Two months after the New York Liberty’s season ended abruptly in their opening game of the playoffs, center Kiah Stokes is still trying to put the loss behind her. Stokes, who suffered a hip injury late in the year, returned to the lineup for that playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury after missing the final seven regular-season contests.
Since the end of the WNBA season, Stokes has continued to rehab and work her way back to full strength. The second-year pro is playing for Besiktas in Turkey this offseason after spending her first offseason in South Korea. The Turkish league’s season has already begun, and Stokes is heading there to join her team this week.
Before departing for Turkey, Stokes sat down with WNBA.com to discuss her offseason plans, the Liberty’s season, the WNBA Finals and more.
Why did you choose to play in Turkey, and what do you know about the league there?
I’m nervous and excited. (Liberty teammate) Shavonte Zellous and (former teammate) Lindsey Harding are on my team, so it’s good to have two people I know. And Shavonte has played for that team before, so she knows the ropes and can help me along the way. I just hear it’s great competition. I’m looking forward to it.
Thinking back on the Liberty’s season, what are your overall thoughts?
It was frustrating towards the end. We worked so hard to get the third seed, and then it’s one-and-done. It was tough. We played well, just didn’t finish how we wanted to. But every player on our team knows what we have to work on for next season to make sure that doesn’t happen again. So right now we’re just focused on what we need to do individually to get better.
What is it going to take for the Liberty to take the next step?
We just need to be more consistent, both on offense and defense. Sometimes we would score a lot of points and look really sharp, and other days we look stagnant and the ball isn’t moving. We’ve just got to be more consistent. Defensively, as well. Sometimes we’ll hold teams to 60 points, and sometimes we let them get 100. We just can’t be inconsistent like that.
Can you describe what it was like being teammates with Swin Cash for her final two seasons?
She’s a character. She’s a great leader, a great motivator. She works really, really hard, and that’s one thing I looked up to. She’s a diva – everyone knows that – but once she steps on the court, she’s all about business. I think that’s very respectable, and obviously her accolades show how hard she’s worked on and off the court. I’m just glad I got to play with her for two years. We have that UConn connection. She will be missed. Her leadership is something that not everyone has, and we’re definitely going to miss it next year.
Going into your third year in the WNBA, what aspects of your game do you hope to improve?
I want to be aggressive on defense. Obviously that’s the main thing I’m known for, but I just want to keep working on my offensive game. Tina [Charles] needs some help – we just need a more consistent post player on offense next to her, and I think I can definitely do that. I’ve been working out a lot, just getting my shot and post moves down, working on drives to the basket – a little bit of everything. Just trying to get more comfortable on offense for next summer.
What are your thoughts on the Finals series in which we saw the Sparks beat the Lynx?
Crazy. First of all I was mad (laughs), thinking we could have been there. But after I got over that… it was what the league wanted — the top two teams in the Finals, and it was a great series. The way the games ended was always exciting. I hope we got some new fans because of it. I hope people are looking forward to having something like that again next summer. It was intense. That was the best part about it. Very intense and competitive, and you really didn’t know who was going to win. I’m glad it went to five games and showed people what our league can be.
Did watching that series give you even more motivation?
Absolutely. I know we can do it. We just have to fix a few small things here and there. We just have to keep the ball moving. I think our biggest problem was just when we became too stagnant at times. But’s it’s definitely motivation. I know we have the talent to do it. I know we’re all going to work hard and get better, so I think we have a good shot. We just have to make sure we come back next season stronger.