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Liberty draftee Jessika Carter headlines first round of training camp cuts with May 13 deadline looming

The Liberty shortened its training camp roster from 18 to 13 after Saturday’s round of cuts.

Guards Stephanie Mawuli, Okako Adika, forward Brianna Fraser and centers Jessika Carter and Rita Igbokwe have been waived, the Liberty announced Saturday. The transactions move the Liberty’s roster closer to Monday’s deadline requiring teams to have 12 players. The team could also start the season with 11 players, like it did for the start of the 2023 season.

Carter’s time with the Liberty comes to an end after the team drafted her 23rd overall out of Mississippi State in last month’s WNBA draft. The 6-5 defender seemed to get more comfortable on-court each day in training camp, but had a low chance of making the initial roster with the team’s current depth in the frontcourt. Star forward Breanna Stewart and 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones already are locked for starter roles. Backup Nyara Sabally is now the first center off the bench with last year’s reserve big Stephanie Dolson in Washington. Kayla Thornton, who logged 17.3 minutes last season, is set to be one of the first players off the bench for head coach Sandy Brondello in 2024.

The current frontcourt depth is to blame for Igbokwe’s departure, too. Igbokwe joined the Liberty training camp as an invitee. She spent time alongside her Ole Miss teammate Marquesha Davis, who the team selected in this year’s first round. Igbokwe’s departure puts an end to a “dream” for the 23-year-old.

“I feel like I’m in a dream kinda,” she said during last week’s media day. “I [have] to pinch myself a little bit but it’s definitely been a great experience and I’ve definitely learned a lot.”

Guard Mawuli was a late arrival to her second Liberty camp. She registered 25 minutes in the two preseason matchups in 2024. She recorded six points and one assist in Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Chicago Sky. In Thursday’s win against the Sun, she scored just two points on one shot attempt.

Adika is the Liberty’s first USC draftee in franchise history. The team selected her with the No. 30 overall pick in last year’s draft. At the time, GM Jonathan Kolb described the 6-0 guard/forward as “someone who we can really use down the line.”

Fraser, a Brooklyn native, joined the team on a training camp contract. The 6-3 forward couldn’t beat out this year’s draft selections (Davis, Esmery Martinez) and current key contributors (Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, Thornton).

After Saturday’s cuts, the current roster sits at 13 with these players:

  • Guards: Courtney Vandersloot, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, Sabrina Ionescu, Jaylyn Sherrod, Ivana Dojkić and Marquesha Davis
  • Forwards: Breanna Stewart, Kennedy Burke, Kayla Thornton, Leonie Fiebich and Esmery Martinez
  • Centers: Jonquel Jones and Nyara Sabally

Veteran Kennedy Burke wasn’t on the Liberty’s roster last season, but the team has continually expressed interest in keeping the fourth-year WNBA guard/forward’s versatility on the team. The UCLA product has also spent time playing in France.

“She’s a pro now,” Brondello said about Burke. “She’s been in the league. She’s gone away. She’s improved her game and [came back].”

Kolb also praised Burke’s ability on the defensive end.

“Kennedy Burke’s ability to switch is underrated,” Kolb said. “I think that’s something that I know our fans maybe aren’t aware of yet.”

The No. 11 overall pick Davis also projects to make the roster after drawing comps of Phoenix Mercury star Kahleah Copper just a couple days into training camp. The 22-year-old entered the WNBA preseason the same way she ended her college tenure: playing defense on the wing that translates to transition offense.

“She’s not there yet but she certainly has that ceiling,” Brondello said about the Davis-Copper comparison.

European star Leonie Fiebich has garnered huge buzz among Liberty brass since the front office acquired her player rights last offseason. The 6-4 forward could play a key role on the team’s re-vamped bench unit and her success overseas already has the front office talking about how she fits on the Liberty.

“Leonie, I mean, we can slide all the way to the two [guard position] if you want to,” Kolb said about Fiebich, who averaged 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals in 17 Euroleague games with Casademont Zaragoza during the 2023-24 season.

Considering the team’s interest in those three newcomers, the Liberty can expect to have these players locked down for Monday’s deadline:

  • Guards: Courtney Vandersloot, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, Sabrina Ionescu and Marquesha Davis
  • Forwards: Breanna Stewart, Kennedy Burke, Kayla Thornton, Leonie Fiebich
  • Centers: Jonquel Jones and Nyara Sabally

If the team decides to start with 11 players, that leaves one spot up for grabs amongst rookies Martinez and Sherrod and ex-Storm guard Ivana Dojkić. With the help of some leftover cap room, the team could leave camp with 11 players and potentially add a 12th in the summer, per Nets Daily’s Lucas Kaplan. 

There are no remaining preseason games left, leaving the players on the bubble having to potentially fight for the final roster spot in practice.


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