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Liberty talk about their new players as training camp opens

WNBA Draft 2022 Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Following the WNBA Draft on Monday evening, the New York Liberty have begun the process of preparing for the 2022 season and the first year with new head coach, Sandy Brondello.

On Friday morning, the team held press conferences with the media at Barclays Center to discuss the draft and preview their camp, which officially begins Sunday.

The biggest news of the morning was the announcement that the fifth overall pick, Nyara Sabally, will not play this season as she heals from a knee injury. Here’s video of GM Jonathan Kolb’s announcement via Myles Ehrlich of Nets Republic and Winsidr:

Kolb did mention that the team was incredibly high on their second round pick, Lorela Cubaj, and was shocked she fell to the position in the draft that she did. She lasted till No. 18 when the Seattle Storm took her, then within minutes forwarded her rights to New York.

In selecting the 6’4” Cubaj, the Liberty added even more depth to a solid frontcourt rotation and will go about developing their second round pick. Brondello noted Cubaj’s ability to facilitate, set good screens, and play good defense will be areas in which she can contribute immediately. Coach Brondello added:

“Defense will be preached in training camp. We want to be a great defensive team.”

Sika Kone was not at the press conference and will not be playing with the Liberty this season but the 29th pick from Mali in west Africa shared this statement via the team:

“This is a dream come true, but in the dream, the draft is just a step. The hard part starts now. This is another step in my young career. It is a joy but also an honor to represent Mali in the WNBA, but also to expand the African family not only in the USA but also by its exposure throughout the entire planet. I feel like I’m jumping from continent to continent, Africa-Europe-America, and that’s fantastic. For me, basketball has no borders. I would like to thank all those who have believed in me since my beginnings, and first of all my parents who trusted me when I went alone to Spain. I was 14 years old. I always wanted to make them proud. Especially my Mom who is looking at me from heaven today. It was my Mom’s dream for me to play in the WNBA. A thought also for my supporters in Mali, starting with Moussa, my agent Ahmadou Keita (AK Sports Management), my club Gran Canaria, my coaches, my national coaches, my teammates. I have always set high goals for myself and to reach them I have worked hard. I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight, I’m in Spain with some rehab obligations. I can’t wait to discover my new franchise, New York Liberty, the city, the fans. I love you guys already. See you soon and thank you so much.”

For the Liberty, the draft was an opportunity for them to fortify their present while laying the foundation for an exciting, fantastic future with the additions of Kone and Sabally. With the frontcourt players ahead of her, the team has the luxury of taking its time with Sabally and ensuring she is 100 percent healthy for 2023 and beyond.

The road ahead

Washington Mystics v New York Liberty Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s the 14-woman roster they’ll start with:

Rebecca Allen and Stefanie Dolson have overseas obligations so they will be arriving at camp late. Also of note, Han Xu will be at camp and this is her first time back with the Liberty since the 2019 season under then head coach, Katie Smith. (Han is currently listed at 6’10”, an inch taller than last year. At 6’10”, she’ll be the tallest player in the WNBA.)

Paris Kea and Asia Durr will be returning to action following their own injury and health issues. GM Kolb also noted that there’s a very good possibility Marine Johannes will be returning to the Liberty as well following the completion of her duties with her French basketball club in June. Jocelyn Willoughby missed all of 2021 with an Achilles injury she suffered in training camp, and will be returning to action this year. As the Liberty regain their health and figure out their lineups, they have the potential to exceed expectations which at this point are middling.

As camp begins on Sunday, the coaching staff talks about how they’re excited to see internal growth of the players from last season as well as the newbies can mesh. Over the next three weeks, the team will be keeping a small training camp roster and start ironing things out. The team is well positioned for the present and the future, and as they begin this new journey, will have the opportunity to really build on their 2021 playoff appearance and climb higher heights.