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Miller hoping all his Sun players get home soon from overseas

Curt Miller has joked over the years as Connecticut Sun head coach and general manager that he doesn’t sleep well.

Miller was up long into the night on Wednesday trying to reach his players overseas and their agents after President Trump announced a 30-day European travel ban due to the coronavirus.

“President Trump’s address put all of us coaches and GMs in the league (WNBA) into an absolute panic to get our players home,” Miller said in a recent phone conversation. “We didn’t understand the travel ban in its totality.”

WNBA players have supplemented their incomes playing overseas because the pay has been much better, something that was increased in the new collective bargaining agreement agreed upon this offseason. Players are scattered all across the world. Europe. China. Australia. Their seasons generally end in the spring with some players arriving at training camp just days after getting home from overseas.

There was initial confusion as to the restrictions before finding out that it didn’t apply to U.S. citizens.

“We were literally rattling cages overseas waking people up in the middle of the night because we were all hearing the message that Friday at midnight there was going to be a 30-day travel ban,” Miller said. “There were some anxious phone calls during that time until it became a little clearer what the travel ban included. It calmed down some of the initial fears.

“I don’t think I’m alone speaking on this — we were in conversations with agents and players all that night, and it really started the process of getting a lot of players home. We have a lot of players overseas. (Some) of them will get home if not already, they’ll get home through the weekend.”

Connecticut native Bria Holmes and Theresa Plaisance have been in the states the entire year, Miller said. Holmes played in a few tournaments late last year. Plaisance was in China and came home before Thanksgiving.

Jazmon Gwathmey, a three-year league veteran who signed a training camp contract, is also back after playing in Italy.

Jasmine Thomas got home this weekend from Poland. She made a video updating fans on her status that was posted to the Sun's Twitter account.

Alyssa Thomas tweeted Sunday that she had made it home from the Czech Republic. Brionna Jones, who, along with Thomas, was playing for USK Praha, was also expected to get back to the country this weekend.

Natisha Hiedeman was working on a flight plan out of Sweden, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was still in Spain as of Friday.

Sun veteran Jonquel Jones and the newly acquired DeWanna Bonner and Briann January, three of Connecticut’s top players, were still in limbo because their leagues had yet to shut down as of Friday night, Miller said. Jones and Bonner are in Russia and January in Hungary.

“We’re excited with the players that will make it home or have an exit plan,” Miller said, “but I still won’t feel really comfortable until they're all home.”

There’s another issue for Jones getting back to the Sun because she’s not an American citizen. She’d have to return home to the Bahamas.

“It’s an ever-evolving process understanding what does (the ban) mean for her and what that means going forward with her,” Miller said.

The same applies for France’s Valeriane Ayayi, who signed a training camp contract.

Asked how his players were feeling, Miller said, “I think they all want to be home. Players are competitive by nature and, not unlike what NCAA players are going through, some of them were on really successful teams. Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas were on the top team in the Czech Republic (ZVVZ USK Praha). Jonquel is on the top team in Russia (UMMC Ekaterinburg). Briann is on the top team in Turkey (Sopron Basket). The list goes on and on. A lot of those players are in a position to win championships. There’s certainly a competitive side that comes out for all these guys, but deep down, they all want to get home and get home safe.

“(You’re) really invested in the care of these players more than just basketball players, and you worry for their health and their well-being in international league, and this virus has just really, really magnified the worry. I feel constantly like a dad worrying about them. I have twin boys, and I feel like I have 10-to-14 players overseas that I worry about like they're my daughters. I just want to get them home safe and sound.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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