April 17, 2024 

Connecticut Sun prioritize future ahead of present in drafting French guard Leïla Lacan

Lacan won't join the team this year but could be a big piece in the future

The Connecticut Sun entered the WNBA Draft with the Nos. 10, 19, 22 and 34 picks. They capitalized on those picks to secure four promising talents, each filling different needs. French guard Leïla Lacan (No. 10), University of Kansas center Taiyanna Jackson (19), University of Arizona guard Helena Pueyo (22) and Columbia University guard Abbey Hsu (34) were the Sun’s additions from draft night.

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And while the historically deep draft class had several players who would be ready immediately, the Sun opted to select a 19-year-old prospect who won’t join the roster this season. That prospect is 5’11 guard Leïla Lacan. 

Lacan, who’s spent the past two years with the French professional club Angers, averaged 13.1 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 steals per game this season. She’ll be preparing for, and playing in, the Olympics this summer, and her timeline for joining the team is unclear. Connecticut Sun general manager Darius Taylor clarified that her high upside made her the Sun’s top draft target. They didn’t want to forego the chance to add her to the roster.

“We felt like she was the second best guard in the draft,” Taylor said. “Just what she can do, her ability to play both positions, to score three levels, and just defend — she’s a two-way player. We were really excited to have the opportunity to draft her.” 

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The decision to draft Lacan with the ninth pick means the team will forgo having a first-round player assist this year’s roster. But Taylor said the Sun’s status as one of the oldest teams in the league helped make that decision easier.

“When you look at our roster, we have a very veteran-laden team. We have a lot of players that have a lot of experience in the W,” Taylor said. “Anyone coming in this year would probably not play or have a hard time getting to play in our team. To be able to draft a player who could really help our team in the future made more sense for us.”

Sun head coach Stephanie White acknowledged that whenever a team brings in players from overseas, there’s an understanding that they may miss certain stretches of their career due to international obligations. But Lacan made that risk worth it, White said. 

“We felt like she was the most pro ready, that she had skill sets that we may not have had, or lost,” White said. She pointed to her ability to get downhill, draw fouls and affect the game defensively. “All of those things, as well as being a high IQ player, were really important. And we felt like she fit us in Connecticut and she fit our personnel.”

Taylor said his wife, a college coach at Texas A&M, brought Lacan to his attention. White noted Sun center Brionna Jones had also flagged her game for the organization. 

“She’s already playing against the pros,” Taylor said. “She’ll be ready for the WNBA when she comes over.”

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Suns fill a slew of needs with 19th, 22nd and 34th picks

In addition to Lacan, the Sun added rim protection with Jackson. They also added versatility with Pueyo and sharpshooting with Hsu. 

The Sun picked Taiyanna Jackson 19th. The 6’6 center averaged 12.6 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game in her graduate campaign with the University of Kansas. Taylor pointed to her defensive prowess in college as a key motivation for adding her to the roster. 

With the 22nd pick, the Sun selected Helena Pueyo, a 6′ Spanish guard out of the University of Arizona. In her fifth season as a Wildcat, Pueyo averaged 9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists. White told reporters on Monday night that the team looked beyond raw stats in making the decision to add her to the roster, particularly given her limited usage rate. 

LAWRENCE, KS – April 1, 2023 – center Taiyanna Jackson #1 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the game between Kansas and Columbia in the championship game of the WNIT at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS. Photo by Missy Minear/Kansas Athletics

“She’s a player who makes winning plays,” White said. “Her assist to turnover ratio is great, her assist percentage is great, and with a low usage rate. From our perspective, looking from someone who, in our system, can be a ball moved on the offensive end of the floor and who can make plays on the defensive end of the floor.”

Taylor said he saw Pueyo as one of the steals of the draft: “She’s somebody that I think is ready for this level.” 

Finally, with the 34th pick, the Sun selected 5’11 guard Abbey Hsu. Hsu became the first player ever drafted out of Columbia. In her senior campaign, Hsu averaged 20.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. She led Columbia to a regular-season Ivy League championship and to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. She graduates as the program’s all-time leader in points (2,126), field goals made (751), 3-point field goals made (375) and games played (123).  

“She’s a really good shooter,” Taylor said of Hsu, adding that the Sun have long been following her storied career. “She’s also a very good rebounder. We know that she has a high ceiling and potential to grow into even a better player. She won’t just be a shooter.”

Finally, besides for their on-court excellence, Taylor said that the team wanted to ensure all of their draft picks enhanced the team’s culture. 

“We’re a team that cares a lot about culture, and we want people that are good people first,” Taylor said. “When we interviewed each one of those players, we felt really good about their competitiveness, their professionalism, their work ethic and them fitting into our culture. I think we got that in all four players.”

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Written by Noa Dalzell

Noa Dalzell covers the Boston Celtics for SB Nation's CelticsBlog, and the Connecticut Sun for The Next Hoops. Her work has also appeared in FanSided and Swish Appeals, as well as CLNS Media. When she's not writing about basketball, she's playing basketball or lobbying for a more sustainable food system.

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