Friday, June 5, 2009

Sun cut Page, Lyttles

The Sun made their final roster cuts Thursday night, and they were somewhat surprising. Connecticut released forwards Danielle Page and Lyndra Littles, bringing their team to the necessary 11 for Saturday's regular-season opener vs. Washington.

Page, largely a practice player a year ago, had a very solid camp, but ultimately lost a spot to rookie forward Lauren Ervin, a 2008 third-round draft selection with more upside and athletic ability. Littles, who the Sun spoke highly of after grabbing in the second round, departed in favor of guards Kiesha Brown and Kristi Cirone, who Sun coach Mike Thibault had hinted would battle for one spot but ultimately both made the team.

Thus, here is the 11-person roster, of which two more will be cut when Sandrine Gruda and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota arrive (likely later this month or in early July):

G Lindsay Whalen
G Erin Phillips
G Kiesha Brown
G Kristi Cirone
G/F Amber Holt (injured)
G/F Kerri Gardin
G/F Barbara Turner
F Asjha Jones
F Tamika Whitmore
F Lauren Ervin
C Chante Black

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sun cut Swanier, Hayes

Ketia Swanier was among two waived Monday by the Connecticut Sun, who began the process of paring their roster to the necessary 11 before Saturday’s regular-season opener.

The Sun cut both Swanier, a former UConn star, and rookie Ashley Hayes, leaving them with 13 in training camp.

Selected 12th overall in last year’s WNBA Draft, Swanier essentially lost a position battle with camp invitee Kristi Cirone — though her departure does not guarantee Cirone a roster spot, either. Sun coach Mike Thibault is still weighing keeping another point guard behind Lindsay Whalen and Erin Phillips, who’ll likely both start Saturday against the Washington Mystics.

Swanier averaged 2.0 points and 2.3 assists in three preseason games, though her team-high seven turnovers likely played the biggest role in her dismissal. She appeared in 25 games as a rookie in 2008, making six starts, while averaging 1.6 points in 8.5 minutes per game.

Cirone, an Illinois State product, has averaged 2.0 points in 6.7 minutes this preseason, committing just one turnover.

Hayes, signed to a training camp spot because of her shooting ability, made just 4-of-15 shots (26.7 percent) in three preseason appearances. Her departure bodes well for the chances of fellow rookie Lyndra Littles and fourth-year veteran Barbara Turner, all of who have competed for a role as a reserve wing player.

Seven are currently guaranteed roster spots, including Whalen, Phillips, Asjha Jones, Tamika Whitmore, Kerri Gardin, Amber Holt and rookie Chante Black. Sandrine Gruda and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota will also have spots upon joining the team, likely in late June or early July.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Sun, more games

For the first time ever, fans will have the opportunity to watch virtually every Connecticut Sun game during the 2009 season through

Only games televised nationally or locally, or games tipping off at the same time as an ESPN2 or ABC broadcasted game in another market, will be delayed. But all WNBA LiveAccess games will be archived for on-demand viewing.

Although the schedule is subject to change, a total of 22 Sun games are currently expected to be available for live viewing on the web. That list includes:

June 14 vs. Atlanta
June 16 at Chicago
June 19 vs. Chicago
June 27 vs. Atlanta
July 2 at Indiana
July 5 at Detroit
July 7 at Atlanta
July 19 vs. Indiana
July 22 vs. Sacramento
July 30 at Indiana
Aug. 2 at Detroit
Aug. 7 at Minnesota
Aug. 9 vs. Washington
Aug. 13 vs. Seattle
Aug. 14 at Washington
Aug. 19 vs. New York
Aug. 22 vs. Minnesota
Aug. 25 vs. Detroit
Aug. 27 at Seattle
Aug. 30 at Los Angeles
Sept. 1st at Sacramento
Sept. 11 at Atlanta

More on Chante

So we're a little behind on the blogging to start the year, but let's catch up a little bit. The Sun opened camp Monday, and they'll have a lot to accomplish with 15 players in camp and 11 open spots. And here's a quick pre-preseason primer for the Eastern Conference.

And for today, here's a look at Chante Black, who spent last summer in Connecticut coincidently for an internship at the St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

But there's more to the 6-foot-5 rookie's story. Black's mother, Mazie, has spent the past two years on a fellowship teaching English to fifth- and sixth-graders in Saudi Arabia. Black has never gotten the chance to visit her there -- and the schedule made it impossible for Mazie to attend any of Chante's games the last two years at Duke -- but she did make it back to attend the WNBA draft last month with her daughter.

Chante said travel has always been in her mother's life. Mazie was in Army before taking up teaching, and she has spent 10 months each of the last two years in the Middle East.

"She’s adventurous," Chante said. "I don’t think I’m as bold as her."

But despite the nine-hour time difference, mother and daughter still talk often, whether through e-mail, Skype or magicJack. (Mazie has a local in Saudi Arabia.)

"So now it’s on the regular," Chante said. "But (because of the time difference), when she calls I’m like sleeping and it’s 6 in the morning but she’s wide awake. I’m like, ‘Call me later.’"

Mazie is also planning to return to school, Chante said, possibly in New England, meaning she may be able catch her daughter at Mohegan Sun Arena often.

More to come from camp late today.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All-Star game tickets on sale

The WNBA is releasing a limited number of tickets for the 2009 WNBA All-Star Game, to be held Saturday, July 25 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The game, set for a 3:30 p.m. tip, will be televised live on ABC.

Tickets are available by going online to or by calling 1-877-WNBA-TIX, and range from $10 to $55. Special pricing will apply for groups of 20 or more.

The sale follows a presale conducted for season-ticket holders of the host Connecticut Sun and the WNBA’s 12 other teams.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sun sign three to camp contracts

The Connecticut Sun are filling out their training camp lineup, announcing Wednesday they’ve signed three college seniors to camp contracts.

Illinois State’s Kristi Cirone, Murray State’s Ashley Hayes and Duke’s Carrem Gay will all report to Connecticut for the start of camp on May 18 with the hopes of making the Sun in a season when spots are at their highest premium in WNBA history.

In addition to trimming rosters from 13 to 11 players, teams have also been forced to reduce the number of players available to open camp from 18 to 15. Making the competition even more intense is the expected presence of most of the Sun’s stars, including Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones, who have missed the start of camp in previous years.

The league pushed its opening weekend back roughly three weeks this season, affording players competing overseas more time to arrive in time for the preseason. Some, like Whalen and Australian Erin Phillips, are already in the United States.

That will put the onus on the undrafted seniors to make an immediate impact, though they all come with credentials.

A three-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, the 5-foot-8 Cirone is the leading scorer in Illinois State history (2,139 points), and last season ranked second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.57) while averaging a team-high 18.8 points per game.

Hayes, a 5-foot-10 guard, is the first player in Murray State history to earn an invite to a WNBA camp. Another pure scorer, she averaged 22.6 points per game as a senior and set a school record by netting 46 points at Tennessee State on Feb. 4. She topped 30 points seven times last season, including five games in a row.

The 6-foot-2 Gay averaged 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last year while playing alongside Sun first-round pick Chante Black at Duke. Gay ranks ninth all-time in program history with 80 blocks.

The Sun open the preseason on May 22 against New York and have to make final cuts by June 5, a day before their season- and home-opener against the Washington Mystics.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sun take Duke's Black

The Connecticut Sun added some needed frontcourt help in the WNBA Draft today, selecting Duke’s Chante Black with the 10th overall pick.

Black, a 6-foot-5 center, averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season for the Blue Devils. She’ll join one of the league’s smallest frontcourts in Asjha Jones, Tamika Whitmore and the 6-foot-4 Sandrine Gruda, likely as a back-up.

“From what I’ve seen, the Connecticut Sun is a very up-tempo team,” Black said on a conference call last week. “They have a great point (guard) with Lindsay Whalen and I know she’s looking for a big to dish off to when she penetrates. I always love those opportunities when you have a guard looking to pass the post the ball. And I would always love an opportunity to play for any team that’s playing that type of style.”

The Sun select again at No. 17 and No. 36.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sun not among Jackson's choices

The Sun have apparently fallen out of the race for former league MVP Lauren Jackson. The Australian star said in a radio interview that she will play in the WNBA this season but for either the Seattle Storm or Phoenix Mercury.

Sun coach Mike Thibault had pursued Jackson, flying to Russia on at least one occasion to speak with her. Jackson is playing with Moscow's Spartak Vidnoe, which competes in the Russian league and in EuroLeague.

"Seattle and Phoenix are sort of the two places I'm looking at. Obviously, I love Seattle and I've been there for many years," Jackson said in the 18-minute interview with Radio Sport 927 in Melbourne, excerpts of which were obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. "It's always going to be a tough decision, but I don't know what I'm going to do. As long as I feel like I don't know, I can't make any decisions."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sun sign Jekabsone-Zogota

The Connecticut Sun addressed their need for a shooter Friday, signing Latvian star Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to a training camp contract.

She'll likely arrive in late June or early July, Sun coach Mike Thibault has said, because of her commitment to play for the host Latvian team in the European Championships. The Sun open their season on June 6.

But when she does make it to Connecticut, she'll give the Sun, whose shooting struggles cost them in their first-round playoff loss to New York last summer, a scorer in the mold of former Connecticut star, Katie Douglas. The Sun made just 73-of-203 field goals (36 percent) and shot 22 percent from the 3-point line in that series.

"We’re really excited to sign her," Thibault said in a statement. "We feel she will make an impact when she comes."

Averaging a team-high 15.9 points per game for defending FIBA EuroCup champion Moscow Dynamo this season, the 25-year-old Jekabsone-Zogota is 22-of-44 from three-point range in 10 EuroCup games.

The FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year in 2007 and the FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year in 2005, Jekabsone-Zogota helped Moscow Dynamo win the EuroCup title last year, averaging 20 points per game in the finals. She is the daughter of former Latvian men’s basketball star Andris Jekabsone.

"She’s one of the best young shooters in all of Europe, and she is the captain of her Olympic team," Thibault said of Jekabsone-Zogota, who averaged 15.8 points for Latvia during the Summer Games in Beijing. “When we finished last season, we said we needed to add a great shooter to our team, we feel like she can do that. This is a big off-season signing for us."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Use of instant replay expanded

The WNBA Board of Governors voted to allow the expanded use of instant replay by game officials beginning this season, it was announced today. The Board was scheduled to meet Wednesday. The two modifications will allow referees to use instant replay for the following scenarios:

(1) To determine at any point during a game whether a field goal was correctly scored as a two- or three-point field goal, and, for the purposes of awarding the correct number of free throws, whether a shooter was fouled while taking a two- or three-point attempt.

(2) When the game clock malfunctions during a play concluding with no time remaining on the clock (0:00) at the end of any quarter or overtime period.

With respect to the first scenario, review would occur at the discretion of the game officials. In the second scenario, game officials are currently required to reconstruct the timing of a play occurring during a clock malfunction; the use of replay would enable them to do so with greater accuracy.

The first rule expansion seems like a natural one, though in reference to the second one, I'm not sure how often a clock malfunction really impacts a game. The sense here, though, is that league officials don't want to slow down the game at any opportunity, but with replay becoming a bigger part of every professional sports league, there must have been some who voiced the need for greater use of the technology.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mohegan Sun to host WNBA All-Star game

For the second time in their seven-year existence, the Connecticut Sun will play host to the WNBA All-Star game and welcome the league's top stars to Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, July 25, in a nationally televised game, it was announced Tuesday.

The Sun also hosted the event in 2005. Only Washington, D.C., and New York have hosted multiple All-Star games before.

"The WNBA All-Star Game is a showcase event for the greatest female basketball players in the world, and I cannot think of a better location than Connecticut, where the Sun – and, really, the women’s game – has such a dedicated fan base,” WNBA President Donna Orender said in a statement.

Sun season-ticket holders will receive information from the team this week detailing an opportunity to buy their current seats for the All-Star Game in advance of a public on-sale date.

Others with an opportunity to purchase tickets prior to the public sale date include fans who purchase one of two Sun mini-plans set to go on sale Wednesday and season-ticket holders with other WNBA teams. Details of the latter option will be available in the coming weeks.

Individual tickets to the general public will be available in April at all Ticketmaster locations and the Mohegan Sun box office.

The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. start on ABC.

"We are honored to host the All-Star game for the second time in our short history,” said Sun general manager Chris Sienko. “I believe it is a credit to our fans and illustrates how supportive they are of both our team and the WNBA. To have the best-of-the-best showcase their skills here this July will be an event not to be missed.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Orender to visit Sun, 'major announcement' on tap

WNBA President Donna Orender, Mohegan Sun Tribal Chairman Bruce Bozsum and Connecticut Sun CEO Mitchell Etess and GM Chris Sienko will host a press conference at the Mohegan Sun's Wolf Den at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday to make what has been termed a "major announcement."

Mostly everyone I've spoken to has respectfully declined comment about what the announcement is while emphasizing this is something I "will want to be there for." I can say this with confidence, though: It's not bad news. If I have more, you'll have it.

WNBA Draft set

The WNBA Draft, scheduled for 3 p.m. on April 9, will be a little different this year. As opposed to past years when it directly followed the women's NCAA national championship at the site of the Final Four, the WNBA is holding its draft at the NBA Entertainment studios in Secaucus, N.J.

ESPN2 will provide first-round coverage while ESPNU and NBA TV will broadcast the second and third rounds beginning at 4 p.m.

To refresh your memory, Atlanta holds the top overall selection, followed by Washington, Chicago, Minnesota and Phoenix. The Sun have the 10th pick. Sun officials have said they'll likely hold their end of the draft at Mohegan instead of traveling to the site, as did they last year when it was outside of Tampa, Fla.

Top players eligible include Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris, Louisville’s Angel McCoughtry, Rutgers’ Kia Vaughn, UConn’s Renee Montgomery and Maryland’s Kristi Toliver. Considering Atlanta addressed front-court help by taking Sancho Lyttle with the first selection in the Houston Comets dispersal draft, I wouldn't be surprised if they turn toward McCoughtry, arguably the nation's top player and certainly one of its most versatile.

Paris and Montgomery will likely be next on people's boards, with Paris stepping into the Mystics' frontcourt (they already picked up Matee Ajavon in the dispersal draft so they've added a much-needed point guard) and Montgomery going to the Sky to complement Jia Perkins and Armintie Price. At least, that's how I see it. Things could certainly change based upon trades and need, but I could also be totally off. But I guess that's the fun of it -- predicting who goes where.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Turner, Gardin, Page sign with Sun; Jekabsone-Zogota next?

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."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Parker is pregnant

Sparks forward and reigning league MVP Candace Parker is pregnant, several news outlets are reporting. No due date was disclosed but Sparks GM Penny Toler said she thinks Parker can return by the end of the season, even as early as mid-June.

That obviously means Parker has been pregnant for some time, but either way, that would be an incredible turn-around. It will make for one the most interesting running story lines of this summer.