Liberty Kick Off 2011 Campaign Today

After losing in the WNBA Eastern Conference finals last season, the New York Liberty will be kicking off the 2011 campaign facing the team that eliminated them from playoff contention, the Atlanta Dream.

Throughout training camp, the Liberty’s main focus was to learn what first year head coach John Whisenant stressed the most; defense. Now, after a couple of preseason games and a complete training camp, the team feels like it’s on the right path.

“We’ve really become comfortable with this scheme and with each other,” forward Plenette Pierson said. “We’re a fairly close knit team so I think that’s helping us on the court.”

Whisenant, who won a WNBA Championship in 2005 with the Sacramento Monarchs, has emphasized to the team that in time his defensive scheme will soon become instinctive, something they won’t have to think about. So far, the girls have bought in, and as a result, they are becoming a much better defensive team.

“They’ve bought into the kool-aid I sell,” Whisenant said. “They’ve bought into my theory and they’re trying. But these things don’t just happen over night.”

Training camp and preseason have gone by quickly, which makes learning a new scheme that much more difficult. Forward Nicole Powell believes though that the team’s hard work they have put in thus far and the attitude they've displayed at the beginning of camp will pay dividends in the end.

“Training camp is pretty short, so when you have so much that your trying to implement you’ve really got to be focused everyday,” said Powell, who was part of Whisenant’s championship team in 2005. “We have a great group of players here, smart basketball players and so they pick up things quickly. We have a willingness to work hard and that’s what it takes.”

One of the biggest changes we will see throughout the season is guard Cappie Pondexter assuming more playing time at the point guard position. While she has played the one for her team overseas, she said this will be her first time doing this in the WNBA.

“I’m going to try and get myself involved in the game as much as possible, and try to get everyone else into it as well,” Pondexter said. “For me, it’s an adjustment but I’m willing to accept it because it’s going to help me grow as a player. It’s something new, but I’m willing to take the challenge.”

To begin the season, Whisenant will also be working with a new rotation of post players. In addition to Pierson and Kia Vaughn in the starting roles, newly acquired center Quanitra Hollingsworth and rookie forward Jessica Breland will back them up. While Pierson has been a two-time champion in the league, Whisenant said that the other post players are so far unknown to the WNBA but will have a chance to be noticed.

“The young posts have a great opportunity to shine,” Whisenant said. “I use the [Dream] posts, Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle as examples. The first few years they were in the league, you hardly knew who they were. Now they are All-Star caliber posts. Atlanta gave them an opportunity, a chance to play, a chance to shine and they have taken advantage of it. We’ve got post players who now have the same opportunity with the Liberty.”

The main thing on the team’s mind heading into that first game is simple; win a championship.

“I believe our players will stay the course and we will get better and better and we will be there in the end,” Whisenant said.

The New York Liberty open up their season today, June 5 at Atlanta. Be sure to tune in right here on nyliberty.com via Live Access.