Training camp competition is in full swing for the Connecticut Sun ahead of the 2022 WNBA season, with veterans starting to return and cuts already underway.
Guard Jasmine Thomas arrived at camp on Wednesday after wrapping up her season with CBK Mersin overseas in Turkey. Though the timeline on her return to practice is still to be determined, head coach Curt Miller anticipates her to start medical testing on Thursday, which is an off day for the team.
“We’ll work with her schedule like I do with all the veterans,” Miller said on Wednesday of Thomas, who is entering her 12th season. “[I] want (Thomas) to be not only physically but mentally ready. While she’s back physically, we’ve got to make sure she’s in a good place.”
With Thomas’ return and the expected arrivals of Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and Beatrice Mompremier over the next week, the Sun waived Alexus Dye, Keyona Hayes and Delicia Washington on Wednesday. That leaves Nia Clouden, Jordan Lewis, Taj Cole, Joyner Holmes and Yvonne Anderson as the players left fighting for roster spots, though Anderson is still not at camp due to overseas commitments.
“It’s been fun,” Cole said of practices so far. “Got a lot of great leaders around, great energy with the coaching staff, so it’s been learning, but definitely just a fun environment.”
Miller has been impressed with his rookie draft picks, Clouden (12th overall) and Lewis (24th overall) so far.
“They’re both really well coached,” Miller said of Clouden and Lewis. “It’s overwhelming at times to rookies, but the learning curve is going to be quicker because they’re both smart X’s and O’s wise. … Four practices in, obviously things to clean up, a lot of probably head spinning, but pleased with that and pleased with our young guard play.”
Miller has also had plenty of praise for guards Courtney Williams and Natisha Hiedeman, specifically pointing out their leadership with some of the younger players through the start of camp. Williams came back to Connecticut, where she was previously from 2016-19 before being traded to the Atlanta Dream, while Hiedeman enters her fourth season as a pro.
“I feel like I came back home, it feels natural,” Williams said of being back with Connecticut. “The same system, the same coaching staff, some of the same players, so it feel good for sure.”
As more and more players make their way onto the practice floor at Mohegan Sun, Miller will be able to establish a clearer picture of what rotations could look like this season. With six players that are either reigning All Stars or have been one previously in Williams, Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones, Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner and Jasmine Thomas, getting everyone involved in the right way will be the head coach’s biggest challenge.
“There’s going to have to be really honest dialogue in the locker room,” Miller said. “We know JJ needs touches, at the same time AT’s our engine and Courtney I believe always has the ability to be a leading scorer on a team. And then you would be crazy not to play through Brionna Jones, one of the most efficient players in the league. And we haven’t even started to talk about [DeWanna Bonner] Gold Jasmine [Thomas]. … And then some up and coming young pros around those six players.”
But the way Miller sees it, that’s a good problem to have.
“My challenge is to put the best five players on the floor at times,” Miller said. “What does that look like? Maybe some unconventional lineups. Could you have some ginormous lineups on the floor to potentially in some ways get your best lineup on the floor? … That’s what we didn’t have the luxury to do last year.”
Lila Bromberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @LilaBBromberg on Twitter.