It’s tough to reach your ultimate destination unless you can avoid potholes on the road. As the Connecticut Sun head into the 2012 WNBA season, overcoming travel obstacles is the first item on their itinerary.
The only team to win more regular season games (21) than the Sun last season was the eventual WNBA champion Lynx (27), but the home-and-away breakdown of Sun wins vs. losses is a flashing red light on the squads desired path to WNBA supremacy. Connecticut was a stellar 15-2 at home during the 2011 regular season, but posted a sub-standard 6-11 record away from the friendly confines of the Mohegan Sun Arena. Rectifying this imbalance is paramount if the Sun want to become one of the elite teams in the league.
“This team showed last year they know how to win, that is not in question,” said Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault. “But closing out games, finishing games that you are leading at halftime on the road, that was something we struggled with at times last year and we need to address that. It comes down to those crucial possessions in front of a hostile crowd, where your opponents are making that push and you need to execute.”
One player who executed well more often than not last season for the Sun was All-Star forward Tina Charles, who was also recently named to the roster of the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team slated to shoot for a fifth-straight gold medal at the London Olympic Games this summer. Charles averaged a double-double (17.6 points and 11 rebounds per game) in 2011, in addition to blocking 1.76 shots per game. Despite currently nursing a groin injury as the preseason swings into action, Charles should be ready for the regular season.
“Tina is a terrific offensive player, but last year she also really worked on improving on the other end of the court and as that continues, her defensive play, she’ll be on her way to being one of the top players in the league,” said Thibault. “We were one of the youngest teams in the league last year and as we now mature along those lines, we think we are ready to make that next step.”
Guard Renee Montgomery also made strides last season, averaging 14.6 points and 4.9 assists per game in 2011, while forward Asjha Jones, who has been slowed by Achilles problems the past few seasons, appears back to full strength, winning the EuroLeague Final Eight MVP award during the WNBA offseason, in addition to being the final player named to the U.S. Women’s Olympic roster, where she will join Charles as the Connecticut contingent.
“Asjha is looking good, she had a great overseas season,” said Thibault. “She is a player, who, when healthy, can have a great impact for us this season. I look forward to seeing her going full speed.”
As long as the Sun can maintain full speed on the road, they may yet reach that WNBA Finals destination.
Coming into her fourth season in the WNBA, guard Renee Montgomery is poised for a breakout season.
The 5-7 guard out of UConn has progressed steadily since entering the league, increasing her minutes, points and assists totals each successive campaign.
"Renee was big for us last season and we think she's still getting better," Thibault said. "She's developing into a big contributor for us."
– Jim Reilly, WNBA.com