By Ros Gold-Onwude

The Liberty returned to practice at 11:30 AM this Monday, June 26. Plenette Pierson rehabbed her leg on the sideline while Cappie Pondexter and DeMya Walker had light days rehabbing and resting. After beginning with a stretch, the players began half court one-on-one moves. They dribbled in at full speed and attacked oversized "practice dummies" that hovered high enough to threaten their shots. Later, the team worked on 3-player full court fast break drills. The goal was to work on cardio and create muscle memory for finishing layups and jump shots on the run.

Half way through practice, the male practice players joined the team adding extra athleticism, speed, and strength. The focus shifted towards defense. The intensity of practice heightened as Coach Whisenant hammered home being in the right positions in his "White Line" defensive strategy. The practice players ran the scout and plays of the upcoming opponent, the Seattle Storm. Liberty players worked on their defensive game plan to slow Sue Bird down coming off of screens for shots and creating out of pick and roll situations.

After hustling on defense for a large chunk of practice the Liberty players and practice player switched their roles. Leilani Mitchell and Kelly Miller ran the team's offensive sets against the practice player's active D. Coach Whiz ended the practice with a huddle and Liberty players went to individual hoops to get extra shots up before leaving the gym.

Liberty head coach, John Whisenant, has always been a "defense-first" coach. Here were a few of his key points and lessons from Monday's practice:

Executing With 5 Players At A Time.
In the "White Line" defense, it takes full concentration and effort from everyone. If one person takes a break or has a mental lapse, the defense cannot work. It's success requires hard work, high energy, and good conditioning from the 5 people on the court and a 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th player who can come in off the bench to execute it as well.

Front, Influence, Help, Help, Block Out.
Coach Whiz explained that their defense cannot get sloppy due to fatigue. "When we get tired we lose our influence", he said referring to cutting off the offensive player's angle to the middle of the paint. He wants his post to front and his guards to influence players baseline in the help. There must be quick rotation to help the helper and when the shot goes up every Liberty player must find someone to box out.

We asked; Coach Whiz answered.

Goal of practice:
"To get better and not have any lulls on both ends of the court."

Last game vs. ATL June 24th:
"Our defense was ok. Our goal is to allow 72 or less points per game, we allowed 74. The problem is the distribution of points. We can't have 3rd quarters where the other team goes off for 25 points and we only respond with 10."

"We rebounded better. That is an area we have struggled. Kia Vaughn's offensive rebounding was great (12 rebounds, 9 offensive), but we did not convert for points."

Kara Braxton:
"I think she played her best game of the year (14 points, 13 rebounds). She is our power player and made power shots. She has a lot of talent. Our defensive style may be more suited for undersized quick posts but she can play in it because she is athletic. Right now we are finding ways to use her in spurts, adding boosts of power to our inside game."