New York Liberty’s Betnijah Laney Covers WSLAM 1

With lower than a minute left and together with her workforce up by solely 2 factors, Betnijah Laney was prepared to bounce. 
With the ball in her arms, she cha-cha-ed backwards and forwards together with her deal with, difficult Brittney Griner exterior of the paint. When the Liberty wing lastly discovered her opening, she blew by the 6-9 Griner, spinning and pivoting with not solely quickness however the grace of a prima ballerina. Along with her pivot foot locked in place, her drop step allowed her to then leap as she hauled the ball towards the basket. 

As Betnijah Laney takes the courtroom every night time, her opponents and her friends must be prepared to bounce. It doesn’t matter if somebody is bigger or faster, she’s all the time prepared. Getting beat by anybody makes her pores and skin crawl. 

WSLAM 1 featuring Arike Ogunbowale, Diamond DeShields and Betnijah Laney is OUT NOW!

Laney’s use of her pivot foot was enhanced by years of ballet, faucet and jazz courses as a baby and is the important thing to her offensive success on the courtroom. When she started taking part in basketball at 10 years previous, Laney was taller than the boys she performed in opposition to. As the one lady, she battled in opposition to boys who nonetheless hadn’t been via their progress spurts and consequently, she realized submit strikes.

Her mom had Laney give attention to that pivot foot, ahead, backward, away and thru.  

“She would all the time be capable to rating in opposition to them,” Yolanda Laney tells WSLAM, “not as a result of she was going to have the ability to leap over any individual who was taking part in at 6-4 or 6-5 within the submit, however she was in a position to maneuver her footwork.” 

Mechanically, that’s why Laney performs the way in which she does. However why and the way did she purchase the emotion and the swagger that has her commanding every dance she does on the ground? 

In line with Liberty teammate Sami Whitcomb, Laney acquired her swag and confidence by working so exhausting on molding and growing her craft.

“There’s no cause for her to not be assured as a result of she is aware of how a lot effort and time and power she places into it,” Whitcomb shares. 

Present Baylor College ladies’s basketball head coach Nicki Collen, who coached Laney on the Atlanta Dream in 2020, famous that her swagger is extra reserved and quieter in comparison with that of a participant like Courtney Williams. Collen referred to Laney as somebody extra work-like, somebody who brings her “pail and bucket” to work and may solely sit again and revel in what’s been accomplished as soon as her workforce will get the win. 

Each Collen and Whitcomb describe one thing they confer with as Laney’s “resting face,” one which breathes depth. When Laney takes photos, she often doesn’t smile. That is how she likes to see herself: assured and difficult. She enjoys the mystique of the alter ego that she’s created for herself. Her dry humorousness and her selfless and caring nature doesn’t fairly come throughout whenever you first meet her. 

“Judging by my photos or simply seeing me, , you don’t actually get to know who I actually am,” she shares. 

She would possibly tease her teammates or individuals near her together with her critical expression. She’ll persuade them that she’s upset after which on the flip of a swap, she’ll begin laughing. That resting face belongs to a born chief.

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In line with Whitcomb, Laney is a gifted communicator, particularly so when together with her teammates. Whereas fairly reserved, when Laney speaks, her friends pay attention up. She doesn’t come throughout as abrasive or vital when she talks, however moderately in a means that encourages her teammates to develop. 

“She’s not shouting, she’s not too tender, however she’s that good mix of demanding the room,” Whitcomb says. “Everyone listens.”

Yolanda Laney knew her daughter was a born chief from the very starting. She recollects seeing Betnijah unafraid to exhibit abilities even when she obtained them mistaken at basketball camps when she was youthful. She was all the time main by instance.

At round age 13 or 14, Yolanda sat her daughter down and taught her all about the best way to be the most effective teammate she may very well be. Drawing from her personal taking part in days, Yolanda defined to her daughter {that a} workforce doesn’t win when teammates don’t carry one another. 

“You’ll all the time get receptiveness from individuals, relying on the way in which you strategy a scenario,” Yolanda recollects telling her daughter. “No person ever needs to be embarrassed, particularly after they make errors, so in case you discover one thing about any individual, go over there and provides them that encouragement.” 

Along with her work ethic, her competitiveness and toughness is what has all the time made her stand out. Rising up taking part in one-on-one together with her youthful brother Shakaris and 5×5 or 3×3 with all of her cousins gave Laney her grit and her toughness. 

“I grew up round a bunch of boys so I needed to be robust,” she displays. “You already know I couldn’t go in the home crying as a result of any individual pushed me down or something.”

Though she felt the stress to not be weak in entrance of all of the boys she grew up with, her friends handled her as an equal. They weren’t any much less bodily and didn’t deal with her extra delicately due to her gender. 

Laney’s recreation has shined a lightweight on a sure sort of participant within the ladies’s basketball pipeline. At 6-0, she’s a three-way scorer and a two-way participant who can distribute the ball and submit up. However extra than simply her athletic prowess, it’s additionally the way in which she exudes her personal type and engages in an array of pursuits past basketball which can be and will likely be integral within the progress and affect of the W. 

She is a loud and proud Beyoncé stan who solely performs Queen B’s music within the automotive driving round together with her mom. Laney’s love of Beyoncé stems from not solely sharing a nickname (“B”), but additionally in how the singer approaches her artwork. She performs with a selected type and that’s how Laney needs her efficiency on the courtroom to be mirrored, too. 

The 2 even have one other factor in widespread: each have been named after the matriarchs of their households. The title Beyoncé is tailored from Knowles’ mom’s maiden title. And for Laney, the development of her first title is a mix of three of her household’s matriarchs. Her grandmother Betty (Wager-), her aunt Nikita (-ni) and her nice Aunt Jessie (-jah) all impressed her title.  

WSLAM 1 is OUT NOW!

Yolanda’s Aunt Jessie Inexperienced is answerable for Betnijah’s love of the humanities. When she and her brother have been kids, they’d spend summers, Christmases and Thanksgivings with their Aunt Jessie. She took them to the Museum of Pure Historical past, the Met, Coney Island and the theater. Laney grew up surrounded by African artwork that crammed Inexperienced’s condominium.

The Liberty wing was dissatisfied that Broadway wasn’t opening till September as a result of pandemic, so she’ll have to attend to see her favourite musical, “The Lion King.” At 6 years previous, Laney took up an curiosity in modeling after being impressed by seeing Inexperienced’s headshot in Playbill. Though Inexperienced has handed, Laney is proud to cherish the Playbill challenge to honor her reminiscence. 

Selecting to return to New York after she signed with the Liberty was Laney’s means of displaying her loyalty and respect for the assist system she grew up with. Her aunts, uncles and cousins all come to assist her in droves. Over 20 of them traveled to Las Vegas and all wore personalized Betnijah themed T-shirts that different followers on the recreation wished to buy. 

“Each step we took at that All-Star Sport, they stated, Did you purchase that t-shirt?” Yolanda says. “We stated no, ‘We made that coming in.’”

Up 1 level in opposition to the Dallas Wings on July 5, Laney discovered herself being guarded on the block by a smaller however barely faster Arike Ogunbowale. Laney swayed aspect to aspect on the block to get a little bit of area from the Wings’ guard, obtained behind her and pulled her toes right into a relevé, springing into the air to safe the ball on a go from Sabrina Ionescu. And when she landed on two toes, she made the additional go to a large open Reshanda Grey beneath the basket. 

Whereas Ogunbowale wasn’t able to tackle Laney’s dance on the courtroom, the Liberty star made certain that the youthful guard was prepared for one thing else weeks later. Through the picture shoot for this cowl, Laney took it upon herself to ensure that her co-cover stars, Ogunbowale and Diamond DeShields, knew the best way to look their greatest. 

Though she’s a distinct sort of performer than what her Nice Aunt Jessie was, Laney nonetheless is aware of what appears fierce. Ought to she put the white hoodie on? How ought to it sit on her jersey? These have been questions Laney requested herself whereas helping the artistic route of the shoot. 

“I used to be simply attempting to do this for any individual else as a result of I wish to look my greatest and I do know another person would additionally wish to look their greatest,” Laney stated. 

Along with her hair styled all by herself, pulled again in a good ponytail, overalls overlaying her seafoam jersey and her basic resting face, eyebrows raised, Laney understood the task. Paying homage to the ’90s, the last decade the League started, was her jam. Identical to paving the way in which ahead for the WNBA is her dance. 


Portraits by Raven B. Varona. Comply with Ravie B. on Instagram, @ravieb.

Motion photographs by way of Getty Pictures.

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