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Jocelyn Willoughby talks growth, communication, education and more at Liberty practice

WNBA: JUL 19 New York Liberty at Connecticut Sun Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Opening Night in the WNBA is drawing closer, and the New York Liberty are gearing up for what’s promising to be a dream season. At Tuesday’s practice, we got a chance to chat with third year guard/forward, Jocelyn Willoughby! Here’s our conversation:

On the first impressions in training camp so far:

“It’s been really exciting. I think we are intense. I think the first couple of days haven’t been perfect, but overall have been pretty sharp. Training camp is a huge learning period and it’s a lot being thrown out at you in a short amount of time, but I feel like we’ve been very receptive in picking it up.”

WNBL Rd 10 - Sydney v Townsville Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images

On her experience playing in Australia and how her game has blossomed:

“Playing in Australia was really good. The WNBL is a good league but for me, after coming back from injury and having a season last year where I was playing some and injured some, it was just really important and a really good opportunity to get back on the court, play a full, healthy season and just get my rhythm back, get some of my confidence back, and work on my game. So yeah, it was a great opportunity for me.”

On the experience of getting to work on her game after two years of injuries and playing in the wubble:

“You know, the past couple of years have been trying. And as you said, it hasn’t been I feel like a normal intro or first couple of years into a league. So just to have a little bit of stability or normalcy of getting back to like, “Okay, this is a basketball season without all the rehab, without the restrictions socially and so on and so forth.” It’s good, and it’s good to be able to have that experience after three years of not [having that experience] was good. So I’m looking to just continue to build on it. Obviously, this is an important season. It’s an exciting one for us here. And so, just to take all the highs and lows that have really built me to be the player I am and just channeling that into this season and this team.”

On how she’ll be able to take on open opportunities when opposing defenses lock in on the Liberty stars:

“That’s the really beautiful thing about our team. We have a lot of people who will draw a lot of attention. So I think part of my role is just to try and be efficient and take advantage of the opportunities that are made available to me. And sometimes, that’s going to be an open shot when everyone goes to double team [Jonquel Jones] or [Breanna Stewart] or [Courtney Vandersloot], [Betnijah Laney], you know, you can go down the roster. Or it’s going to be penetrating and kicking, just doing really whatever is created for me in the flow of the offense.”

On the importance of establishing good team communication habits early:

“It’s so critical especially because we have some players who are super versatile. And so I think during this period, it’s important to build chemistry but also understanding with one teammate, I might switch. With another, it’s gonna be a hedge. And so figuring out what it is with each person right now is really important. But communication is key. It’s a skill honestly I think sometimes is undervalued in terms of just how important it is for everyone to be on the same page. And you build confidence from that as well as a team and you intimidate others. So, just continuing with communication is huge on both ends of the floor.”

On having a “normal” season:

“That’s an interesting question because I feel like there still is a lot of craziness in the world, you know? There was wars going on and so on and so forth. So I think you really have to compartmentalize and so for me, it’s understanding that there’s a bigger picture. But when we’re on the court, we’re dedicating a certain amount of time to this. We’re really honing in on our craft. And then after that, you can pay attention to the other things in the world, whether positive or sometimes really depressing. But it’s a hard balance to strike but at the end of the day, part of being a professional is compartmentalizing and just finding your times of when you bring, because we do have platforms, so when you bring in the other things to your sport.”

On the importance of promoting reading, equality, and education at a time when they’re under threat:

“I think it’s so important. I think one, from a literacy standpoint: I will say, my first season overseas, I went to Israel. And I think the pivotal moment for me was going to the grocery store and everything was in Hebrew. And I was at the moment where it’s it’s so important to be able to read. I was like “I literally don’t know if this is basil, oregano, or spinach. Like, what am I buying right now, you know? And so, just those moments that show you the importance of literacy and education. But I think, when we think of the world that we’re in right now and some of the censorship efforts that are happening in our public school systems and learning our histories, but just being educated in general. It’s so important, I think, as a league, especially as an organization that takes pride in being a part of this community as well. We have an opportunity but also a responsibility to be a part of those educational pursuits.”