Sun spring eternal, hope for a fresh start as opener nears

Veteran guard Katie Douglas, left, makes her return to the Connecticut Sun this season, sharing a laugh at Wednesday's practice with assistant coach Jennifer Gillom. The Sun, who practiced at the Mohegan Tribe Community Center, are scheduled to open the season May 16 at home vs. the New York Liberty.
Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Veteran guard Katie Douglas, left, makes her return to the Connecticut Sun this season, sharing a laugh at Wednesday's practice with assistant coach Jennifer Gillom. The Sun, who practiced at the Mohegan Tribe Community Center, are scheduled to open the season May 16 at home vs. the New York Liberty.

Mohegan — The narrative from the entire Connecticut Sun organization is that last season was a depressing stinker.

Leave it to Kalana Greene, the veteran Sun guard and burgeoning life coach, to find the good in last year's gloom-athon.

"It helped me a whole lot with myself," Greene said after Wednesday's practice. "It did. I realized that so much that happens is a mindset and when you wake up in a good mood, get yourself in a good mood and have a positive outlook for the day, no matter what is going on ... that helped me last year, to realize that I don't want to wake up and be miserable.

"I told people that everywhere I go. I like to have fun, so I'm going to make it fun in every single way."

Connecticut went ka-boom last season as it finished a franchise-worst 10-24. Some players were upset that previous head coach Mike Thibault was fired without being consulted. Some didn't mesh well with new head coach Anne Donovan. It had seven players miss a total of 77 games. It finished the season with four starters out injured and just seven healthy players.

"I look at the situation and it's like, 'What could I have done differently?'" Greene said. "If I could've made it a little bit more positive, a little bit brighter every day, I feel like the situation would've been better. All that chemistry, all that stuff goes up. It's momentum.

"You have one Debbie Downer, if you can pick that person up, the morale of the team will be a lot better."

Change has come to the Sun in truckloads this season. Veterans Tina Charles and Kara Lawson wanted out and were traded. Fellow veterans Mistie Bass and Tan White signed elsewhere.

Forwards Kelsey Griffin and Kayla Pedersen and guards Kelly Faris, Allison Hightower, Renee Montgomery and Greene have returned. So will Danielle McCray (guard-forward), who missed last season to a torn Achilles.

"I want to be here," Greene said. "Connecticut is home. It's the place I wanted to be. No matter what the changes are, the goals are still the same.

"I'm sad to see some people go, but what we have here now seems pretty special."

Eight of the 15 players under contract are newbies. Guard Katie Douglas returns after spending the last six years with Indiana. Alex Bentley (guard) and Kelsey Bone (forward-center) were 2013 All-Rookie selections. Forwards Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas were the first and fourth overall picks, respectively, in April's draft.

"The energy is so high, and at this point of the season when they make mistakes because they have too much energy, I'm fine with that," Donovan said. "It's when you're trying to get the energy where it's a struggle with me."

Griffin said: "It feels like we're building a foundation for something good."

The average age of the players under contract: 25.

"The people we're returning have never been in that (losing) situation before last year and we never want to be in that again," Greene said. "We have veterans who want to make an immediate change. We have young, fresh guys off Final Four appearances and all of that and they want to make a big impact.

"We have a lot of hard workers and we can be pesky. I think when we get everyone back, people are going to hate to play against us because there's going to be a lot of hunger."

News and notes

Connecticut waived Keisha Hampton and Shenneika Smith after Wednesday's practice. It has 15 players under contract and the WNBA has a 12-man roster maximum. … Guard Sydney Carter is taking the summer off. She played 15 games last season and the team wanted to invite her to camp. … The Sun hope to have Yelena Leuchanka (center), Bone, Hightower, McCray and Montgomery in camp this week. Leuchanka is working on getting her visa, and the others are finishing their overseas commitments.

n.griffen@theday.com

Sun rookie Alyssa Thomas, the fourth overall pick in this year's WNBA Draft, practices Wednesday at the Mohegan Tribe Community Center gymnasium, one of several new faces for Connecticut. The Sun open the season May 16 at home against the New York Liberty.
Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Sun rookie Alyssa Thomas, the fourth overall pick in this year's WNBA Draft, practices Wednesday at the Mohegan Tribe Community Center gymnasium, one of several new faces for Connecticut. The Sun open the season May 16 at home against the New York Liberty.
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