Back in October, we first checked in on the New York Liberty offseason. Some leagues had not yet kicked off, others were playing regularly, while others still were dealing with sputtering starts due to COVID infections. Additionally, EuroLeague qualifying has begun for the top tier competition, and there are some heavyweight teams clashing there.
If you haven’t already, I recommend you all bookmark Winsidr’s Overseas Tracker. Another great resource is the New York Liberty’s Libs Abroad page, which contains cool passport visuals and some statistics. My goal with Liberty 365 is to keep you informed on all things New York Liberty year-round. So, let’s spin the globe again and see what’s going on with our favorite Liberty players over in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Every time I write about Bec Allen, I’m going to remind you about her potential fit as the prototypical stretch-four in Walt Hopkins’ five-out offense. Her ability to shoot efficiently from outside and defend on the other end had her in line for huge minutes before the pandemic parked her abroad, right after being named MVP for Poland’s Arka Gdynia in March.
At our last check-in, Valencia was one of just two undefeated teams in the Spanish League, winning all seven of their contests. They’ve stumbled just once since then, sitting now at 17-1. Their only loss came by two points, 71-69, at the hands of Avenida, the lone squad remaining with an unblemished record.
Allen continues to lead Valencia in scoring, averaging 12.4 points per game (PPG). She’s shooting just as much within the arc as she is outside it: Allen is 50/93 on twos (53.8 percent) and 35/83 on threes (42.2 percent). This is right in line with Allen’s output with the New York Liberty in 2019, when she shot 42.6 from long range. During this past WNBA season, just 28 players made more than 40 percent of their three-point shots (with a minimum of 20 attempts).
Allen’s other counting stats are also solid: 3.4 rebounds per game (RPG) rank sixth on the team; 1.4 steals per game (SPG) rank second; and 0.7 blocks per game (BPG) rank first. She’s doing some of everything to help Valencia continue to tally wins.
Breakout performance: 21 points on 8/12 shooting (5/6 from three) vs. Zamarat
Although Asia Durr’s Libs Abroad page still has her listed as a member of BLMA, the team’s roster still does not reflect this. Her social media pages don’t seem to suggest she’s left the states. If and when Durr surfaces, I’ll be sure to update you all!
Joyner Holmes is one of three members of the New York Liberty spending her offseason hooping in Israel. As of our last check-in, those teams had not started play yet, but they’ve now all seen action. Five games in, Maccabi Ra’anana has notched just one victory; in that one, Holmes put up a huge 25 points and grabbed 15 boards to help overcome Ramat Hasharon and the 41 points put up by Las Vegas Aces’ guard, Jackie Young.
Taylor Emery, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 and appeared briefly in a preseason contest for the Minnesota Lynx that same year, is leading the team in scoring at 21.0 PPG. Holmes is third in scoring, behind Emery and Davis (16.6 PPG). Her 13.8 PPG, however, are paired with 12.4 RPG, making for a strong double-double average. Holmes is struggling to a 29.1 percent clip shooting, though, and has made just three of 15 three-point attempts. She’ll need to get her rhythm back if Maccabi Ra’anana is to flip the standings.
As with Asia Durr, there’s been no update on Sabrina Ionescu’s potential overseas play.
As a reminder, this is what Ionescu told the media at her end-of-season exit interview, as gathered by ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel:
“Ionescu said that if she goes overseas, it would not be until later in that season, like in January or February, and that Europe is her most likely destination.
‘I wouldn’t really be going for the money,’ Ionescu said. ‘I’d be going for a couple months to kind of just get back into playing basketball, playing against other players. It’s really easy to just go through workouts [alone], and it’s completely different to play 5-on-5 with refs.
‘There’s a few [overseas] teams that I was talking to before the WNBA season started. So I’ll still be talking to them and see if I can go out there later.’”
After the New York Liberty secured the #1 draft pick in the 2021 draft, I asked Liberty GM Jonathan Kolb if he had any updates on Ionescu’s offseason plans, but he said there has been no news on that front. If Ionescu decides to shake off the rust in Europe, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Marine Johannès is must-watch TV, or, in this case, must-watch Youtube. (EuroLeague Women broadcasts all its games live online, and it’s a great way to get your women’s basketball fix.) The Lionesses are currently competing in both France’s LFB division and in EuroLeague. Lyon currently sits at 5-2 in LFB, tied for the league’s third best record. They’ve won five in a row after dropping their first two. They won two of their three EuroLeague matchups back on December 1-4, though Johannès went off in their only loss, a one-point defeat to USK Praha.
Johannès accounted for just under half their output in the 80-79 loss, putting the Lionesses on her back. Alysha Clark was the only teammate to hit double figures in scoring, with 19 points, but that was just half the damage Johannès did. How’d she get to 38? 8/11 from two, 6/11 from three, 4/4 from the charity stripe. Her ability to create her own shot is what’s most enticing to the Liberty.
“It’s good to see basketball overseas again,” Kolb said in the post-lottery presser, responding to a question from Jackie Powell of The Next. “Marine Johannès is playing the best basketball of her career. Like everyone else, you picture that player with Sabrina.”
The day after that 38-point eruption, she showed off her court vision. She scored just six points, but dished out 10 assists in an 84-70 victory over Fenerbahce and Liberty teammate Kiah Stokes (though the two have yet to don the seafoam together).
As both teams recess until 2021, Johannès leads each roster in scoring (13.7 PPG with in LFB; 17.0 in EuroLeague.) As for assists, she’s tied for second on the team at LFB (3.4 APG) and is first on the EuroLeague roster (6.7 APG). Between the two leagues, she’s a combined 16/40 from long range, a very respectable 40 percent. (She’s also made 37/67 inside the arc, which is a 55.2 percent clip.)
It’s easy to see why the New York Liberty are so excited about MJ23 in 2021.
Breakout performance: (mentioned above) 38 points on 14/22 shooting vs. USK Praha
Jaz Jones only played one more game after our last update before heading back to the States. It seems to have been a “mutual agreement.” She struggled to acclimate to basketball in Europe: during her four contests, she converted just 30.4 percent of her shots, en route to averaging 9.8 PPG.
For now, it looks like she’s continuing her offseason in the Big Apple.
Breakout performance: 12 points and 5 rebounds vs. Nantes
Neither Kea or Brewer are currently listed on Maccabi Haifa’s roster, though they played a few games earlier in the season. The team is currently 2-3, though they won two of the three games in which Kea took the floor. She’s scored consistently in those three outings: 18, 19, and 19 points, respectively. This team features four other Americans: Courtney Boylan (Michigan ‘12), Teana Muldrow (West Virginia ‘18, drafted by Seattle in the 3rd Rd), Feyonda Fitzgerald (Temple ‘17, played two games for the Connecticut Sun), and Rachel Hollivay (Rutgers ‘16, played 39 games for the Atlanta Dream). I couldn’t find any news about her leaving the team, so perhaps the last two games she missed were due to coach’s decision.
Breakout performance: 18 points on 7/12 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals vs. Rishon Le-Zion
Fenerbahce boasts one of the largest concentrations of WNBA talent outside of Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg superteam. The talented team has continued its dominance in Turkey, leading the KBSL standings with a 13-0 record. They also won two of their three EuroLeague matches so far, with their only loss coming to Marine Johannès and Lyon.
Stokes has been serviceable, playing a tick shy of 30 minutes a game. In nine games, she’s putting up averages of 7.9 PPG (eighth on this stacked roster) and 8.8 RPG (first on the team). For those wondering if Stokes has been continuing to work on that three-point shot in the offseason… if she has, it hasn’t translated to the court. She’s just two of nine (22 percent) from deep, and seven teammates have attempted more shots from outside the arc than Stokes.
Breakout performance: 12 points and 14 rebounds vs. Botas
The New York Liberty acquired Steph Talbot in a draft day deal with the Minnesota Lynx, sending back the rights to Erica Ogwumike. She’s yet to suit up for New York, though, as she opted out of the WNBA bubble this past season. She did, however, play in Australia’s WNBL, which wrapped up its season last week. (A pair of WNBA stars, Liz Cambage and Leilani Mitchell, led the Southside Flyers to the title.)
The Lightning stumbled to a 5-8 record and a sixth place finish in the eight-team league. Despite the team’s struggles, Talbot did her thing, finishing third in the league in points (18.2 PPG), boards (9.0 RPG), and steals (1.9 SPG).
Talbot’s consistent dominance saw her named WNBL MVP. “As a league we had many challenges to overcome this season, and as a team we probably had more than most,” Talbot said. “But as captain of the Lightning, I couldn’t be prouder of how we conducted ourselves this season and we have plenty of positives to take into next year.”
Sopron currently sits third in the standings, though they’re the lone undefeated team at 10-0; they’ve also gone 4-0 in EuroLeague thus far. Walker is one of four players scoring north of 15 a game (15.3 PPG), and she’s also fourth on the team in boards (6.1 RPG). She’s only scoring 4.0 PPG in her four EuroLeague games, but that’s a smaller sample. In her 10 Hungarian games, Walker is putting the basketball through the hoop with incredible efficiency. So far, she’s made 70.3 percent from two-point land and 41.0 percent from long range, and has hit at least one three in each contest. New York has to be excited with her production and development overseas.
Breakout performance: 21 points and 8 rebounds on 9/12 shooting vs. Ujbuda
Joce Willoughby is our third check-in over in the Israeli league. Like Walker, she’s making the most of her time abroad. While Willoughby’s team doesn’t look to have much depth (three players have shot at least 74 times, a wide gap from the fourth-most attempts — 27; they also account for 64.0 of Petah Tikva’s 81.0 PPG), her percentages aren’t suffering from the heavy workload.
Willoughby is hitting half her attempts from two-point range (best on the team) and has made a team-high nine threes on a strong 42.9 percent shooting. She’s also made 33 of 39 free throws — the rest of the team combined has made just 45 of 62. That aggressive style of play is what made her pro-ready coming out of Virginia. All of that totals to impressive averages of 25.2 PPG (first on the team), 8.8 RPG (third on the team), 1.6 SPG (first on the team), and 1.8 BPG (first on the team). All this production has helped her team win four of their first five games. Hopefully she carries those winning ways back to Brooklyn.
Breakout performance: 30 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks vs. Ashdod
While the level of competition isn’t at the level of the WNBA, Han Xu has still been putting up some strong lines for the 14-2 Xinjiang Magic Deer. She’s leading her team by wide margins in all the following categories: points (22.2 PPG), rebounds (8.3 RPG), blocks (2.2 BPG), and field goal percentage (67.1 percent). At our last check-in, she’d made a discouraging 1/11 from three, but has hit 5/8 since, upping her accuracy to 31.8 percent.
Han’s tied for second in scoring for players playing at least nine Chinese WCBA games. With the New York Liberty facing a large roster crunch in 2021, her performance could go a long way in impressing the coaching staff stateside.
Breakout performance: 35 points, 18 rebounds, and 4 blocks vs. Shanxi
For our last stop on the world tour, we head over to Russia to check on our big impending free agent, Amanda Zahui B. Dynamo Kursk (10-1) continues to battle with UMMC (9-0) atop the standings, though they dropped both their EuroLeague games. Zahui has struggled with her shot, hitting just 11 of her 37 three-point attempts (a 29.7 clip). In 11 total games, she’s averaging just 7.9 PPG and 5.1 RPG. While the competition here is much higher than in other international leagues, Zahui B. would be the first to tell you she’s got more to offer on the stat sheet.
Breakout performance: 22 points on 9/14 shooting (4/7 from three) vs. MBA
Thanks for following our New York Liberty around the world coverage. We hope you’re keeping healthy and safe this holiday season, and that we’ll see you at the Barclays Center in 2021.