Thursday, July 31, 2008

A few notes on ... Jolene Anderson

It's exactly 12 days from the (re-)start of Sun practice, so with the season on an official hiatus and Connecticut 26 games into its surprisingly successful season, each day I'm going to take a look at a player on the Sun roster, discuss the good and bad of their season thus far and try to gauge their impact for the remainder of the year. Starting alphabetically, first up is ...

Jolene Anderson
5-foot-8 rookie guard
Averages: 4.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 27.8 percent shooting
The Good: Anderson started the season on fire, en route to making seven starts during the Sun's early-season run. After scoring 16 points in the team's final preseason game, she netted 13 on the road against New York and at least nine points four more times in the next month. She's shown a fantastic touch from long range, a confidence to keep shooting and, like Lindsay Whalen, she has a knack for the boards; she has four games of five or more rebounds this year. For a second-round pick, she's looked like a real steal at times.

The Bad: Anderson's playing time has waned considerably in recent weeks. Since June 27, she's topped double-digits minutes just twice, equaling the amount of times she's dressed but didn't play. There are several reasons for this: (1) A mid-year shooting slump cost her minutes late in June, which coincided with the improved play of fellow rookie Ketia Swanier; (2) Defensively, Anderson has been a step slow at times, and as a rookie, she doesn't have the background on personnel to make up a lack of speed when compared to other premiere guards in the league (Swanier, meanwhile, has asserted herself as a defensive stopper); and (3) the always-steady Jamie Carey has been even better in recent weeks, replacing Anderson has one of Mike Thibault's top 3-point threats off the bench.

Outlook: As a rookie, some of her struggles are expected, and as of mid July, Thibault said he felt Anderson was starting to correct some problems. The month-long break, too, may be the best thing that's every happened to the Sun's first-year players. Several veterans on the team said the toughest year physically (and consequently, mentally) was their first year.

It's essentially a whirlwind: For six months, you're working every day toward the NCAA tournament; then you're vying for a national title (or at least a few wins); then, in some cases, the next day you're experiencing draft day, which can be an exhausting experience; a week later, you're in your first training camp, either trying to simply make the team (as in Anderson's case) or show the coaches they made the right choice by bringing you there; then the season starts and you're competing against players three levels above anyone you saw in college, you're traveling more than you ever did, youre' truly living on your own for the first time; and then, in any normal season, here come the playoffs in mid August.

The life of a professional women's basketball player is one devoid of offseasons, and after a few years, you become adjusted to it. But as a rookie, this is a whole new experience, both in terms of the competition you're seeing and the physical demands that are being put on you. All that said, to get a full week off from basketball and then have roughly two and a half weeks just to slow down, practice and work on some individual things, it makes a huge difference in clearing your mind and perhaps returning to some of the good things you did at the start of the year, when you're weren't exhausted.

For someone like Anderson, that may be the case. She has the skills to be a great asset off the bench for the Sun in the stretch run and into the playoffs. Her only problem may still be playing time. With Erin Phillips expected to join the team shortly after the conclusion of the Olympics and play a major role in the Sun's backcourt, that's one more person taking minutes from Anderson. (In her defense, Phillips will most likely take minutes from Swanier, too.)

Also, the Sun face some bigger teams in their final eight games, including Seattle, Houston (this time with Tina Thompson), Chicago (with Sylvia Fowles most likely) and San Antonio (twice). Anderson can play bigger than her size, but with two small guards in Carey (5-foot6) and Phillips (5-foot-7) already seeing a good share of minutes, Thibault may stick with larger lineups, a la Kerri Gardin, Amber Holt or even Asjha Jones at the small forward position.

On deck: Jamie Carey
In the hole: Kerri Gardin

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