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Sun embracing change

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published May 08. 2013 4:00AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Connecticut's Kelsey Griffin ties her sneakers while preparing for a photo shoot during the Sun's Media Day festivities Tuesday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Griffin, a forward, is one of the returning veterans on a team that has a new coach in Anne Donovan and plenty of new faces.

Mohegan - A fan may look at the Connecticut Sun's roster and see plenty of negatives and/or question marks.

• They have a new coaching staff.

• Power forward Asjha Jones, one of the franchise's greatest players, is taking the season off.

• They've lacked a proven small forward since Nykesha Sales left the WNBA after the 2007 season.

It's all enough to make an outsider go "eh-hhhh."

"There's going to be a lot of 'eh-hhhh' everywhere," Sun veteran Tan White said.

Added Kara Lawson, "None of those things really worry me, to be honest with you."

Change has come to Mohegan again after a few seasons of consistency. Mike Thibault, the only coach the Sun ever had, was fired.

Anne Donovan is the Sun's new leader. She's a veteran of this league who coached the Seattle Storm past Connecticut for the 2004 WNBA title.

Jones announced in April that she did not feel, "fit and ready to play this summer." She missed 14 regular-season games last season to a strained Achilles tendon. The Olympian was the Sun's third-leading scorer last season (12.2) and second in rebounding (7.1).

"We went through the adversity of not having Asjha for some games there, and we still won road games, home games," White said. "So that should speak for itself."

The Sun were 15-4 with Jones in the starting lineup last season and 10-5 without her starting. Kelsey Griffin and Mistie Bass are the two most likely to earn that gig.

"I'm really looking forward to this season just because it's change," White said. "People get an opportunity. This is, as an athlete, what you look for.

"Take, for example, Nate Robinson (of the Chicago Bulls). (He's the) third point guard, and here he is making big shots. He's getting opportunities to play. That's what you live for. Kelsey and Mistie ... this is an opportunity."

Kalana Greene started the majority of the games at small forward last season and has been a defensive stopper, not a scorer.

"The three position was kind of a rotation (last season)," Lawson said. "We won 25 games.

"To be honest, the three is only an issue if you're playing a team with a big three. There's less-and-less of those teams now. A lot of teams have gone to putting those players at the four. For instance, Indiana used to be a really hard situation because (Tamika) Catchings was the small forward. Last year, they switched Catch to power forward. That won them a championship. You think they're going to change that? No. Now it's (Shavonte) Zellous and Erin Phillips on the wing. Is the three an issue? Not really."

Connecticut certainly has its positives. Reigning WNBA MVP Tina Charles is back at center. Lawson, a guard, averaged a career-best 15.1 points last season. Guard Renee Montgomery won the league's Sixth Woman honor. Guard Allison Hightower was healthy last season and began showing what she could do.

Rookies like UConn's Kelly Faris - Connecticut's top draft pick - and Johannah Leedham have a chance to earn minutes at guard. Chatilla van Grinsven, a 6-foot-3 forward from St. Joseph, has already impressed the coaching staff.

"I have so much confidence in our nucleus," Donovan said. "In Kara and her leadership. In Tina and her leadership. Allison Hightower is playing phenomenal right now. She's continuing to improve her game. That's how we're going to get it done.

"It's just going to take a little time. It's not going to look the same as it has in the past, but we're going to get it done."

n.griffen@theday.com

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