League MIP Janel McCarville is Convinced New York Will Only Be Stronger in 2008

Bringing Liberty Back to the Playoffs

NEW ORLEANS -- With the third pick in last year's Charlotte Sting dispersal draft, the New York Liberty grabbed former No. 1 overall pick Janel McCarville. And as the 2007 regular season approached, McCarville was returning from a nagging injury, took a bit of time to get in game shape and played a limited role early on.

But when she got fully healthy, she finally lived up to the top-pick billing that never really surfaced during her two seasons in Charlotte. McCarville doubled her career highs in points and steals per game. She also posted career highs in rebounds, assists, shooting percentage and free throw percentage. After leading the overachieving Liberty on a late-season roll into the postseason, McCarville was honored with the 2007 Most Improved Player Award.

McCarville has spent most of this offseason in Slovakia playing for Kosice, but she ventured to New Orleans for NBA All-Star 2008 and a press conference with her new shoe sponsor Peak. WNBA.com caught up with her to discuss her hopes for the coming season in New York.

Q. You played a big part in the Liberty coming from little expectations in 2007 to winning the fourth playoff spot in the East and nearly upsetting the defending champion Shock in the first round. What are you expecting for the Liberty in 2008?

A. "We have great expectations for this season in New York. We have a lot of people coming back. We want things to pick up the way we ended in 2007, on a really high note and playing well as a team. We have a lot of talent at a lot of positions, we're hoping to fill some spots at the draft. Like I said, we'll be very happy to pick up where we left off."

Q. What did you think the Liberty's strengths were last season?

A. "We were young, so the losses in the middle of the season didn't really faze us or bother us. We had a couple of long losing streaks during the course of the season, but we were able to overcome them, learn from them and gain valuable experience that will hopefully, eventually, help us. I think it will play a big role for us this season."

Q. What was it like to emerge as the team's go-to player over the course of the 2007 season? Was is especially tough because of the depth and distribution of the scoring early in the season where any of six or seven players -- you, Shameka Christon, Erin Thorn, Loree Moore, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Ashley Battle or Jessica Davenport could lead the team on a given night? Was it like you became the go-to player on a team without a superstar who demands it every time down the court?

A. "Honestly, having that depth helped us. Having that many players capable of stepping up on a given night was really beneficial for us. Our opponents could never really key on one particular player. And I think that eight different players led us in scoring at least once last season.

"But I still think we need to find that go-to player who can score consistently when we need it. We were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, so we definitely need to find a way to put up more points. Finding someone who can put the ball in the hole ought to help with that."

Q. Are you that player?

A. "Eh, I don't know. It's definitely a possibility. Hopefully I can step up when (coach) Patty (Coyle) calls on me, but if not, I'll happily take the second chair to somebody who can."

Q. After being named the league's Most Improved Player last year, what's next on the horizon for you as a player? What are you hoping to improve in your game?

A. "Anything and everything. I'm not settling with being the kind of player I am now. There are tons of areas in my game that need improvement: shooting, ball-handling, understanding situations in games a little better… knowing what's needed of me at different times in games and not rushing things."

Q. What do you see as the Liberty's weaknesses from 2007? What do you need to improve on as a team?

A. "Scoring is something we definitely need to get better at. We need to be more consistent off the bench. And some other little things. I don't think we have one big area that is a glaring reason of why we lost or anything like that. We were decent defensively, so even though we had trouble putting up points at times, we still won our fair share of games."

Q. What do you see as a fair prediction for the Liberty in 2008? Is getting back to the playoffs the main focus? Or is a title something you're thinking about? Where do you think your team stands in the WNBA hierarchy right now?

A. "It's hard to say. Last year, everyone predicted us to finish last in the league. But we surprised a lot of people. And this year, again, there will be a lot of people who don't think we can make the playoffs. But for us, making the playoffs is definitely one of our goals. Anything after that is going to be icing on the cake. Getting to the postseason is definitely a reasonable goal for us."