Sun still debating their WNBA draft options
These are decisions the Connecticut Sun are mulling leading up to Thursday’s WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m.).
Connecticut has many needs, having spent the past three seasons in basketball purgatory thanks to three coaching changes, an exodus of key players and a ridiculous number of injuries.
The Sun get to reshape themselves Thursday night. They have five picks, more than any other team, including the third and fourth overall picks. First-year head coach Curt Miller said the franchise has whittled its priorities to improving guard depth, their 3-point shooting and adding a fifth post player.
Miller, during a Monday meeting with local media, said the Sun are still debating each options.
“Truly transparent, we are still discussing it,” Miller said. “There’s a core group of people that seem to be rising to the top, but we’ve made no decisions. But it’s fun conversations to have.
“I probably talked to in the neighborhood of 12-to-15 Division I head coaches in the last three days. … It will probably be a downer when it’s over because it’s dominated our conversation for weeks every day.”
The first round will be broadcast on ESPN2 before the final two rounds move over to ESPNU.
The Sun have two second-round picks (15th and 23rd overall) as well as 27th overall pick. It’s considered a deep draft, and, if things fall into place, Miller believes they could get a player who could help them at No. 15.
Connecticut will likely choose from a pool of seven players — guards Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina), Banham (Minnesota) or Williams (South Florida), forwards Tuck (UConn), Jones (George Washington) or Aerial Powers (Michigan State), and Texas center Imani Boyette.
The Sun appear to have their greatest interest in Banham, Jones, Williams and Tuck. Tuck, who helped lead UConn to its fourth straight NCAA title last week, would normally be a no-brainer, but her knees are a major concern (she has had major surgery on both).
“I think (Connecticut) will go with Tuck (at three or four),” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. “You can have a big that can set a screen and hit the 3-point shot or put the ball down and score inside. ... To me, Tuck fits their system perfectly if they can complement that with a guard who can really shoot from the three.”
Lobo called Jones the “wild card” and said she’d be the only other forward who could get drafted before Tuck. Jones is the draft’s most unique player because she’s a 6-foot-6 forward who handles the ball like a guard, can shoot from the outside, and rebound and block like a center. She averaged 16.2 points, 14.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks as a senior.
“Morgan is a winner,” Miller said. “(A) tremendous, steady player. She’s not as flashy as Jonquel, but she does everything. … She never seems rushed. She never seems to be flustered by any kind of thing thrown at her. She’s played in big games.
“Jonquel is a more finesse defender, but she protects the rim. … She has a skill-set at her size that very few people in the league have.”
Williams had to shoulder South Florida’s offense this season and averaged 22.4 points. She also has terrific athleticism, averging 8.4 rebounds despite standing only 5-8.
“Yeah, Courtney is a ridiculous athlete,” Lobo said. “She can shoot over some of the longest, biggest defenders, including Breanna Stewart. … I could see her going as high as three or four to Connecticut.”
Banham is an offensive wunderkind who averaged 28.6 points this season, second best in Division I. She scored 60 in February to tie the Division I record and later had 52 and 48-point games.
“She’s very ready on the offensive end based on the people I’ve spoken to,” Lobo said. “The question that constantly comes up with Rachel is defense. The zone defense that they play at Minnesota does not lend itself to being able to judge.”
• The draft is open to the public. Sun season ticket holders will be admitted free of charge and have access to priority seating as well as a special opportunity to meet Connecticut’s draft picks in attendance. Fans who are not season ticket holders will be admitted with the donation of a canned food item at the door, which will benefit the New London Community Meal Center.
The consensus is that UConn's Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson will be drafted first and second, respectively, at Thursday's WNBA Draft. Here are several prospects who will be available when the Connecticut Sun draft third and fourth overall:
Rachel Banham, G, 5-foot-9, Minnesota
Prolific scorer has a deep range and averaged the second-most points in Division I (28.6) as a senior.
Imani Boyette, C, 6-7, Texas
Averaged 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks her senior year.
Jonquel Jones, F, 6-6, George Washington
Unique talent who can put the ball on the floor and shoot away from the basket like a smaller player, but also protect the rim.
Tiffany Mitchell, G, 5-9, South Carolina
Well-rounded player who was a two-time WBCA All-America and SEC Player of the Year.
Aerial Powers, F, 6-0, Michigan State
Michigan State's all-time scoring leader (1,817 points) with a career 9.8 rebounding average.
Morgan Tuck, F, 6-2, UConn
Heady and steady post was the second-leading scorer for the four-time national champs this season.
Courtney Williams, G, 5-8, South Florida
Tasked to carry her team's offense her senior year (22.4 ppg), and averaged 8.4 rebounds despite her height, too.