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Michaela Onyenwere talks energy, team goals, advocacy, and more at Liberty practice

Atlanta Dream v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

Following the New York Liberty’s big victory over the Chicago Sky on Saturday night, the New York Liberty were back to work on Monday afternoon at Barclays Center. We got a chance to chat with one of the heroes from Saturday’s big win over Chicago, Michaela Onyenwere! Here’s our conversation:

  • On how her knee is feeling after she missed two games during the week:

“It feels good.”

  • On how important it is for her to be a spark of positive energy coming off the bench:

“I think that’s been my role, as I’ve been growing in what Sandy [Brondello] wants me to do. I’m just figuring that out where I fit. So just being a spark has always been my goal, and that could be getting 20 minutes. It could be getting 10 minutes or even making the last play, just always staying ready, being that spark. And I think it’s really important. It shows just that everybody’s role is important. You have to be ready regardless of how many minutes you’ve played, and I’m really grateful that she trusted me. We had a situation where [Natasha Howard] fouled out so it was a next woman up mentality. Just walking through the play, I knew they were probably gonna through Candace [Parker]. She’s one of the best ever in this game. So just being as physical as I could with her, hoping she could miss, and getting the rebound was the important thing. By that time, we had been getting killed on the offensive rebounds, so that was important. Get the rebound and the game would go for itself.”

  • On having physical presence on the boards and how it can power their transition attack

“Yeah, it’s so important. We’re not the biggest team all the time, but it does show that we are really, really relentless on that. There was a stretch where it really, really hurt us. They got offensive rebound after offensive rebound and that really hurt us. That kind of willed them back in the game. I think we were up by 10 [points] at some point, and offensive rebounds is what got them back in it, and fouls as well. That’s super important like you said for our transition defense. It’s a lot easier when you don’t have to set up against a set defense, and our team is really good at getting open shots to those who can shoot or whatever they may need in transition. It’s much easier to be able to score when you’re not against a set defense. That’s really important for us and moving forward, we’ll continue to do that and continue to work hard down there.”

  • On the importance of getting downhill and creating pressure on defenses along with the team’s jump shooting:

“So important. We are really known as being a three point shooting team. That’s not all we are. We have really great post play, but there’s other ways to get into the paint. That’s driving to the paint, getting fouled, being aggressive in that way. We were able to exploit that just a little bit on the pick and roll matchup where they weren’t rotating as well to the roller, so we were able to get a lot of those rolls. We’ve talked about being a team that can get paint to great. We’re always gonna be a good three point shooting team. That’s a given, we have really great shooters who put in the time, the effort, and the work. But you can really tell the sentiments of a team when they can get into the paint and get really good shots. So I think that was good for us to be able to continue that and build on that.”

  • On the biggest goal as far as building on the win and taking it forward:

“I think for the biggest picture, we want to make the playoffs. We know that’s a push that we need, and we’re not necessarily looking at the rankings at the moment, but that’s exactly what we wanna do, which is make the playoffs. But on a low scale, we wanna go ahead and beat the rest of the people coming up. We have Chicago coming up in a few days, and they’re gonna be coming for revenge. Obviously, we had a game where it went down to the wire and they lost it at the end. So that’s a team that is really competitive and will have some of their people back. So for us, it’s about continuing to build on what we didn’t do well. Just because we won doesn’t mean that we played a perfect game. There are a lot of things that we worked on today and we will work on moving forward during the week that will continue to help us get better and get ready for that game.”

  • On large organizations like the WNBA to speak up and advocate for righteous causes

“It’s super important and as athletes, we’d be doing a disservice not to speak up against things that are really important socially. We have a really, really big platform. People who look to us, people who we inspire, and people who we impact quite a bit. For me, I know I’ve learned to use my voice through sport and I wouldn’t have my voice if it wasn’t for the sport of basketball. Even before the WNBA, but the WNBA has been trailblazers in every since single social issue. So I think it’s so important for WNBA athletes to continue to speak up, speak out, and use their voice because people listen and it’s really important when we do that.”