Uncasville, CT -- The Connecticut Sun nearly dominated the 2016 WNBA Draft, adding three of the top-six players chosen to an already young team. Morgan Tuck, Rachel Banham, and Jonquel Jones not only bring their respective high skill levels with them to the Nutmeg state, but also bring excitement and hope to a fan base that loves its basketball.
These three young studs will not have to carry the load by themselves in Connecticut by any means. Tuck, Banham and Jones join last year's Most Improved Player Kelsey Bone and Alex Bentley, as well as other up-and-coming players hoping to propel a Sun team to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
With all of the new faces, it may have been easy for some to forget Connecticut is also essentially welcoming the 2014 Rookie of the Year back on the court in Chiney Ogwumike. Ogwumike missed all of last season with a right knee injury, and says while she had a fun offseason she is ready to get back in a Sun uniform.
"I think, on paper, if you look at it, last year would have been the toughest year of my life, but it's all about perspective," Ogwumike said. "It ends of being in a way my best year. I feel confident in myself."
Confidence is key for any player, but especially one returning from injury. Ogwumike says she used her time rehabbing to get better at the little things, like her shooting motion, but she also did specific workouts using only her body weight that helps her in more ways than one.
"Often times you can lift weights, but when you use your body, you trust your body," Ogwumike said. "I think anything that I did in the weight room that was about me getting to know my body in a way that I didn't know before was most beneficial to me because I trust it.
"That's the number one thing coming back from injury: if you don't trust your body, you're going to be hesitant in everything. So I trust my body, and it all started in the weight room."
Looking forward, Ogwumike not only has to adjust to being back on a basketball court, but also to a whole new system. The Sun hired Curt Miller this past December, who brings an up-tempo, offense-oriented system with him.
"Curt has given us all the green light," Ogwumike said. "I think we're all excited for his new offense. He wants to be here, we want to be here, and we (all) want to win."
One of Ogwumike's teammates who was on the team during Ogwumike's rookie season is just as excited to have her back on the court next to her.
"When you talk about the things that Chiney brings to the table already, and the things that she's been working on, you need that, you want that; you welcome that," Kelsey Bone said. "We're talking about our leading scorer and rebounder in 2014. So to implement her into this new system, she's coming back at a perfect time for us."
Thinking back to the 2014 season, Ogwumike says her rookie year was a struggle, as she tried to find her way. Despite not being on the floor in 2015, last year's Sun team never stopped fighting because of what they went through in 2014. Ogwumike hopes to continue that growth with the 2016 season just a couple weeks away from beginning.
"(Last year) it ended up being a fight because we still weren't where we wanted to be," Ogwumike said. "So this year, I want there to be promise. 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.'"
No matter what happens on the court this upcoming season, Ogwumike now knows what is going on in Connecticut is bigger than wins and losses. She says being off the floor last season made her realize how important it is to appreciate the moments she has on the floor from here on out.
"I was watching last year, and I was like why did I ever hesitate shooting? Why was I afraid to airball? Why was I afraid to do something that made me better? So that's what I'm coming in with: Why not, right? Why not work hard, and try to win and compete, even though we're young, and people might look past us? Why not play hard and get better every day."