Liberty forward Betnijah Laney defends against Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner...

Liberty forward Betnijah Laney defends against Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner at the Barclays Center on Sept. 1, 2023. Credit: Noah K. Murray

Betnijah Laney had a chance to take her shot at free agency. But she decided to pass.

The Liberty player better known around Barclays Center as "B" signed up last Saturday to spend at least two more seasons in Brooklyn.

“It feels good to be able to come back and hopefully keep the whole team together,” Laney said.

 General manager Jonathan Kolb now has a vision for this third-year member of the Liberty and eighth-year WNBA vet.

“There is no doubt in my mind B could see herself in the Liberty Ring of Honor someday as one of the franchise’s all-time greats,” Kolb said.

The team just delivered the franchise’s best regular season at 32-8. Now this talented group is trying to chase down  its first league championship. The second-seeded Liberty begin the best-of-three opening round against No. 7 Washington Friday night at Barclays.

Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot were their marquee additions joining Sabrina Ionescu. But another of the big reasons for this season’s success has been Laney.

The Liberty have been promoting the 6-foot guard/forward for one prestigious award.

“I think B should be Defensive Player of the Year because she guards the other team’s best player,” Stewart said. “Defensively, she’s our anchor. She’s really who sets the standard and continues to guard multiple positions and does really well at it.”

Laney embraces it.

“Defensively, I think [it’s] just continuing to lock in, to try my best to be consistent,” she said. “I know that’s what the team relies on me [for], and I’m just trying to be the best professional that I can be. So if that’s my role, just try to be the best in it.”

Actually, Laney has been a max-effort force at both ends.

Her scoring average came out to 12.8 points per game. The Liberty are an offensive powerhouse with a lot of options. All five starters averaged in double figures. But Laney averaged 17.1 over the final 10 games, shooting 53.4% from the floor, including 38.6% from beyond the arc.

“We talked about all the players making sacrifice in the beginning, and B did,” coach Sandy Brondello said. “But I think her game has gone to another level. … She’s a two-way player, great defensive player, and gets more and more comfortable, and has been big for us at the offensive end with the versatility that she brings to our team.

“We changed her role. That’s not easy. The ball was in her hands.”

It took time for Laney to find her place in this offense. The same went for Laney’s place in this league. She moved from Chicago to Connecticut to Indiana over her first four seasons. She went through an ACL tear and the waiver wire along the way.

But the 29-year-old daughter of Yolanda Laney — a former All-American who played at Cheyney for C. Vivian Stringer, just like Betnijah did at Rutgers — became the WNBA’s Most Improved Player with Atlanta in 2020. She averaged a career-high 17.2 points.

Then she signed a three-year deal with the Liberty and became an All-Star in 2021.

Now she has the new deal.

“B could’ve become a free agent and tested the market,” Brondello said. “But we’re very, very happy that she chose to stay here and continue to build what we have here with this team.”

She didn’t want to leave.

“I think even before coming into the season, within my first year, I knew that New York was where I wanted to be,” Laney said.

This is where the Liberty wanted her to be.

“Grit, toughness, the New York way,” Brondello said. “… B’s just an ultimate competitor.”

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