New York Liberty sign Joyner Holmes to fill roster

New York brings in an athletic forward who can rebound and defend at a high level

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Joyner Holmes shows emotion on the court against Stanford. (Photo courtesy of University of Texas Athletics)

With the news of Bec Allen opting to stay in Australia this summer, the Liberty acted fast with the team announcing their signing of 2020’s 19th overall draft pick Joyner Holmes. With seven total rookies on a twelve-person roster, which is now the majority, the Liberty continue to do what hasn’t been done before. New York has a 29 percent plurality of the draft class of 2020.

Initially drafted by the Storm and then waived before the league-mandated roster finalization date of May 26., Holmes comes to the Liberty as a 6’3 forward who played four years at the University of Texas.

In 2017 she was named the Big 12 freshman of the year, and earned a silver medal for USA Basketball at the FIBA U19 World Cup. During her senior season, she scored over 13 points per game and currently holds the Longhorn all-time record for the most consecutive double-doubles with seven. This year Holmes was a top 10-finalist for the Katrina McClain award which recognizes the nation’s top power forward.

“Such a remarkable athlete with so much potential,” said Brenda VanLengen, a Big 12 analyst for Fox Sports.

According to VanLengen, she is a prolific scorer and rebounder, but her rebounding is her most transferable skill to the W. She rebounded better than Baylor superstar and Indiana Fever rookie Lauren Cox, hauling down 8.7 total boards per contest. But according to the VanLengen, a considerable portion of Holmes’ rebounding is her production on the offensive glass, averaging 2.5 O-boards over her entire career at Texas. And that’s not to say that her defensive rebounding isn’t elite, it is. In her senior season, she ranked within the 98th percentile in defensive rebounding percentage.

But it’s not just the rate at which she rebounds, it’s how. She swims around defenders quickly and has a certain type of body control that allows for some haphazard footwork to appear seamless.

VanLengen also noted that in order to succeed at the next level, Holmes will not only have to improve her footwork and ball-handling skills, but may need to expand her outside shot. She has a mid-range step-back jumper, but I’m sure that assistant coach Shelley Patterson, who helped turned Napheesa Collier into a three-point threat, will have something to say about that.

The decision to bring on Holmes was more about adding a piece that could function in the system rather than trying to replace the full skill set of Rebecca Allen. Holmes’ presence as a combo forward rather than swing-wing like Allen provides New York with a bit more muscle down on the block to assist Amanda Zahui B. and Kiah Stokes.

Her skillset is similar to that of another New York rookie, Leaonna “Nay” Odom, as both can use their bodies to hop over defenders and score with an ounce of pizzazz. Both can also use that athleticism to turn rim-protection and defense into offense, but the difference is Holmes brings a little bit more strength and size.

What makes this fit even more rational is the type of setup she came from at Texas. After defeating Stanford this past December, Holmes was asked how difficult is it to be on a team that isn’t as deep at the forward spot. Her response was simple: “We run, that’s how we do it.” Apparently, she was her team’s most-used transition player with a usage rate of 21.2 percent on the fast break.

In New York, that’s how they’ll be doing it as well. Kia Nurse gave that hint on Episode 1 of Kickin’ it with Kia. She and Allen were discussing the new coaching staff and the “New Era” style of play. “It will be fast, we really have to have our lungs ready to go,” Nurse said to Allen.

Holmes will be learning alongside the six other rookies. While her decision-making skills might need improvement as well, teammate Sabrina Ionescu will be there and ready to assist when asked. Holmes can help in 2020, but the growing pains she and the other rookies go through this season could make 2021, back at Barclays Center, truly special.