Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Imports, injuries and more

Some updates from Sun practice Tuesday at Connecticut College:

(1) The schedule for the arrival of Sandrine Gruda is starting to get a bit clearer. Her estimated touch-down of late this week appears to be either Friday or Saturday, Sun coach Mike Thibault said. Though Thibault probably won’t have Gruda dress for Saturday’s game against Sacramento, it’s almost a certainty that she’ll be in attendance.

“It’s more when flight things get straightened out,” Thibault said. “We know that Sandrine will be here by Saturday.”

Evina Maltsi, however, may not be here until next week.

“She still hasn’t gotten her stuff back from the consulate in Greece as I know of (Tuesday) morning,” Thibault said. “So she has to get that done, work visa stuff. We don’t make the flight until the work visa paperwork is in her hands. We completed our end. Now it’s up to consulate or the embassy in Greece.”

(2) Kamesha Hairston didn’t participate in practice Tuesday, but was biking on the sidelines and shooting around on an adjacent court. Coming off surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in her right knee on May 9, the second-year guard still was moving gingerly, but Thibault is confident she can return to practice sometime next week.

“Hopefully she can be ready by the New York (on May 30) or the Chicago game (on June 1) — maybe,” Thibault said. “We’ll see how she goes. You still want to make sure there’s not a lot of swelling in there after she does her workouts.

“She missed the last part of training camp so she still has stuff to do to catch up with everybody. There’s no timetable on it.”

(3) Following Sunday’s 77-63 win over New York, Thibault said, “From top to bottom this is (the most athletic we've been).” The Sun have ranked in the top five in the league in scoring in virtually every season since arriving in Connecticut, so to think they won’t again be one of the league’s best offensive team would be difficult.

“One of the things I told our players is one of our strengths is our depth so we have to play at a pace that takes advantage of that,” Thibault said.. “If you’re going to play 10 or 11 people, then you have to play at a pace that makes that an advantage for you. I thought we played at a ¾ speed pace a lot in the New York and we still scored 77 points. But I don’t think we played anywhere near what we could have. And the turnovers (24 of them) cost us, too.”

(4) A little more from today’s article on the Sun’s ability to gel so quickly, especially when it comes to their on-court chemistry: Thibault gives his players freedom to shoot if they show the willingness to work on their shooting during and after practice. That’s made the transition of someone like Tamika Whitmore nearly seamless thus far. A scorer with a fitting mentality, she hit a career-high 21 3-pointers last season, but already has five this year. Younger players are looking to her for scoring, and while she’s obliging, the Sun’s balanced system are allowing the other veterans to catch touches (Asjha Jones had 18 and 16 in her first two games) while the rookies are making the most of their opportunities.

Obviously it won’t always work out as smoothly as it has the first two games, but even with a lot of people with the potential to score, having enough touches to please everyone doesn’t seem like it will be a problem. The Sun have a system that promotes sharing, and enough youth where those younger players know when to defer to the more-established scorers.

"The reason she (Whitmore) has fit in is A, from playing against us, she knows how we like to play. She knows our best players, she knows Asjha and Lindsay (Whalen) and how they like to play,” Thibault said. “And that’s really helped us because the three of them have played off each other really well.

"And the others kids have sort of put themselves in around them. And I think she's having fun. If you ask her, I think she feels she has a new lease on life here. And these young guys will energize you, too.”

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