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Delaware native named to 2021 WNBA All-Star team, and it's not Elena Delle Donne


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Delaware has another WNBA All-Star after former Smyrna High School star Betnijah Laney was voted into the All-Star game by fans, players and a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters on Wednesday.

For Laney, who plays for the New York Liberty, it's her first All-Star nod, and it makes her the second player from the state of Delaware to make it to the game. Elena Delle Donne, the Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware star, has been an All-Star six times.

The WNBA All-Star game will be played July 14 in Las Vegas. The teams will be split among the WNBA All-Stars and those participating in the Olympics later this month for the U.S. Women's Basketball team.

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Laney, in her sixth WNBA season, is having by far her best season. The Rutgers star is averaging 19.7 points, which ranks sixth in the league, to go along with 5.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Laney never averaged more than 5.6 points per game until last season, when she averaged 17.2 per game with the Atlanta Dream. In fact, she signed with the Dream after the Indiana Fever released her prior to the 2020 season.

She then signed with the Liberty as a free agent before this season.

In May, Laney was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, and she came one game short of a league record when she started the season with 8 straight games of scoring at least 20 points.

That was when teammates started calling her "Betnijah Buckets," the New York Daily News reported. Last season with Atlanta, Laney was named the WNBA's Most Improved Player and was named first-team All-Defense.

The Liberty are Laney's fifth team. She began her career with Chicago in 2015 before going to Connecticut in 2018, Indiana in 2019 and the Dream in 2020.

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“In only a few short months in New York, by way of her tireless work ethic, selfless leadership, and indomitable will to improve and to do whatever the team needs in order to win, (Laney) has already made an indelible mark on our organization," Liberty coach Walt Hopkins said in a statement.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a player more deserving of this honor, and we’re certain that this is only the first of many such accomplishments to come.”

As for Delle Donne, the 2015 and 2019 WNBA MVP has yet to play this season as she recovers from back surgery last December. It's her second back surgery in the span of a year.

Delle Donne didn't play in 2020 either after opting out due to COVID-19 concerns connected to her yearslong battle with chronic Lyme disease.

It has been reported that Delle Donne might not return until Aug. 15, when the league returns from a five-week break for the Olympics.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.