Motto for new-look Sun: Humble, but hungry
Mohegan — Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and never a candidate to mince words, offers the following overview of the 2016 season:
"We gotta make the damn playoffs," she said, alluding to a locale that has eluded the franchise since (gulp) 2012.
The voyage begins at 8 p.m. Saturday for the new-look Sun, who begin the regular season in Chicago against the Sky.
Connecticut has a new coach (Curt Miller), several new faces (draft choices Morgan Tuck, Jonquel Jones and Rachel Banham) and hopefully, the return of 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Ogwumike was held out of the Sun's three preseason games for precautionary reasons. There is no official word she's playing against the Sky, but indications are that she will.
"I'm ready to play. My legs feel great. I know how to take care of myself. I am so ready," Ogwumike said after Thursday's workout. "They've been day to day with me. In my mind I'm playing. They're always trying to be safe with me. This is definitely a Curt question."
Miller didn't provide a specific answer, but based on Ogwumike's participation in every practice, there's a legitimate chance she will play against the Sky. Ogwumike has not played since Nov. 2014 in Italy, which is where she sustained the injury.
"(Miller) has been saying 'trust the process.' I do understand the bigger picture," Ogwumike said. "You can't afford to get hurt so early."
The Sun play two on the road before opening at home next Saturday night against Eastern Conference rival Washington. Miller's enthusiasm, not to mention his fast-faster-fastest style of play has enhanced normal preseason optimism.
"I would say our team is hungry. The cliché now is humble but hungry," Ogwumike said. "We know we're young, but we're very hungry. Some people might have lower expectations for us. New coach, lots of young players. But we have high expectations for ourselves. We're going to make mistakes, but hopefully, they're not going to keep us from winning."
Chicago, a favorite to represent the East in the WNBA Finals, is among the most talented teams in the league, boasting Elena Delle Donne, Cappie Pondexter, Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot and Erika De Souza, among others.
So consider this a huge test.
"We've got to make people respect our name," Ogwumike said. "That's going to the playoffs, but that's winning games we should win. We're younger. We're going to outrun you. We have shooters. We're going to outshoot you. And we're not going to cop out with 'we're young, we lost.' Heck no."