Kiah Stokes flew under the radar most of her career at UConn, and the same happened on draft night, when she was selected 11th overall -- and eight picks after college teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis -- by the New York Liberty.
But Stokes, who never was much of a scorer but was dominant in the paint for the Huskies, has Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer very excited about his first-round pick.
"You can not teach the kind of size and athleticism that she has," Laimbeer said, via the Hartford Courant. "She's long with broad shoulders and she can run. And she's solid defensively with great timing, which is very hard to find in a college player. Women just don't instinctively have the timing necessary to have great shot-blocking ability. But she does. And that's a great anchor for us to grow the rest of her game."
Stokes was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and finished her career with 325 blocked shots. But she averaged fewer than three shots a game last season. Put another way: there's work to be done on the offensive end to make her a well-rounded pro.
"Offensively, Kiah will admit she wants to improve herself," Laimbeer said. "I think it's just a matter of her not having had the opportunity because of all the scorers they've had [at UConn]. We are going to demand more of her offensive. We suspect she's going to be a quick learner and we're going to stick Herb Williams [Liberty assistant] with her in an attempt to get her offensive game to where we believe it should be. Geno says there's a tremendous amount of room to for improvement and we believe that, too."
And Stokes didn't shy away from Laimbeer's words.
"If they need me to [score 20 a game] then I will," Stokes said. "But honestly, I think I was drafted because of what I've done defensively. So I want to start it off knowing that's what I will bring to them every day at practice. I need to make sure I'm consistent on that end and then I can think about bringing offense to the table as well."