Sun draft with future in mind

UConn senior guard Tiffany Hayes was selected in the second round by the Atlanta Dream on Monday.

Mohegan - Mike Thibault tried to trade his team's first-round draft pick. For most of the offseason. He tried, all the way to Monday, the day of the WNBA draft. Even after it began.

He even included it in some trade packages.

"Our roster is basically set," Thibault said, alluding to the unlikelihood of the Sun's first-round pick making a team that won 21 games a year ago and enters 2012 among the league's contenders.

So Thibault and the Sun drafted for the future, selecting Astan Dabo, a 6-foot-8-inch center from Mali, who played in France last season. Dabo, 19, averaged more than 12 rebounds per game.

She will not join the Sun this season. Thibault said her arrival would be in future seasons.

The Sun also selected All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team post Chay Shegog of North Carolina in the second round. Chegog, a 6-5 center, averaged 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season.

"I really don't know how it's going to work out," Thibault said of Dabo's selection, "but there's a huge upside if it works."

Thibault said Dabo must strengthen her thin frame, although it's not often 6-foot-8-inch players come along.

Dabo will play in France's top division next season.

"The posts in our league are getting bigger and they'll be even bigger next year," Thibault said to a few chuckles, adding that he just couldn't understand why no one was willing to part with their first-round pick in 2013.

It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Baylor center Brittney Griner's impact on the 2013 draft class.

"In this league, you're one major injury from the lottery," he said.

The Sun's last major draft pick, center Tina Charles, is the centerpiece for a 2012 team that seeks the franchise's first WNBA title. Thibault and many of his players believe the nucleus of a title team is here.

"You saw progress last year with 21 wins," Thibault said. "We can get more this year if we play the way we're supposed to. We didn't want to undo any of that."

Thibault and the Sun had a chance to select UConn's Tiffany Hayes with the ninth pick. Hayes instead went to the Atlanta Dream in the second round, the 14th pick overall.

"Tiffany Hayes is a really good player," he said. "But I don't know who she'd beat out on our team. Who would she play ahead of right now?"

The Sun return guards Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson and Allison Hightower as well as wings Danielle McCray, Tan White and Kalana Greene.

Hayes, meanwhile, was thrilled to go to Atlanta, the closest WNBA franchise to her family's home in Lakeland, Fla.

"It's a good fit for me," she told reporters Monday from ESPN studios in Bristol.

"I'm excited. They're an up-tempo team. I was hoping I'd go there."

The Dream eliminated the Sun from the playoffs in 2011.

Thibault said Chegog would provide some post depth for training camp.

"She brings athleticism," he said. "Plus, you never know."

• Individual game tickets for the 2012 season are on sale.

Fans can purchase tickets to all 17 regular season home games at Mohegan Sun Arena as well as tickets for preseason games on May 7th against the New York Liberty and May 10th against the Minnesota Lynx. Tickets will be available at Ticketmaster.com, WNBA.com/tickets, or by calling 1-877-WNBA-TIX.

The Sun open 10th season with back-to-back games against the New York Liberty. The Sun will play at New York May 19th at 4 p.m. before returning home to Mohegan Sun Arena for a rematch 9and the home opener) Sunday, May 20, at 5 p.m.

m.dimauro@theday.com

The Connecticut Sun selected Astan Dabo, left, a 6-foot-8 teenager from Mali, with its first-round pick in the WNBA draft on Monday.
The Connecticut Sun selected Astan Dabo, left, a 6-foot-8 teenager from Mali, with its first-round pick in the WNBA draft on Monday.
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