Looking to bolster their frontcourt, the New York Liberty are taking a chance on former Tennessee center Kelley Cain.
The Liberty selected the 6-foot-6 Cain with the seventh overall pick in Monday's WNBA draft. Cain, a prolific shot-blocker who redshirted her first year at Tennessee after having surgery on the patella in her right knee, averaged 8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 92 games. She set the Lady Vols' single-season record with 113 blocks as a sophomore, including 12 against LSU on Feb. 22, 2010.
"I liked her hands and her ability to score around the (basket)," Liberty coach and general manager John Whisenant said. "We need that on our team. Our scoring inside gets you outside shots more wide open. That's one of the things I was looking for."
Cain had a second procedure on the knee in 2009, and then decided to give up her final season of eligibility last year after having hip surgery.
"We just saw her as having the best upside to be a WNBA post for our future," Whisenant said. "She is big and she's got good hands and the question is will her injury heal and has she recovered from it."
The Liberty believe she has, as Cain graduated from Tennessee in 2011 with a degree in marketing and has been playing in Turkey this winter.
"(She) has been playing very well," Whisenant said. "Two nights ago she played 39 minutes, and is getting double-doubles. Every indication is her health is back."
The Liberty finished seventh in the WNBA in rebounding (32.8) and average rebounding margin (plus-0.44). The midseason acquisition of Kara Braxton to join a frontcourt rotation of Kia Vaughn, Plenette Pierson and Quanitra Hollingsworth helped New York improve from 10th in rebounding the previous year.
Last week, the Liberty signed veteran forward DeMya Walker, who played in Sacramento under Whisenant. The New Jersey native has averaged 7.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 302 career games that also included stints with Portland, Connecticut and Washington.
However, the Liberty expect to be without Hollingsworth until after the Olympics. The 6-5 center, a solid reserve last year with averages of 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.9 minutes, is nearing a deal to join the Turkish national team and will remain overseas to train with the team for the London Games.
The Liberty were tied for fourth in the league in blocks (129) last season, though Whisenant said that's not something he emphasizes.
"We encourage all of our players, including our posts, to take charges," said. "We think that discourages our opponent to a greater degree than getting the shot blocked. ... That said, if we had a 6-8 Brittney Griner or a 6-6 Kelley Cain that could block shots, we're not going to tell them not to block them."
Also, the Liberty announced that Janel McCarville won't be rejoining the team this year. McCarville was placed on the suspended list last season after she failed to report to training camp and decided to sit out. New York retained her rights, but the 6-2 center -- currently playing for Italian League team Familia Schio -- decided to skip this season as well.
With the last pick in the three-round draft, New York selected Gonzaga's Katelan Redmon, to compete for a spot on the wing along with returning players Cappie Pondexter, Essence Carson, Nicole Powell, Alex Montgomery. The Liberty's backcourt also includes Leilani Mitchell, Sydney Colson and veteran free-agent signee Kelly Miller.
Redmon, who began her collegiate career at Washington before transferring to Gonzaga, averaged 13.4 points and 5.8 rebounds as a senior for the Bulldogs. She also shot 81 percent on free throws.
"We needed more competition at our wing position," Whisenant said. "We're just looking to have a competitive camp and people will have to battle for those 11 spots."
Training camps open on April 29 and the Liberty host Connecticut in the season opener on May 19.