Jones has shown her inexperience ... and potential ... for Sun
Mohegan — Jonquel Jones admits to being a bit anxious in just her seventh career start for the Connecticut Sun during last Saturday’s WNBA season-opener.
Her edginess showed as she missed 8 of 11 shots and scored only eight points in an 81-74 loss to the Atlanta Dream.
Jones also had 20 rebounds.
“I was surprised,” Jones said. “One of the reporters came in (to the locker room) and said (I had 20), and I was really shocked. I thought it would be like 12 or 13 rebounds.”
For the record, Jones had 12 rebounds — in the second half.
“You saw flashes of how special she can be,” second-year Sun head coach Curt Miller said.
Connecticut hopes to see more of Jones' talents — and less of her inexperience — when it plays at the Indiana Fever on Saturday (7 p.m., WCCT).
It is the first of a two-game road trip for the Sun, who play five of their next six away from Mohegan Sun Arena.
Connecticut hit the restart button prior to last season when it hired Miller to replace Anne Donovan as its head coach.
Jones was a key part of Miller’s plan to improve the Sun. She was arguably the most intriguing player in the 2016 WNBA Draft, a 6-foot-6 forward who averaged a Division I-best 14.6 rebounds, and was comfortable playing away from the basket.
The Los Angeles Sparks drafted Jones sixth overall, and moments later traded her to Connecticut. She played all 34 games her rookie season with six starts and averaged 14.1 minutes, 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds.
Jones got to work on her game during the offseason playing for Woori Bank of South Korea’s six-team Women's Korean Basketball League. She ran wild, averaging a league-leading 15.8 points and 14.3 rebounds to earn Player of the Year honors. She helped her team finish 33-2 (by comparison, the second-place Blue Minx, featuring Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, went 18-17).
Jones was also named Finals MVP after leadnig Woori Bank to a three-game sweep of Blue Minx.
“It was a good experience,” Jones said. “They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, feel happy, while you’re there. It’s just a great place, and they definitely work hard.
“You left your house at 8 a.m., and you got back to the house at 8 p.m. Unless you had an off-day, you were in the gym the whole day. We had morning practice. You would have time to rest, like two hours. Then we came back and ate and practiced. That was the entire season.”
The Sun need Jones to produce because starting center Chiney Ogwumike is out for the season with an Achilles injury. Ogwumike was the team’s best rebounder in addition to their best player.
“Her versatility is her strength,” Miller said about Jones. “She can score inside and out. She’s a talented finisher, but she’s going to have to play through contact.”
Jones has a thin build and weighs 190 pounds.
“Opponents know the best way to go after her is with physicality,” Miller continued. “She’s going to have to learn to play when she’s getting beat on and earn calls.”
Connecticut may be without Thomas, their starting small forward, as she’s been in concussion protocol since being injureed against Atlanta. She watched from the sideline at Wednesday’s practice, but was scheduled to travel to Indianapolis.
More worrisome for the Sun is a schedule ridiculously front-loaded with road games. Eight of their next 11 (and 12 of the next 18) are away. It’s a potentially dangerous trap for one of the WNBA's youngest teams (their average age is 25) trying to end a four-year playoff drought.