Uncasville, CT -- Excitement was in the air at the Mohegan Sun Arena Thursday morning as Connecticut Sun players and coaches talked with the media, while wearing their new bright orange jerseys they will wear at home during the upcoming 20th WNBA season.
For the Sun, more new faces than usual got their first taste of what it's like being a part of the team. With the start of the season right around the corner, it is not only the rookies who have to adjust to a new system.
Curt Miller will coach his first game for Connecticut in a couple of weeks, after being hired back in December. Miller has already started making some changes to a team that finished with a 15-19 record last season, missing the playoffs for the third straight year.
"I think there's enthusiasm and excitement to learn (the new system), and a desire to be successful in it, but there is growing pains," Miller said. "The timing hasn't always been perfect, the spacing hasn't always been perfect, but we're learning and growing."
In addition to picking third and fourth overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft that took place a couple of weeks ago, the Sun also made another splash on draft night when they acquired the sixth-overall pick, Jonquel Jones. Connecticut adds Jones to Morgan Tuck and Rachel Banham, whom they selected with their own picks in the top four, and the infusion of more talented youth to an already young team is underway.
"Everyone is learning (the new system), even the veterans, so it's been fun," Banham said.
"We're all learning, all figuring it out together," 2015 Most Improved Player Kelsey Bone said. "We're only going to be able to go as far as we all go together."
Miller's new system, which everyone seemed to be talking about, is an up-tempo, offense-oriented way of playing that uses a lot of ball-screens and passing. While Miller admitted the players are far from perfect at running it, some of the newcomers are adjusting better than others.
"I think (Coach Miller) does have a lot of similarities to Coach (Auriemma)," former UConn Husky Tuck said. "I think that will at least make it easier for me to adjust to his coaching style, just because it's similar to what I'm used to. I think he's going to help us be the best team we can be."
Tuck is not the only rookie who said she thinks she will be a great fit into the new system.
"I love the way he coaches," Banham said. "He wants to go and shoot threes, and he wants to score and use ball screen after ball screen. That's what I did in college, so I'm like ‘Yeah, let's do this.' I love it, and I think I'll fit well. I just have to keep getting used to the physicality and hit shots."
In addition to the players added to the team this offseason, the Sun get a more familiar face back in the lineup as well. 2014 Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike will be back on the court after recovering from a microfracture surgery on her right knee, which caused her to miss all of last season.
Ogwumike says she's ready to go, and is ecstatic about the new players she will be playing alongside in the post this season.
"They are post (players in Tuck and Jones) that can come to play," Ogwumike said. "There's going to be an adjustment obviously, but they're ready-made, they're versatile, and they're different. Every post brings something different, and that's what I love.
"We're deep at the post, so coming from an injury, this is the best situation you want to be in. You don't want to feel like you have to carry the load. We can spread the load around so much."
Connecticut, while dealing with many injuries last season, fielded a young team that gained valuable on-court experience in the process. Last season was described as a fight. Ogwumike wants a different word to be what people think of at the end of this season.
"I want there to be promise," Ogwumike said. "I want there to be something that we're working towards, that everyone can be like, ‘Wow, these girls about to be something really special.'"