The Sun are coming off their best season to date, but Connecticut will have to tackle an abbreviated 2020 season without one of its biggest stars.
The team announced Monday that center Jonquel Jones had opted out of the 2020 season. Jones called it “one of the toughest decisions” of her life, but said the COVID-19 pandemic “raised serious health concerns” that made her feel “uncomfortable” with competing this season.
This certainly is devastating news for the Sun considering Jones was one of the most productive members of its 2019 squad on both ends of the court. But Jones’ teammates stood behind her decision, according to the Hartford Courant’s Alexa Philippou.
So with this news comes a big question: Which player (or players) will help fill Jones’ big shoes?
Brionna Jones has been a key bench player for the Sun the last three seasons, and she hopes to expand her role in 2020.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to make sure I can step up and not necessarily fill that role — because JJ (Jonquel Jones) is a completely different player than I am — but I think it’s going to take all of us to kind of make up for JJ,” Jones said, per Philippou. “But I think I’m definitely ready to step up, and I think I put myself in a position playing overseas and being successful there that’s going to help me build this new opportunity.”
Sun star Alyssa Thomas, who played with Jones in Prague, called the 24-year-old a “monster” playing overseas.
“She hasn’t seen a lot of time in her career and finally she will have the opportunity to be on the floor,” Thomas told Philippou. “I think a lot of people will be surprised with what she can do, and I’m just excited for her to have this opportunity.”
Then there’s Bria Holmes, who’s spent three of the last four seasons coming off the Sun’s bench. The 26-year-old has averaged 7.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in three WNBA seasons, and has started in 23 of her 99 games with Connecticut.
The Sun aren’t just trying to fill the gap left by Jonquel Jones, however. Connecticut lost two of its top starters — Shekinna Stricklen and Courtney Williams — to the Atlanta Dream during the offseason, leaving the Sun with two additional holes to fill.
Connecticut picked up former WNBA champions DeWanna Bonner and Briann January from the Phoenix Mercury this offseason, a likely will utilize the two veterans in some capacity in filling the empty slots in the Sun’s starting lineup. Bonner likely will wind up as a starter, and January might not be far behind.
Theresa Plaisance could be an option considering her own success overseas in 2019. She even managed to play through an incredibly debilitating illness while playing in China in December, which she now believes could have been COVID-19.
Nonetheless, there certainly are some big shoes for the Sun to fill once the 2020 season begins. Whether they’re successful in their attempt to do so, however, remains to be seen.