The Connecticut Sun earned their first victory of the season Sunday with a 97-79 road win over the Chicago Sky. An early season win is not usually a cause for celebration, but the performance of Sun center Jonquel Jones made this game one to remember.
Jones put up an astonishing 23 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in the contest to notch just the sixteenth 20-20 performance in WNBA history. She followed it up with another double-double yesterday, against Washington.
The 6-6, second-year phenom from George Washington has undoubtedly been the main bright spot in Connecticut’s disappointing 1-4 start to the season. The sixth overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, Jones has more than doubled her statistics from her rookie season in nearly every major category, averaging 14.6 points and a league-leading 12.2 rebounds per game. She is one of only two players in the league who averages a double-double; the other is leading MVP candidate Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx.
Just a few weeks into the season, Jones already looks like a Most Improved Player candidate. And with All-Star voting being partially taken out of the hands of fans now, as players can vote this year for the first time, Jones may very well find herself as a starter in this year’s All-Star Game in Seattle.
Sherron Shabazz: You’ve doubled all of your averages from last season to now. What’s been the main difference from this season to last?
Jonquel Jones: Well, I’m definitely playing more. One of our best players, Chiney Ogwumike, isn’t with us for the season. We miss her, we love her, but coaches told me that with her being out that I had to be able to step up and play more minutes. I’m just getting more of an opportunity. Also too, it’s my second year, so I know a little bit more of what to expect out of the league. I understand the sets a little more – what we’re trying to run and what we’re trying to get to. I’m just attacking the boards and trying to be aggressive in terms of rebounding.
SS: How does not having Chiney on the court change what you guys are doing overall?
JJ: It changes a lot because she’s such a talented player. She’s a great player. We love her and we miss her, like I said before. Our sets are still the same; it’s just a different feel with her out there on the court.
SS: What aspect of your game did you work on the most in the offseason?
JJ: I think you learn how to do different stuff. With us playing year-round, people tend to go with what they’re good at because they’re trying to win basketball games. In Korea we had two practices a day, so I had a chance to really work on my game all-around. I lifted weights more. It might not look like it, but I got stronger all around because they kind of ran a little bit of my fat off of me. I was just trying to work on everything, actually.
SS: Your team is playing hard but struggling to come up with W’s. What element has been missing to get you guys in the win column consistently?
JJ: I think we lose focus a little bit in the fourth quarter. Teams tend to outplay us in terms of possessions that really, really matter. I’m not saying that possessions early in the game don’t matter, but when we’re close enough to win it, other teams execute and we don’t. We’ve just got to be able to stay locked in. We understand that we’re not a 1-4 team. All of our games have been close except for the Minnesota one. We’ve just got to come out and play hard.
SS: You’re on such a young team. Is there a veteran presence on the team that can rally you all when things get tight?
JJ: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas, Alex Bentley – those players have been around. Lynetta Kizer, even though we jut got her this year, we always hear her voice. They understand what it takes to be successful in this league. They’re all good players, so you’ve just got to listen to them. They definitely do take charge in the meetings, though.
SS: What’s your personal goal for this season?
JJ: Make the playoffs, man. Make the playoffs. That’s it.