The Connecticut Sun are finally gelling, after starting the season 3-13 they have won three of their last four game, two of those being impressive triumphs over last years’ finalists- the Lynx and Fever. With 14 games still remaining in the season, it looks like the Sun have turned a Corner, Chiney Ogwumike has been a big part of this resurgence, putting up her only two 20+ point games of the season in the wins over Minnesota and Indiana.
The Sun might still miss the Playoffs for the fourth straight season, but even facing this reality and trading away All-Star Kelsey Bone, they have reasons for optimism. WNBA.com spoke to Chiney to get more insight on their recent hot stretch and how they have started to turn their season around.
She described their tough start as a wake-up call and a look in the mirror moment: “Starting off the year 1-7, once you lose then it’s like what else, you fight like heck to avoid that feeling. And secondly we had a really difficult locker room. It was one where we were very combative and it’s not on one person but I do think our mentality has changed over the last few games and we really have embraced each other and our strengths and helped each other through our weaknesses and just go out there and have fun.”
Ogwumike credits part of this spike in scoring to her increased role after Kelsey Bone was traded: “I just think I’ve had more opportunities. We traded away Kelsey Bone and that left a big void in the paint in the sense that she was a really aggressive force in the paint so it freed up opportunities for me quite frankly. I think with that change we are a faster team, we play with pace, defensively we can get to rotations better, our pace has picked up on both ends of the court. Also coming back from injury I’ve been easing my way back in.”
The second part of her quote sheds light on one of the potential reasons for trading away a young All-Star like Bone. The Sun want to play with more of an up-tempo pace and aggressiveness on both ends of the court. The early returns are positive with three wins in their past four games but Chiney re-iterated that as a young team consistency will be key:
“Honestly we are a wild card right now. We are trying to be consistent but we are a wild card. Some games we come out great and start aggressively like against Indiana and some games like Atlana which we lost we dig ourselves in a hole early. We want to stop being a wild card and be predictable in the sense that we know our maximum effort, our gameplan, our strategy and how we are going to take it to the other team. Slowly but surely we are figuring out our identity, we are still young and have a lot of unknowns but I think the energy, effort and hard work ethic is there and most importantly our mindset where we are a true team is becoming evident.”
Chiney has taken on more of a leadership role on and off the court where she is embracing the opportunity for more touches but also taking the rookies “under her wing” and helping their “deep rotation of players with unique talents” learn and embrace their new style of play of getting out more in transition and playing faster.
“I always tell people that we are one big puzzle and individually we each are a piece, and slowly but surely we are figuring out how to put that puzzle together.”
The Sun will continue to try and figure that puzzle out as the season progresses but for now they have their most difficult challenge as Chiney and Connecticut will take on her sister Nneka and the 19-1 L.A. Sparks tonight at 7 PM EST on WNBA League Pass.