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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

UConn grad Kiah Stokes hitting the mark

Bill Laimbeer doesn't usually struggle to get his message across so when he met with Kiah Stokes for the first time during the New York Liberty's training camp, he made it clear that the days of Stokes deferring to her teammates were about to come to an end.

Stokes displayed the ability to rebound and block shots and was a willing screener in her four years at UConn. What she didn't do much of was look for her own offense. Knowing that playing 4 on 5 at the WNBA level simply doesn't work, Laimbeer made it clear to Stokes that she needed to look for her own shot.

"We are forcing the situation on her because she is one of our better shooters so we want her to be aggressive offensively especially in the preseason," Laimbeer said. "She has to learn that she can do it and we are counting on her to do it. Every time she doesn't shoot, we remind her 'hey, that is a good shot for you.' She has to learn to expect the ball and be ready to shoot. She understands what we are asking of her. She is a very smart player, you don't have to tell her twice. Recognition of where she is going to be open and prepare herself to shoot, that is a work in progress."

Stokes attempted 14 shots in the Liberty's first preseason game which is more shots than she attempted in any game during her college career.

"Some of the shots weren't particularly good so I have to work on that but Coach Laimbeer told me he wants me to be more of a scorer," Stokes said before Wednesday's preseason game against Atlanta. "He said it to my face which is something I haven't necessarily heard that many times at UConn but it is something I have to get used to doing. He has a lot of confidence in me which is great.

"He said you have to get the mentality of trying to score more, you can't be just a screener and rebounder so it is going to take some time. Two weeks separated from UConn so it is going to be somewhat of a struggle at first but I think once I get the mindset, it is going to come."

Stokes has the advantage of being coached by Laimbeer and Herb Williams, a pair of former NBA post players who combined to average more than 10 points per game 19 times in 31 NBA seasons.

"They have a lot of faith in me, there will times I pass up a shot at practice and there will be times I have Herb and Coach Laimbeer say 'shoot the ball, look to shoot,'" Stokes said. "They are constantly reminding me to be more of a scorer. I didn't have to at UConn but now they are saying we want you to be one of the main scorers which is exciting and nerve wracking.

"I think he (Williams) was surprised because we had a shootaround in practice and I was working out with Herb and he said 'I didn't know you could shoot.' I think that kind of opened his eyes."

With 3-point range on her jump and a low-post game, why didn't score average more than 5 points per game in any of her four seasons at UConn?

"At UConn I didn't need to score, you had Stewie, Kaleena, Morgan, Moriah and everybody could shoot the ball really well so I didn't have to," Stokes said. "Of course Coach Auriemma would have loved me to be more offensive minded so I kind of got my role where I didn't have to, let's make sure I block shots and rebounds and that was kind of my mindset. He said 'no, now we want you to be that kind of player."

Here is the story on Stokes which ran in yesterday's paper

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