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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Carrington flourishing in her new role as a starter for the Sun

    Connecticut Sun teammates DiJonai Carrington, left, and Brionna Jones, right, high-five during introductions prior to a WNBA game May 14 at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    DiJonai Carrington was drafted by the Connecticut Sun in the second round in 2021, with the Sun having reached the WNBA Finals in 2019 and the semifinals in 2020.

    “I knew I had to figure out a way to get on the court,” Carrington was saying Friday night following an 84-77 win over the Washington Mystics. “And the way I figured out to get on the court was to be a lock-down defender.

    “I was (on the team) with Bri January, Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas, three of the best defenders in WNBA history. So to be able to learn behind them and now I’m getting my opportunity to show ... shout out to them.”

    Carrington, who defended Indiana Fever star rookie Caitlin Clark in the Sun’s opener, holding the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer to 5-for-15 shooting, 4-for-11 from 3-point range and forcing her into 10 turnovers, leads the Sun (2-0) into another matchup with the Fever on Monday.

    The Sun (2-0) travel to Indiana (0-3) for a 7 p.m. game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse (ESPN), although Connecticut is still required to make the trip commercially, although charter flights were supposed to be implemented in the WNBA beginning this week.

    Carrington, in the running last year as the league’s Sixth Player of the Year, is now starting for the Sun and averaging 18.5 points per game.

    Carrington finished with 16 points and five rebounds in the opener against Indiana and added 21 points, four rebounds and three assists in the victory against the Mystics.

    Carrington, a 5-foot-11 guard/forward out of Baylor, attributes her success thus far to developing into more of a “pro.” But with the Sun’s general attention to defense, Carrington said that people shouldn’t be surprised about her capability on that end of the floor — “that’s my identity,” she said.

    Still, Sun head coach Stephanie White calls Carrington’s effort against Clark “the most disciplined defensive game I’ve seen her play.”

    “And we need that from her,” White said, “because she is always going to be guarding the opponents’ best perimeter player. She was excellent. And then what she gave us on the offensive end of the floor ... she’s one of those gifted cutters. She’s gifted at getting to the rim and starting to understand the timing of when to do that.”

    Carrington said she still runs different defensive scenarios past January, who is an assistant coach with the Sun.

    “Now it’s nice having Bri ... I’m always in her ear. Just, ‘Bri, take me in your mind, what would you do if you were guarding this person?’ type of thing. If you want to play, you find a way to get on the court. That’s what I did,” Carrington said.

    “This is the type of player I knew I could be.”

    Last time out for Connecticut, DeWanna Bonner had 22 points in the win against Washington and Alyssa Thomas had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

    The Fever are coming off a 91-80 loss at New York on Saturday in which Clark had 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists.

    The Sun have won their last nine regular-season meetings against Indiana, including four in a row on the road.

    White, who is an Indiana native and was formerly the head coach of the Fever, called the WNBA’s decision to have the Sun take a commercial flight to Indiana “disappointing.” The Fever were afforded a charter flight last week to get to Connecticut.

    “It’s disappointing certainly considering we are a hard place to fly in and out of,” said White, whose team is the only one in the league not located near a major city. “But us to Indiana is almost the worst trip in the world. I made that a lot of times on the other end, so I know from experience.

    “It’s a tough one. So I’m disappointed.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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