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New York Liberty’s Betnijah Laney Covers WSLAM 1

With lower than a minute left and along with her staff up by solely 2 factors, Betnijah Laney was prepared to bop. 
With the ball in her palms, she cha-cha-ed backwards and forwards along with her deal with, difficult Brittney Griner outdoors 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 bop. It doesn’t matter if somebody is bigger or faster, she’s at all times 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 lessons as a toddler and is the important thing to her offensive success on the courtroom. When she started taking part in basketball at 10 years outdated, Laney was taller than the boys she performed towards. As the one lady, she battled towards boys who nonetheless hadn’t been by way of their progress spurts and in consequence, she realized publish strikes.

Her mom had Laney concentrate on that pivot foot, ahead, backward, away and thru.  

“She would at all times have the ability to rating towards them,” Yolanda Laney tells WSLAM, “not as a result of she was going to have the ability to soar over any individual who was taking part in at 6-4 or 6-5 within the publish, however she was capable of 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 accordance with Liberty teammate Sami Whitcomb, Laney acquired her swag and confidence by working so arduous on molding and creating 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 luxuriate in what’s been performed as soon as her staff will get the win. 

Each Collen and Whitcomb describe one thing they check with as Laney’s “resting face,” one which breathes depth. When Laney takes footage, 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 footage or simply seeing me, you understand, you don’t actually get to know who I actually am,” she shares. 

She would possibly tease her teammates or individuals near her along 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 accordance with Whitcomb, Laney is a gifted communicator, particularly so when along with her teammates. Whereas fairly reserved, when Laney speaks, her friends hear up. She doesn’t come throughout as abrasive or vital when she talks, however fairly in a method that encourages her teammates to develop. 

“She’s not shouting, she’s not too smooth, however she’s that excellent 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 display abilities even when she acquired them fallacious at basketball camps when she was youthful. She was at all times 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} staff doesn’t win when teammates don’t carry one another. 

“You’ll at all times get receptiveness from individuals, relying on the way in which you strategy a scenario,” Yolanda recollects telling her daughter. “No one ever needs to be embarrassed, particularly once 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 at all times made her stand out. Rising up taking part in one-on-one along 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 susceptible 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 publish up. However extra than simply her athletic prowess, it’s additionally the way in which she exudes her personal fashion and engages in an array of pursuits past basketball which are 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 automobile driving round along 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 specific fashion and that’s how Laney needs her efficiency on the courtroom to be mirrored, too. 

The 2 even have one other factor in frequent: each have been named after the matriarchs of their households. The title Beyoncé is customized 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 disenchanted that Broadway wasn’t opening till September because of the pandemic, so she’ll have to attend to see her favourite musical, “The Lion King.” At 6 years outdated, 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 concern to honor her reminiscence. 

Selecting to return to New York after she signed with the Liberty was Laney’s method 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 needed to buy. 

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

Up 1 level towards the Dallas Wings on July 5, Laney discovered herself being guarded on the block by a smaller however barely faster Arike Ogunbowale. Laney swayed facet to facet on the block to get a little bit of house from the Wings’ guard, acquired behind her and pulled her toes right into a relevé, springing into the air to safe the ball on a cross from Sabrina Ionescu. And when she landed on two toes, she made the additional cross 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. Throughout the picture shoot for this cowl, Laney took it upon herself to guarantee that her co-cover stars, Ogunbowale and Diamond DeShields, knew the best way to look their finest. 

Though she’s a distinct sort of performer than what her Nice Aunt Jessie was, Laney nonetheless is aware of what appears to be like 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 aiding the inventive route of the shoot. 

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

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


Go behind the scenes with Diamond, Betnijah and Arike for his or her WSLAM 1 cowl shoot!

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

Motion images through Getty Photos.

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