“Michaela came to the camp in the preseason as probably the most consistent shooter in the team. She put down every shot, ”said Hopkins. “Her athleticism, her explosion, her defensive versatility and then her personality is absolutely wonderful, so she really broke up at camp.”
In the season opener, Onyenwere scored 18 points against Indiana in a win punctuated by Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with less than a second remaining. Onyenwere closed the first month of their professional career with a season high of 29 points against Atlanta.
“When I came in I wasn’t expecting any of this,” said Onyenwere. “I haven’t put too much pressure on myself because I know that otherwise I won’t play as freely as I want.” She continued to play with joy and purposefulness, although an elbow injury on her gunshot arm affected her 3-point accuracy.
“Mic masters the opportunities in part because the pressure doesn’t affect them the way other people do,” said Hopkins, using a nickname for Onyenwere. “I don’t think she’s internalized. I don’t think it’s going to be this emotional burden on her. I think it’s just like, ‘OK, cool, I have you’ and I admire that. It’s not normal. It’s a rare quality. “
After starting the season 5-1, the Liberty were the league’s toast, slightly beating their overall wins from last season’s 2:20 debacle. The team’s first season at the Barclays Center was largely promising with the return of Ionescu, the 2020 No. 1 overall selection from Oregon, who severely sprained an ankle in their third WNBA game and missed the remainder of their rookie season.
Ionescu led the team on the hype – “The Next Queen of NY” read the April / May cover of Slam magazine – and gradually adapted to the challenges ahead, including playing point guard after graduating from college as a 2-guard had occurred.
“It’s like Sabs played two games and she’s never played in New York to be the Queen of New York,” said Hopkins. “She just did a really great job of balancing expectations that might have been unrealistic for a newbie.”