One month into the season and the rookies in the WNBA are shining bright, particularly first-year players in Tulsa. In fact, in Nate’s look at the rookie race after their first month in the W, Kayla Pedersen graced his top spot with Liz Cambage coming in at third. One particular area of much needed improvement highlighted in Cambage’s game is that of field goal percentage.
She’s only hit 43.9 percent of her shots from the floor, not so great when you consider the high percentage attempts from the 6-foot-8 center. It’s not hard to find examples of struggle for Cambage, who’s only performed over .500 in the shooting department in three of the nine contests in which she’s played.
The shooting woes are foreign to Cambage, who was the 2010-11 Australian WNBL MVP. Back in her native land she averaged 22.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots a night. She sunk 59 percent of her attempts in the championship season with the Bulleen Boomers, so to come in and fail to finish is something the rookie is expecting to change as the season progresses.
“That’s my usual game – a double-double – to be honest, rebounds and points is what I do,” Cambage said earlier in the season. “Even though I’m putting up 15, 18 points a night I need to work on my finishes. There’s just so much to work on that the negatives are kind of outweighing the positives at the moment.
“I was leading shooting percentage in Australia. Yeah, coming here I’m in negative shooting percentage maybe? I’m getting used to it, but it’s totally different. I still make my foul shots, but I’ve just got to work on those 3-point plays.”
But making those free throws has been a marked difference, with Cambage leading the league in total free throws with 52. She’s hitting at a 90 percent clip at the line, and making her charity shots is something that Cambage is focusing on as she continues to adjust to the WNBA game.
“If you’re going to do all that hard work to get to the line, you’ve got to make it,” she says of her mentality at the stripe. “I think people really don’t focus on foul shots but you need them. I’m a pretty good foul shot shooter, so it’s good to have that backup there when you can’t make a layup,” Cambage joked.
While her ability to make the bunnies might be a statistical category with room to grow, keep in mind that Cambage is 19 years old. 19. What were you doing when you were 19? Save a very limited few NBA ballers like LeBron James, this is a situation like none other particularly in the women’s game. That being said, averages of 14.4 points (20th in the WNBA), 6.1 rebounds (16th in the W) and 1.4 blocks per game (5th in the W) is nothing to hang your head about.
“When you haven’t played the kind of competition this young lady has played, you’re going to struggle some,” head coach Nolan Richardson said. “I see some of the other girls struggling you might call it when they first get into the league, when they first try to play. She is normal to me.
“She’s going to have those kind of nights when she’s not finishing and she’s going to have those nights that she finished and I don’t think she should have finished. I see some shots she makes and I’m saying that shouldn’t have gone in, but it went in so it looks good. I’m happy at her progress at this point.”
She’s coming of a particularly rough game a week ago when Tulsa was thrashed by the Minnesota Lynx 101-71. Cambage was 3-for-7 from the field and only got to the line three times where she even missed an attempt. Her eight points marked a season-low and added to just four rebounds is a game many might like to forget, not just Liz.
The rookie is learning tough lessons in her first month in the states, not just about the pressures of being a first-year player, but the pressures of picking up elusive wins for her team. So maybe some words of encouragement for the teen will allow her to keep her head up and rebound with a strong performance against Phoenix when the Shock take to the court tonight at 7 p.m.
“I didn’t think she was going to come in and be no superhuman at age 19 and learning how to play,” Richardson said. “She doesn’t really even know how good she’s going to be, the sky’s the limit for her.”
The sky is the limit. Of that, I have very little doubt. (And maybe every once in a while the clang of the iron. At least for now.)