Connecticut Sun forward Asjha Jones suffered a torn left Achilles tendon last week while playing for her Russian professional league team, Spartak.
Jones, 33, did not play in the WNBA last season after telling the Sun she wanted to rest nagging aches and pains. And now she obviously will not play this season, making it even more likely Connecticut will use the first pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft on Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike, a mobile 6-3 post.
“It does make it easier for us to move forward [with plans],” Sun GM Chris Sienko said. “But this is very upsetting. We don’t wish this type of injury on anyone, especially to someone like Asjha who has taken so long to try and be well enough to play at full strength again. It’s frustrating for Asjha and certainly unfair.
“But now, there is nothing for us to do than move forward. There’s no need to hold onto the roster spot in hopes she would be back this summer.”
Jones, a member of two UConn national champions (2000 and 2002) and a member of the 2012 Olympic team, was hurt last week against Perfumerias Avenida.
“She is headed back to the United States now and will be meeting with doctors in the next few days,” Sienko said. “That will naturally determine the timeline for everything. But we certainly do not foresee her being able to play for us this summer.”
The Sun still retain rights to Jones, who has one year remaining on her contract.
Jones was enjoying her stay in Russia where her veteran status was relished by a young team.
“When I was approached by Spartak to join their team, I felt a challenge similar to that which I dealt with while at Rivas Ecopolis [her previous EuroLeague team],” Jones told the Euroleague website after her injury
“I was asked to work together with some relatively young veterans to help some even younger rookies build a new competitive team worthy of the Spartak name. I was enjoying every minute of it, but unfortunately because of this setback I will now not be able to be here for the rest of the season.
“However, I feel I have become a member of the Spartak tradition and I wish everybody and especially my teammates all the best.”
It is too early in the process to determine how this injury may impact the remainder of Jones’ career. It will likely take a year of recovery, without complications, meaning the earliest she could return would be after the 2014 Christmas break.
Spartak coach Alexander Vasin praised Jones’ ability and leadership.
“I wish her a speedy recovery and who knows, maybe our paths might cross again,” Vasin told the Euroleague website. “It was a pleasure coaching her, because she was one of the most professional players I had ever the pleasure to coach.”
Jones was selected in the first round (4th overall) by the Washington Mystics in 2002 after her stellar career at UConn. After two seasons with the Mystics, Jones was traded to the Sun in a three-team deal that sent Tamicha Jackson from Phoenix to Washington. The Sun sent the 8th pick in the 2004 draft to the Mercury.
Jones has played nine seasons and 271 games for the Sun with 3,336 points and 1,447 rebounds, second all-time in both categories.
She led the Sun in scoring in 2009 (16.7) but strained her left Achilles tendon and missed the final eleven games of the season. She underwent surgery in the following February.
After the 2010 WNBA season, Jones, still not fully recovered, began to aggressive manage when she would play. And she played well for the Sun through the 2012 season. But after the firing of Mike Thibault, Jones decided to sit out the 2013 WNBA season.
“There really was a reason for her not to play [in the WNBA] last summer,” Sienko said. “She was really hurt. And now the same injury has been aggravated in a much worse way. It’s completely ruptured now.”