Sky center Imani Boyette describes herself as a constant nervous wreck.
So when it comes to self-evaluating her first WNBA season, Boyette points to anxiousness and a season-long learning curve that caused her to hit a rookie wall. Despite seeing limited time – especially early on – the former University of Texas standout still managed to finish last year ranked third in the league in block percentage (1.4) and in the Top 10 in field goal percentage (.544), offensive rebounding (1.7) and defensive rebounding (3.9).
So as Boyette prepares for a new season, which begins Sunday when the Sky face the Minnesota Lynx, her nerves may still be in tact. But the 6-7 center will begin with a different mindset and role as the Sky move on without former league MVP Elena Delle Donne.
Boyette finds herself surrounded with more around her in the post. The Sky acquired 6-5 center Stefanie Dolson in the Delle Donne trade from the Washington Mystics. They also drafted center Alaina Coates out of South Carolina with the No. 2 pick to help solidify their post presence.
While Boyette has a reputation as a tenacious post defender, an offense installed by first-year coach and general manager Amber Stocks will push Boyette and broaden her horizons.
“I’m being challenged to do things every day that I’m not necessarily comfortable with,” Boyette said. “It’s a learning curve for a lot of us. But the thing with me is that I’ve always kind of been very happy with my role.
“I think it’s frustrating just in terms of every day, it’s something hard. You want to try to revert back to what you know you excel at.”
But as difficult as it has been for Boyette to change her approach, Stocks has seen steady progress.
“She is developing an increased attack off the dribble and adding more physicality to her game,” Stocks said. “Imani has improved her ability to hit the outside shot, thus opening op the lane for her to continue to score at the rim.”
Boyette credits Stocks for taking her out of her comfort zone and expanding her offensive skills in a way that will make her more of an all-around player. But like with the Sky, who will need time to jel with a new-look roster, Boyette understands her second season will bring as many learning opportunities as her rookie year presented.
That’s when she turns to her brother – Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee – who Boyette exchanges text messages with on a regular basis. So as McGee is entrenched in another NBA playoff push as his younger sister prepares to begin the regular season, Boyette is open to the advice she receives from McGee.
“Last year, he told me just to enjoy the ride because it was (a season with) a lot of firsts,” Boyette said. “But this year, he told me, ‘It’s time to go to work.’ This is the year I solidify myself as a center in the league that should hopefully be one of the best in the years to come.”
Nerves and all.
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