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January joins Sun after COVID-19 scare

Briann January was making breakfast one morning last month when her senses were overwhelmed by the smell of turkey bacon.

January was overjoyed by the scent because she hadn't been able to smell (or taste) anything after enduring COVID-19.

"Throughout the whole (recovery), I was smelling everything every day," January grinned during Wednesday's media Zoom teleconference. "Essential oils, (inside) the refrigerator, cooking dinner, trying to smell. (I was) putting Vicks (vapor rub) on my nose, just trying to (smell)."

January was finally able to join her Connecticut Sun team Wednesday inside the WNBA's "Wubble" at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., after testing negative for the virus again and being cleared by the league. The veteran guard — and newcomer — had missed all of training camp due to the virus and is listed as doubtful for Thursday night's game against the Dallas Wings (8, NESN).

"I was able to get on the court (Wednesday)," January said. "It pushed me a little bit. That's what we're going to try to do every day is push that limit, push that limit.

"I'm excited. … I was very encouraged from what I felt today."

Connecticut acquired January in a three-way deal with the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury on Feb. 19. The Sun sent off-guard Courtney Williams to Atlanta at her request as she wanted to return back to her native Georgia.

January, a 5-foot-8 guard, was to start alongside Jasmine Thomas, who is in her sixth season running the point for Connecticut. January has averaged 8.5 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals during her 11-year career and made 38.2-percent of her 3-pointers. She's played in three WNBA Finals, winning once as a starter for the 2012 Indiana Fever. She's also a six-time selection to the WNBA All-Defensive Team, as chosen by coaches.

January started feeling unwell shortly after training in Connecticut with the team in June. She had previously passed three tests for the coronavirus but tested positive after being exposed to someone who had the virus.

"There were a few very rough days," January said. "I had a tough week where I had extreme fatigue, chills, congestion, lost my sense of taste and smell, body aches, headaches. I had a rough go, but I know a lot of people who had it a lot worse than I did, so I'm grateful for that. (I) made it through that week, and then, after that, my symptoms pretty much went away.

"It was scary because there's still a lot of unknowns about COVID. Every day I feel like there's new news coming in about the virus; (living) in Arizona where it was a hotspot and people weren't wearing masks, all of that mess. It was scary just going through my day wondering if the symptoms were going to get better, going to get worse, if I was going to be able to smell or taste again. There's 10 percent of people that have it who haven't regained their senses."

Connecticut was down two guards during most of training camp as reserve Natisha Heidemen also caught the coronavirus. She arrived late to training camp and didn't start working out with them until July 20, six days before the team's season-opener.

"Shout out to Dr. (Michael) Medvecky (the chief of Yale Medicine Sports Medicine), he was with me the entire time," January said. "Our training staff, Rosie (Sun head athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle) was with me the entire time. And also the Phoenix Mercury medical staff. They helped me out a lot in getting my tests done, because I was in Phoenix, and getting all that streamlined to get quick results and get here as soon as possible."

There's no timetable for January to start playing as she went a month without working out. Some who have had the virus found it took time for them to feel like they were breathing right again — Sun reserve post Theresa Plaisance has said it took her about a month before she felt she had her wind back. Head coach Curt Miller has said that he will not rush January back and will let her tell him when she can go.

January said she had some tightness in her chest after Wednesday's workouts, but medical staff said that she was okay.

"I love playing basketball, and when I went up to Connecticut and did my individual workouts, it kind of confirmed that I made the right decision being part of this great group," January said. "I feel like I fit in."

n.griffen@theday.com

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