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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Former UConn star Faris hoping to be part of Sun's future

Kelly Faris shakes her head in amazement or perhaps disbelief when the former UConn standout is reminded that she has played more games with the Connecticut Sun than any player on the current roster.

The former first-round pick has seen time in 81 regular-season contests in her first three seasons. The question now is whether she will make it to game No. 82.

Barring any surprises, it would seem as if returnees Alex Bentley, Kelsey Bone, Camille Little, Chiney Ogwumike, Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas, free-agent signee Aneika Henry and first-round draft picks Rachel Banham, Jonquel Jones and Morgan Tuck will make the team leaving five other players fighting it out for one roster spot.

First-year Sun coach Curt Miller is certainly giving all five players a chance in the preseason games as Jennifer O'Neil has played 23 minutes and 59 seconds in wins over Chicago and San Antonio, second-round pick Jamie Weisner has played 22:31, Victoria Macaulay has been on the court for 21:31, just two more seconds than Faris while Brandie Baker has seen 17 minutes of action.

Faris plans on doing what she has done since being drafted by the Sun and that is competing on every possession while being the best teammate possible.

"It is a very competitive camp, everybody is fighting for a spot and there is a lot of talent and there aren't enough spaces so it is going to be a tough decision," Faris said. "Everybody has been really fighting. I am sticking to what I know best, just trying to continue to add to that."

If the Sun were completely healthy last season it's highly likely that Faris would not have made the roster. She wasn't being utilized much in the early stages of the 2015 season. Other than a 16-minute stint in a win at Atlanta, Faris played only 27 minutes in seven games in the month of June. She had a total of five points in eight June games, four coming in a win at Seattle.

Faris scored a season-high 12 points against Chicago on July 12 but would only average 8 1/2 minutes in the next seven games. With the injuries beginning to mount, Faris found her role and playing time increasing. She had a stretch with seven straight games playing at least 25 minutes and in the last 10 games she appeared in Faris averaged 5.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.8 steals per game proving that she can play in the league. But with an influx of new players and a new coaching staff. there's no guarantee that Faris will make the team. Certainly her attitude is the same. When Faris committed to UConn an opposing coach told UConn's Geno Auriemma that Faris would not have a significant role with the Huskies. Auriemma's response was something effect of "that's why your program is where it is and we are where we are." Faris' ability to impact the game in more ways than just being a scorer made her one of Auriemma's favorite players to coach. Faris' defense has been her calling card but her ability to be a good teammate has made her a valuable part of the last three Sun teams.

When she wasn't in the game and there was a timeout in the first two preseason games, she bolted off the bench to greet each player coming to the bench.

"With any situation your role each year is going to change," Faris said. "I am still getting used to being called a vet, it is a little different but you kind of know how things work, you know the ropes.

"For me it is good to have a team full of rookies because I can teach them and kind of lead the way a little bit. It has been a little different and I've had to step up in different ways than I've had to in the past."

While I am not in the meetings with the coaching staff, it would seem as if there are too many post players for Macaulay to make the team although I have liked what I have seen from her and it would also seem as if Baker, the last player of the five to be invited to camp, would be a long shot to make the team.

While O'Neill looks like she knows what she is doing out there, with Jasmine Thomas, Banham and Bentley all able to play the point guard, I'd be a little surprised if she makes the final roster. That would leave Faris and Weisner fighting it out for the final spot. It will be interesting to see if Miller is willing to cut loose Weisner, the Pac-12 Player of the Year as a senior and risk seeing her landing on another team's roster.

Miller said his initial plan was to have seven perimeter players and five posts on his first team but that changed with the draft-day trade to acquire Jones. With Alyssa Thomas not considered to be a post by Miller, that leaves the Sun with six posts and six perimeter players unless he sends one of the post players packing which would allow him to keep both Faris and Weisner.

The good news is that Miller said he doesn't plan on making any cuts before the final preseason game on Sunday at Dallas so it will give Faris and the other players fighting for roster spots some more days in practice and another game situation to make a push towards making the roster.

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