When the Connecticut Sun used the 11th pick in the 2013 WNBA draft for UConn’s Kelly Faris it accomplished two major goals.
The Sun snatched one of the most versatile, serious-minded players in the draft, the daughter of a coach, her father Bob who taught her personal goals were secondary to the team.
And the Sun reeled in one of the most popular players in recent UConn history, something sure to translate into ticket sales as she joins three other Huskies – Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Kalana Greene – in burnt orange, blue and yellow.
But when training camp opens on May 6, a bigger issue will take precedent. How will the Sun use Faris to help themselves improve?
“She’s a coach’s dream because she does anything you need her to do,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “She doesn’t need the spotlight. She doesn’t need to shine. She’s happy to do what she needs to do. This year for Connecticut she needed to shoot the three more and she did that. She worked on her game and she added that.
“I love players that are still growing and improving their game. For a blue-collar kid that likes to do the dirty work, that likes to rebound the ball, likes to defend, it’s a coach’s dream. You can’t go wrong with a player like that.”
Prior to the draft, Sun GM Chris Sienko suggested the team might not take Faris if it was determined her skill set too closely resembled other players on its team.
“Still, we saw her play so many incredible games during the [UConn] season,” Sienko said. “We knew what she is capable of doing. The question was can she continue it for us. We need that role player. And she’s so intelligent.”
Even without injured Danielle McCray, who will miss the season with an Achilles’ injury, the Sun have a multitude of gaurds in Kara Lawson, Allison Hightower, Montgomery, Greene and Tan White.
They are also set to welcome former Cheshire Academy guard Johannah Leedham, the leading scorer in the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain and the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division II history with 3,050 points.
“I see Kelly as a small forward,” Dovovan said. “She could also be a conduit into shooting guard or power forward if we needed her. That’s what I love about her. She gives us that versatility and flexibility.”
The lure of Faris, the 13th UConn player taken in the first round, was too great to pass up, especially when San Antonio Silver Stars chose Syracuse center Kayla Alexander with the eighth pick and defending champion Indiana, Faris’ hometown team, chose California guard Layshia Clarendon.
“We were concerned about what San Antonio might do,” Donovan said.
The Los Angeles Sparks then basically handed Connecticut their player by taking Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies.
“It didn’t matter. I was happy to go anywhere,” Faris said. “But I’m so excited to come back to Connecticut. I wasn’t really ready to leave yet anyway. I’ve built a strong foundation here with the support of everyone. I couldn’t be happier to stay here.
“That was probably the most nervous I’ve been in a really long time, just for the fact that I like to have a plan, I like to know what’s happening. I had absolutely no idea. There were a few picks there that I thought maybe it could be, maybe it would be. I was just waiting for my name to be called.”
Faris, 5-11, had the best season of her career in helping UConn win its eighth national championship. She averaged a career best 10.2 points and her shooting (53.0 from the floor) and three-point range (41.5) were career highs. She also averaged 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.5 steals.
“She’s always been a lock-down defender,” Donovan said. “I’ve always watched her matchup whether she’s guarding Skylar Diggins or whoever she’s guarding. She guarded our best player at Seton Hall and she couldn’t breathe the entire game.
“I watched a great defender for three years turn into a great offensive player this year as well. And the other thing I like about her is she did what Connecticut needed her to do. When they asked her to get the ball to the post she did that. She’ll do what’s asked of her.”
That point is best exemplified by the career totals Faris compiled at UConn. She scored 1,109 points with 821 rebounds, 545 assists and 294 steals. And she played in 157 games, the final 154 consecutively.
“It’s going to take a lot of work to stay in shape,” Faris said. “I know that we just ended our season but there’s a lot more that I could be doing to prepare myself mentally and physically. I need to catch up on some school work I’ve missed because of our schedule.
“This is a dream come true. And I know people keep saying that, but it really is for us. When we’re little just sitting there watching all the older players growing up and you think ‘Could I get there one day?’ And then now we’re sitting here and we get to have that chance to be that role model for somebody. I’m so excited to stay in Connecticut and be able to play with some really great players, including some of my past teammates.”
The Sun took Iowa State’s Anna Prins in the second round and South Florida’s Andrea Smith was taken in the third round.