “stick to it” for the rest of these playoffs. And if the past is any indication of the future, she’ll answer that call.

About Jack Levenberg

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