April 11, 2023 

Connecticut Sun draft ‘first-round’ talent in Alexis Morris deep into second round

The Sun drafted NCAA Champions Alexis Morris and Ashten Prechtel

Darius Taylor had to wait a while before making his first selection for the Connecticut Sun at the end of the second round of the 2023 WNBA Draft. So, he wasn’t expecting to end up picking someone who was still waiting to hear their name called at Spring Studios in New York City.

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The Sun selected Alexis Morris with the 22nd pick in the draft. It wasn’t their original plan, but Taylor said he expected Morris would be taken in the first round and couldn’t pass on the chance to take her.

After dealing their original No. 10 overall pick to the Los Angeles Sparks and eventually flipping the sixth overall pick from the New York Liberty (that was acquired in the Jonquel Jones trade to kick off free agency) for 10-year veteran guard Tiffany Hayes from Atlanta, the Sun made Morris – a 5’6 point guard from Louisiana State University – their first pick of the night.

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The Sun later selected Ashten Prechtel, a 6’5 forward from Stanford University, with the 34th overall pick in the third round.

Taylor said he was surprised that Morris, who was one of 15 draftees invited to attend the draft in person, fell as far as she did.

“All season, she played like a first-round pick,” Taylor said. “Watching her handle the point guard position in big games and make good reads just convinced me she was a first-round pick.”

Morris averaged 15.4 points on 43% shooting, 2.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.8 steals for an LSU team that only lost to South Carolina during the regular season.

But she put on an even bigger show during the NCAA Final, scoring 19 of her 21 points in the second half of the championship game to push LSU over Iowa. She went a perfect 6-for-6 and scored 15 points in the fourth quarter of that game and was the only Tiger to score more than four points in the final frame.

She averaged 16.8 points during the tournament and scored at least 20 points in the Elite Eight, Final Four, and national championship games. Morris also ended her college career with First Team All-SEC honors and Final Four Team All-Tournament accolades.

Taylor said Morris is a shot maker and shot creator who is athletic and explosive for her size, while head coach Stephanie White said Morris’ ability to break a defender one-on-one to get a shot is a valuable skill set in the league.

Morris played her way into the WNBA Draft throughout her final season at LSU, and she thinks her standout tournament run only helped her draft stock, but she also said that she understands why her “history” may have left teams skeptical to draft her earlier.

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“I’m super grateful for the opportunity. I’m going to take full advantage,” Morris said. “You’ve seen me do it with coach Mulkey, and I came out a national champion and I plan to do that in the WNBA. My will to win is incredible, and my competitive nature is unmatched.”

Morris began her college career under Kim Mulkey at Baylor but was dismissed from the team shortly before her sophomore season began after violating team rules. She later played in limited roles at Rutgers and Texas A&M before finding her way back to Mulkey when she took over at LSU two seasons ago.

Morris said she thinks about what she lost during that time at Baylor, which helps her put into perspective what she has to gain from new opportunities – whether that was at LSU or now in the WNBA.

“I’m just super hungry, and everything I lost, like I’m going to get it. I’m going to take it,” Morris said. “With all respect, I lost so much from my freshman year. I know it’s still out there for me to gain. That’s just how I approach everything.”

While the Sun have found value in second-round draft picks in recent years, Morris still has a tough path to making the Sun’s opening day roster. Most of Connecticut’s roster is settled, with likely just one or two spots left to be decided in training camp.

Right now, the Sun could only afford to add one non-veteran minimum player without cutting someone, and Morris’ contract would be slightly higher at $65,290.

That doesn’t make the pathway impossible for Morris to stick in Uncasville, but she’ll have to earn that spot over someone already on the roster on an unprotected contract — like DiJonai Carrington or Nia Clouden, who former head coach and GM Curt Miller drafted in the first round of the 2022 draft, but didn’t play her rookie year consistently.

Head coach Stephanie White said Morris is a versatile playmaker who would fit alongside some of the 3-point shooters the team brought in this offseason.

“She’s not afraid of the moment,” White said. “And to be able to fit in with the group that we’ve assembled in free agency and now through the draft, I think she’s got a great opportunity in front of her.”

While Morris falling to the Sun in the second round forced the Sun to shake up their strategy, Taylor said they were always hoping to draft Prechtel with their pick in the third round. He said she fills a void of a post player who can stretch the floor – a clear priority for the team after bringing in Lauren Cox, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, and Victoria Macaulay in on training camp contracts. If the Sun decide to stick with the young core of players they currently have under contract, the final 11th roster spot would likely come down to which forward can impress at training camp.

Prechtel earned the Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year award as a freshman, and according to Stanford, her 83 made 3-pointers throughout her career are the second most by a player 6’5 or taller in the country since Prechtel’s freshman season.

White and Taylor both pointed to Prechtel’s size and “sneaky athleticism” as one of her strengths, and White mentioned that Prechtel’s ability to change the momentum of a ballgame with her ability to quickly knock down shots gives the Sun the kind of versatility they were looking for in this draft.

Prechtel played big minutes off the bench for the Cardinal during their championship run in 2021, and her performance in the 2021 Elite Eight helped Stanford erase a 12-point deficit against Lousivlle with 16 second-half points, including a 3-for-3 effort from the perimeter – stands out. But her playing time and role diminished in the last two years of her college career as Stanford’s forward rotation got deeper and deeper.

Despite a tough camp ahead, White said she’ll make it clear to the Sun’s rookies and training camp invitees that she expects them to give themselves an opportunity to make the team by being prepared to compete hard and being coachable.

For Morris, her journey has revolved around proving people wrong – whether it was about her size or the path she took to become a national champion – but comparing herself to other players isn’t conducive to what she’s trying to accomplish on her own basketball journey. She said she plans on bringing her speed, IQ, passion, and leadership to Connecticut.

“Go hard every day, be coachable, listen to my vets. Just go in there and compete and leave it all out there,” Morris said. “I’m going to leave it all out there in training camp and let the pieces fall where they fall.”

Written by Jacqueline LeBlanc

Jacqueline LeBlanc is the Connecticut Sun beat reporter for The Next. Prior to The Next, Jacqueline has written for Her Hoop Stats and Sports Illustrated.

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