Liberty Open Camp with Excitement and Confidence

By Mike Slane,

The New York Liberty has a new look after an extremely busy offseason. But it is still going to be a few more days before the entire team can come together for the first time during the 2010 season.

Essence Carson finished the 2009 season third in team scoring with 10.0 ppg.
(WNBA/Getty Images)
There were 11 players running drills and scrimmaging during the second day of the Liberty’s training camp held at the team’s training center on Monday afternoon. Of those players, only Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn were on last season’s squad. And the three All-Stars acquired this offseason are still wrapping up their season’s overseas.

“We were busy in the offseason,” Liberty President and General Manager Carol Blazejowski said with a smile after the afternoon practice. “You can’t see it here because none of them are here yet, but we were. Trust me.”

Due to overseas commitments from several of the players in the WNBA, it’s not uncommon that spring training camps around the league begin shorthanded. But the Liberty are expecting its new veterans to quickly adjust to playing with the seven returning players from last season when the quest for a championship begins next month.

“We want to be right up there this year,” Blazejowski said. “I’m confident with this roster once it comes together.”

Blazejowski isn’t the only one who is confident that the improved lineup - which features newcomers Cappie Pondexter, Nicole Powell and Taj McWilliams-Franklin - will come together quickly once everybody arrives. Coach Anne Donovan is quick to point out that the team is filled with true professionals with championship experience.

“It’s just about getting bodies on the floor and getting ready to go to work as soon as they get here,” said Donovan, who is entering her first full season as the Liberty’s head coach. “It’s a challenge, but the people that we are bringing in are all pros and experienced players and veterans. They know how to hit the ground running.”

Donovan, however, thinks it will still take some time for her team to reach its full potential.

“Unfortunately, I think that’s the WNBA,” she said. “You never see a team in May look how they look in the postseason. Powell is going to be a late arrival so she won’t be integrated at all until maybe June. But, again, we are talented enough that we can figure it out along the way.”

New York acquired a total of four veterans this offseason and selected three rookies in the WNBA Draft. Last Friday, the Liberty signed six free agents to its training camp roster, which currently stands at 19 players.

The Liberty shook up its roster after finishing with a disappointing 13-21 record last season. The expectations entering the 2009 season were very high coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance the year before, but things never seemed to click. New York doesn’t want to take the risk of experiencing a similar setback.

“We needed to bring in some new blood to give us new energy and just give us a different look,” Blazejowski said. “While it may look like we’re starting over, we have I think a great complement of veterans and young people.”

Carson believes all the pieces are in place for a championship.

“Inside, we have an All-Star coming in with Taj,” Carson said. “The perimeter is looking really solid with Nicole as well as Cappie. And even our draft picks, I think in time they will get used to our system and become great players. And with myself – I’ve really improved my game this offseason – I think we’ll be a very solid team.”

And Liberty fans will find out if Carson is right when the team comes together shortly.

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