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Liberty select Michaela Onyenwere sixth overall in first round of WNBA Draft

Forward Michaela Onyenwere averaged 19.1 points and 7.2

Forward Michaela Onyenwere averaged 19.1 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at UCLA. Credit: AP/Stephen Spillman

Call it a reunion, of sorts.

Michaela Onyenwere will be back on the court with her Pac-12 nemesis Sabrina Ionescu this season as the Liberty selected the 6-foot UCLA forward with their No. 6 overall pick in Thursday’s WNBA Draft.

"I’m just glad we’re on the same side now," Onyenwere said of Ionescu, the former college player of the year at Oregon. "Because her pick-and-rolls are just ridiculous and she’s a great player."

Onyenwere averaged 19.1 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at UCLA. She was considered one of the best athletes in the draft and someone who can play multiple positions.

"Michaela is the ultimate teammate and competitor," Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said. "She is someone who sets the tone when she steps on the floor and is going to mesh very nicely with the core we are building out in Brooklyn."

Despite the fact the Liberty finished with just two wins last year, they have laid a foundation this offseason to be a playoff team this year.

Their first big move was to sign Betnijah Laney away from the Atlanta Dream on Feb. 2. Then, they traded their No. 1 overall pick to the Seattle Storm for Natasha Howard on Feb. 10. On the same day, they sent guard Kia Nurse and forward Megan Walker to the Phoenix Mercury for the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft (used to select Onyenwere) and a No. 6 overall pick in 2022.

With the 17th overall pick, the Liberty took Didi Richards, a point guard and wing defender out of Baylor.

With all their offseason moves, the Liberty seem determined to win now by surrounding their second-year point guard Ionescu with veteran talent. Ionescu, whom the Liberty took with the No. 1 overall pick last year, scored 33 points in her second WNBA game before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in her third.

Heading into the draft with this kind of talent was quite a different experience than the Liberty had last year, their first under coach Walt Hopkins and Kolb. Last season, the Liberty had three first-round picks and two second-round selections.

"We were essentially fielding an entire team turning pro last year," Hopkins said Wednesday. "Now, it’s a different look. It’s fun to have a year under our belts of who we are and who we want to be."

Michaela Nne Onyenwere

UCLA

a 2017 McDonald’s High School All-American.

Following the 2017–18 season, Onyenwere was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.

Born: August 10, 1999 (age 21 years), Aurora, CO

Height: 6′ 0″

Position: Forward

High school: Grandview High School (Aurora, Colorado)

Medal: Basketball at the 2019 Pan American Games‎ – Women’s tournament

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