New York Liberty forward Michaela Onyenwere has been named the 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year, the league announced on Tuesday. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, Onyenwere is the first player in franchise history to win the honor.
Onyenwere was the leading candidate for most of the season, winning every Rookie of the Month award to become just the fifth player in WNBA history to sweep that honor during a season. As expected the voting was not close, and Onyenwere fell just two votes shy of winning unanimously. The only other players to receive a vote were Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald and Liberty guard DiDi Richards.
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In her very first WNBA game, Onyenwere put up 18 points and five rebounds in the Liberty's dramatic win over the Indiana Fever on opening night. A few weeks later, she continued her hot start -- double figures in five of her first eight games -- with a 29-point performance against the Atlanta Dream.
Over the course of the season, Onyenwere's playing time and production decreased, in part because the Liberty finally got their full roster back together. But while she wasn't getting as many touches, Onyenwere was still the most productive player in the class by some margin. She averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, leading all rookies in scoring and 3-pointers made (37).
Though this shouldn't take away from Onyenwere's accomplishment, this was one of the weaker rookie classes in recent history. The last time the leading rookie scorer didn't average double figures was 2005, when Tameka Johnson put up 9.3 points per game for the Washington Mystics.
In honor of winning Rookie of the Year, Onyenwere will receive a bonus of $5,150 in addition to her trophy.