Liberty select Nyara Sabally, Lorela Cubaj and Sika Kone in WNBA draft

Oregon's Nyara Sabally, right, poses for a photo with commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected by the New York Liberty as the fifth overall pick in the WNBA draft.|Art or Photo Credit: AP

NEW YORK – APRIL 11, 2022 – With the fifth overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm®, the New York Liberty selected Nyara Sabally from University of Oregon, making her the program’s third top-five selection in three years and second by the Liberty.

Later in the draft, the Liberty acquired the No. 18 overall pick from the Seattle Storm in exchange for New York’s 2023 second round selection. The team went on to select Lorela Cubaj from Georgia Tech with the second round pick.

With the Liberty’s No. 29 overall and final pick of the night, the team drafted Sika Kone from Mali.

“We’re ecstatic to welcome Nyara, Lorela and Sika to the New York Liberty family,” said General Manager Jonathan Kolb. “We feel Nyara is a top-end talent in this class. Her combination of size, speed, agility and touch is rare. We’re confident that once healthy, she will reach her incredibly high ceiling and have a real opportunity to develop into a cornerstone frontcourt player in the WNBA.”

“We had a great draft tonight,” said Liberty Head Coach Sandy Brondello. “Our three selections were all players who we had actually discussed targeting within the first round. Nyara is obviously a post player with huge potential to compliment the great team that we have. Her skillset is something that we feel will only add to the pieces that we have here in New York.”

Sabally, a 6-5 forward, headlines this year’s Liberty draft class after a successful two-year campaign at Oregon. A Berlin, Germany native and sister of Dallas Wings’ forward Satou Sabally, Nyara (pronounced Knee-ARE-uh) averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, totaled nine double-doubles, and converted on 52.7% (139-264) of her field goal attempts in her redshirt junior season. Such performance earned Sabally consecutive All-Pac-12 honors and a spot on the top-10 watchlist for the Katrina McClain Award, honoring nation’s top power forward.

Cubaj (pronounced coo-BYE), a 6-4 forward, comes to New York after a decorated five-year campaign at Georgia Tech. The Terni, Italy native averaged a double-double of 10.1 points and 11.1 rebounds while converting 41.9% (125-298) of her field goal attempts as a fifth-year senior. This past season, Lorela earned the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive year and was also recognized on the Katrina McClain Award watchlist.

Kolb continued: “Lorela was a player who we were evaluating at No. 5, so trading for an additional pick became a priority of ours as the draft progressed. She embodies the attributes and intangibles we are looking to add to our young core, and she’ll have the opportunity to develop alongside several WNBA Champions in our frontcourt.”

Brondello added: “Cubaj is a player who we have admired for a few years. Her relentlessness and the pride on defensive side of the ball will help us get to where we want to play defensively.”

Kone (pronounced KOH-nay), a 6-3 center, rounds out this year’s Liberty draft class after standout performances in the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and LF-Endesa season. The 19-year-old averaged 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for Mali, both of which were the second-highest averages in the Belgrade qualifying tournament. This past season in Spain, Sika averaged a double-double of 12.6 points and 11.3 rebounds across 19 contests with Gran Canaria.

“Kone is a great young talent who is only going to get better with time and experience. Her athleticism and presence in the paint is a strength and we look forward to her to continuing to improve her game over time,” said Brondello.

The New York Liberty’s training camp will begin on April 17. Tip-off for the home opener at Barclays Center will be on May 7 at 6 p.m. ET against the Connecticut Sun on ESPN.