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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Sun top draft choice Lacan won’t join the team this season

    Leila Lacan, right, plays in a game last season in France. She was selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft on Monday by the Connecticut Sun, but is not expected to join the team this year, general manager Darius Taylor said. (Photo courtesy of Connecticut Sun)
    Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson, left, defends Southern California center Rayah Marshall during an NCAA tournament game March 25. Jackson was chosen in the second round of the WNBA Draft on Monday by the Connecticut Sun. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

    In watching Leila Lacan play overseas in France, Connecticut Sun general manager Darius Taylor saw someone he was willing to put No. 1 on the Sun’s draft board Monday night.

    With its first-round pick in the WNBA Draft, the 10th selection overall, Connecticut chose Lacan.

    “Just being able to put some clips together, seeing her intensity level, her ability to get to the rim, her length, her athleticism, she’s incredibly polished, probably ready to play right away,” Sun coach Stephanie White said in a video conference Monday night.

    Lacan, the first of four draft picks for the Sun, will not join the team this season, however, as she is currently a member of the roster for the French National Team which will compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris as the host country.

    The Sun, 27-13 last season despite missing starting center Brionna Jones with a ruptured right Achilles tendon, reached the semifinals of the WNBA Playoffs under White, in her first season, before falling to the New York Liberty.

    The 2024 draft was conducted Monday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and featured Iowa star Caitlin Clark as the No. 1 overall pick, going to the Indiana Fever. Clark graduates as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in men’s or women’s basketball.

    Taylor explained taking Lacan, a 5-foot-11 guard, despite the fact she won’t be available this season.

    “I think when you look at our roster, we have a very veteran-laden team and we have a lot of players that have a lot of experience in the W,” Taylor said. “So anybody coming in (with the No. 10 pick) this year would probably not play or have a hard time making our team.

    “So to be able to draft a player that can really help our team in the future, made more sense for us. We kind of have 10 locked in for sure and 11 players under contact. It’s going to be a lot of people fighting for a spot; it’s going to be a competitive training camp. I think we got the perfect situation.”

    The Sun, which has a pair of 2023 All-Stars in Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner, also drafted 6-6 center Taiyanna Jackson of Kansas (19th), 6-0 guard Helena Pueyo of Arizona (22nd) and 5-11 guard Abbey Shu of Columbia (34th), the first-ever WNBA draft choice from the Ivy League school.

    Lacan, on the French team’s roster for the 2023 European Women’s Basketball Championship in Slovenia and Israel, has played the last two seasons with French League club Angers.

    Lacan averaged 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 steals over 24 games for Angers, bringing a wealth of international experience after having represented her native country on both the junior and senior levels.

    “We’ve been in contact with her, her agents, throughout the season, just checking on her,” Taylor said. “We felt like she was the second-best guard in the draft and what she can do, her ability to play both positions, to score at three levels. just defend, she’s a two-way player, so we’re real excited to have the opportunity to draft her. She was our No. 1 target.”

    Taylor said Lacan will fit perfectly into the Sun’s read-and-react-style offense under White, while White said Lacan’s ability to get to the rim reminds her of recently retired guard Tiffany Hayes.

    “I think, obviously, we’ll figure out some times to go over and see her,” Taylor said. “I’ll actually be at the Olympics in Paris. And so we’ll have opportunities to connect with her and keep tabs on her and making sure that when the time is right, she’s ready to come over.”

    As a graduate student this season at Kansas, Jackson averaged 12.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 3.0 blocks per game. She was a two-time All-Big 12 first team selection and holds the Jayhawks’ all-time record with 301 career blocks.

    Pueyo played at Arizona for five seasons, closing her final season with an average of 9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Pueyo picked up All-Pac-12 and Pac-12 All-Defensive Team honors.

    Hsu closed her senior season at Columbia averaging an Ivy-League-best 20.4 points, along with 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals. Hsu, who finished as the Lions’ all-time leading scorer with 2,126 points, led the team to its first NCAA tournament appearance this season, named the Ivy League Player of the Year.

    Connecticut will open the regular season on May 14 against Clark and the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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