New York – As the hoopla surrounding the decision made by LeBron James has started to recede, basketball fans can concentrate on again watching summer basketball. After three games on the West Coast and the WNBA All-Star Game that was played at the Mohegan Sun one day earlier, the New York Liberty returned to Madison Square Garden to begin the second half of the WNBA season on Sunday afternoon.
New York City aficionados of women’s basketball were as familiar with the players on the visiting Chicago Sky team as they were with the Liberty. Former Liberty stars Shameka Christon, Catherine Kraayeveld and Erin Thorn were wearing Chicago jerseys. Also in a Chicago uniform was rookie Epiphnny Prince, a star at Rutgers University and the highest scorer in a high school game with 113 points. Christon has not played since June 11, when she suffered an orbital fracture. Another familiar face to women’s basketball fans is Sylvia Fowles, a member of the USA Basketball National Team, who was named the MVP of the All-Star game on Saturday after scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
The Liberty has undergone many personnel changes during the past year. Only five members of the current squad played with the Liberty in 2009. Two of the five, Kia Vaughn of the Bronx and Essence Carson, are graduates of Rutgers. This year, they were joined by a third Rutgers alum, Cappie Pondexter. The Liberty guard, a starter on the USA Basketball National Team, was the only Liberty player in the All-Star tilt.
None of the locals, other than Pondexter, scored a point. Christon is still recovering from the serious eye injury she suffered in June and did not travel with the team. The other five were all scoreless.
Pondexter, on the other hand, was the high scorer of the contest. She netted 30, one point below her season high, also scored against Chicago. The 5-9 guard hit 10 of 17 shots from the floor and six of seven from the free throw line. She also grabbed a season high eight rebounds to carry the Liberty to its third victory in three games against the Sky this season.
Liberty coach Anne Donovan gave credit to Pondexter’s winning effort, “Cappie will do what it takes to win a game. She’s happy to take the game over if that’s what it takes to win.”
Pondexter praised the coach of USA Basketball’s National team [Geno Aureamma] for his encouragement, “Geno’s like a father. I’m excited to be coached by him. He challenged everyone on the team with a losing record to make our teams better. He said ‘your team needs to be on your own level and you need to take them there.’ “
While acknowledging, “I’ll do what it takes to win. There’s no excuses,” she also praised her teammates, “We had other players like Leilani Mitchell contributing. Our bench was enthusiastic which was important.”