Sun pick Ogwumike No. 1, then shake up roster some more
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun didn't plan on razing and rebuilding the franchise.
Circumstances dictated otherwise after All-Star center Tina Charles demanded a trade to the New York Liberty in late March, so Connecticut rolled with it.
The Sun also rolled in the picks as they had three of the first 11 in Monday's WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun Arena. They drafted Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike first overall.
Connecticut later acquired Maryland forward Alyssa Thomas, the fourth overall pick, as part of the Charles trade with New York.
Duke point guard Chelsea Gray came next at No. 11. The Sun added Kentucky forward DeNesha Stallworth with their final pick (third round, 25th overall).
Connecticut had already acquired second-year guard Alex Bentley via a March trade with the Washington Mystics in exchange for Kara Lawson. It later signed free agent guard Katie Douglas, a former catalyst during the franchise's best years.
New York also sent the Sun second-year post Kelsey Bone and its 2015 first-round pick in exchange for Charles.
Out with the old. In with the new. And young. Really young.
"In no way did we intend to blow anything up," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "Tina demanded that kind of trade. You get what you can get, which, frankly, we got a lot from New York.
"I love Katie. Her leadership. … just who she is and what she's going to bring from that. You win with veteran players. Now we have a glutton of young kids, but with a few older pieces. Bone has got a year in. Bentley has got a year in. They're not brand-spanking new. And I think Chiney is a unique player who's not going to be your typical rookie. I'm excited about it."
Ogwumike, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 26.1 points and 12.1 rebounds for the Cardinal this past season. She was a consensus All-American and the Wooden Award winner, leading Stanford to the Final Four.
"I want to work hard and be someone that everyone has expected me to be," Ogwumike said. "I love being pushed. I want to be the best. I want to be on the best team. I want to be the best player eventually. That's my competitive mindset. I think we (the team) have to work hard in order to what we want to achieve. You're definitely going to get a lot of hard work from me."
Ogwumike and her sister Nneka, the No. 1 overall selection by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2012, became the first siblings to both be chosen first in any of the major professional sports since NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning.
Donovan said: "I'm so excited about Chiney. (She) just has a great personality (and) has tremendous leadership, which is kind of hard to find in a college kid. … Then her skill level, her rebounding, something we struggled with (last season), her ability to play the four and the five. Knowing Tina's situation was coming, we had to make sure we took care of the post."
Thomas, a 6-foot-2 forward, averaged 19 points and 10.9 rebounds this season. She the ACC Player of the Year winner the last three seasons.
"Every time we did the draft board, we didn't know if it was going to be (Notre Dame guard) Kayla McBride or Thomas (at No. 4)," Donovan said.
"One of the biggest fears I had is if McBride was ours and Thomas went to Indiana (at No. 6), what that would be like from a rebounding standpoint for Indiana. She's such a great rebounder, and she's a kid with a great work ethic."
Gray is a futures pick. She dislocated her right kneecap in February and won't play this season. She was the Co-ACC Player of the Year as a junior, and would've likely been a top seven pick had she not been hurt. She averaged 10.8 points and 7.18 assists in 17 games.
Stallworth (6-4) averaged 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds her senior season.
"I like what they did today," ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. "There are times last year when I was here covering Connecticut, and it was the first time in a really long time that I thought this team is not very much fun to watch. And I'm not sure really why that was.
"I will be stunned when I cover them this year if I feel the same way, especially with Chiney being here. With the young players they have, I don't think it's realistic for the fans to think Connecticut will be competing for the Eastern Conference championship, but I think it's realistic for the Sun fans to think that they're going to get their money's worth every night by coming out and watching a young team play.
"Four years from now, you could look back on this (and think) this is where it started."
• Connecticut announced earlier in the day that it had resigned restricted free agent forward Kelsey Griffin to a two-year contract. Griffin was the only one on last year's roster to both play and start all 34 games. She averaged 8.7 points and five rebounds.
"We are really happy to have Kelsey back," Donovan said. "She brings energy, enthusiasm and durability to our team. She was ready to contribute every game for us, and she followed up her best season in the WNBA with another great winter in Australia."
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