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Jonquel Jones named WNBA MVP as Sun sweep major awards

Mohegan — Jonquel Jones said she didn’t know she had to speak after being officially honored as the 2021 WNBA MVP on Tuesday night.

Like most times this season, Jones still nailed it.

“I’d like to start off thanking everybody that’s played a part in my life,” Jones said prior to the Connecticut Sun’s Game 1 semifinal against the Chicago Sky at Mohegan Sun Arena. “All of my coaches, whether I was with them for a short period of time, or a long period of time, have been very influential in shaping me and molding me to be able to stand up here and be able to say I’m the MVP.”

Jones was one of three from Connecticut to win major regular-season awards. Center Brionna Jones ran away with the Most Improved Player honor while Curt Miller handily won his second Coach of the Year award.

Jonquel Jones earned 48 of 49 first-place votes for MVP for 487 points from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Tina Charles (2012) is the only other player in Sun history to win the league's top award.

Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury received the other first-place vote and finished second with 224 points. Brionna Jones earned one fifth-place vote.

Connecticut was not expected to be among the league's best teams this year outside of its own locker room, especially after starting forward Alyssa Thomas was expected to miss the entire season after tearing her Achilles tendon playing overseas in January (she returned last week and played two games).

The Sun dealt with other injuries and absences yet tied the franchise record for most wins in a season (26) and set franchise records for fewest losses (6), best winning percentage (.813) as well as its current 14-game winning streak, the fourth largest in league history.

Jonquel Jones is a 6-foot-6 forward/center hybrid who can both rebound with the world’s best while stepping out behind the arc and make 3-pointers. The 27-year-old averaged 31.7 minutes, 19.4 points, a league-high 11.2 rebounds with 2.8 assists, 1.26 blocks and 1.26 steals in her fifth season.

It’s been quite a journey for Jones. She was 14 years old when she was able to convince her parents to let her leave her native Freemont, Bahamas and attend Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md. Then girls’ basketball coach Diane Richardson became her legal guardian.

“(No coach is) important more than coach Diane,” Jones said. “She sponsored a little girl from the Bahamas who wasn’t even good enough to make the varsity team at the time (10th grade) and just stuck with me. ... Thank you to her. Without her, none of this would be possible.”

Brionna Jones, 25, received 38 of 49 first-place votes for Most Improved Player. She had her breakout season last year when she became a full-time starter due to Jonquel Jones opting out due to the pandemic.

Brionna Jones elevated her game even higher in her fifth season and averaged a career-high 30.6 minutes, 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. She also earned second team All-Defensive honors on Sunday, a first for her.

“I don’t know that (2019) Bri would’ve know that I would be here two years later,” Jones said. “I think all the steps were there. All the preparation was there, everything. The mindset was there, just staying prepared for whatever was coming.

“I think she would’ve hoped that this was something that was coming but I don’t know if this was something that she would’ve assume was coming. That preparedness and always being ready allowed me to be here now.”

Miller, 52, received 41 first-place votes for Coach of the Year. He previously earned the honor in 2017 as well as the Basketball Executive of the Year award. He joins three-time winners Van Chancellor, Cheryl Reeve and former Sun coach Mike Thibault and two-time winners Dan Hughes and Bill Laimbeer as the only coaches to earn multiple Coach of the Year honors.

“Sometimes, with your best teams, the less you coach, the less you say,” Miller said. “This year was truly that. If I did anything right, I listened to a locker room filled with tremendous veterans, tremendous leaders, and got out of their way. And the other thing was to empower and give voice to my great assistant coaches.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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