Jones back at camp with Sun. ... and already wowing them
Mohegan — As Connecticut Sun vice president Amber Cox told it, there was a pass thrown so high during Friday's practice that even Jonquel Jones, the team's 6-foot-6 center, wouldn't be able to catch it.
Jones caught it, Cox said, setting off reactions of shock and awe from others.
Jones has returned to Connecticut.
The Sun are officially back together.
“Sigh of relief that she’s back,” head coach Curt Miller said. “She obviously just brings a different element to our team.”
Jones arrived in Connecticut from her home in the Bahamas on Thursday. She had been delayed getting to training camp, which began on April 29.
“I had to renew my work visa to work here in the U.S.,” Jones said. “Obviously, I don’t want to get deported while I’m playing here or anything. I initially had an appointment, but I missed it because of some family stuff."
The Sun open their 16th regular season at home Sunday against the Las Vegas Aces at 1 p.m.
Jones, in just her second year last season, played at a level that ranked with the league's best. She set WNBA single-season records for overall rebounds (403) and rebounds per game (11.9). She led the Sun in scoring (15.4) and averaged 1.5 blocks. Her accomplishments earned her a spot on the All-WNBA second team, and she was fifth in WNBA MVP voting.
“I just want to build on all the things that I did last year,” Jones said, “but I’m not going to let any of the pressure or any of that stuff get to me. I just want to go out there and have fun. I know that once I’m having fun, that means that I’m doing the right things and I’m playing the game the right way.”
Jones will play Sunday despite missing almost all of training camp. The plays and terminology haven’t changed too much, she said, and the team sent her the plays so she could study them.
Jones has been idle for over two months as her season in China ended on March 14. That's an eternity for a WNBA player because most spend their offseason playing overseas to supplement their income. The base salary for a player with two-or-less years of service was $40,439 last season, according to the collective bargaining agreement. The maximum veteran salary was $113,500.
All that time off allowed Jones to recharge and spend time with family (the delay in her arrival allowed her to be home for her mother’s birthday). She worked out with some coaches and worked on her footwork a lot, but there’s a difference between being in shape and being in basketball shape.
“I got a little bit winded at the beginning of practice,” Jones said. “By the time the first game rolls around, I’ll be good to go.”
Miller said, “She’s going to have to shake the rust off. A 19-day training camp that she missed nearly of it will affect her and her connection (on the floor) with our team here early … but I can’t tell you how excited we are to have her back.”
Chiney Ogwumike came over and hugged Jones from behind while she was being interviewed and said, “We’re so happy to have her back!”
One of the most intriguing things about the Sun this season is how Miller will incorporate Ogwumike into the post rotation. She and Jones didn’t play together much during Jones’ rookie season (2016). Ogwumike, the 2014 Rookie of the Year, missed last season to injury while Alyssa Thomas and Jones developed great chemistry together.
Morgan Tuck, the third overall pick of the 2016 draft, will see major minutes off the bench, too.
“Chiney is awesome,” Jones said. “Everybody knows she has awesome talent. … Then just having her energy back as well. She’s just so energetic. She’s always looking out for us. (Thursday) night, we had a little dinner date with me, her, AB (Alex Bentley) and Rachel (Banham).
“Just doing stuff like that makes you happy to be back.”