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Sun pick Charles, Landrum in the WNBA Draft

The Connecticut Sun never dropped Maryland guard Kaila Charles below 10th overall on its draft board and certainly never thought she'd still be available when it was time for them to make their first overall pick late in the second round of Friday night’s WNBA Draft.

Connecticut considered Baylor guard Juicy Landrum to be a second-round talent, too, and didn't expect she'd still be on the board in the third round.

The Sun ended up with both. It took Charles with the 23rd overall pick and Landrum in the third-and-final round (No. 35).

“Our goal going into this evening was to add two pieces to compete for the final roster spots,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. "We can't be more pleased and excited with the outcome of this evening.”

Charles, a 6-foot-1 guard, started in all 135 games that she played over four seasons for the Terrapins, tying the career record set by starting Sun forward Alyssa Thomas. Charles shot 50 percent from the floor during her collegiate career and averaged 14.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals over that time. She's also earned All-Big Ten first-team honors three times (2018-20)

“To watch her continue to slip into the second round was almost unbelievable for us,” Miller said. "We're very fortunate to be in position to draft Kaila Charles. We truly value her versatility at Maryland (playing) the three and the four (small and power forward, respectively).

“We had such respect for her versatility and her athleticism. (She’s) one of the clearly smooth athletes in this draft (and) can really play in an up-tempo style like the WNBA plays. I love the warrior in her. She’s the ultimate competitor. She’s got tremendous confidence that she can go by bigger players and compete with (them), but also dominate players that aren’t as big as her.”

Perhaps the only skill Charles didn’t show at Maryland was 3-point shooting, a must for a player built like a WNBA wing. She shot just 22.2-percent (10 of 45) during her career.

“(It is) the only reason I can fathom for her dropping in the draft,” Miller said. “I have great respect for her touch around the basket and from 15-feet-and-in, and truly believe while she hasn't shot a ton of threes in her career (that) she has the touch and the mechanics to extend her range.

“She got a tremendous endorsement from Alyssa Thomas, who goes back frequently and practices against Maryland.”

Landrum started in all 67 games she played the past two seasons for the 2019 national champion Bears. She averaged 10.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists her senior year.

“Juicy was on a very short list for us to take in the second round,” Miller said. “When Kaila dropped (to us) it was an obvious choice for us. We did not, then, expect Juicy to still be around at our third round pick.”

Miller has long valued three-point shooting as part of his offensive system dating back to college. Landrum was a career 40.3-percent 3-point shooter (170 of 422) at Baylor. She made an NCAA record 14 3-pointers (on 23 attempts) in an 111-43 rout of Arkansas State on Dec. 18, 2019.

“She obviously played for one of the elite coaches in the game in Kim Mulkey and won a national championship,” Miller said. “She doesn’t have the overall make or volume (of 3-pointers) as some of the great shooters in the country, but clearly is one of the great shooters out there.

“When you talk to the Baylor people, they’ll equally talk about her defensive ability and her ability to get stops and her dedication to that end of the floor. So I think we’re getting a two-way player into camp considering (she’s) the 35th (and second-to-last) pick. Another steal, we believe, at that point in the draft.”

Friday was the first time since 2011 that Connecticut did not have a first-round pick. It traded its two first-round picks in this draft as well as next year’s as part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Phoenix Mercury for forward-guard DeWanna Bonner, one of the most coveted free agents of the offseason.

The Sun have little roster space available as it has 10 players under contract. Teams cannot roster more than 15 at training camp and 12 during the season.

Jonquel Jones (center), Briann January (guard), Alyssa and Jasmine Thomas (forward and guard, respectively) and Bonner are the starters Connecticut has under contract. The others are reserves Natisha Hiedeman (guard), Bria Holmes (guard), Brionna Jones (post), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (forward) and Theresa Plaisance (post).

Connecticut also signed Valeriane Ayayi (forward), Jazmon Gwathmey (guard), Jacki Gemelos (guard), Megan Huff (forward) to training camp contracts.

Teams had flexibility in the past to bring several rookies and/or free agents to training camp because there have always been players who arrive late due to overseas commitments. That will not be the case this season because leagues worldwide shutdown last month due to the pandemic.

No one can say with any certainty if there will be any sports this spring and summer. The WNBA postponed the start of upcoming regular season (May 15) earlier this month without announcing a new date.

n.griffen@theday.com

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