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    Tuesday, April 16, 2024

    Former Husky great Moriah Jefferson happy to be back in her basketball home

    Minnesota Lynx guard Moriah Jefferson (4) shoots over Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman (2) in WNBA action Sunday, August 14, 2022 at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Day file photo)
    Phoenix Mercury guard Moriah Jefferson (8) dribbles the ball during the second half of a WNBA basketball basketball game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    Moriah Jefferson is back in familiar territory.

    And she’s off-the-charts happy about it.

    Jefferson, who helped the UConn women’s basketball team win four straight national championships from 2013-16, talked to the media on Thursday about joining the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.

    In early February, the Sun acquired the former Husky in a trade with the Phoenix Mercury in exchange for Rebecca Allen.

    Her former UConn teammate Morgan Tuck is the Sun’s assistant general manager. They’ve remained close throughout their post-Husky years.

    “I was really excited,” Jefferson said of her reaction when learning the news. “I was actually here the week before everything happened for the UConn reunion for the (national) championship (on Jan. 27). So, seeing everybody was great and then getting the news for me was just like a full circle moment, especially Morgan being here as the assistant GM.

    “You can’t really ask for a better situation for me. Our four years in college were incredible. Being so close to UConn is going to be a good opportunity for me to get a chance to go back there as well.”

    Jefferson, a 5-foot-6 point guard, will bring experience and veteran leadership to the Sun. Last season as a member of the Phoenix Mercury, she averaged 10.5 points, 3.6 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals.

    She’s grown as a player and person since being drafted second overall by San Antonio in 2016 .

    During her seven years in the league, Jefferson has dealt with her share of adversity and adapted to playing for several different teams, including San Antonio/Las Vegas, Dallas, Minnesota and Phoenix.

    “As a person, I’ve been through a lot,” Jefferson said. “It’s not an easy league to stay in. Being able to play with so many great players has grown my game a lot. As a person, just learning how to stay grounded, no matter what situations that I’m in.”

    Jefferson is looking forward to getting to know her new Sun teammates. Connecticut opens its 2024 season on May 14.

    It helps that Jefferson has been in this situation before, coming into an established team as a newcomer. She plans on watching some video of last year’s team, studying the playbook and talking to the players.

    “For me, it’s seeing what I can be the most successful at on this team, where they need me at, that everybody can jell together,” Jefferson said.

    While one of her strengths is operating in the pick and roll game, she’s working on expanding her shooting range.

    Her mindset will remain the same, though.

    “I’m going to show up every single day and work as hard as I can, play as hard as I can,” Jefferson said.

    Jefferson knows a thing or two about winning championships from her UConn days.

    Her goal is to do whatever she can to help the Sun to raise the WNBA trophy.

    “I’ve won on every level except the WNBA, so obviously I want to get a championship,” Jefferson said. “That’s never an easy thing to do. We’re playing in the hardest league in the world, but for me that’s my end goal.

    “Coming here I want to do whatever I can to make this team better and to get as close as possible to that goal. My thing has always been taking it one day at a time.”

    As a former Husky great, Jefferson will be warmly welcomed by the Sun fans. She is one of two former Huskies on the roster, joining center Olivia Nelson-Ododa

    She’ll feel right at home.

    “Any time you’re in Connecticut, it feels like a family,” Jefferson said. “I think there’s such a huge crossover from Sun fans and UConn fans. Every time I come back to Connecticut and I play in Mohegan (Sun Arena), I always feel a really good cheer from the crowd. I’m excited to get a chance to be back here, not playing for UConn but playing for the Sun.

    “It’s really fun to see how my game has grown from college to now and to be able to get a chance to show fans that.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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