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Big Challenges Ahead for New York Liberty

With both of his team’s preseason games under the belt, John Whisenant continues to sure-up the Liberty roster with the recent addition of 6-5 Quanitra Hollingsworth. The Liberty acquired Hollingsworth, Minnesota’s 2009 first round draft pick, in exchange for the right to swap third round draft picks with the Lynx in the 2012 WNBA Draft.

The former Virginia Commonwealth star and third-year pro will give New York an added rebounding and defensive presence in the paint – two areas that Whisenant hoped to upgrade in his first season with the Liberty.

There’s no question that the Liberty need to bolster their play in the middle, particularly consistency off the bench. Starting center Kia Vaughn is a rock and offers a reliable mid-range jumper. She hit the game-tying shot with 11.3 seconds remaining in the Liberty’s exhibition game against Washington, but the Mystics later won the game, 60-57, on an off-balance 3-pointer by Kelly Miller in the waning seconds.

The bigs off the bench showed flashes of interior excellence in the first half against the Mystics. Ewelina Kobryn, a spring signing from Poland, scored five big points in the opening quarter and ripped boards on both ends of the floor. She played sparingly in the second half as Whisenant mixed and matched.

Another spring signee, Crystal Kelly, and rookies Jessica Breland and Mekia Valentine spent time playing in the post as the Liberty coaching staff evaluated its personnel. They gained more experience during the team’s 79-65 win over the national team from China last week.

The acquisition of Hollingsworth gives the Liberty the depth in numbers at the center position, but that will only translate into wins if the players can contribute game in and game out. They’ll need the edge in rebounding and limit their opponents’ second chance opportunities.

Against the Mystics two weeks ago, the Liberty were out rebounded 34-28 for the game. In doing so, Washington erased a nine-point halftime deficit and went on a decisive 21-10 run in the third quarter.

New York’s bigs will have a challenge in their regular season opener at Atlanta. The Dream’s roster includes Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Sousa, two proven front court scorers and solid rebounders. The Atlanta bench also boasts 6-7 Alison Bales.

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