Laimbeer Liking What He’s Seen in Camp

Calling it the most ‘effort’ camp he’s had in three years, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer scaled back practice on Wednesday. Instead of going twice a day, the Liberty practiced once, and that practice was cut by about 40 minutes.

Don’t fret, Liberty fans. William Laimbeer Jr. has not gone soft.

He still put the Liberty through a high-paced, one hour and 40 minute practice after going twice a day on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

“We’re further along than I had expected,’’ Laimbeer said. “We have so many new, young players that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I appreciate their effort.

“This the most effort camp I’ve had in three years. They earned the right to get a little rest.”

Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer talks about having a lot of young players in training camp and what the coaching staff hopes to instill in the team.

Laimbeer has a lot to evaluate. He has the WNBA maximum 15 players in camp.

Five probable roster spot players — Epiphanny Prince, Kiah Stokes, Kia Vaughn, Amanda Zahui B and Shavonte Zellous remain overseas competing in their other pro league playoffs.

The downside, obviously, is assessing player combinations. The upside is several players are making the most of their opportunity to catch the eye of the coaching staff.

Laimbeer said forwards Cierra Burdick and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe and guard Lindsay Allen have made positive early impressions.

Burdick is entering her third WNBA season, but her first with the Liberty. At 6-foot-2, 172 pounds, she has a solid foundation from her playing days at the University of Tennessee.

“She plays smart,’’ said Laimbeer. “She’s a fundamentally sound player that makes the correct play.’’

Raincock-Ekunwe is an intriguing player. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound forward from Canada has played with the Canadian national team, giving her experience most rookies don’t possess.

“She’s quick and really athletic,’’ said Laimbeer. “And she understands the game. Some of that probably comes from playing on the national team.’’

Allen, the All-American guard from Notre Dame, was the team’s top draft pick in the WNBA Draft. She was selected with the second pick in the second round, No. 14 overall.

Liberty Lindsay Allen Practice 042317

“Lindsay has overcome that initial shell shock most rookies go through,’’ Laimbeer said. “She’s starting to settle down and let the game come to her.’’

[ROBBINS: ALLEN LOOKING TO MAKE A SPLASH]

The Liberty opens its preseason schedule next Tuesday and Wednesday, when it plays the Los Angeles Sparks and the Chicago Sky at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Laimbeer likely will have to make some cuts following those two games as some of those players complete their overseas commitments and return to the Liberty. Until then, Laimbeer is focusing on the players he has and the questions that remain unanswered.

The biggest decisions Laimbeer faces are at point guard and small forward. The first question he must answer is whether or not he prefers one player to play the majority of minutes or if he’s OK utilizing the strengths of several players, especially at point guard.

Laimbeer answered yes and no on that issue. He has options at both spots.

“I don’t know yet,’’ Laimbeer said. “We’re too young in the process that any player has jumped out, ‘Oh my gosh, look at her.’ We said going in that this was going to be a competitive camp and that’s what’s it has been.’’

Laimbeer has another advantage. The roster potentially contains enough versatility that he doesn’t have to go with a traditional small forward or point guard.

At lead guard, Sugar Rodgers, a fearless 5-foot-9 player from Georgetown has developed great chemistry with star Tina Charles. But Rodgers isn’t a traditional lead guard.

May 24, 2016: The New York Liberty hosts the Atlanta Dream at Madison Square Garden on school day.

Brittany Boyd was second on the team with 119 assists. Bria Hartley was acquired in an offseason trade and could swing from point to shooting guard.

Lindsay Allen, the top draft pick, is a true lead guard although Laimbeer has been pleasantly surprised by her shooting. Epiphanny Prince, fully recovered from reconstructive knee surgery, is an attack guard but don’t discount her passing and handling.

Small forward also offers intriguing possibilities. Two of the players Laimbeer mentioned as early eye-openers, Burdock and Raincock-Ekunwe, could be slotted at small forward.

Rebecca Allen is very much in the mix. And Zellous did a lit bit of everything last season.

So how does Laimbeer and his staff figure it all out? The back-to-back preseason games next week will expedite the process.

“Back-to-back games can wear you down,’’ Laimbeer said. “All of these players deserve a chance to show what they can do. Everyone will get a chance.”