Sun Draft Astan Dabo With Ninth Overall Pick

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (April 16, 2012) – With the ninth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft on Monday, the Connecticut Sun made an investment in its future with Astan Dabo, a 6-foot-8 center from Mali.

The 19-year-old Dabo averaged 12.8 rebounds and 11.4 points in 20 games with Reims, France in Ligue Féminine 2 during the 2011-12 season. She had a season-high 28 points and 23 rebounds on March 3rd in an 80-63 win over SIG. As a member of Mali’s national team, Dabo saw limited action at the 2010 World Championships before winning a bronze medal at the 2011 African Championships.

“We’re just kind of betting down the road to see if somebody with size can come in and help our team,” Sun head coach Mike Thibault said Monday. “Dabo is 6-foot-8. She is moving up to the French top division next year. Her national team commitments are minimal, which is the biggest stumbling block a lot of times for taking an overseas player. She is not going to come this summer. She will come in a year or two…We don’t know how it is going to turn out, but it has a huge upside if it works. We’re talking about posts in our league getting bigger and bigger, they’re going to get bigger next year, so to take a chance on a 19-year-old player who is 6-8 and has gotten better each of the last three years was I thought a good gamble for us.”

With the 21st overall pick, the Sun selected Chay Shegog from the University of North Carolina. Shegog, a 6-foot-5 center from Stafford, Va., was a second-team All-ACC selection as a senior after averaging career highs of 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds during the 2011-12 season.

“In the second round, we thought we would try to take the girl from Sweden, Farhiya Abdi,” Thibault said. “She was not there. I thought at least in training camp, we wanted competition in the post. Chay Shegog is an athletic big post. She runs the floor. She will be great competition for our posts. And you never know. She comes in and plays well, we’ll have to re-think our roster. But very rarely do you get in the second round a chance to get a kid with that athleticism and that size so that was our biggest thought going into it.”

The Connecticut Sun will tip off its 10th season in the state with a back-to-back against the New York Liberty, traveling to face its Eastern Conference rival on May 19th at 4 p.m. before returning home to Mohegan Sun Arena for a rematch on May 20th at 5 p.m. Connecticut will be home for seven of its first nine games.

For more information on the Connecticut Sun, visit www.connecticutsun.com. Season tickets and a variety of mini-plans packages are also on sale now, and can be reserved by calling a Sun Ticket Representative at 1.877.SUN.TIXX (786-8499), via email at tickets@connecticutsun.com or by visiting http://tinyurl.com/suntickets2012.

2012 Connecticut Sun Draft Quotes

Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault
On plan for 2012 WNBA Draft, where Connecticut had the ninth and 21st picks.
“Once we got to the end of last week, we had decided that unless we could make a trade to move up in the first couple of picks – which we tried to do – that we didn’t think it was even a 50-50 bet that our first round pick at nine would make our team. I just didn’t really want to waste a pick right now on not knowing. We had a list of three overseas players we really liked. We intended to take one of them in the second round and got beaten to it. LA with the 13th pick took the kid (Farhiyi Abdi) we were going to take at 21.”

On first-round pick Astan Dabo of Mali, who plays professionally in France.
“We’re just kind of betting down the road to see if somebody with size can come in and help our team. Dabo is 6-foot-8. She is moving up to the French top division next year. Her national team commitments are minimal, which is the biggest stumbling block a lot of times for taking an overseas player. She is not going to come this summer. She will come in a year or two. My train of thought, looking back at the NBA way is to wait for a player to get a little older, a little more mature, come when they’re more physically ready and I just didn’t want to take a gamble on wasting a pick this year. We don’t know how it is going to turn out, but it has a huge upside if it works. We’re talking about posts in our league getting bigger and bigger, they’re going to get bigger next year, so to take a chance on a 19-year-old player who is 6-8 and has gotten better each of the last three years was I thought a good gamble for us.”

On the second round pick of Chay Shegog with the 21st overall pick.
“In the second round, we thought we would try to take the girl from Sweden, Farhiya Abdi. She was not there. I thought at least in training camp, we wanted competition in the post. Chay Shegog is an athletic big post. She runs the floor. She will be great competition for our posts. And you never know. She comes in and plays well, we’ll have to re-think our roster. But very rarely do you get in the second round a chance to get a kid with that athleticism and that size so that was our biggest thought going into it.”

When was the last time you saw Dabo play?
“In person, two years ago, and she didn’t play a lot in the game I was at. She was 17 on the national team. I’ve watched some clips, and talked to people who have watched her play in France, coaches there that I talk to. They felt like she was getting better, and so it was just kind of one of those roll-the-dice.”

What kind of player is she? Does she play with her back to the basket or does she face up?
“She’s tried to be a little bit of both. She’s not a deep shooter by any means. She plays in the lane. What I liked about her is, as thin as she is, in the French league, she’s averaging 12 plus rebounds per game. I think as a general rule, rebounding is a skill that translates from high school to college, college to the pros. If you have the aggressiveness to go after the ball, it usually translates. Her offensive game is very raw, but she got herself to the point this year where she is a 50-percent field goal shooter. Kind of 12 feet and in most of the time.”

Best case scenario, when does Dabo arrive?
“I don’t know. A year from now, maybe. We’ll see where she is. I’ll go over and spend some time visiting with her in the winter next year. She’s working to improve her English. She’ll have a tutor. She does speak some English…It’s one of those ones you just wait for. When you’re picking ninth in this draft, it’s a little bit of a crap-shoot. I didn’t want to waste the pick.”

More on Shegog:
“We would have preferred to take somebody who didn’t come for two years, but Chay is a good player, so she will get her opportunity. It’s on her to prove something. We already have a team. If she wants a job, she is going to have to beat somebody out and walk into camp and say, ‘I’m going to kick somebody’s butt to get a job.’ That’s on her, that’s not on us.”

More on Sun needs heading into the Draft:
“It’s funny. Our roster is basically set. Unless there is an upset in camp, we’ve worked so hard the last couple of years to re-do our roster and be young and do all the things to let them grow up and mature and we all saw the progress of it last year going up to 21 wins and I think we can get more if we play the way we’re supposed to. I didn’t really want to un-do that either. I like the idea of starting training camp knowing kind of what we’re doing. Instead of getting more young players, we went out and got Mistie Mims and Sydney Spencer to be kind of designated role players off the bench. I thought that served our needs better than a young player in the draft.”

Were you hoping (UConn’s Tiffany) Hayes would be off the board?
“To be honest with you that’s never really a consideration. If this doesn’t prove to all the people who think we only draft UConn players just because…Tiffany Hayes is a really good player, but I don’t know who she would beat out on our team. You look at Danielle McCray, Kalana Greene, Allison Hightower, Tan White, go down the list, who is she going to play ahead of right now? We’re trying to win now. Our project is a couple of years into the making right now. Besides Ogwumike, there was probably one other rookie we would have moved up for, and she probably wouldn’t have started anyway.”

Chay Shegog, Center, North Carolina, 21st overall pick in the WNBA Draft
Where were you when you found out you were drafted?
“I was playing pick-up, and my teammates all started screaming and I didn’t know what they were talking about.”

Did you get a sense that Connecticut had an interest in you?
“I was pretty much interested in any team. The WNBA is a great league and I just think it’s a great opportunity to play at this level.”

It will be hard to make rosters this year. There are not a lot of teams with flexibility. Is that daunting to you?
“Not really daunting. Coach has reiterated that it is going to be tough to make WNBA rosters, especially because of everybody who is already in the league and the rookies coming in. I think playing hard and playing my own game is all I can show them.”

What are your strengths and what will you be able to bring to the next level?
“Really, just bring a lot of energy. And I think being a running post player can help me a lot too.”

How excited are you to be playing against Tina Charles again?
“I’m really excited. I really enjoyed playing against her my first two years of college, and it will be really exciting to play against her in camp, and hopefully, play with her.”

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell
How professional ready is Chay at this point?
“She is ready. We had a lot of injuries this year and our team won 20 games. It wasn’t a typical North Carolina year. If our team had done a little better, I think Chay would have been drafted higher but she had to carry us a lot, and she did. She led the (ACC) in scoring a majority of the season until probably the last few weeks. She was a warrior the whole year.”

More on Shegog’s improvement:
“I’ll tell you, this kid has improved so much, it’s unbelievable. When she came in, she was big, 6-5, but not in real good shape. But she made an unbelievable commitment and she got her body in really good shape. She was playing probably 35 minutes a game and just really worked hard from her junior to her senior year on her moves around the basket and getting stronger. Just overall, her commitment was incredible. If you look where she went from her junior year to her senior year, it’s pretty incredible really, considering we had graduated three kids who had scored 1,500 points…She’s very competitive, very physical and she’s going to get better. I think it’s a really good pick and you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at how good she is going to be and how tough she is going to be.”

Where specifically has she improved?
“Well, two things: First, her fitness level. She was in great shape this year. Just her conditioning and her fitness level overall. That was from her commitment. But then also, her scoring ability. Not just around the basket, but her face-ups as well. Around the basket, she was just really, really tough. Many times, she was getting lots of contact, and she just kept taking people to the basket. So I think her confidence level improved tremendously because she was her body was in such good shape.”