Forward Shameka Christon will try to lead the Liberty to their first WNBA title.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

The Liberty stood one win away from advancing to the WNBA Finals last season after squeezing out a 60-56 victory over the Detroit Shock at home in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. New York was hoping that momentum could carry them past Motown�s team, but Detroit is known to become a different team that time of year, and playing them on their home court is like playing the lottery � the odds are against you.

In Game 2, the Liberty had trouble stopping guard Deanna Nolan (22 pts) and fell to the Shock, 64-55. The next night, both teams took the floor for the deciding game of the series. The Shock jumped out to a 20-point lead before New York fought back in the closing minutes to pull within two. But the Liberty missed a pair of threes that could have put them ahead, sending the Shock to a 75-73 win and their fourth trip to the Finals, three of which they�ve won.

New York hasn�t had as much luck in the Finals as their conference mates. The Liberty, one of the WNBA�s original franchises, have been to the big series an identical four times, yet on each occasion have left without a trophy. The upside to last year�s loss, however, is the amount of potential and progress the team displayed throughout the season. That�s largely why head coach Pat Coyle did very little to change the roster heading into 2009.

The Liberty will again be led by forward Shameka Christon and center Janel McCarville. Christon, the team�s veteran star throughout the season and during the playoffs, led the Liberty with 15.7 points per game. McCarville, meanwhile, took herself to a new level in �08, setting career-highs in points (13.7), steals (1.5), assists (2.1), and rebounds (5.4) per game. Her .535 field-goal percentage was also third-best among all players.

New York was the youngest team in the league in 2008, which allowed then-rookie guard Essence Carson to move into the starting lineup immediately. The product of Rutgers � Coyle�s alma mater, as well � showed promise while learning the faster pace of the pro game. She�ll be joined at the other starting guard spot by Loree Moore, who in her five seasons has shown a strong ability of getting the ball to her teammates and stealing it away from opponents.

Forward Cathrine Kraayeveld (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) solidifies the Liberty�s starting power forward spot, where she started all 34 games last season. Coyle will use a mixture of capable players off the bench that includes guard Lisa Willis and forward Tiffany Jackson.

Coyle also has to be thrilled to have 6-foot-4 Kia Vaughn on her roster this year. The Liberty�s first-round draft pick (8th overall) out of Rutgers should give the team a strong defensive presence on the inside for years to come. Vaughn, a former teammate of Carson, will likely work under McCarville until she can step in full-time.

The Liberty may not have made any major changes on the court, but they certainly did on the sideline. The team added Hall of Famer Anne Donovan to its coaching staff, just months after she led the U.S. women�s basketball team to a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. Donovan also has WNBA coaching experience, having led the Seattle Storm to its only championship back in 2004.

Coyle has said her team is on a four-year plan, which began after the team went 11-23 in 2006, their worst season on record. The Liberty have improved each year since that plan was put into place and if that trend continues, 2009 could result in a trip to the Finals. And, just maybe, that will result in a WNBA title being brought to the Big Apple.


Scott Stanchak

Player on the Spot


Christon
The 27-year-old is entering her sixth WNBA season, making her the veteran of this young Liberty team. With experience comes knowledge, and Christon will be counted on to serve as the leader of this 11-woman roster.

Christon, the Liberty�s first-round (5th overall) draft pick in 2004, has led her team in scoring the past three seasons, including in the playoffs. Her name is also plastered throughout the Liberty�s record book -- games (165, 6th), points (1,781, 4th), rebounds (523, 9th), blocks (106, 3rd), the list goes on.

The maturation of Christon�s game was on full display during the first week of July last season. Over three games, she averaged 24 points and three rebounds. Those numbers translated into the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor of her career. Those types of accolades bring recognition to this New York team.

This season is the Liberty�s best shot at winning the East since Christon�s rookie year. She�s learned a lot since then, including how hard it is to get past Detroit. But, just as she�s grown, so have her teammates, and with Christon at the helm, that first WNBA title may not be too far off.


Scott Stanchak




Projected Lineup

G.Loree Moore
G.Essence Carson
F.Shameka Christon
F.Cathrine Kraayeveld
C.Janel McCarville

Players Added

G.Sidney Spencer
C.Kia Vaughn
G.Abby Waner

Players Lost

G.Megan Duffy
G.Erin Thorn

2008 Leaders

PPGShameka Christon15.7
RPGCathrine Kraayeveld6.1
APGLoree Moore4.6
SPGLoree Moore1.52
BPGJanel McCarville0.84

Team Stats

Points Scored75.7(6th)
Points Allowed74.6(7th)
Field-Goal Percentage.421(9th)
Opponents� FG%.427(5th)
Rebounding Diff.-2.06(11th)