Mohegan - A list of people throughout history who radiate exemplary levels of patience:
Job, parents of teenagers, Gandhi, solitaire champions, Mike Thibault.
OK. So maybe Thibault's not awash in tolerance with officials. But with his players? Put it this way: He saw something in Allison Hightower when he drafted her three years ago. And now she's become the Sun's equivalent of a lockdown corner in football, only with the ability to convert defense into offense.
In three games, Hightower has drawn the assignments of Cappie Poindexter (twice) and Becky Hammon, two of the league's dynamic scorers at guard, guarding them most of the time. Both complimented Hightower's speed, length and persistence after games in which they combined to shoot 15-for-37 from the floor.
"We've needed a reliable defender, but to have that person be able to go back at other teams offensively," Thibault said Thursday, after preparing his unbeaten team for tonight's showdown with unbeaten Minnesota at Mohegan Sun Arena. "For the last couple of years, since we lost Nykesha Sales and Katie Douglas, they've been hard to find. There haven't been very many lottery picks like that and it's not been a strength of drafts."
Hightower scored a career-high 13 points in the season opening win at New York. Pondexter shot 5-for-13 the next day against her before Hightower held Hammon to eight field goal attempts in Connecticut's last game.
"We traded players to get Danielle McCray and Allie in that same draft (2010) hoping that over the course of a few years, they develop," Thibault said. "The biggest problem fans — and coaches, too — have is patience for somebody to develop. Most players aren't great right away, unless it's (Diana) Taurasi or Maya (Moore) who were No. 1 picks.
"When Katie first went to Orlando, she wasn't that person, either," he said. "Now we're seeing Allie, Danielle and Kalana come into their own. They've made our team better."
Hightower, born in Texas, said she was a great fan of the Houston Comets, a defunct franchise, but nonetheless a four-time WNBA champion. She played for Comets coach Van Chancellor later at Louisiana State.
"Let me just say this," Chancellor said when Hightower played for him. "I came to LSU in '07 and if Allison Hightower had transferred, LSU's program goes rock-bottom. Allison Hightower stayed and we built this program around her for three years. I'd probably say she's been the ultimate teammate. We're going to take about three players to replace her."
Bob Starkey, the coach who led LSU through the transition period between Pokey Chatman and Chancellor, said of her on the LSU web site: "I'm not sure this is the proper wording, but in a long way, she saved our program. She was the constant during a difficult time. She is, in my mind, one of the five most influential people to ever play here. She's the hardest working player I've ever coached - men or women."
Hightower suffered through a rookie season with three different bouts of strep throat, finally leading to tonsil removal. She was a fairly nondescript player here until late last season, when she played well in the playoffs.
"I busted my tail this last offseason," Hightower said. "I went to see a personal trainer and worked on everything. When I got overseas, I could see a big difference."
So can her teammates.
"I thought we were better from the first day of camp," Renee Montgomery said. "Individual players have all grown. Allie is the perfect example."
• The Sun and Lynx are two of three remaining unbeaten teams in the WNBA. Minnesota, the defending WNBA champion, has Olympians at point guard (Lindsay Whalen) and small forward (Seimone Augustus), one of the league's best rebounders (Rebekkah Brunson), smartest players (Taj McWilliams-Franklin) and fo rmer UConn great Maya Moore. … Sun officials said tickets are available for tonight's game by calling 1-877-SUN-TIXX or visiting ticketmaster.com.