Holmes has been worth the wait for Sun
Mohegan — Bria Holmes doesn’t so much run as she glides.
The Connecticut Sun wanted to add speed when they traded for Holmes in April 2018, even though she’d miss last season due to pregnancy.
Holmes has begun showing more and more lately why Connecticut coveted the former Hillhouse star. She and the Sun host her former team, the Atlanta Dream, on Friday night (7:30 p.m., Mohegan Sun Arena, NESN Plus).
Connecticut is 11-6, the Dream 5-12.
“Gliding is the perfect description,” Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said about Holmes. “You don’t realize how much ground she’s covering because it comes very natural for her. It’s something that attracted her to us and why we traded for her and were willing to wait a year.”
One can see why Gary Moore asked Holmes more than once to run track at Hillhouse. Moore, the longtime girls’ coach, has made Academics girls’ track a national power and won 39 CIAC indoor and outdoor titles since 1992.
“It wasn’t my thing,” Holmes laughed. “I just never wanted to do it.”
Holmes instead led Hillhouse to three CIAC state championships in girls’ basketball. She made the All-Big 12 Conference first team three times at West Virginia and was drafted 11th overall (first round) by Atlanta.
Connecticut traded its second-round pick in the 2019 draft for Holmes on April 12, 2018.
Holmes has gradually rounded back to form as she’s adjusted to life as a working mom. The 6-foot-1 wing has averaged 18.5 minutes off the bench the last four games for Connecticut, shooting 40 percent and averaging 8.8 points.
“It’s been tough,” Holmes said. “My mindset and stuff, it wasn’t there completely (at the start of the season) and I feel like it’s almost there now. ... I knew it would take a while for me to get back to my normal self. I think that I’m actually almost there now.
“Mentally, I’m there, but physically I think each game and practicing more and more, I’m getting back to my complete self.”
Holmes set season highs for minutes (28) and points (12) when the Sun lost to Atlanta 78-75 on July 10.
Holmes gives Connecticut another threat in the open floor and a player who doesn’t need much of an opening to get to the rim. She does her best work inside and made 22 of 42 shots from within nine feet of the rim, according to advanced stats tracked by the WNBA. She’s also made 6 of 15 shots from 20-24 feet
“She gives us a different dimension,” Miller said. “I think she’s best in attack mode and not settling for early, long jumpers, but you see what’s special about her. Her ability to get to the rim and get into the paint and make everything work.
“Where’s she’s grown the most this year for us is at the defensive end. She’s picking up what is being asked of her scheme-wise and you also can see the competitiveness returning at the defensive end. She can be an important person for us in the long run, getting into the passing lanes, getting deflections and being disruptive.”
Motherhood will soon give Holmes another challenge as Diona, her daughter who turns one next Monday, is getting close to walking.
“I’d rather her walk then crawl,” Holmes laughed. “When she’s walking about, it’ll be tough. She’ll be running around, but I’m ready for it.”
Stories that may interest you
The Connecticut Sun would clinch their third straight WNBA playoff berth with a home win over the Dallas Wings on Sunday or an Indiana Fever loss at the Washington Mystics, who also play Sunday.
Shekinna Stricklen scored 16 of her game-high 24 in the second half, including two go-ahead free throws with 4 seconds left, as the Connecticut Sun rallied to stun the Seattle Storm on Friday, 79-78.