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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Sun remain confident after an off-season of change

    Stephanie White, as head coach of the Indiana Fever back in 2016, makes a point to an official during a game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. White will make her head coaching debut with the Sun this spring. (Day file photo)

    The term “superteam” has been been a talking point this WNBA off-season as a handful of the league’s best top players moved to two franchises.

    The Connecticut Sun were not one of them.

    The rich got richer when the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces signed two-time league MVP Candace Parker.

    The New York Liberty signed Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot to super-charge its lineup. The Sun were also an unwilling participant in helping New York power-up when they traded 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones at her request last month.

    The question was posed, then, to first-year Connecticut head coach Stephanie White during a team conference call Thursday about how the movement of great players to Las Vegas and the Liberty affects the Sun, which has forever struggled to attract big names because they’re not located in a bustling big city.

    “We're not a big market like LA or Chicago but we like that,” White said. “There are a lot of advantages that we have being in the small market and spoken (by) someone who played in a small market and coached in a small market.”

    White both played for and coached the Indiana Fever.

    White continued, “The fan support, the connection with our community and the way that this franchise takes care of people and players and staff. I mean, those are qualities that have allowed (the franchise) to be sustainable and will continue to allow it to be sustainable.

    “I think we’ve got to continue to be creative. I think we've got to continue to think forward (about) how we do things and we've got to be a fun team to play for, you know. Our staff has to put together game plans and systems that are that are fun.”

    The “fun” system White wants to install is a more wide-open offensive attack with shooters. To that end, the Sun took the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft that it acquired in the Jones trade and flipped it to the Atlanta Dream to get veteran guard Tiffany Hayes.

    Hayes, a 10-year vet, was a 2018 All-WNBA first team pick and averaged 15.7 points since then. She only played 11 games last season due to overseas commitments and a right knee injury. She’s currently playing overseas in Turkey alongside Sun forward DeWanna Bonner.

    “I spent five years with her (in Atlanta), so I know her pretty well,” first-year Sun general manager Darius Taylor said. “Talking with some of the veteran players on our team, (they) felt really comfortable with her and given us another weapon.”

    Connecticut acquired wing Rebecca Allen from the Liberty to add a shooter to its bench. She’s shot 36.9 percent from behind the arc over seven seasons.

    The Sun believe they’ve added further depth trading for guard Tyasha Harris and center Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Harris was the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft but has yet to make an impact. Nelson-Ododa, like Hayes a UConn product, was a rookie last year.

    “Our versatility and again, some of the voids that we filled after last season, we feel really good about being in contention,” Taylor said.

    Connecticut returns three starters in Natisha Hiedeman, Alyssa Thomas and Bonner. Brionna Jones, last year’s WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, has started before when Jonquel Jones was absent.

    “I still feel very confident and comfortable with the roster we've assembled,” Taylor said. “You can look at some of the other rosters on paper and maybe think they're the favorite, but you still got to play the game, right? And I think again, culture and continuity go a long way when trying to put a team together to win a championship.”

    n.griffen@theday.com

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