It’s all part of the life of a WNBA rookie. Well, at least for a rookie coming off a college championship.
Kalana Greene helped lead UConn past Stanford in the National Championship game in San Antonio on April 6, flew back to Connecticut shortly after for a quick celebration before driving to New Jersey to attend the 2010 WNBA Draft. A month later, here she is making her Madison Square Garden debut with the Liberty.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” the 5-foot-10 forward said a day before the Liberty’s 89-84 triple-overtime win over the Sun on Tuesday. “I asked for it and now I get a chance to live my dream.”
Greene, who entered New York riding an unbelievable 78-game winning streak with UConn, including a pair of National Championships, certainly lived the dream in college. And her dream of becoming a successful professional player is off to a pretty good start as she has quickly found a spot in Coach Anne Donovan’s rotation.
In the Liberty’s two preseason games, the rookie averaged 12.5 points, including a team-high 14-point effort to go along with nine rebounds against the Sun in just her second WNBA game. She was the first player off the bench and played 30 minutes Tuesday after starting against Washington in the preseason opener last Wednesday.
“I try to be comfortable,” Greene said after the three-hour game against the Sun. “I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of the game and down the stretch. But I’m looking forward to correcting that.
Despite her successful four-year college career, Greene knows it’s going to be a challenge fully adjusting to playing against the faster, stronger and smarter players of the WNBA. Greene admits that she might have been a veteran last season with the Huskies but now it’s back to square one in her first professional season.
“Basketball is different at the college level,” said Greene, who was taken 13th overall in the draft. “I think I played at the highest level in college, but now you’re playing with and against all great players. It’s a different talent level and definitely a challenge that I’m looking forward to.
“Being a vet in college and then coming back and being a rookie, it’s a quick turnaround. But everyday I’m learning and the learning experiencing is definitely going to help me grow.”
There is no shortage of experienced veterans on the Liberty’s roster this season to help Greene out. The Liberty added All-Stars Cappie Pondexter, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Nicole Powell during the offseason. And the team’s vocal leader from last season, Janel McCarville, is back for another season.
“You get advice on the court a lot, even from the players who have only been in the league for a couple of years,” Green said of her WNBA experience so far. “There’s just so much to learn in a short amount of time.”
The vets are already impressed with what they’ve seen from Greene through a week and a half of training camp.
“She’s been ballin’,” said McCarville, the team’s starting power forward. “She’s been good for us, she’s definitely going to contribute and be a factor. We need a player like her.”
Not only will Greene provide the Liberty with inside scoring, rebounding and depth in the frontcourt, she also brings a winning mentality to the team, which seemed to be a prerequisite of the Liberty’s management when adding players to the team this offseason. Pondexter, McWilliams-Franklin and Powell have a total of four WNBA championship rings amongst them.
“You can definitely see that they made changes because they want to win,” Greene said. “They brought in people who know how to win. You know, Cappie, Taj and Nicole, a lot of people who have winning experience. For me, fortunately, coming in with that and learning how to win at this level, it’s great. I’m happy I’m with a team that wants to do what it takes to win.”
Greene should fit in just fine.