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Jones Academy: Sun's ‘most improved player’ schooling the competition

The Connecticut Sun are loaded with talent, but this year, one player has really stuck out: Jonquel Jones. Tuesday night, she once again displayed her dominance on the court.

Scott Cunningham - NBAE/Getty Images

Atlanta, GA — Jonquel Jones is only 22-years-old, but her age doesn’t stop the Connecticut Sun forward from dominating the court. Age is just a number, and Jones is showing the league, she is growing more and more into a dominant player — and one to pay attention to. During Tuesday night’s game versus the Atlanta Dream, Jones proved she was a force to be reckoned with – and will be for her the foreseeable future.

Her 6’6” stature makes shooting baskets and blocking out opponents a breeze. She led her team with 20 total points and 13 rebounds -- her seventh straight double-double. She has plenty of weapons in her arsenal to score which was on full display against Atlanta: post moves, mid-range shots, drilling triples – Jones can do it all.

While plenty of players stepped up for Connecticut to grasp a 96-75 victory over Atlanta, it was Jones who stood out the most.

“That team [Connecticut Sun] is playing extremely good basketball,” said Atlanta Dream Head Coach Michael Cooper. “Our rotations were thrown off with Tiffany [Hayes] being out. When you’re playing against the most improved player in Jonquel Jones, you’ve got to compete against those forces.”

The Dream (10-19), who suffered their eighth-straight loss – the worst losing streak in the league right now -- and rank No. 10 in the WNBA, were without not only their leading scorer, Tiffany Hayes, due to a rib injury, but also Bria Holmes, who hurt her Achilles. Atlanta’s rookie Brittney Sykes stepped up to the plate, however, her game-high 23 points were no match for the Sun’s heat – especially Jones’.

The young star opened the game by rattling in a three-pointer that ignited Connecticut’s 10-0 offensive explosion to start the contest before the Dream had to call a timeout. Jones would go on to knock in 16 points by halftime and snatch down seven rebounds – nobody for Atlanta could contain her.

Heading into Tuesday’s matchup, the Sun has not won in Atlanta since June 7, 2015, but Jones’ leadership on the court helped changed that narrative by thrashing the Dream. The win also helped Connecticut capture the season series over Atlanta, 2-1.

“[Jonquel Jones] is putting time into her own game. Confidence coming back from a very successful first overseas season,” stated Connecticut head coach Curt Miller. “She’s so versatile. It’s not a lot the coaches are doing, it’s just a great player showing her versatility,” said Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller.

Opposing teams are seeing the progress Jones has made in only one year in the league, her head coach is seeing the growth, but most importantly, she is seeing her improvement too, which Jones said the reason behind unleashing a breakout season is the same word her coach used: confidence.

“Just my confidence. My teammates, the coaches, everybody here believes in me, and that makes it easy to go out there and play hard for this team because we genuinely care about each other,” Jones said.

There has been a drastic improvement in Jones’ game from her rookie season until this year – a season that is shaping out to potentially be a long one for the Sun, which means Jones is not done making the world watch her work.

Last season, she only averaged 3.7 rebounds per game, 1.1 blocks per game and 6.8 points. This year, she has been a different player, where Jones is leading her team in scoring at 16.1 per game, tied for fifth in the league in blocks per game at 1.7.

And if those numbers weren’t a significant improvement, her rebounds per game average definitely is – she leads the league with 11.7. It is no question Sylvia Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson, and Tina Charles are well-known for their rebounding, but Jones is ahead of all of them this season – she’s the real deal and great at cleaning up the glass.

In 2016, Connecticut knew the potential Jones had coming out of college, however, so did the Los Angeles Sparks who drafted her sixth overall in the WNBA Draft. Yet, with some behind the scene negations, the Sun was able to trade for Jones, and already in her young career, the dividends are paying off.

Jones has a high amount of confidence in herself, her teammates believe in her, and her coach is supporting her, too. As she goes this season, the rest of her team is too, and trust, this Connecticut Sun team is not looking to slow down or move over for anybody.