"Third Times a Charm"

Bethany Donaphin’s time has finally come. After being waived by the New York Liberty two years in a row, Donaphin came into the 2004 Liberty Training Camp stronger than ever. Moreover, in the Liberty’s two preseason games versus the Sparks this year, she averaged 12 points per game including a 14-point performance in her Madison Square Garden debut. After the impressive showing, the New York native earned a spot on the 11-woman roster.

Donaphin with the putback.

Although Donaphin is now a member of the Liberty she remains humble and often reflects on the adversity that she had to overcome, “I still can not believe it, the reality of it all has not yet set in”. Her disbelief stems from the fact that she had been invited to the New York Liberty training camp two consecutive years and both times she did not make the final roster. She admits that the second took a larger toll on her confidence than the first.

After her first stint in the training camp, Donaphin had been assured by the Liberty staff that she had what it takes to play in the WNBA, however she needed a little more time to develop her skills. Donaphin understood the Liberty coaches’ position and agreed that she lacked experience compared to most WNBA players. In fact, she did not play basketball competitively until she was in her teenage years.

The native New Yorker is a dancer turned basketball player. Donaphin started ballet at the age of three and had the opportunity to appear in “Cinderella” on Broadway at nine years old and participate in the 1996 Olympics’ closing ceremonies in Atlanta, Georgia at age 15. It was not until high school that Donaphin began to play basketball on a team. The graceful dancer excelled on the Horace Mann High School basketball team in New York and earned a scholarship to play for the PAC-10 powerhouse Stanford University. In her four years at Stanford, Donaphin scored more than 1,000 points, grabbed nearly 600 rebounds and recorded 136 blocks. Thus, her experience was limited to a couple years in high school and four years in college. In order to make the transition into the WNBA from college Donaphin needed to more to mature as a basketball player.

Taking the advice of the Liberty front office Donaphin headed to Europe to play basketball for Lega Femenina in Spain averaging 7.5 ppg and 6.6 rpg. ppg. Despite her solid play in Spain, the Liberty would once again pass on Donaphin in her second tryout with the team. However, coach Adubato and the rest of the coaching staff did not forget Donaphin as they would later sign her to a contract towards the end of the 2003 season. The contract did not guarantee her a spot on the team for the 2004 season and therefore, she made sure to continue to work on improving her game by once again traveling to Europe in the off season, this time to Turkey. The 6-2 forward/center posted big numbers for Fenerbahce SK Istanbul averaging 18.6 ppg and 8.4 rpg. Donaphin notes that the time she spent in Turkey allowed her to further concentrate on the fundamentals and polish her skills.

Subsequently, her improvement in the off season served as the impetus to playing well during her third Liberty training camp and eventually earning a spot on the 2004 roster. According to Donaphin, “If you have faith in your abilities, use adversity to strengthen yourself, and don’t go down without a fight, you can achieve any goal.”