June 28, 2020 

Catching up with the Connecticut Sun

Six players discuss workouts, social justice, and the 2020 season

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Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) Connecticut Sun guard Bria Holmes (32) Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas (5) Connecticut Sun guard Rachel Banham (1) and Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) during the WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 12, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

On June 23 and 24 six Sun players spoke to the media about the 2020 season. 

Bria Holmes, Brionna Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas, Natisha Hiedeman, and Kaila Charles all said they were opting to play in Bradenton this season. While each player has experienced different situations and opportunities, all six are excited to get back on the court together. 

Brionna Jones, Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas all mentioned that given the precautions presented by the league they decided that they wanted to give playing in the bubble a chance. 

Holmes is traveling to Florida with her daughter and fiancé. She said she has enjoyed spending time in her native New Haven while watching her daughter, who will turn 2 in July, grow and learn new things. 

She was originally hesitant to bring her family to Florida but after finding out more information she ultimately decided it would be safe enough for her to decide to play. 

Holmes had access to a gym where she was able to work on her skillset, but said “It’s just not the same as playing up and down, working out every single day.”

However, she believes that everyone will be in shape by the time games start. 

Jones spent some time at home with no regular gym access, but was able to lift and condition at homes. She is now doing individual workouts with her coaches in Connecticut and said, “It’s been great to be back in the gym and play basketball but I’m not quite where I would normally be.”

Alyssa Thomas was able to experience a rarity in her life, spending lots of time with her family.

“A lot of us haven’t had a break like this in years, so it’s been good to be home and be around family,” she said. 

Thomas didn’t have access to a gym and said that she didn’t want to play basketball while home because she went almost directly to playing in the WNBA Finals to EuroLeague play. 

Jasmine Thomas also didn’t have access to a gym but tried to follow the videos sent by the Sun’s strength and conditioning coach as best she could with limited equipment. 

“My first few shots and dribbles back were very uncoordinated and concerning and I’m happy that I made the decision to come up to Connecticut,” Thomas said. 

She spent the time off enjoying time with her family and said being away from her family during the season will be difficult. 

Hiedeman spent time in Wisconsin and primarily ran and played basketball in the park and at home, while only having some access to a private gym. She’s now back in Connecticut and practicing with the coaches. She noted that it’s good to be back in the gym consistently. 

On June 22, Jonquel Jones opted out of the 2020 WNBA season, a decision her teammates fully support. 

Jasmine Thomas said, “[Jones is] an All-Star. She’s someone that we built the team around. She’s a leader for us and scorer for us, a huge defender and rebounder for us. So, you know, it’s hard to fill all of those areas in such a short, condensed season, without a lot of time to prepare and, you know, there are players like that you can just pick up. So, we’re definitely going to miss her, but I respect her decision so much, you know we’re close up here in Connecticut and talked through all of this whole time like this isn’t you know news to us she shared her concerns with us and we have shared ours with her so we support her fully.”

The team will look different without Jones on the floor this season, and while Alyssa Thomas acknowledged the possibility of young talent she said, “First and foremost we have Bri Jones who’s a monster who I play with in Prague. She has achieved a lot of times in her career and finally, she will have the opportunity to be on the floor and I think a lot of people will be surprised with what she can do and I’m just excited for her to have this opportunity.” 

The 2020 WNBA season presents a unique opportunity, every player will be in the same place. 

Hiedeman said, “I think that the WNBA has a good platform, we should use our platform. I’m just excited to be a part of this league and be able to use that platform to express my opinion and how I feel. And for everybody in the league to come together and share to the rest of the world, how we feel and what we think.”

Holmes and Charles both attended marches in their hometowns. Holmes, who marched with her family said, “I’ve never experienced anything like it … It was a lot of emotion.”

Charles, who lives close to DC, said she went to be a part of a turning point. 

On June 19, the Sun announced a social reform platform called “Change Can’t Wait”

Jones and Jasmine Thomas both mentioned team calls between players and coaches.

“I think they’ve done a great job of taking everything that we’ve asked into account,” Jones said. 

She later added, “Obviously, there’s a lot of feelings involved and a lot of emotion that arise with everything that’s going on, and I think everybody wanted to get everything they had off of their chest and just put it out there that things need to change, and that we want to be an active participant in everything so I think that was one of the big things that you got out of the call.”

Thomas also said, “I mean we had conversations just doesn’t as a team, through our team zoom calls, that were just legit real raw, open, emotional, vulnerable conversations and those are the types of conversations that need to be happening everywhere. So when it’s happening with the organization that you proudly represent and that you feel that genuine support, and that they’re listening to you and they’re going to back you in whatever that you say or do to advocate for black lives.”

She added that when the organization was putting together the platform the players were able to be fully involved in the development process and that players can decide what they’re most passionate about and be involved with that. 

Thomas is passionate about voting education and discussing and getting people to vote at not just the presidential levels, but also at the state and local levels. 

“I think that’ll go a long way for, you know, having people in power implement policies and true change that are sustainable,” she said. 

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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