The Connecticut Sun have signed Barbara Turner, Kerri Gardin and Danielle Page to contracts for the 2009 season, returning two key members from last year's team, it was announced Wednesday.
Turner, a 6-foot UConn grad who bounced between the shooting guard and small forward positions, led the Sun in 3-pointers last season (44) and was one of Connecticut's main reserves. Gardin, a rangy 6-foot-1 forward, is coming off a surprising rookie season in which she started in 15 games and averaged 4.0 points and 3.3 rebounds.
The 6-foot-2 Page played in just three games last year, her rookie season, but was often lauded by coaches and teammates for her ability to challenge players in practice.
Per team policy, no terms were announced, though Sun coach Mike Thibault said he believes all three deals are for one season.
"We are excited to have Barbara, Kerri and Danielle back this coming season,” Thibault said in a statement. “Both Kerri and Barb contributed significantly on the court to our success last season, and with their year of experience and great off-seasons overseas, we expect even greater things from them this season."
The Sun are also hoping to lock up Latvian star Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, a 5-foot-9 forward who was the 2007 FIBA Europe Women's Player of the Year. The Sun have offered her a contract, and Thibault said Wednesday “she has pretty much verbally agreed to come” to play for this season.
“But there are some paperwork things that have to be done, so right now, until I see all the stuff and the contract in hand, it’s not done,” Thibault said, adding that Jekabsone-Zogota would likely arrive in mid- to late-June because of conflicts with the European championships, which are in Latvia.
Thibault said following last year’s first-round playoff loss to New York that the Sun needed a “cold-blooded, knock-it-down shooter.” He believes Jekabsone-Zogota can be that.
“She’s a true two (guard),” he said. “That’s what she is, first and foremost.”
Some other notes:
(1) The European Championships, which run from June 7 to June 20, may also impact the arrival of French center Sandrine Gruda, Thibault said. The championships serve as a qualifier for next year's world championships, the coach added.
The worst-case scenario for both: "The end of the third week of June," Thibault said.
The Sun's season starts on June on June 6, the first of seven games scheduled for that month.
(2) Thibault said All-Star forward Asjha Jones would likely take a break from playing basketball in Russia following the New Year. But with the news of Candace Parker's pregnancy, the Los Angeles sparks star and WNBA MVP opted against playing overseas, and Jones' Russian team -- which had planned to sign Parker -- offered Jones a contract to come back. And it apparently sweetened the pot, too, for the Sun star.
(3) Thibault had nothing but good things to say about Gardin's season overseas in Croatia.
"She has been pretty consistent," the coach said. "Her 3-point shooting has been kind of streaky, but the rest of it has been really good. And by all accounts from people I’ve talked to who have played against her or coached against her, she’s having a terrific year.
"We’ve had several players on our team play against her, and they said she’s been good. The one thing that she’s had to do — I don’t know if it’s been good or bad — she’s had to play three or four different positions. So she has had to do more ball-handling because of that. So I just think another year of confidence will really help her coming into training camp."