Williams embracing chance to make Sun

Kalana Greene, left, one of the few Sun veterans to play during Saturday night's 83-74 exhibition win over the New York Liberty at Mohegan Sun Arena, passes around the Liberty's Kamiko Williams during the first half. With only a couple of roster spots available, new Sun coach Anne Donovan played her untested rookies.
Kalana Greene, left, one of the few Sun veterans to play during Saturday night's 83-74 exhibition win over the New York Liberty at Mohegan Sun Arena, passes around the Liberty's Kamiko Williams during the first half. With only a couple of roster spots available, new Sun coach Anne Donovan played her untested rookies. Sean D. Elliot/ The Day Buy Photo

Mohegan - Professional sports have been littered with rookies who've shied away from being aggressive for fear of making a mistake and getting cut.

Latoya Williams doesn't have that fear. She's got a job to win.

Williams, an undrafted rookie, entered midway through the second quarter of the Connecticut Sun's 83-74 exhibition win over the New York Liberty on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.

It took Williams only 12 seconds to take her first shot, a 3-pointer from the right corner.

Note that Williams is a 6-foot-2 post player, not a sharpshooting wing.

No matter - the fearless Williams made the shot.

"Hey, bigs can do it all," Williams said while laughing. "We can shoot. We can shoot a little bit."

The Sun are looking to fill two spots - a post and a wing. Williams did what she could to impress by scoring 10 points and blocking two shots.

Chatilla Van Grinsven (six points, three rebounds), another undrafted rookie, and the well-traveled Ashley Walker (eight points, four rebounds) are also vying for that spot.

Williams has taken the road less traveled to the WNBA. She graduated from Chipola Junior College of Marianna, Fla. in 2009. She earned NJCAA All-American honors in 2008 and 2009, and led her team to the Final Four in her final season.

Williams went undrafted out of college, so she went to play in Poland. That was followed by gigs in Greece and Israel. She's just 25 and already has been to more places than most folks her age.

"I know, that's what everybody says," Williams said. "I've been going. I've been trying hard to get here."

Williams signed a training camp contract with the San Antonio Silver Stars last winter and was cut before the season. She just finished a nine-month Euroleague stint with Croatia's Novi Zagreb and signed a training camp contract with the Sun.

"I came straight here (from Croatia), straight off the plane, and been going ever since," Williams said. "I haven't had a break, but it's been fun."

Connecticut hadn't heard of Williams until Bridgeport's Oliver Macklin, a former UConn player, sent the team a letter about her.

"We did some research on her, her numbers against players in the Euroleague, and then just got some tape and watched her," first-year Sun head coach Anne Donovan said. "She's a tough kid that's come a tough way. She was (an All-American), so she's had high success, but probably no respect because she never played four years (in college). She never got the props from a four-year.

"She's gone overseas, done her blue-collar work. She's played in Croatia, which is no picnic. She's a kid looking to prove herself and this is her opportunity."

Veteran Renee Montgomery was the only Sun who played more minutes than Williams Saturday. She was an efficient 4-of-7 shooting. One of her misses was on a nice up-and-under move for a reverse layup that caused Connecticut's Tina Charles to leap off the bench.

Williams was also playing against a Liberty team stocked with enough height and brawn to fix the New York Giants' offensive line needs.

"She just battles," Donovan said. "You look at that skinny body and think she's going to get creamed, but she's just physical and tough. Walker does the same thing with a bigger body that Williams does.

"She's a fighter. ... She passes the ball well. She understands spacing. She's making my life tough for sure."

Rookie Johannah Leedham made her case for the wing position. She shot 3-of-4 for eight points and added five steals and three assists.

n.griffen@theday.com

Johannah Needham, right, fouls New York's Essence Carson during the Connecticut Sun's exhibition opener Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Needham had eight points and five steals as the Sun won 83-74.
Johannah Needham, right, fouls New York's Essence Carson during the Connecticut Sun's exhibition opener Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Needham had eight points and five steals as the Sun won 83-74. Sean D. Elliot/ The Day Buy Photo
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