Published August 26. 2012 4:00AM
Mohegan - It has been the most rewarding journalistic experience. Ever. Best seat in the house, at the end of press row, adjacent to the Connecticut Sun bench, hearing all the good stuff.
The chance to get to know the players as people, beyond the canned clichés of college basketball. An inside look at the vagaries of a professional sports franchise.
And now in this 10th summer, the organization has sought input from all who care about the all-decade team, to be announced soon. Here's mine, in descending order (just to keep the suspense going).
No. 10: Renee Montgomery. She gets the final spot over Pee Wee Johnson and Debbie Black. Montgomery drives you to too many Tanqueray and tonics because of lazy defense and a penchant for throwing it to the other team in the fourth period. But she's made a million clutch shots and that counts for something. Johnson was too much of a shoot-first point guard (I don't care what her assist totals read) and Black, a fan favorite, just wasn't as productive as Montgomery. Note to Renee: You could learn a lot from Black's want-to on defense, though.
No. 9: Brooke Wyckoff. A solid small forward, underrated for her all-around game. Brooke's innocent demeanor belied the butt-kicker inside. She made the biggest shot in team history, a 3-pointer to tie Game 2 of the 2005 WNBA Finals at the end of regulation.
No. 8: Margo Dydek. "Margie," as Katie Douglas called her, was a gentle soul. Her greatest strength and greatest weakness. And while we always pined for more aggressiveness from her, she altered hundreds of shots, was quite a skilled player for a 7-foot-2-inch center and was brilliant in the 2005 conference playoffs. Rest in peace, Margie.
No. 7: Kara Lawson. Lawson will leave here, undoubtedly, as much higher on the list. But her relatively short time here - and some injuries that hampered her production - relegates her to seventh. She has been utterly magnificent this season, an MVP candidate and among the top clutch shooters in the league. Lawson's leadership and professionalism should have other players in the league taking notes.
No. 6: Nykesha Sales. Sales may be the most productive offensive player in Sun history. She was the face of the franchise when it relocated here from Orlando. Her grandmother is still a season ticket holder here. Sales made a zillion big shots in big spots, including 32 points during a game in the 2004 Finals. Hilarious (and unwitting at times) sense of humor. Among my favorite UConn kids ever.
No. 5: Katie Douglas. Until Lawson arrived, the Sun missed a cold-blooded shooter. That was Douglas, who left after the 2007 season. K.T. became a great player here. At both ends. She's still missed as a leader on the floor and in the locker room. She was once the MVP of the All-Star game as a Sun player. Took sarcasm to new levels. How I miss her.
No. 4: Taj McWilliams-Franklin. It's doubtful Taj will be as high on other lists. But the Sun haven't won a blessed thing since she left after the 2006 season. The smartest player they've ever had. She held everyone else accountable. I know she was a diva and a pain in the ascot to her teammates. But when it's 85-85 with 10 seconds left, I'll take Taj.
No. 3: Lindsay Whalen. Now that she's an Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, women's basketball is beginning to see the value of Whalen's 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds ... every night. She was a trustworthy, tougher-than-Clorox point guard who was, without question, the most beloved player in franchise history from fans, media and staff alike.
No. 2: Tina Charles. Charles has been here a short time. But she's been an absolute horse. Fastest player in league history to eclipse 1,000 rebounds. Double-double records, player of the week and player of the month awards. Killer hook shots with both hands. Ultimate go-to player. Should win the MVP this season.
No. 1: Asjha Jones. If Asjha ever wanted to change her first name, she should just go with "pro." The quintessential professional. Reliable, consistent scorer, rebounder and defender since 2004. Mad props to Sun coach Mike Thibault for figure out a way to get Jones here from Washington for a song. All that's left for her resume is a WNBA title.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.