Ros' Camp Diaries: Day 3

New York Liberty analyst Ros Gold-Onwude keeps fans informed as she chatters candidly from 2013 New York Liberty training camp.
May 8, 2013

Guess who dunked in practice today?

Now that I've got your attention, I'll save that bit of sensationalist juice for the end. Let's start at the beginning…

Day three of New York Liberty training camp entailed another two-a-day format. The second session of a two-a-day moves fast. One of the biggest tests during the second session is battling fatigue. Coach Laimbeer pounded through a number of competitive, full contact, full speed drills for short spurts of time. The players are to go hard for those few minutes and then move on to the next drill. Laimbeer sprinkles the rotations with quick water breaks. Just about one hour into the second session of Day Three of training camp is the point where your legs begin to feel like lead, your body begins to feel the totality of the first three days and the challenge evolves into a mental one.

All players are now in camp except for Cappie Pondexter. Kara Braxton got in earlier this morning and is trying to catch up on learning the offense and defense. The pace doesn't slow down for her and she made a few mistakes, but overall learned quickly and eagerly. Pondexter will likely be back by next week. Her successful overseas season with Turkey's Club Fenerbahce kept her playing through the beginning of May. Once Cappie returns to New York her most important "to do" during training camp is REST. She's going to accumulate many minutes on her legs and Liberty fans will want to see her start the season fresh.

The personalities of the assistant coaches are emerging. Coach Taj is very vocal during practice. She is often in charge of breaking down pieces of the offense and defense. She is an effective teacher as she relates to the players on a number of levels. Her advice sounds like you are getting it from a fellow player; the players listen and know that she played with the best in the WNBA just last season. At times she'll call a player out, sometimes with a joke, the way a big sister would. And other times she'll call a young player over and discuss the last play so warmly that she resembles a mother. Coach Farris is more reserved. Watching. Quietly adding reinforcement to what Laimbeer says. You'll find her interacting one-on-one with players on the sideline during drills. She seems a little more soft spoken but you will usually hear her laughing; she has a great sense of humor.

Essence Carson's defense has improved. Yes, she was labeled a good defender last season, but today she wreaked havoc. Every single perimeter player who matched up against Carson struggled. She played defense with increased aggressiveness and she deflected the ball time after time after time with her length. She has good awareness of how close she can be to an offensive player by using her foot speed and athletic ability to beat a player to a spot, recover, contest the shot, and finally, finish with a box out.

Leilani Mitchell joined training camp looking lean, thin and muscular! She played in drills with confidence. Her experience and poise differentiates her from younger guard Kamiko Williams and she seemed much more aggressive and energetic than Loree Moore. Mitchell is the only Liberty guard that can only play the point guard position. I'm not yet sure if her specialization hurts her or benefits her in Laimbeer's system. More to come.

Cheryl Ford is sleek. She is much leaner than you may remember her from when she last played in the WNBA three years ago. She has shed pounds but not force. She is nimble in the post and crafty. As the players get familiar with each other I predict that you will see high IQ cuts, slips, passes, and dumps being made with her involved in the play.

Fellow veteran post Plenette Pierson is playing with a passion I hadn't seen last season. Plenette always played hard. You expect that when she steps on the court. But it wasn't always clear that she was having fun. Plenette seems more excited on the court, younger, gigglier and rejuvenated. During one drill, Plenette set the screen in a pick and roll with the rookie Shenneika Smith. Shenneika came off of the screen hard, desperately looking for a rolling Pierson but Pierson didn't move. Plenette appeared to be glued to the spot on the floor where she set the screen. Pierson throws her hands up and started to laugh and then everyone started to crack up with laughter. Plenette shook her head, threw her hands up in the air and said, "My brain's tired, my legs are tired, errythangs tired". Everyone, including Bill Laimbeer, continued to laugh. Finally the poor rookie, Shenneika Smith, started to laugh, too. Smith was still looking for someone to pass the ball to. Poor thing, she's just trying to do the right thing. Bill responded, "I understand, I want to keep your legs going, " and proceeded to change the drill. These are REAL relationships being built between players and coach. Bill listened, adjusted, and demonstrated his ability to be a player's coach.

The rookies looked like rookies today. Kamiko Williams and Shenneika Smith are still picking up the pace of the pro level and forced turnovers on each other, however, both players knocked down a few sweet pull-up jumpers. Karisma Penn seemed tentative and the coaches encouraged her to shoot. Kelsey Bone has her hands full. While Williams and Smith match up against each other, she's in the paint versus big, strong, veteran players in Kara Braxton, Plenette Pierson, and Cheryl Ford. It is both an incredibly daunting challenge and a great opportunity.

Lastly in the rookie report, Toni Young dunked! It wasn't an emphatic dunk, rather, a solid grab of rim as she laid the ball in. She is certainly capable of a rim-shaking dunk, but today, this was more of Toni's quiet reminder to all people in the gym, "YO… I'm here!" She got a big smile out of Laimbeer, who resembled a little kid in a candy store and even roused an "OK TONI!" shout out of me, the reporter on the sideline. Look, I'm not on the team, but if anyone dunks, I'm throwing in my two cents, too! Believe that.

Toni Young had a strong day of camp today, the best of all the rookies. She is outrageously athletic; in fact, she is the most athletic player in camp. She gets up so high with every jump and her hang time affords her the time she needs to finish jump shots and layups in traffic. She's so athletic that at times she looks awkward. She looks like a Praying Mantis on the court, she's so long. Coach Taj said she saw improvement in Young's understanding of what the coaches are asking from her. They are asking a lot. Not only is she adjusting to the WNBA level of play, but also they are asking her to make a position shift. Young played in the post as a four at Oklahoma State and the Liberty want her to play on the wing as a three. She has her hands full but she is quiet, listens and has tons of potential. I would keep my eye on her during training camp, Liberty fans.

That's it for now, Liberty and WNBA fans! I'll be back with more diary entries of my observations from New York Liberty 2013 training camp. Stay tuned! Follow on Twitter: @nyliberty and me, @Rosgo21

May 6: