NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Later this month, the WNBA will begin its 2020 season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and the New York Liberty will look a lot different than last year.
Sabrina Ionescu was the first pick of April’s 2020 WNBA Draft, the team hired Walt Hopkins to be its new head coach and players such as Asia Durr and Rebecca Allen decided not play this season. The Liberty are one of the youngest teams in the league and that means rookies Jocelyn Willoughby and Kylee Shook could be getting significant playing time this summer.
Willoughby was the 10th overall pick in April by Phoenix and was traded on draft night to the Liberty. Meanwhile, Shook was an early second round pick for New York. Both players are excited to begin their rookie campaigns and realize it will be a season unlike any other.
“It’s just been so much uncertainty,” said Willoughby in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “Kylee and I got drafted and we were like is the season going to happen. “You’re a professional athlete, but you’re not on a team yet. You’re trying to transition from college, but now being in Florida with our team, it makes everything feel real. There’s some reassurance in being able to get back to a little bit of normal.”
“We got chosen by a team and didn’t really know what was going on and didn’t know what to prepare for,” said Shook. “We have veterans and they’re amazing and they’re all teaching us the game. We are such a young team, but I think it helps because all of the rookies know each other coming in. It’s us building on top of the veterans. I really like the team, the coaches and how they take time to teach us.”
Both Willoughby and Shook noted that veterans like Kia Nurse, Amanda Zahui B, Layshia Clarendon and Kiah Stokes have provided great leadership so far. The new members of the Liberty have also been impressed with their fellow rookie Ionescu.
“Playing against her, she’s such an amazing player, but that’s all I’ve ever seen of her,” said Shook. “I’ve always seen her treat her teammates good. Actually being on her team now and having interactions with her, she’s a great person. She’s kind and she teaches. She’s a role model, even though she’s young. She’s one of those people that is a natural born leader. It’s nice to be on her team.”
“My knowledge of her has been watching and seeing interviews and things like that,” said Willoughby. “I was just excited to be able to meet her in person and be a teammate. The interactions with everyone were like we’re here for a purpose and we’ve been bought in and we’re uplifting each other. We’re trying to be good teammates and people as well as great players. I’m excited to see how our relationship on and off the court grows in the coming weeks and months.”
The 22 game shortened regular season begins July 22.