Free agent Shekinna Stricklen re-signs with Connecticut Sun

Connecticut's Shekinna Stricklen takes off on the break ahead of Phoenix's Monique Currie during a 2017 game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Stricklen, a free agent, re-signed a multi-year deal to return to the Sun on Thursday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Connecticut's Shekinna Stricklen takes off on the break ahead of Phoenix's Monique Currie during a 2017 game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Stricklen, a free agent, re-signed a multi-year deal to return to the Sun on Thursday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Shekinna Stricklen didn’t mess around with free agency.

The WNBA’s free agency season opened Thursday and one of the first signings announced was that Stricklen had re-upped with the Connecticut Sun.

“My mind was made up,” Stricklen said.

Stricklen, a 6-foot-2 wing, signed a multi-year deal with terms not being released per team policy. She was an unrestricted free agent and it’s noteworthy that she wanted to return to Connecticut. The franchise has struggled to attract free agents because it’s the lone WNBA team that’s not in a city.

“I do like it here,” Stricklen said. “It fits me perfectly. I’m not a big-city person. I enjoy Connecticut. I think a lot of it has to do with my teammates and the chemistry we’ve built, how passionate (Sun general manager and head coach) Curt (Miller) is, how (second-year team vice president) Amber (Cox) and marketing have taken it to another level.

“I’m just excited and wanted to stay there and build on last year.”

Stricklen has played the last three years with Connecticut. The Seattle Storm drafted her second overall in 2012 and traded her to the Sun on Jan. 28, 2015.

Stricklen was Connecticut’s fifth-leading scorer last season (8.6 ppg), but she played a key role in the franchise’s revival. They were coming off their worst four-year stretch (a cumulative 52-84 record) and missed the playoffs during that time.

It looked like the Sun were bound for the cellar again last season when they started 1-4. An injury to starting small forward Morgan Tuck forced Stricklen to start the sixth game, and she held onto that spot as Connecticut won 20 of its next 29 games and finished with the league’s fourth-best-record.

“I really think we can really keep building and continue moving forward,” Stricklen said.

Stricklen set personal highs in minutes (27.2), free throw shooting (86.5 percent), steals (1.2), and 3-point percentage (41 percent, sixth best in the league) last season. She changed the dynamic of the starting lineup because opponents had to respect her 3-point shooting ability, thus stretching them out. It played into Miller’s system in which 3-pointers create spacing. Her upbeat attitude was another thing that endeared her to Miller because establishing a family environment was a top priority when he was hired as coach in December, 2015.

“We are excited to have signed Shekinna to a multi-year deal,” Miller said in a release. “Shekinna is coming off a career year and is one of only four players in the league to make over 70 3-point field goals during the 2017 season.

“Shekinna not only provides us with one of the premier deep threat options in the league, but is also a fantastic teammate, adding to our overall culture in Connecticut.”

The Sun are expected to re-sign All-Star forward Alyssa Thomas, a restricted free agent, meaning that the team could match any offer she receives.

“I feel optimistic that there’s going to be great news in February,” Miller said last month. “She’s a centerpiece for how we want to play. We’re excited about Alyssa’s potential to stay with us. ... We would match (any offer). If someone gave her the moon, we'd be like, 'yeah, and (here's) Saturn (too).”

Reserve posts Danielle Adams, Lynetta Kizer and Kayla Pedersen are Connecticut’s unrestricted free agents, the latter who told the team after last season that she may “chase some dreams and aspirations outside of hoops,” Miller said.

Notes

The first signing announced Thursday was that former UConn great Renee Montgomery (guard) signed with the Atlanta Dream after winning two WNBA titles with the Minnesota Lynx. Nicki Collen, Atlanta’s first-year head coach, was a Sun assistant the previous two seasons. ... Other notable signings were post Sancho Lyttle joining the Phoenix Mercury after nine seasons with Atlanta and guard Monique Currie leaving Phoenix to return to the Washington Mystics, where she spent her first eight seasons. Post Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota) and guard Odyssey Sims (Los Angeles Sparks) both stayed put. ... Washington announced that All-Star post Emma Meesseman is taking this season off to both rest and prepare to play for her native Belgium in September’s FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain.

n.griffen@theday.com

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