UNCASVILLE, Conn. (April 14th, 2016) – The Connecticut Sun landed three of the first six picks in the 2016 WNBA Draft on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, opening a memorable night by selecting former UConn star forward Morgan Tuck at No. 3.
The Sun added University of Minnesota guard Rachel Banham at No. 4, then engineered a trade with the Los Angeles Sparks. In the trade, the Sun acquired 6-foot-6 George Washington forward Jonquel Jones and the 17th overall pick in exchange for guard Chelsea Gray, the 15th and 23rd picks in the 2016 Draft and Connecticut’s first round pick in 2017.
The Sun rounded out the draft by selecting Jamie Weisner of Oregon State in the second round at No. 17, and Aliyyah Handford of St. John’s in the third round at No. 27.
“Overall we’re ecstatic with the outcome and the five players we’ve added to the roster.” Sun first-year coach Curt Miller said. “We feel like we hit the jackpot by being able to acquire three of the top six picks overall, but all five draft picks are described as tremendous character women who will add to the culture we are trying to establish in our locker room.”
The 6-foot-2 Tuck, who helped the Huskies to a record straight fourth NCAA title earlier this month, earned second team Associated Press and espnW All-America honors during her senior season. A first team All-American Athletic Conference honoree, Tuck led the conference in field goal percentage (59.6%) during the 2014-15 season, a total that was good for fifth in the nation. She averaged 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds during her career at UConn.
“I am super excited,” Tuck said. “It’s always been a dream to play in the WNBA, and I am really just excited that coach gave me that opportunity, especially to do it here. It’s forty minutes from campus, so it’s familiar, the fans are here, and I think the biggest thing is, Connecticut takes women’s basketball very serious. So I think this is a great place to play basketball because we are going to have support.”
Banham wrapped up her career at Minnesota as the leading scorer in Big Ten history with 3,093 points, sixth on the all-time list. She is one of just 11 players in NCAA history to score 3,000 points. The Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior, Banham averaged a Minnesota-record and Big Ten best 28.6 points as a senior. She also had a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game. On February 8th, Banham scored 60 points in a double-overtime win over Northwestern, tying the NCAA record for points in a game.
“Being drafted in general is a huge blessing but to come to Connecticut, it’s pretty amazing,” Banham said. “It’s a championship state with UConn killing it here. There are so many good fans and such a good vibe and a great coach and team. I am just excited to be here and tackle this challenge.”
Jones, a native of the Bahamas, led the nation in rebounding this past season (14.6 per game) and was the only player in the Atlantic 10 to average a double-double as a senior (14.6 rpg and 16.2 ppg). The Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, Jones was a two-time honorable mention All-American.
“I talked to coach Miller extensively, and he felt like my game could translate really well in his system,” Jones said. “He told me he was really high on me…if the opportunity presented itself, he would try to do something. So I am happy to be part of the Sun. I know this team has a really good fan-base and that the people here are excited about women’s basketball. Because of that, that really makes me excited.”
The Pac-12 Player of the Year, Weisner finished her career at Oregon State with 1,777 points, the sixth best total in program history. A two-time All-Pac-12 honoree, the guard is among the top-10 in Pac-12 history in career 3-pointers.
A 5-foot-9 guard, Handford was a three-time First Team All-BIG EAST honoree during her career at St. John’s. The Red Storm’s all-time leading scorer with 2,058 points, Handford wrapped up her career second in the program record books with 271 career steals.
Connecticut opens the 2016 season at Chicago on May 14th and will play its home opener at Mohegan Sun Arena on May 21st at 7 p.m. against the Washington Mystics. Tickets are now on sale now. For more information, visit connecticutsun.com or call 877-SUN-TIXX.