The Connecticut Sun have exploded out of the gates in 2015 and are sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 6-1, and one of the catalysts to this somewhat suprising start is the play of guard Alex Bentley. The third-year player out of Penn State is leading the team in scoring (15.7 PPG) and has been a vital part of an offense that has thrived, even without 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike.
Bentley is producing in 2015 despite playing a different role than she was asked to play in 2014. Head coach Anne Donovan made the decision to move Bentley to the shooting guard spot with Allison Hightower out, and she hasn’t disappointed.
“Alex is having an All-Star season so far,” Donovan said, “and she’s relished that we’ve moved her from the point guard to the two-guard spot. She’s just a great scorer. She knows how to create her own shot. She’s excellent at running the system, but her ability to create and her confidence really set her apart offensively. You have to be concerned with her within our offenses.”
“I’ve always been a combo guard,” Bentley said, “so playing for Anne [Donovan] it’s different. There’s some things that I had to adjust to, but I’m loving the new position. … I like the two. I do miss the one, too, but I get to do both with this team, so that’s the good part.”
A year removed from a record that earned Connecticut the fourth pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft, the Sun’s early season success has been the talk of the Eastern Conference. Donovan has the team playing at a high level on both ends of the floor, and it’s showing up in the statsheet. Connecticut has the fifth-best offensive rating at 100.3, (points scored per 100 possessions) and the top defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 88.9.
The team also just finished a three-game West coast road trip with three victories, including a thrilling 2OT victory in Phoenix where the Sun snapped the Mercury’s 17-game home winning streak in the regular season.
“I believe anything you go through every year is new,” Bentley said. “Whether you have the same people for not. But, for us, we have a lot of new faces. Our coaching staff has done a great job putting our pieces to the puzzle together, so we’re jelling well and we’re moving good here.”
Three of those new faces are WNBA veterans — Camille Little, Shekinna Stricklin and Jasmine Thomas — that have come in and made an immediate impact. Combine their experience with the lessons gained from the 2014 season, and the Sun have the roster makeup of a team destined for success.
“They’re great people on and off the court,” Bentley said. “So, that’s a huge reason why our team chemistry is great. We’re all here to win and we’re just getting the job done.”
“I think the difference for us this year is just some new acquisitions,” Donovan said.”Great leadership with Camille Little and Jasmine Thomas and just getting the experience that we did last year – Alyssa Thomas, and [Alex] Bentley and [Kelsey] Bone all got tremendous experience last year.”
Prior to the WNBA season, the buzz around the Sun was minimal. None of the league’s general managers picked them to win the Eastern Conference. But whatever lack of intrigue was present before the season is now assuredly gone. The Sun have made a statement early on: doubt them all you want, but the only thing they care about is winning games.
“We don’t mind being the underdog,” Bentley said. “At the end of the day, we’re all competitors on this team. We’re all hungry for a championship. We all want to win and we’re just getting it done. Everybody’s stepping up at every position. We’re playing well together. We have great team chemistry and that’s what’s getting us wins.”