Sun rookie Jones is a presence on the perimeter, too

Connecticut Sun rookie Rachel Banham, right. is fouled on a drive to the basket by San Antonio's Sydney Colson in the first half of Thursday night's preseason game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Mohegan — It’s only natural to look at Jonquel Jones and wonder what in the blank a 6-foot-6 woman is doing out so far on the perimeter. Or why she’s handling the ball as if she was indulging her inner-Lindsay Whalen.

“I always was able to shoot outside,” Jones said after the Connecticut Sun toyed with the San Antonio Stars in Thursday’s preseason game, winning 76-53.

“In the Bahamas, I wasn’t as tall. When I came over to the U.S. (by herself at 14 years old), I was about 5-9, not even 5-9, probably. I was always a guard for a long time. As I grew, I just continued to work on my ballhandling and my shooting and all that stuff. It’s always been there. I just haven't been this tall.”

Jones, the sixth overall pick in April’s WNBA Draft, had 10 points and 12 rebounds Thursday. She missed her three 3-point shots after making 2 of 3 in Wednesday’s preseason opener.

No one blinks when a big man shoots from perimeter thanks to the likes of Bill Laimbeer, Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Durant. Or controls the ball like a small guard because of Magic Johnson and LeBron James.

The tall and versatile female player is still an oddity on the women’s side. The Lauren Jacksons and Candace Parkers are few and far between.

“It’s like she’s a dinosaur,” Sun center Kelsey Bone said. “‘Whoa! What is this?’

“You look at her height and because she’s a woman, you want her to be on the (low) block. But she’s a lot more comfortable putting the ball on the floor, shooting that fadeaway, shooting the ball in transition.”

Basketball has been Jones’ lifelong passion. She pestered her mother, Ettamae, for years to let her leave the Bahamas and come play in America. Her mother finally relented, letting her go by herself to Maryland to play at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md. She lived with the family of Diane Richardson, who was introduced to the Jones through a mutual friend and became her legal guardians in the States.

“I just always knew that I wanted to come over,” Jones said. “There wasn’t really anything over there (the Bahamas) that would allow me to take basketball to the next level for me and go to college and take advantage of a free education and ultimately make it here (to the WNBA). If I stayed in the Bahamas, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Jones played at George Washington, where she averaged 14.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

Jones was leading the nation in rebounding and blocks this winter before she was sidelined for 10 games due to a shoulder injury. She would’ve led the Division I in rebounding (14.6) had she met the playing minimums.

The Los Angeles Sparks drafted Jones. Connecticut was willing to trade second-year guard Chelsea Gray, the 15th overall pick in April’s draft and next year’s No. 1 pick to get Jones and the Sparks’ second-round pick (17th).

“People want to take shots because she was in the (Atlantic 10),” first-year Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “It’s not a bad conference and they never backed down from playing a tough nonconference schedule.

“We thought that she would be more impactful rebounding and altering shots early in her WNBA career than her entire offense, but you can see the arsenal that she has.”

The Sun never trailed San Antonio as they scored the first 11 points.

UConn rookie Morgan Tuck had 16 points and three steals for the Sun, while Alyssa Thomas scored 12. Bone added 15 points.

San Antonio finished with more free throws made (20) than field goals made (15). UConn rookie Moriah Jefferson scored three on 1-for-8 shooting in 19 minutes for the Stars.

Connecticut finishes its preseason schedule on Sunday at the Dallas Stars.

n.griffen@theday.com

San Antonio rookie Moriah Jefferson (front) tangles with Connecticut's Jamie Weisner, going after a loose ball in the first half of Thursday's preseason game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
San Antonio rookie Moriah Jefferson (front) tangles with Connecticut's Jamie Weisner, going after a loose ball in the first half of Thursday's preseason game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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