New Liberty Mom Balancing Motherhood & Career

Click on Bria Hartley’s Twitter account and in bold, white, capital letters against a black back drop stands one word – EQUALITY.

That’s about as loud a statement as you will hear from Hartley. The New York Liberty guard from Long Island is a laid back, soft spoken woman, which shouldn’t be confused with Hartley not having the courage of her convictions.

Hartley helped the Liberty to a 73-64 win over the San Antonio Stars on Saturday afternoon in the season-opener at The Garden. It was her first game in a Liberty jersey and her first game since giving birth to a son, Bryson, on Jan. 17, 2017.

Yes, almost four months to the day that Hartley became a mother, she played 18 minutes and 27 seconds, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Hartley is showing an entire generation of young women that the status of working mom knows no boundaries.

Equality.

“No doubt I’m making a statement even though that’s not what I had in mind,’’ Hartley told MSGNetworks.com. “A lot of times in women’s sports they tell you, ‘Wait until you’re done playing.’ We have 10 moms in the WNBA right now so I think that’s changing a little bit.’’

Hartley, 24, went about this landmark life event as a devoted mother-to-be and a consummate professional athlete.

Upon learning she was pregnant, Hartley spoke to several other WNBA mothers. They advised her to stay in the best shape possible after she stopped playing last August when she was four-and-a-half months pregnant.

[Robbins: Liberty Wins Opener, But Laimbeer Not All Satisfied]

Hartley moved back into her parents’ home on Long Island. She worked out with her long-time trainer, Britton Kelley, who kept her body right and soaked up all the prenatal knowledge her mother, Simone, offered.

“Bria was so calm and collected throughout her pregnancy and after she had Bryson,’’ Simone Hartley said. “She always knew she wanted to be a mother and a professional athlete and she was going to do it on her terms.

“I’m so proud of her because she’s stayed true to herself. When she’s at practice or playing, she’s all about basketball. When she’s home, she’s a mother just like any other mother.

“It’s a wonderful inspiration to other athletes who are considering a career and a family.’’

Hartley enjoyed the best of both worlds this weekend. She gave the Liberty some solid minutes in the backcourt after starting point guard Brittany Boyd picked up two early fouls.

On Sunday she was with Bryson, Simone and other family members. Her father, Dennis, recently underwent heart surgery to address a longtime issue and is recovering well.

The support of her family allows Hartley to be a pro basketball player one day; proud mother the next.

“It’s going to be another special day,’’ Hartley said of Sunday. “I get two in a row. My first Mother’s Day as a mom. That’s going to be exciting.

“It’s just special. You see how everything comes full circle. Like my mom raising me and everything she taught me, it’s now something where I’m going to have an opportunity to teach my son some of the same values.’’

[More From Robbins’ Nest]

Simone said one of the most important rules she had when raising her children was that dinner was a family affair. It was a time for everyone to gather and share information about their day.

Bria feeds Bryson every morning before heading to practice, where she scoffs down her own breakfast at the team’s training facility. She spends as much quality time with her son as she can when not at practice, games or on the road.

When she has a moment to herself, which isn’t often, she reflects back on a year in her life like no other.

“This last year I think I’ve grown a lot,’’ Hartley said. “To come here to New York, it’s a new opportunity. Being a new mom, having all my family there, it’s going to be really, really special.

“It’s one of those things, I sit back now and think about how much I’ve accomplished in my life and how much I’ve grown. It just amazes me. And I’m just ready to push myself to that next level and see how much more I can accomplish as a person and a player.’’

Hartley is quick to point out she is not trying to influence any woman about the decision to become a parent. She feels strongly that it is an individual choice, one that should be respected.

But she also believes is that the days of viewing woman athletes as women restricted from starting a family should go the way of the rotary phone.

“It depends on what you want,’’ Hartley said. “If you don’t want to have a child, then you don’t. If you want to, you can. As long as you put your mind to it.

“You look at the NBA, those guys physically don’t have the kids but they have kids a lot, but you don’t necessarily know. They continue to do their jobs and women can do that as well.’’

NOTES:

The Liberty host the Minnesota Lynx (1-0) on Thursday (7 p.m.; ESPN2) at The Garden. The Lynx are considered one of the better teams in the WNBA, which was clearly on New York coach Bill Laimbeer’s mind after his team’s season-opening win over the Stars.

“If we play like this against Minnesota we’re down by 30,’’ said Laimbeer. “Facts. Facts.’’

Laimbeer was disappointed in the Liberty’s intensity and said he hoped it would be the worst game the team played this season. He pointed to defense, rebounding (the Stars had 13 offensive boards) and poor performance by the second unit.

Laimbeer revealed that he would like to play star Tina Charles less this season. Charles played 26 minutes and 52 seconds, scoring a team-high 12 points on 6-of-19 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds.

[Robbins: Charles Primed to Lead Liberty]

She averaged more than 33 minutes last season in which she became just the third player in WNBA history to lead the league in scoring (21.5) and rebounding (9.9).

“Our second unit had a chance to just extend the game and they didn’t do it,’’ Laimbeer said. “I had to put Tina Charles back in. I felt really bad for doing that. This is the year I want to play her a lot less. And our second unit should have taken care of business.’’