By Ben York
If Connecticut Sun Media Day at Mohegan Sun Arena was any indication, Curt Miller and his staff have already inspired confidence throughout their entire squad along with a profound belief in one another.
Case in point: Players were smiling, laughing, interacting with each other and gushing about the team’s already-stellar chemistry.
“I think the way players are approaching training camp is really unique,” Jonquel Jones said. “It’s such a positive environment and there is nothing bringing us down. If there is a word I’d use to describe the team, it would be ‘genuine.’ There is a genuine, special relationship this team has. It’s rare for that to happen so quickly, but it’s so important considering we are a young team and still learning.”
There’s no denying the chemistry is there, but it’s another thing for it to translate onto the court.
For guard Alex Bentley, though, the perceived question marks surrounding the Sun pale in comparison to the team’s collective talent and unwavering belief in what they are capable of accomplishing together.
“We’re young, but that’s awesome,” Bentley said. “Here’s what I know: We have a lot of talent. We’re scrappy and we’re going to compete. I know I can go to war with any of these girls because they have my back and I have theirs. I know we’re going to play hard and use our fresh legs. It’s all about putting the pieces together, and you never know what could happen.”
Fellow backcourt star Jasmine Thomas echoed Bentley’s thoughts, and characterized this Sun team as “special.”
“At this level, teams are put together with players from all over the world,” Thomas said. “In my experience, it’s very rare to have a team like we do who gets along so well on and off the court. With that, plus the talent we have, it really does feel like we could be special very soon.
“It’s a big reason why I decided to re-sign.”
Getting younger as other teams get older is obviously a conscious choice for the Sun. Each player on the team understands their opposition will likely have much more experience at this level. Similarly, just because a team is “younger” than another doesn’t necessarily mean they are “better.”
This is a concept the Sun are fully aware of, but it hasn’t shaken their confidence.
“I’ve said it before, but we are cautiously optimistic,” Curt Miller said. “We are also realistic. We know we have a young team. We’re talented, but we also have to keep learning how to play the game at the professional level. We feel like we have an opportunity to surprise people, but that will come from hard work and dedication.”
And based on how hard the team has worked thus far in the off-season and during training camp, they’re approaching this year with the perfect mentality: play tough and compete every single possession.
“It’s nice having a year with Curt under our belt,” Bentley added. “We are much further along than at this point last year. It’s really the little things we are noticing that signals growth. Maybe today we communicated on a pick-and-roll that we didn’t last week. Or rotated defensively and more instinctively than yesterday.
“Ultimately, those things have a major impact on the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do.”