UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) Connecticut Sun fans are hoping after a dismal 2013 season, the team improves with the help of their first-round pick.
Connecticut, which finished a league worst 10-24 a year ago, opens the WNBA season Friday against New York with a revamped roster that includes No. 1 selection Chiney Ogwumike.
The Sun traded 2010 Rookie of the Year and 2012 league MVP Tina Charles to New York after she demanded a move back to her hometown. Fan favorite Kara Lawson was dealt to Washington, while regulars Tan White (Minnesota) and Mistie Bass (Phoenix) signed with new clubs.
The Sun’s future centers on former Stanford star Ogwumike and rookie Alyssa Thomas, the fourth overall pick out of Maryland.
Sharpshooter Katie Douglass returns to Connecticut after spending the past six seasons with Indiana.
Here are five things to know about the Sun as they prepare to host the Liberty:
NEW FACES: Connecticut opens the season with eight players who were not on the roster a year ago. They include Ogwumike, Thomas, Kelly Cain, Kelsey Bone, Alex Bentley and center Yelena Leuchanka. Danielle McCray returns after sitting out last year with an injury and Douglas is back after six years in Indiana. The holdovers are Allison Hightower, Renee Montgomery, Kelsey Griffin, Kelly Faris and Kayla Pedersen.
HEAD COACH: Anne Donovan is hoping for a smoother second season with Connecticut. The Hall of Famer, who led Seattle to a WNBA title in 2004, took over a team that was coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals in 2012. She wasn’t able to win over the entire squad, many of whom were upset over the firing of coach Mike Thibault. Lawson and Kalana Greene, who was cut by the Sun this week, joined Thibault on the Washington Mystics.
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW: Douglas has more career points for the franchise than any of her teammates. She scored 2,578 before leaving for Indiana after the 2007 season. Douglas was originally drafted by the Orlando Miracle in 2001, and moved with the team to Connecticut in 2003. During five previous seasons in Uncasville, she helped the Sun reach two WNBA Finals and four Eastern Conference Finals. Douglas played just four games last year because of back problems, but had 21 points in the Sun’s preseason game against New York.
UCONN CONNECTIONS: The Sun’s roster of former UConn Huskies has shrunk from five at the start of last season to two this year – Montgomery and Faris. Greene was the final player cut from the Sun’s roster and has signed with Washington. Asjha Jones is sitting out her second consecutive season with an injury after rupturing her left Achilles tendon in December. And Charles is now in New York.
TRADE DEMANDS: Charles wasn’t the only player to ask out of Connecticut in the offseason. Forward Sandrine Gruda of France was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks after sitting out much of her Connecticut career. The 6-foot-4 Gruda played just 85 games since being selected by the Sun in the 2007 draft. She averaged 10.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. She had 24 points and nine rebounds in leading Ekaterinburg to the Russian league title in the offseason. ”At a certain point, we owe it to our fans to bring players to Connecticut who want to be here and contribute to a championship each year,” said general manager Chris Sienko.