WNBA star Michaela Onyen was giving back to the New York community with a new season on the horizon


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WNBA rising star Michaela Onyenwere says she’s proud to be more than just a basketball player.

Onyenwere, who won Rookie of the Year last season with the New York Liberty, took that to heart when he recently teamed up with Mobil 1 and its ‘Tune Up’ Big Apple local community assistance program.

“Community is really important, giving back is really important. I have a platform as an athlete, and I would not only be giving back to myself but also to the people around me who have done so much for me” , Onyenwere said. Fox News Digital. “I’m able to have so many experiences through basketball that I wouldn’t otherwise have. New York has become my home and has embraced me in so many ways, so why not give back to the community that did so much to me?”

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Michaela Onyenwere sits on New York’s renovated court
(Wynne Hendry)

Onyenwere lends his New York voice and leadership to the program which, along with nonprofit partner Project Backboard, last week completed a newly renovated basketball court at McCaffrey Playground in Manhattan, about nine blocks from Madison Square. Garden.

In addition to repairing the playing surface on the pitch, local artist Andrea Bergart has created a custom pitch design, full of bright colors that will hopefully provide an attractive outdoor space for local girls and boys to enjoy. play the game they love.

Aerial view of the renovated grounds of McCaffrey Playground in Manhattan

Aerial view of the renovated grounds of McCaffrey Playground in Manhattan
(Illustration: Andrea Bergart, Photo: Ross Dahmen)

Close up view of the courtyard from above

Close up view of the courtyard from above
(Illustration: Andrea Bergart, Photo: Ross Dahmen)

Onyenwere says she wants to represent New York basketball players who want to give back to their local community.

“Yeah, I think it’s just me being kind of a voice for the community. It’s not that far from where we stay, where we play. So I can be a representation of, like, players of basketball here [who] I want to give back to the community…and so when this partnership came up, I was okay with being able to create new courts,” Onyenwere said.

Michaela Onyenwere

Michaela Onyenwere
(Wynne Hendry)

“In New York, the basketball courts, especially the outdoor courts, mean so much to the culture. And so to be able to be part of a partnership where we renovate one and specifically that I can be a representation of that. I think that’s how it is, so cool and this partnership is just awesome,” she added.

New York has become a new home for Onyenwere, who was drafted No. 6 overall by the Liberty in the first round of the 2021 WNBA Draft. Onyenwere admitted the big city was loud and a bit overwhelming upon her arrival, but she then stepped out of her comfort zone and got to know the local community firsthand.

Now Onyenwere says she doesn’t want to leave.

“I’ve only been to New York once or twice before, and it was a very short stay. And then just to see the community come together with our games. It was the first year we’ve made the playoffs since 2017. And then obviously with me being Rookie of the Year, I was embraced, I felt like one of them,” she said.

New York Liberty's Michaela Onyenwere, winner of the 2021 Kia WNBA Rookie of the Year poses with her trophy Nov. 17, 2021, at Snipes in Brooklyn.

New York Liberty’s Michaela Onyenwere, winner of the 2021 Kia WNBA Rookie of the Year poses with her trophy Nov. 17, 2021, at Snipes in Brooklyn.
(Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

Onyenwere described a moment when a woman approached her almost in tears as the athlete was doing a Rookie of the Year ceremony after last season. The woman said her 4-year-old niece was a big fan of Onyenwere, watched her all the time and wanted a picture.

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Onyenwere said she signed autographs and took photos, with the memory still clear in her brain months later.

“You never think you have such a big impact on people’s lives until you see a little girl who…looks like me the way she wants to be when she’s older,” Onyenwere said.

“I still vividly remember the excitement she had for her niece,” Onyenwere added. “If she gets into it at 4, imagine the impact we have in New York, across the country, across the WNBA. It was just a really exciting time for me to experience.”

Onyenwere started 29 games for the Liberty last season, averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game to clinch the team’s first playoff spot since 2017. She’s shot 40.1% since field.

Michaela Onyenwere New York Liberty drives against the Washington Mystics on September 17, 2021, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Michaela Onyenwere New York Liberty drives against the Washington Mystics on September 17, 2021, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
(Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Onyenwere played college basketball with the UCLA Bruins after growing up in Colorado, where she mostly played indoor courts. While the change in culture after moving to New York was definitely different, she said it showed her how important outdoor courts are to people there.

The McCaffrey Playground renovation aims to strengthen the community, improve safety and encourage multi-generational play. The renovation was completed about a week ago and announced on Thursday following a delay due to weather conditions.

This was the third court renovated as part of Mobil 1’s Tune Up program, which helps improve community basketball courts across the country. Mobil 1 is the official motor oil of the WNBA and NBA.

NBA champion Channing Frye previously unveiled a renovated gym at the historic Merrick House in Cleveland, Ohio, and in March three-time NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns helped redesign a 2K Foundations Court at Sojourner Truth Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Onyenwere expressed excitement for his team’s upcoming season, which kicks off against the Connecticut Sun on Saturday. New York has new leadership this year under head coach Sandy Brondello, who previously coached the Phoenix Mercury.

“I’m so excited. We’re trying to figure out where we all stand, but I know in the last two weeks we’ve been here in training camp, I can already see the trajectory going up,” Onyenwere said. “I’m so excited to have Sandy here. I think everyone has bought in.”

“Connecticut is a great team, a well-disciplined team, a well-coached team, so I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect,” she added. “But I want everything and everything that we’ve done so far to come to fruition for people to see the work that we’ve done, for the fans to be really excited about what we’ve done. I’m really excited for the second year, delighted to help my team in any way possible.”

Onyenwere says she wants to be more versatile and a better three-point shooter this season after shooting 32.7% from behind the arc last year.

“Just add more things to my game that will eventually translate into being able to help my team,” she told Fox News Digital on Wednesday morning. “Our season opener is literally three days away, which is crazy to me.”

With her career in the WNBA on the rise, Onyenwere says she hopes to do more for the local New York community in the future. She noted that from childhood, the basketball court is where she felt “most comfortable and strongest”.

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Michaela Onyenwere

Michaela Onyenwere
(Wynne Hendry)

“I would love to. I’ve only lived here for a year and a few months. It’s become my home, and it would be remiss of me not to,” she added.


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