WNBA’s CT Sun shakes up the roster, trading former MVP Jonquil Jones

Less than a week into the WNBA’s free agency period, the Connecticut Sun is shaking up its roster in major ways — including bringing in a former UConn women’s basketball player back to Connecticut.

Olivia Nelson-Oduda will return to Connecticut following a trade The Sun made with Los Angeles on Monday.

In exchange for Nelson Oduda, the Sun will trade longtime point guard Jasmine Thomas and the rights to the Sun’s 2023 first-round pick (10th overall pick). Connecticut will also receive Jasmine Walker and the rights to Keana Smith (who will miss the 2023 season due to injury) as well as Nelson Oduda.

The trade was Sun’s second major move on Monday. The team announced Monday afternoon that former player Jonquil Jones has been traded to the New York Liberty in a three-team deal. Jones reportedly asked to be traded to New York.

Nelson Oduda graduated from UConn last spring and was Picking No. 19 overall From the Sparks in the 2022 WNBA Draft Rising season This past summer, she appeared in 30 games with six starts and averaged 4.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.8 blocks with a team-high 56.0 field goal percentage in 14.5 minutes per game.

“Olivia is a promising young player who gives us the depth and length we so desperately need in the position,” Connecticut’s new general manager Darius Taylor said in the team statement Monday. “Olivia’s ability to grow as a player and person in our organization is limitless. We look forward to her returning to Connecticut and joining the team.”

As the Huskies, Nelson Oduda helped lead the Huskies to three Final Fours and the 2022 National Championship Game (the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic). In 2021, she was selected to the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year and to the conference All-Tournament Team and All-Big East Second Team. As a senior last season, she was named to the All-Big East First-Team.

Nelson-Ododa cemented her place in the UConn record books by finishing with 262 career totals, which ranks sixth all-time in program history. You led the Huskies last year with 7.5 rebounds, 59.5 field goal percentage, and 116 total assists and 55 blocks.

Nelson Oduda became the second Huskies to wear a Suns uniform over the past two seasons after Bria Hartley joined the team last summer in the middle of the season following Thomas’ season-ending ACL injury. Hartley played three games with the Sun in 2022 before also suffering an ACL injury at the end of the season.

Thomas has led Connecticut’s offense for the past eight seasons. The Duke star began her WNBA career in 2011 with the Washington Mystics before playing for the Atlanta Dream from 2013 to 2015.

She appeared in five games last season for the Sun before tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and missing the rest of the year. Thomas was a 2017 WNBA All-Star selection, and in 2021 he became the Sun franchise record for career assists (994).

“Jasmine Thomas’ presence on and off the field was a driving force and a calming presence for her teammates,” said Taylor. The future, we saw in moving it as an opportunity to build, while continuing to compete for the championship for years to come.”

The Sun, which will start its first season under New coach Stephanie White After, after Kurt Miller left to coach Los Angelesalso trading as the biggest offensive threat in Jones.

Connecticut trades Jones for part of a three-team deal with the New York Liberty and Dallas Wings.

ESPN reported that Jones, a four-time All-Star and 2021 WNBA MVP, requested a trade to New York despite having another year left on her contract with Connecticut.

“Jonkel has been an integral part of the Connecticut Sun’s growth over the past seven years, and we truly appreciate everything you’ve brought to this franchise,” Taylor said in a statement. “In the end, JJ’s trade was a decision that both parties decided was the best. We wish her well in her future endeavors.”

In exchange for Jones, The Sun receives Rebecca Allen from New York and Ty Harris from Dallas along with the No. 6 pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft. New York receives Jones and Kayla Thornton while Dallas receives from New York Natasha Howard and former Yukon/Liberty guard Crystal Dangerfield.

Allen is a seven-year WNBA veteran, who has spent her entire career in New York. She averaged 7.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists last season. She has been a member of the Australian national team since 2014.

Harris was the seventh overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft and averaged 5.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.5 steals per game throughout her three seasons in the league.

Jones led Connecticut with 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season on top of averages of 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks.

She was sixth overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft when she was selected by Los Angeles. However, she started her career in Connecticut and has been in Uncasville for the past six seasons. She was named the 2017 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year and the 2018 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year before earning MVP recognition.

“To say I’m excited would be a massive understatement,” Jones said in a statement to Liberty. “To the fans, my future teammates, and everyone who welcomed me to New York, THANK YOU! I can’t wait for this season to start and show up in the Big Apple!!”

In her outstanding career to date at the W, Jones has scored 2,657 points, 1,633 rebounds, 315 assists, 178 steals, and 270 blocks.

Maggie.Vanoni@hearstmediact.commaggie_vanoni

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