WNBA, New York Liberty
Betnijah Laney-Hamilton (Photo by Shaquan Woody - JSN)

The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) season tips off this week with arguably more hype than ever before. Rookie stars like Caitlin Clarke and Angel Reese joining the top women's basketball league in the world has created a tremendous amount of buzz to the momentum the WNBA has built over the past few seasons. 

New Jersey basketball fans have some extra skin in the game with some local stars competing once again - as well as the local team New York Liberty

Diamond Miller

In the 2023 WNBA Draft, Diamond Miller was selected No. 2 overall by the Minnesota Lynx. Her rookie season did not disappoint. The former Franklin High School star averaged 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in her first professional season. Miller flashed her skills as a rookie and looks to carry that momentum into the 2024 season for the Lynx. In her WNBA debut on May 19, 2023, Miller scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds. On July 26, 2023, Miller became the first WNBA rookie to ever score 20 or more points (she had 21), have nine or more assists, and only one turnover in a game. She was named to the 2023 WNBA All-Rookie Team. 

Marina Mabrey

Belmar, New Jersey native, Marina Mabrey, is entering her sixth season in the WNBA. After starring at Manasquan High School, Mabrey took her talents to South Bend where she was a member of a Notre Dame Fighting Irish squad that was continuously among the top teams in the country. Mabrey was drafted second round of the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. As a rookie, she appeared in 31 games, averaging four points, 1.2 rebounds, and one assist. Prior to the 2020 season, Mabrey was traded to the Dallas Wings. In Dallas, Mabrey's game took a step up. After three seasons with the Wings, Mabrey was traded to the Chicago Sky. Last season, Mabrey averaged 15 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists for the Sky. 

From Rutgers to the WNBA

There have been a fair share of players make WNBA rosters after finishing their collegiate careers at Rutgers University. Three of those players are still on active rosters for the 2024 WNBA season. 

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton is a league veteran at this point, entering her ninth WNBA season and fourth with the New York Liberty. She has played for five teams during her WNBA career - Chicago, Connecticut, Indiana, Atlanta, and New York. After starring at Rutgers under head coach C. Vivian Stringer, Laney was selected by the Chicago Sky with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft. She played two seasons in Chicago before one-year stints in Connecticut, Indiana, and Atlanta. 2020 was a breakout season for Laney and she was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Team and won the Most Improved Player Award. She signed with the New York Liberty in 2021 and has been a part of their roster ever since. 

Erica Wheeler

If you are looking for a player that symbolizes grit and determination, look no further than Erica Wheeler. After graduating from Rutgers in 2013, Wheeler was not drafted into the WNBA. Instead, she took her game overseas. She finally earned a try-out with the Atlanta Dream in 2015 and appeared in 17 games before being cut. Wheeler then signed with the New York Liberty and appeared in three games. In 2016, Wheeler signed with the Indiana Fever where she remained for four seasons. In 2017, Wheeler led the Fever in assists and was second in scoring. In 2019, she became the first undrafted player ever in the WNBA to be named All-Star Game MVP.

Wheeler missed the 2020 season after testing positive for COVID-19 which resulted in the guard developing health complications including fluid buildup around her heart. Prior to the 2021 season, Wheeler signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Sparks where she would start all 32 games at point guard. That season, she averaged a career high 13.6 points per game. 

In 2022, Wheeler signed with the Atlanta Dream and played one season there before returning to Indiana for the 2023 season. Last year, Wheeler averaged 9.9 points, three rebounds, and five assists per game for the Fever.

Kahleah Copper

Kahleah Copper was drafted seventh overall out of Rutgers by the Washington Mystics in the 2016 WNBA Draft. She averaged 6.2 points per game as a rookie. After the season, Copper was traded to the Chicago Sky. In her first three seasons in Chicago, Copper averaged nearly seven points per game off the bench. She earned a starting role prior to the 2020 season and led the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game. 

In 2021, Copper received her first All-Star nomination. She averaged 14.4 points per game during the regular season but upped her production to 17.7 per game during the playoffs. She was a big piece to the Sky earning their first WNBA Championship and was named Finals MVP. 

Earlier this year, Copper was traded to the Phoenix Mercury. She is entering her ninth WNBA season. 

WNBA Season Tips Off

The 2024 WNBA season tips off Tuesday, May 14. Which team are you rooting for?

Follow Jersey Sporting News throughout the WNBA season for more content.


Gregg Snyder

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