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Liberty have title hopes for Jonquel Jones, Sabrina Ionescu duo

Jonquel Jones helped lead the Connecticut Sun to two WNBA Finals appearances in four years. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty have had their eyes on Jonquel Jones for a long time.

Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb was keen to bring the 2021 WNBA MVP to New York even before last season started, and he has the jersey to prove it.

“I’ve had a Jonquel Liberty jersey in my office for a year,” he said during her introductory press conference Friday. “I’m not kidding, because before she got cored last season (by the Connecticut Sun), I thought maybe we would make a run. I’ve literally had that in my office all year, all season.”

So this offseason, when the organization heard Jones was interested in being traded, the Liberty immediately got involved and were able to make things official.

When news of the trade became public Monday, everyone in the WNBA community was talking about it. Everyone except Jones.

The story broke on social media, but Jones was told by her agent that since it wasn’t official, she couldn’t comment on it. Still, her phone was blowing up.

“I was just sitting there scrolling and seeing stuff,” she said. “It was crazy. Everybody else is talking about it, but the person who is in the trade.”

On Friday, clad in a green suit, sitting between Kolb and coach Sandy Brondello, Jones finally was able to express her feelings about the trade. After six seasons with the Sun, the 6-foot-6 forward is ready for the next chapter.

And that chapter hopefully includes New York’s first WNBA title.

“That would be amazing,” Jones said. “Everybody knows that New York is a basketball city. People love the game. Even me just being here, I went to the grocery store and people were already talking about winning a championship. They’re really excited about it. It would mean everything to me to bring a championship here to New York.”

The franchise is willing to do whatever it takes to help Jones reach that milestone.

“We are hellbent on bringing a championship here,” Kolb said. “It’s what we’ve said since 2019, and we are going to say it every single year.”

In 2019 and 2022, Jones helped lead Connecticut to the WNBA Finals, but the Sun fell short of a championship both times. She wants to take the next step with New York.

With the Liberty, she is joining Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, on a squad that earned a playoff berth last season. The addition of Jones instantly makes them a contender for a WNBA title.

“Players like Jonquel don’t become available very often, so the idea of pairing her with Sabrina was really exciting,” Kolb said. “I think they are going to be a dynamic duo for a long time.”

Brondello is also excited about the pairing, particularly when it comes to the pick-and-roll game, an area in which Ionescu and Jones will compliment each other.

“When you have two really great players on the court, how do teams guard it? That makes it a little harder,” Brondello said. “It’s a chess game.

“The sky’s the limit for JJ, and the goal is to continue to improve her game with the players that we have here. It’s the perfect fit.”

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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