Kiah Stokes' 3rd WNBA season begins Saturday

Women's basketball: She's already No. 5 for the Liberty in career blocks

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Kiah Stokes took a call in a grocery store, the beep of a checkout register in the background.

“I’ve got to get some eggs,” she said. “Got to get ready for (Saturday).

Protein is a must; Stokes’ third WNBA season begins when the New York Liberty host the San Antonio Stars. Tipoff is 2 p.m. (Iowa time) at Madison Square Garden.

Stokes, 24, was Miss Iowa Basketball 2011 at Linn-Mar and a national champion at the University of Connecticut. Now she wants to expand her role with the Liberty.

“I want to be more of a contributor,” she said. “I’ve got to bring toughness to the team. I need to be more of a presence offensively.”

A 6-foot-3 post, Stokes averaged 5.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a rookie in 2015, and was named to the WNBA all-rookie team. She upped those numbers to 6.9 points and 7.4 boards per contest last season, ranking sixth in the league in blocks and seventh in rebounds.

As was the case in high school and college, Stokes’ major contribution comes on the defensive end.

After just two seasons, she ranks No. 5 all-time on the Liberty’s blocked-shot list, with 105. She’s 50 from the record, set by Sue Wicks.

Stokes certainly isn’t coming into the season rusty. She just concluded a season with a pro team in Turkey.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “They have a different style of play. It’s physical. It wouldn’t say it’s dirty ... but it’s close.

“I’m glad to be back in the States and around people that speak English.”

Stokes lives in the White Plains area, about 45 minutes from downtown New York. She said the Liberty provides housing and a rental car — “I share of Hyundai with a teammate,” she said.

The Liberty are coached by Bill Laimbeer, one of the famed “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons of the 1980s and early ‘90s.

“He’s interesting,” Stokes said. “Pretty cool. Pretty positive.

“He’s different than (UConn Coach Geno) Auriemma. But if you’re not doing well, he’ll let you know.”

Stokes hasn’t been back to Iowa since last October. Home will come to her soon.

“My mom (Julie Saddler) is coming out at the beginning of June,” she said. My dad (Greg Stokes) will be out later this summer.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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