New York Liberty’s Asia Durr, Jocelyn Willoughby gain new perspective on patience after extended absences

New York Liberty
The New York Liberty logo inside the team’s locker room at Barclays Center
amNewYork/Christian Arnold

It has been a long journey for Asia Durr and Jocelyn Willoughby to get back on the court, but the two were all smiles during Thursday’s New York Liberty media day at Barclays Center.

The two have both missed extended periods of time away from the game, with Durr missing the last two seasons due to long-haul COVID-19 and Willoughby out last year after she suffered a tear of her Achilles on May 3, 2021, during a scrimmage up in Connecticut. Now the pair is just enjoying every moment that they’ve been out on the court since training camp opened earlier this month. 

“I’d say for one it’s a blessing to be back,” Durr said. “Doing what I love. I’m having so much fun just being back and just being around people. That’s been fun so far. … It’s been a journey, but I’m thankful to be here.”

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Both players are looking to make an impact with the season just over a week away now and the New York Liberty looking to build off the success of the previous year. New York qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2017, but made several changes in the offseason. 

They added new head coach Sandy Brondello and added veteran Stefanie Dolson to the fray. And now they’ll have a healthy Durr and Willoughby which should only help the Liberty’s defensive mindset under Brondello. 

“I think getting to the free-throw line and that being a point of emphasis plays well to my game,” Willoughby said. “I think I’ve been known to be a physical player and draw a lot of fouls. I think also her emphasis on defense. I think I know that’s something that I can bring a lot of energy and excitement to the team. 

“And then just filling in where else is needed I’ll continue to be a good spot-up shooter to help stretch out the defense.”

Understandably the prolonged absences have made Durr and Willoughby hungrier than ever to get back to where they were before they had been sick and injured. Durr told reporters on Thursday that she’s had to learn how to be a bit more patient in her recovery. 

“Some days were good, some days are not,” Durr explained. “That’s part of being patient and staying the course. That’s a great (lesson). Still, it’s pretty challenging to stay patient every single day, but you stay patient great things will definitely come.” 

The comments garnered a chuckle from the assembled media and teammate Willoughby, who was sitting next to Durr, but Willoughby admitted that it’s still something she hasn’t mastered either. 

“I think one of the big things in being able to be patient is seeing your growth at the same time,” Willoughby said. “Like today after practice, I’ll be like man I’m frustrated I wasn’t finishing as well as I would’ve liked, but still realizing I’m still getting to the paint. That’s a big step. … Just recognizing those small moments where I’m way ahead of where I used to be, but I’m still not where I want to be yet.

“I think  that helps give it some perspective and allowing us to be more patient.”

The New York Liberty opens the 2022 WNBA season on Saturday, May 7 at Barclays  Center.