After being named Rookie of the Month all four times during the course of the season, Liberty forward Michaela Onyenwere has been named the WNBA Rookie of the Year, the league announced Tuesday.
Onyenwere, the No. 6 overall selection in last April’s draft, started all but three games this season, averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
The 6-foot forward from UCLA got a chance to play major minutes early after second-year forward Jocelyn Willoughby, the Liberty’s top performer in training camp, tore her Achilles tendon during a preseason scrimmage.
Onyenwere scored 18 points against Indiana in the season opener and played an instrumental role in the Liberty's 5-1 start. During that stretch, she averaged 9.3 points and 3.0 rebounds. Her best game came right after that start when she scored 29 points and hit six three-pointers in a loss to the Atlanta Dream on May 29.
"We knew she could shoot," Liberty coach Walt Hopkins said in a phone interview. "I would say if anything was surprising, it wouldn’t have been her shooting but her capacity to score consistently at this level the way she did early on. I didn’t expect her to score in the 20s and do some of the things she was able to do right away."
Onyenwere is the fifth player to have been named Rookie of the Year after sweeping the Rookie of the Month award during the season. The others are Tina Charles (2010), Elena Delle Donne (2013), Breanna Stewart (2016) and A’ja Wilson (2018). Interestingly, all four went on to earn WNBA MVP honors exactly two years later.