Summer Life
- Page 20
Summertime Fun in the Sun
BY ROGER CLEAVELAND
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

For the past several years now, the Connecticut Sun have been talked about within the WNBA or in women’s basketball circles as a young, talented team on the rise. This may finally be the season the Sun come of age.

Everything finally seems to be coming together for them. The core group of young stars has had several years to mesh. Coach Curt Miller is now in his third season and has had an opportunity to mold the players into his fast-paced style of play. The significant injuries of the past few years seem to have healed, but not before they afforded several key players the opportunity to develop their games in the absence of the injured players.

Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas emerged as All-Stars last season. Alyssa Thomas easy had her best season and Courtney Williams burst onto the scene. Shekinna Stricklen provided great 3-point shooting.

Now you have the face of the franchise, Chiney Ogwumike, ready to return to All-Star form after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries. Former No. 3 and No. 4 overall draft picks, Morgan Tuck from UConn and Rachel Banham from Minnesota, are healthy for the first time in their pro careers. Alex Bentley is hopeful she can return to All-Star form and the team added a dynamic rookie guard in Lexie Brown from Duke.

The team took a huge step forward last year when it finished 21-13, good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference and the fourth-best record in the league. But after a first-round playoff bye, the Sun lost at home in the single-game elimination second round proving they hadn’t quite arrived just yet.

“We have so much talent,” Ogwumike said. “It is not about one player but about Connecticut as a team. We have always been a band of misfits, but we go out there and attack every challenge. We don’t back down. Teams have been saying for years, ‘Oh ya’all about to be a problem. Ya’all about to be a problem.’ Last year we were a problem. Now we just have to take that next step.”

The team hasn’t been to the WNBA Finals since its only two appearances in 2004 and 2005. The Sun could finally be primed to make such a run again.

“People have to watch out, man, because we have weapons everywhere,” Williams said. “For sure we are ready to contend right now. If you don’t think so, then you shouldn’t be in the gym. I just think we have all the pieces now. We have the leadership and the talent. We just have to put some games together now. We are a young team that should be able to bounce back from anything that is tough.”

Miller said he isn’t going to talk about winning a championship with the players, because simply making the playoffs is a difficult enough chore.

“We are going to talk about one day at a time, but within that approach, we are not afraid to address with them the higher expectations we have or the bigger bull’s eye that is on our back because we did have a breakthrough season last year,” Miller said. “We still have that next step to take but it is going to be brutal trying to be one of the eight teams to make the playoffs. So first things first.

“The championship talk can wait. It is all takes care of itself if we are doing what we should be doing each day.”

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