Portland, Ore. (KOIN) — Nyara Sabally could not stop grinning Monday night after her name was called in the 2022 WNBA Draft.

“I can barely put it into words,” Sabally said after the New York Liberty selected her with the fifth overall pick. “Just that feeling of getting my name called, all the hard work in the training room was worth it, all the endless tears after injuries. But I’m just happy that the work that I put in finally got rewarded.”

Injuries were, unfortunately, a massive part of Sabally’s story to the pros; she suffered multiple ACL tears in her right knee and missed eight games her senior season because of injuries.

Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb said injuries are one of the reasons he believes Sabally was still available when their pick came up at No. 5.

“Her ceiling is incredibly high,” Kolb told the @LockedOnWBB podcast. “She’s someone that if she was healthy all year, I think we’d be talking about even higher than where she was selected in this draft.”

Kolb continued to say they’ve done a lot of “homework” on Sabally’s health and they’re comfortable with where she’s at now.

“This is a pick for the future,” he explained. “We’re going to work with where she’s at to get her body right and this is something where I think you’ve seen we really key in on patience and we really key in on development.”

Sabally will join a familiar face in the Big Apple — reuniting with Oregon Ducks teammate Sabrina Ionescu.

The two never actually played together in Eugene, Sabally was just returning to practice after an injury in 2020 when the NCAA Tournament was canceled at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sabally says she’s looking forward to finally suiting up with Ionescu.

“[Ionescu] is such an amazing point guard, such an amazing person,” Sabally said. “I saw her in practice every day, I saw her working every day on the court. So, I’m just very excited to finally share the court with her and not just in practice.”

Sabally won’t just have a former teammate to lean on for advice as she transitions to the pros — her sister Satou is a rising star for the Dallas Wings.

The two became the first pair of sisters both drafted in the top five since Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, with Satou selected as the No. 2 overall pick in 2020, right behind Ionescu. Already, big sis has given little sis tips on how to thrive as a player — and person — in the fast-paced WNBA.

“Satou has given me a lot of advice,” Sabally said. “Saying that I’ve got to be ready for the physicality and how fast-paced the game is. It’s a completely different level than in college. But at the same time, just doing what I did to get here. That’s the most important part, not like trying to change my game too much because what I was doing was the right thing and that got me here, so carry on to the league.”

As for her connection with the new coaching staff in New York, Sabally says she’s already found a meaningful tie to Liberty Head Coach Sandy Brondello.

“We found out we have a little connection, a little German connection. We spoke a little German. Her German is great,” Sabally, who was born in Germany, stated. “I’m just looking to do whatever the team needs me to do. Obviously coming in, learning from the older players as a young player. I haven’t played that much basketball yet in my career, so I can really learn from them and take everything in, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

With the selection of Sabally, the Liberty front office doubled down on the commitment they made in the off-season to strengthen their frontcourt with the signing of 6-foot-5 post Stefanie Dolson from the Chicago Sky, the 2021 champion team.

When talking about what she brings to the post position for this New York team, Sabally referenced her excitement at learning from the 2014 6th overall pick.

“Using my strength inside and the power I bring inside, and just helping wherever I can, getting those boards, defending,” Sabally said. “Obviously New York just picked up a great post player (Dolson) that I’m excited to learn from. She seems like a sweetheart. I haven’t had the chance to talk to her. I’ve only heard good things about her, and I’m super excited to have such a great role model in that position in front of me.”

With Dolson in front of her, Ionescu in the locker room with her and Satou just a phone call away — Sabally has plenty of people to learn from in her rookie year and she says she plans on doing just that.

“I want to learn. I want to grow, and I want to enjoy every moment and take everything in because you’re only a rookie once, so just enjoying everything and having fun mostly,” she said.