Michaela Onyenwere helped the New York Liberty seal their first WNBA playoff spot since 2017, and her efforts have been rewarded. The 6-foot-0-inch forward was named the league’s 2021 Rookie of the Year on Tuesday.
She is the first Liberty player to win the award, receiving 47 votes from a national panel of journalists and sports broadcasters. His Liberty teammate DiDi Richards received a vote, as did Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald.
Onyenwere’s first-year stats were impressive: She led all WNBA rookies with 8.6 points per game – the third Rookie of the Year to average in single digits, after Temeka Johnson (2005, 9.3 PPG) and Armintie. Price (2007, 7.9 PPG) – 91 field goals and 37 triples, finishing second in the group with 94 rebounds.
She started in all but three of the 32 regular-season games in which she played, the only rookie to average at least 20 minutes per game (22.5).
Onyenwere, 22, also swept the WNBA Rookie of the Month award for the 2021 season and was unanimously voted the WNBA Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.
The sixth selected in this year’s draft, Onyenwere played four seasons at UCLA, where she was the fourth best scorer in program history (1,888 points). He also guided UCLA to an appearance on Sweet 16 in its fourth year.