Sun's Jones does well with a tall task
Mohegan — Brionna Jones had a rare experience on Tuesday night. She felt small.
Jones, the second-year Connecticut Sun post, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 230 pounds.
Jones started Connecticut’s second preseason game, a 79-58 win over the Dallas Wings at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Jones’ assignment: defend 6-8, 215-pound Liz Cambage, one of the best centers in the world.
“I definitely felt a little small,” Jones said. “She’s tough in the post, but I think I did a good job holding my ground for the most part.”
Jones missed all four of shots in 17 minutes and had one point, four rebounds and four fouls.
“Some calls didn’t go my way tonight, but I think it’s definitely going to be a growing point for me,” Jones said.
The Sun selected Jones eighth overall in the first round of the 2017 draft. She played sparingly in 23 of 34 regular-season games.
Jones played a lot for Nadezhda Orenburg this off-season. She was second in scoring (12.1) and averaged a team-high 8.2 rebounds in 26 games within the uber-competitive Russian Professional Basketball League, battling against the likes of Brittney Griner and Russian phenom Maria Vadeeva, whom the Los Angeles Sparks selected 11th overall (first round) in April’s draft.
Jones also averaged 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds during 13 Euroleague games.
“That’s most of the reason why I wanted to play in that league,” Jones said. “I wanted to play in Euroleague to play the best so that I can continue playing the best I can.”
Jones got that Tuesday night against Cambage, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes.
“Loved it,” Sun coach Curt Miller said about Jones’ showing. “(She) was physical, bodied her up, (and) I felt bothered her. (She) wasn’t perfect, (but Cambage) is one of the best in the world and she competed with her. (I’m) really happy.”
Jones is fighting for a job this season. It’s reasonable to assume that 10 of Connecticut’s 12 roster spots have been claimed by posts Jonquel Jones, Chiney Ogwumike, Alyssa Thomas and Morgan Tuck, wing Shekinna Stricklen and guards Rachel Banham, Alex Bentley, Lexie Brown, Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams. Brionna Jones is probably a safe bet, too.
That would leave posts Cayla George and Nikki Greene and guards Jessica January, Betnijah Laney and Leticia Romero battling for the remaining spot.
The Sun waived undrafted rookie guard Tyra Buss on Tuesday to make room for Bentley, who arrived Monday and was one of Brionna Jones’ Nadezhda teammates.
Laney, who is playing on a training camp contract, made 3 of 5 shots against Dallas for eight points with six rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Only Morgan Tuck (10 points) and starter Shekinna Stricklen played more minutes.
“I told (the team) to hang in there,” Miller said. “Don’t read into minutes on who’s going to make this team and that was really directed at (Romero) and Jess (January) and some of those guys that are scratching and clawing for a roster spot. You can’t read into the minutes. I can’t get everybody minutes.”
Williams, the starting off-guard, made 9 of 10 shots for a game-high 18 points. Starting point guard Jasmine Thomas had 12 points and four rebounds.
Starting post Alyssa Thomas had a game-high 12 rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes. Banham came off the bench and made 4 of 6 shots for 10 points.
Greene got caught with an elbow with over seven minutes left in the game. She stayed on the floor for a bit before leaving the game.
“(A) natural basketball play,” Miller said. “Nothing intentional. Nothing dirty.”
Connecticut finishes the preseason Friday against the Atlanta Dream at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. It opens the season at home against the Las Vegas Aces on May 20 (1 p.m.)
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