New York Liberty point guard Leilani Mitchell was named the 2010 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year presented by Kia Motors, the league announced today.  Mitchell received 29 out of 39 votes from a panel of local and national sportswriters and broadcasters, beating out other top candidates that included Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry, Indiana Fever center Jessica Davenport, and Washington Mystics forward-center Crystal Langhorne and forward Monique Currie.

In her third WNBA season, Mitchell improved her overall performance across every major statistical category, including leading the WNBA in three-point field goal percentage (.486) and finishing second in total three-point field goals made (72).  Mitchell increased her scoring output by nearly seven points to 9.3 ppg from 2.4, and increased her assists to 3.8 apg from 2.4.  In addition, she tied for seventh in the league in steals (1.6 spg) and shot .441 from the field, up from .300 the previous season.

Acquired via trade from the Phoenix Mercury in May 2008, in exchange for the Liberty’s third round selection in 2009, Mitchell earned the starting point guard position during the 2010 preseason, and thrived in her new role.  After starting only seven games in her previous two seasons, the University of Utah product started all 34 games in 2010.  In the process, Mitchell helped guide the Liberty to a 22-12 (.647) record during the regular season, a nine-game improvement from the prior year, highlighted by a franchise-record 10-game winning streak and a No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

Against Indiana on Aug. 17, Mitchell posted 19 points, three rebounds and five assists, along with making four out of five three-point attempts, in a key win against New York’s conference rival.  The following game she tallied 14 points, eight assists, and hit four out of six three-point attempts in another pivotal win against Tulsa on Aug. 19.

In honor of being named the Most Improved Player of the Year presented by Kia Motors, Mitchell will receive $5,000 and a trophy specially designed by Tiffany & Co.