The Sun have not won a playoff game in three years, In fact, of the 16 players brought to training camp, only five [Kalana Greene, Tan White, Sidney Spencer, Kara Lawson and Asjha Jones] have played for WNBA teams with at least one postseason win. That’s a lot to overcome.
The competition for backup center will be the toughest of training camp. Rookie Chay Shegog of North Carolina, free agent Stefanie Murphy and free agent veteran Mistie Mims [formerly Bass] will compete for the minutes behind Tina Charles, now one of the best post players in the world. Keep an eye on Murphy, the former Boston College post, who had a very good training camp last season before being released. She honed her skills in Hungary this winter, averaging 15.6 points and eight rebounds.
There may be no more prideful athlete in the WNBA than Kara Lawson, who begins her 10th season in the league. If you think Lawson wasn’t disappointed about not making the 2012 Olympic team, after playing such an instrumental role in 2008, you would be wrong. And there is nothing that motivates an athlete more than proving people wrong.
If professional basketball didn’t realize it before, it now knows Asjha Jones is one of the nation’s elite players. If not for the injuries she has fought for many years, her selection to the 2012 Olympic team likely would not have been her first. Soon to be 32, Jones has never played better and she’s coming off an MVP season in Spain.
The Sun desperately needs perimeter points. Aside from Charles, who scored most of her 600 points in the paint last season, Connecticut’s top scorer was Montgomery, who was 14th in the league (14.6). Montgomery has always been a streaky shooter and on the days she is struggling they team will need White, Lawson, Allie Hightower and Danielle McCray to have her back. The Sun’s 36.3 shooting percentage from three last season was mid-pack in the league.
It’s primarily for that reason Sidney Spencer was signed as a free agent. The former Tennessee star, Spencer, 6-3, split last season between New York and Phoenix after being selected by the Los Angeles Sparks with the 25th overall pick in 2007. Spencer is an excellent three-point shooter who can run the floor very well. The Sun has not had a player recently with her size and perimeter skill. She also shoots 92 percent from the foul line.
Connecticut basketball fans have watched Montgomery mature since her freshman season at UConn, who she helped lead to two Final Fours , four NCAA Regional final and three Big East tournament titles before graduating as a first-team All-American in 2009. Last season, she stared all 34 games and was a WNBA all-star. She led the team with a career-high 167 assists and led the team with 61 threes. She is the engine of the team and her fewer mistakes she commits, the most consistent she scores, the better off it will be.
It is very important that the Sun get off to a fast start. After opening the season May 19 at New York, the Sun plays four straight at home and seven of its next eight thru June 15. Once that stretch ends, Connecticut will have only three home games in the 10 games that precede the month-long Olympic break (July 14-Aug. 16).
Mike Thibault is one of the WNBA’s most respected coaches. He has been with the franchise since its first day at the Mohegan Sun Arena in 2003. But the last three seasons have lean, certainly in comparison to the past. The Sun hasn’t played in the conference finals since 2006 or for the championship since a back-to-back run in 2004-05. In fact, the Sun has only two playoff wins in the last five seasons. There is a lot riding on the progression of this young team.
The Sun have invested a lot in potential European and African talent not currently with them. If things work out as planned, the roster will soon be infused with at least three players now committed to their homeland teams – Spanish forward Alba Torrens (2009), guard Johannah Leedham of Great Britain (2010) and 6-8 Mali center Astan Dabo (2012). Torrens may have been on the team this season if not for a knee injury suffered in Turkey in January.
The Courant is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on courant.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.