Tone setters. Every successful team needs one.
Former Rutgers University standout Betnijah Laney is just that for the New York Liberty. Don’t be fooled by her smile. When she steps between the lines, the versatile wing is prepared to do whatever it takes to win.
She’s also played a pivotal role in New York snapping the franchise’s postseason streak—for the first time in over two decades, the Libs are headed to the WNBA Finals and will match up against the Las Vegas Aces for the championship.
On both ends of the floor, No. 44 is invaluable. On a roster stacked with superstars, including two former MVPs, the Delaware-native is a piece the Liberty cannot do without. Laney netted 20 or more points in each of the final three contests of the WNBA Semifinals against the Connecticut Sun.
Betnijah Laney and the Liberty starred on the cover of SLAM 246. Read the cover story here.
With her team’s back against the wall on its home floor in Game 2, the former second-round selection showed up. In a must-win game, Laney connected on five shots from beyond the arc, the most she has converted in any game of her career—two of which came in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.
Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Laney sits in the top-two of New York’s field goal percentage, three pointers made, and total points. Only three players in the postseason have contributed to more points in the painted area than the 2020 WNBA Most Improved Player.
She was one of just seven players in the entire W this season to have a three-point shooting percentage over 39 percent while taking 1.5 or more threes per contest. The corner is her domain. The result is almost inevitable if you fail to close her out.
“B’s built like this,” Brondello said following the clincher in Connecticut, “I know it was a little bit of a process early in the season. We were trying to work it out how it all combined, but I think we took off when we found “B” getting more integrated into the offense because she’s an amazing scorer. We just didn’t want it to just be “B” the defensive player.”
The defensive side of the ball is the part of the game what she is best known for. In a series against a historically prolific Aces’ offense, Laney’s ability to guard more than one position will be critical.
The 2023 Commissioner’s Cup Final was a perfect example of what she can do on that end of the floor against Las Vegas. The 6-foot wing was tasked with the responsibility of predominately guarding Kelsey Plum, and Chelsea Gray—in the third quarter, No. 44 was locked in when playing halfcourt defense on Plum in isolation, and took on the task of marking up Gray full-court after a Stewart three.
“Whether its guarding the other team’s best player, or making plays, she is someone who knows what she is good at,” Stewart said about Laney following a win over Washington. “To be able to have her on our side is huge for us. She continues to keep playing, giving us that sense of clarity when times get tough.”
Action photo via Getty Images. Portraits by Marcus Stevens