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April 26, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Call it foreshadowing.

Tyaunna Marshall shone like she hadn’t to that point all season last Thanksgiving week when the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team invaded Brooklyn for the LIU Turkey Classic. Marshall embraced the bright lights in her New York debut, recording her first double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs, then pouring in 20 points, again a game high, in the championship game, to earn MVP of the event.

It’s with the taste of that first delicious bite of the Big Apple still in her memory, that Marshall comes back to New York, this time to play professionally, as the WNBA’s New York Liberty opens training camp for the 2014 season today.

Having been drafted by the Liberty with its second-round pick, (No. 14 overall), in the April 14th Draft, Marshall will take the floor at Madison Square Garden for the first time.

“I’ve been to New York but I’ve never been to Madison Square Garden before,” said Marshall, who will now play all of her home games in the World’s Most Famous Arena. “It’s a prestigious place, a great atmosphere. I couldn’t have picked a better place to play. I’m just honestly overwhelmed. I’m ready to go to the next level now.”

After finishing her career as a three-time All-American and Georgia Tech’s all-time leader in points (2,129) and minutes (3,935), and top-five in steals (282, 2nd) and rebounds (850, 4th), Marshall suspected that it would be more a matter of when she was taken than if and had heard whispers about being a match for New York.

“I had heard some stuff. [Georgia Tech Head] Coach [MaChelle Joseph] had told me she had heard some things and some of the agents I was talking to had told me they had heard a couple of things,” she said. “I think that’s why I pretty much had a great feeling when the 14th pick came around.”

Those great feelings were confirmed with the announcement of the Liberty’s selection, which made Marshall the eighth Yellow Jacket drafted in the League’s 10-year existence — the sixth in Joseph’s tenure — and will reunite Marshall with Alex Montgomery, who was selected by New York in the first round (No. 10 overall) in 2011. The duo helped lead Georgia Tech to a 24-11 record, the semifinals of the ACC Tournament and the second round of the NCAA Tournament during the 2010-11 season.

“I’m really excited to be playing with Alex again,” said Marshall, who was named Third-Team All-ACC and ACC All-Freshman that season. “I hadn’t played with her since I was a freshman so it’s a great feeling. She texted me and said `Congratulations.'”

Montgomery will be the most familiar face Marshall will see in New York, but it won’t be the only one she’ll be excited to see.

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing with Tina Charles. She’s a great player,” said Marshall. “I’m also excited also to play with Cappie [Pondexter]. She’s been one of my favorite players to watch in the WNBA and even before, when she was in college.”

Marshall nearly got to team with her nemesis over the past four years, former Maryland center Alyssa Thomas, who was selected with the Liberty’s first-round pick, but Thomas was dealt to the Connecticut Sun in a Draft-Night trade that brought 2012 League MVP Charles to New York.

“There would have been some mixed emotions. We’ve been rivals pretty much since we stepped on college campuses,” said Marshall of teaming with the former Terrapin. “It would have been exciting.”

The excitement of the chance to team with Thomas has been moved to backburner but has been replaced an even more intriguing opportunity — the opportunity to play for Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer.

Laimbeer has proved himself a winner, having coached the Tulsa Shock to three championships (2003, ’06, ’08) and six straight playoff appearances. That success followed a 14-year NBA career, during which he was a four-time All-Star, one of the League’s premier rebounders (he retired as one of 19 players with 10,000 points and 10,000 rebounds) and wearer of “the black hat” for the back-to-back NBA Champion Detroit Pistons, and a solid collegiate career at Notre Dame.

Marshall not only learned about her future coach from watching the recent ESPN 30-For-30 tribute to Detroit’s “Bad Boys,” but also from talking with her dad.

“My dad was growing up in the era when he was playing so I’ve heard about him,” she said. “I know he played with the Pistons and I know he was a great player. I’m definitely excited to be playing for him.”

Marshall has been polishing her game, including working on her three-point shot with former Ohio State sharpshooter and the WNBA’s all-time leading 3-point-shooter Katie Smith.

As camp opens, she’ll try to put her best foot forward in helping the Liberty get back over .500 and back to the WNBA Playoffs. New York finished 11-23 last season, matching its franchise-low for wins and missing the playoffs for the first time in four years and only the fifth time in franchise history.

“I’m just going to get in and play my game,” Marshall said. “I talked to Coach Laimbeer and, obviously, I have to look at my three-point shot, but he told me, `Obviously, it’s not going to be an overnight process.’

“I really don’t know what it’s going to be like,” she added. “But I’m pretty sure Coach Laimbeer is going to have great energy leading up to that first game. I’m ready for whatever. It’s exciting.”

Marshall, Montgomery and the Liberty will visit Atlanta to play the Dream in a preseason game on Sunday, May 11 at Philips Arena (a 3 p.m. start) and, will come back during the season on Friday, June 20th (a 7:30 p.m. start) and Sunday, Aug. 3, (a 3 p.m. tip).

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