In mid-June, Betnijah Laney was waived by the Indiana Fever. On Thursday, she was named the WNBA's Most Improved Player after an outstanding season for the Atlanta Dream.
Laney was signed by Atlanta on June 24, seven days after being let go by the Fever and one month before the WNBA season started in the bubble in Bradenton, Florida. Coach Nicki Collen acknowledged that she thought Laney would help the Dream, but she didn't realize just how much.
Laney averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists, all career highs. In comparison, her highest scoring average in four previous WNBA seasons was 5.6 PPG last year with the Fever. Her 33.3 minutes per game this year also led the Dream.
Asked if she anticipated competing for this award, Laney, 26, said, "Not initially. Once I started and kinda got going, it was kind of a hope of mine."
The most improved honor was one of the WNBA's most competitive awards this year, as Laney got 25 of 47 votes from a media panel, and Washington forward Myisha Hines-Allen was second with 21. Las Vegas forward-guard Angel McCoughtry, who missed last season with a knee injury, got one vote.
Laney, a 6-foot guard-forward, was a second-round draft pick at No. 17 in 2015 out of Rutgers by the Chicago Sky. She suffered an ACL injury early in her second season with Chicago in 2016, and then didn't play in the WNBA in 2017. She was a reserve for Connecticut in 2018, and started 27 games for Indiana last year. She really came into her own this season with Atlanta. What contributed so much to her success?
"Just a little bit of everything. Staying ready," she said. "Obviously, I feel like that situation [being cut from Indiana] kind of fueled me, just not wanting to be in that situation again. And then the encouragement and freedom from my coaches and my teammates every day working with me to make me feel good, make me feel ready and everything."