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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Connecticut Sun thrilled to land Duke's Williams

Even on her most glass is half full kind of days Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan never figured to have a chance to draft either Elizabeth Williams or Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday's WNBA Draft.

However, when Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd and Minnesota's Amanda Zahui B. took advantage of a rule allowing them to declare for the draft because they would turn 22 this year, it set in a series of events leading to Williams becoming the most recent building block for the Sun.

"This draft changed two weeks ago. All of a sudden we had a chance to get somebody who we thought was completely out of our reach," Donovan said. "Kaleena or Williams we never thought it was possible. We waited and knew we were going to get a good one.

I have seen her a lot, I live in North Carolina during the offseason so I visited a lot and talked to a ton of people, this kid is hungry and she is ready. She has the nicest demeanor, she has a lot of history in our locker room she has played with Chiney (Ogwumike), Chelsea (Gray) obviously so I am really excited about that."

Loyd went No. 1 to Seattle while Tulsa took Zahui B. Seattle was up next with the pick it acquired ironically from Connecticut in a deal that sent former UConn guard Renee Montgomery to Seattle with Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen heading to Connecticut. Donovan viewed it as a win-win proposition. If Seattle took Williams, the Sun would gladly take the NCAA Division I career leader in 3-pointers. When Mosqueda-Leiws went to Seattle, the Sun selected Williams.

"Either way it would have gone we would be thrilled because we needed a shooter and we needed a 5 (center) so we felt like either way we were going to be really pleased," Donovan said.

"We want somebody to come to practice every day and challenge Kelsey Bone, keep her on her toes. We have had some post players do that in practice but I think Elizabeth Williams could have a nice career in this league. It is not so much a message to Bone, it just gives us another strong paint player who is defensively present so when Kelsey struggles or gets into foul trouble we have a really good alternative."

After taking former DePaul guard Brittany Hrynko, the Sun sent her to Atlanta for Jasmine Thomas, a former Duke guard who played in Washington for two seasons before starting 52 games over the last seasons for Atlanta. The deal won't be official until Thomas passes her physical.

"We looked at Jasmine for a while, another Duke kid go figure but that's more about helping Chelsea along, kind of understanding what it takes to be a pro and mentoring Chelsea as she grows into what I think is going to be a premier point guard in this league," Donovan said.

Williams and Thomas have reputations as top-notch defensive players who goes right with Donovan's coaching DNA. However, they will not be asked to merely contribute on one end of the floor.

"We need to score clearly," Donovan said. "I love defense but putting points up we want to sit a lot higher than we are currently so we are going to ask a little from both. That is what I like about Williams, we have struggled with production in the post especially when Bone struggles or goes out, we haven't had a lot of points there so I think Elizabeth Williams really helps. Thomas gives us flexibility to move (Alex) Bentley over and Bentley can score for us in the off guard spot."

With a knee injury sidelining Ogwumike for at least a couple of months it is going to be interesting to see where the points come from. There are some serious concerns about the back issues hampering Katie Douglas and with the prospects of Spanish national team star Alba Torrens ever playing for the Sun seemingly more of an if rather than a when scenario, it's not going to be easy.

Players like Allison Hightower, Bentley, Stricklen, Little, Kelsey Griffin, Alyssa Thomas and Bone have proven to be able to score in the WNBA but haven't been No. 1 options before.

Ogwumike is well aware of Williams' potential.

"She talked to me and said 'this is my time,'" Ogwumike said. "I think she will step up especially since I am out for a couple of months."

It is interesting that the Sun now have three former Duke players on its roster. Williams, accustomed to being on the opposing team when she plays in Connecticut, will have a chance to hear cheers from the Connecticut women's basketball fans for the first time.

"It will be interesting but cool," Williams said. "I am really excited and really happy to have them on my side."

Williams, the final piece in the trade that sent Tina Charles to New York, will also be added to a relatively young nucleus.

"Hopefully as we continue to grow, we can use our youth to our advantage and really show some cool things," Williams said. "Alyssa Thomas she is a great player as well and seeing her in the conference and getting to be on her side will be pretty cool."


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