The Connecticut Sun may face a tough decision at the end of the year if Jonquel Jones continues to play the brand of basketball she has been playing through their first six games of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) regular season.
The Bahamian post player was moved into the Sun’s starting line-up this season after their second leading scorer, Chiney Ogwumike, sustained an Achilles tendon injury while playing in China in November. According to Jones, Sun Head Coach Curt Miller came to her at the beginning of training camp and told her that she would have to step up and play key minutes for the team this season.
“Miller reached out to me and said that I would have to take a bigger role and be ready to step up,” said Jones. “So yeah, I understood what Chiney’s injury meant.”
Although she admitted she was hesitant at first, Jones has been brilliant on the court so far this season. Two weeks into the season, she is averaging 14.6 points on 50 percent shooting and leading the WNBA with 12.2 rebounds per game.
Today, despite the Sun suffering their fifth loss in six games, Jones posted another double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds in the Sun’s 78-76 loss to the Washington Mystics.
Jones led the Sun to their first victory of the season on Tuesday. She became just the 13th player in league history to post 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game. Jones finished with 23 points and 21 boards – both career highs for the second-year center, as Connecticut earned a 97-79 win at Chicago.
“I think I just have a better understanding of the game and what to expect,” Jones said in an interview with WNBA.com on Monday. “I feel like my teammates are trusting me more and we’re trusting each other. Even though it’s not showing up in the win column, we’re playing together and we’ll get over the hump.”
In the Sun’s season opener against Atlanta, Jones managed to work through a tough shooting game and found other ways to be effective on the floor.
Although the Sun fell short in that game, Jones posted 20 rebounds in the loss. In their following game against the Indiana Fever, Jones found her shooting stroke and recorded her first double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. She showed touch and patience on the inside, attacking the Fever from the paint while also displaying her versatility by taking slower, larger defenders to the rim off the dribble. She fouled out with just over two minutes to go in the game, and the Fever ended up winning that game, 81-79.
Last Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx was Jones’ toughest game of the season on the defensive end. She was overmatched by veteran center Sylvia Fowles, who posted game-highs of 21 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Despite dealing with foul trouble, Jones finished with 16 points and six rebounds in the loss.
“I think the physicality of the game got to me,” Jones said about the Minnesota game. “You’re playing against big bodies who had been playing the game for a long time and are just so much smarter with what they do.”
According to Jones, the extended minutes so far this season has done a lot for her confidence, and has also allowed her to get a better feel for the professional game.
“You step into a new role when you come into the league, you’re playing against the best people in the world, you’re coming off the bench,” Jones said. “Your confidence kind of goes away a little bit because you’re trying to focus more on just making sure that you have your role understood.”
Although Jones’ play has turned many heads this season, it could potentially put the Sun in somewhat of an awkward position at the end of the season. Along with moving Jones into the starting line-up, the Sun also bolstered their frontcourt by acquiring Lynette Kizer from Indiana in a three-team trade. The Sun also got the No. 8 pick in the draft out of the deal, which they later used to select Danielle Adams. With all of the new pieces in place, the Sun will have to decide if they want to move Jones back to the bench, see what they get on the trade market for either her or Ogwumike, or try and move some of their other newly acquired pieces and see if Ogwumike and Jones could co-exist in the frontcourt together.
Despite her quick rise to the WNBA stardom, which in turn has raised questions about the Sun’s position on Ogwumike moving forward, the Grand Bahama native said that the relationship between them remains the same.
“Me and her were just talking,” Jones said. “She was just like, ‘I know I’m always hard on you, but that’s because I see the kind of player that you are and the kind of player that you can become. Understand that you can be really special.”