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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maryland's Jones taken by Sun, UConn's Chong goes to Dallas

Former college rivals Brionna Jones (left), Morgan Tuck
will be teammates with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun 
Proving that fact is often times stranger than fiction, I give you the professional landing spots of Maryland All-American Brionna Jones and UConn's Saniya Chong.

Jones' final collegiate game came in the state of Connecticut when Maryland was upset by Oregon in the Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Chong run as a part of the winningest class in NCAA Division I women's basketball history ended with a Final Four loss to Mississippi State in the city of Dallas. Naturally, the Dallas Wings took Chong in the third round (No. 26 overall).

"I am truly blessed to be able to get this opportunity," Chong said in a statement released by UConn. "I am grateful and excited to start my new journey.  Thank you to everyone out there that supported me."

Chong becomes the 33rd UConn player taken in the WNBA Draft. It should be noted that current UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph is the only UConn player selected in the draft not to play at least one regular season game in the WNBA. Ralph likely would have made it onto a roster if not for the career-ending knee injury she suffered as a senior with the Huskies.

After having a roller coaster ride during her first three seasons at UConn, Chong had s rock-solid senior season with the Huskies hitting 40 percent of her shots from 3-point range and ranking fourth among Division I women's players (second among 2017 WNBA draftees) with an assist/turnover ratio of 3.33.

Chong is one of five college players drafted by the Wings. Kentucky's Evelyn Akhator went third overall in the first of the major surprises in the draft. South Carolina's Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis were also taken in the first round by Dallas while Kansas State's Breanna Lewis was taken by the Wings in the second round.

For Chong to play a game in Connecticut as a member of the Wings, she would have to be on the roster in August as the Wings play at Mohegan Sun Arena on Aug. 12 and 23.

According to Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller, the team wasn't set on whether it was going to take a guard or post player until Jones fell all the way to pick No. 8.

"Not one time in our war room did we think Brionna Jones would drop to 8," Miller said. "We needed more post depth and we now have tremendous post competition in our camp so it should be a lot of fun, a lot of wars throughout camp to see how the final roster plays out."

Jones led all Division I players with a field-goal percentage of 69 percent and was also in the top 10 in rebounding. She also graduated from Maryland in three years. Miller believes that Jones has one of the highest basketball IQs of the players in the draft and that she, 'absolutely is what we want in our locker room."

The pick was acquired in a trade resulting in veteran Camille Little being traded to Phoenix in a three-team trade. Also, leading scorer Chiney Ogwumike is out indefinitely and perhaps could miss the entire season after requiring surgery on a torn Achilles' tendon leaving opportunities for Jones and second-round pick Shayla Cooper to be in the post rotation as rookies.

"I think it is good fit for me because of the loss of Chiney," Jones said. "We are definitely are going to learn and grow together. We believe in each other, we believe in the program, we are looking to make an impact next year."

If there is common thread between Jones and Cooper other than the fact that they both played in the Big Ten, it could be that one of their most noteworthy performances during their junior seasons came against UConn.

Jones had 24 points on 12 of 14 shooting while Cooper had 17 points against the Huskies while going head to head with eventual No. 1 overall pick Breanna Stewart and third overall pick Morgan Tuck.

"It definitely gave me confidence in the way I was playing knowing that I could have that impact against them and I would be fine against anybody else," Jones said.

Jones and Cooper have squared off dating back to their AAU days.

"We mixed it up a lot," Cooper said with a laugh. "In zone, when I had to rotate over I caught a couple of elbows from her."

Miller said he is in contact with the Ohio State staff on an almost daily basis and was in attendance when Maryland and Ohio State squared off so he has more knowledge about Cooper's strengths and weaknesses than he would of a player from another program.

Former Florida State point guard Leticia Romero, a member of Spain's silver medal winning Olympic team, was taken with the 16th overall pick. However, Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said that Romero's intention is to play with Spain's national team this summer before trying to make the Sun in 2018. DePaul's Jessica January was selected by the Sun in the third round and Miller said she is talented enough to make a run at landing a spot on the Sun's opening day roster.

Washington's Kelsey Plum went first overall to San Antonio while Alaina Coates of South Carolina was selected second overall by Chicago.

The Sun open training camp on April 24. While Ogwumike will not be healthy enough to play by that point, both Tuck and fellow 2016 first-round pick Rachel Banham should be good to go. Banham spoke with reporters at a draft event at Mohegan Sun Arena and declared that it will be full speed ahead when training camp commences.

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