With a comfortable 3 1/2-game lead in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference and only 12 games remaining in the regular season, part of Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault’s agenda now is bolstering the roster, which began the season as the second-youngest in the league.
They did so after the Olympic break by signing veteran center Jessica Moore and releasing rookie center Chay Shegog, their second-round pick from North Carolina.
This was not dictated by displeasure with Shegog. She made the team with a strong training camp and was doing all that could be expected to improve, working hard with assistant Scott Hawk and Tina Charles to improve her skills.
“I sent Chay a long text [after she was released] to remind her that it [the decision] had nothing to do with anything she may not have been doing,” said Charles. “Chay was the hardest worker here. … It was just a business decision and I wanted to urge her not to let up. She was doing everything she could possible do.”
But Thibault was not using Shegog in games and when Asjha Jones returned from the Olympics, still dealing with a sore left Achilles tendon, Thibault was in a precarious position.
The combination of needing someone else to backup Charles and Mistie Mims in games, and an able body to bump around in practice, sent him in search of Moore, who became the fifth former UConn player on the Sun roster.
“Jessica is a veteran who understands how to play defensively against certain players” Thibault said. “Chay was never going to be able to get a break from foul calls from the officials.
“Once we knew Asjha was going to be out, I realized we would be better served having another veteran on the roster. I told Jessica that I had no idea when I was going to play her. But she is a very good presence in our locker room. He knows how to win playoff games and we need another player like her.”
Moore played with the Sun last season. But she injured a knee playing in Europe over the winter and was not physically ready to play in the WNBA when the season started.
When she began to feel better, Moore signed with the Atlanta Dream. And she was with them until the return of Erika de Souza from the Brazilian national team after the Olympics cost Moore her roster spot.
“Whenever you have the chance to play somewhere, you take it,” said Moore. “It gave me the confidence to know I was moving well [physically] and in the right direction [professionally]. It was a beneficial time. … What happened [the release] was totally fine. I understood.”
Moore went home to Los Angeles and began to prepare for the start graduate school this week at Kent State University, which she will be taking on-line. She is pursuing a Masters in Communications with a concentration in public relations
“I am happy and proud to be back with the Sun, to know they think that much of me,” said Moore.
The Sun originally signed Moore to a seven-day contract, then extended it another week prior to their win over the Tulsa Shock Tuesday. But she has only appeared in one game – 11 minutes in her first game against New York on July 16.
“We just wanted to make sure that Jessica is physically fine,” said Thibault. “Also, the trade deadline was approaching and we didn’t know if we were going to do anything [that might impact Moore’s spot]. You just have to protect yourself [as an organization].
“But I told Jessica that unless something radical happened, our intention was to keep her for the remainder of the year.”
Moore plans on returning to Europe for the second half of the 2012-13 season, but said she likely won’t know until around Thanksgiving where she might play.
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