Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

WNBA Feature: Keeping the Faith Lands Ex-Rutgers Star Betnijah Laney a Place on the Sun




WASHINGTON – Even though Betnijah Laney had doubts, her faith never fractured.


“You have those moments where everything doesn’t feel right, no matter what you do,” Laney said before the Connecticut Sun captured an 88-64 victory over the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at chilly Capital One Arena. 


“You have your good days and your bad days,” Laney said. “When you want nothing more, but to play basketball and you can’t do that, you definitely have your moments of when I am going to be able to get back out there. It really takes its toll on you.”


Despite tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in 2016 and having to endure a pair of surgeries, the affable 5 foot, 11 inch Connecticut  guard remained optimistic that she would return to the court. She’s seen action in every game this season for the 5-0 Sun who continue its road trip Tuesday in Atlanta. Game time is 8 p.m.


Laney’s story is one of resilience, patience, and dedication. 


“I am not a very patient person,” Laney conceded with a smile. “It could be on or off the court. I like instant gratification. It took a lot of time -- over a year and a half -- to get back and play the game I love. It showed me the appreciation I have for the game.”

The grueling rehabilitation tested her mentally. 

Laney, who was selected by the Chicago Sky in 2015 with the 17th pick in the second round, remained positive throughout her intense two-a-day sessions that included strength training, passive knee extension exercises, hamstring and calf stretches, half squats, partial lunges, elliptical training and resistance training.

Laney stayed in communication with Sun head coach Curt Miller throughout her entire rehab. They remained connected when Laney played with Bendigo Spirit of the WNBL in Australia last year. 

He was committed to adding her to Sun. Laney signed a free-agent contract with no guarantee of a roster spot to join Connecticut early this year and Miller told people during the preseason she would be the surprise of training camp. 


“It’s a blessing to be valued because not everybody is able to bounce back or have that second opportunity,” Laney said. “I am really grateful for the opportunity to be able to suffer that injury, come back and be accepted in this league.

“It was tough because you go from being able to do something to barely walking without pain. Doing things as simple as a squat or a lunge it was so tough. In the moments, you’re like I am never going to be able to do this again.”


Thanks to her family and friends, Laney remained motivated. 


She has a great backbone because her mom Yolanda out of University City High in Philadelphia was an All-American collegian who helped Cheyney University in the Philly western suburbs advance to the first NCAA title game under legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer in 1982 when the Lady Wolves fell short to Louisiana Tech. Plus Laney was coached by Stringer at Rutgers. 


Laney shined during the preseason for the Sun, which enabled her to survive the final cuts of a competitive training camp. She averaged nine points in preseason games against Los Angeles and Dallas. She was aggressive and showed no fear of contact or thinking about her knee.


In Australia Laney had some memorable moments like a 25 point, nine-assist performance in leading her squad to a 106-71 win over Perth. She had a 16 point, four rebound, five assist effort in a loss to Sydney. 


The flashes of brilliance along with averaging 14.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists she averaged in Australia told Laney she was on the right road to recovery. 


The orange Sun uniform she wore on opening day against Las Vegas confirmed that all of her hard work, sweat, and tears paid off for Laney. 


“It’s been a long process and I am just happy and grateful to be back,” Laney said. “I stuck with the process even through all of the doubt, the pain, the good times and the bad times. I think it’s really important to just stick with it and work for everything that you want. The support that I had from the Chicago staff and my teammates along with my family and friends grounded me and allowed me to push through those tough moments. It takes time, patience and resilience to be able to want to and continue to push through to get back to where you want to be.”