Jonquel Jones named 2021 WNBA MVP

Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun was named 2021 WNBA MVP
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Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun was named 2021 WNBA MVP on Tuesday morning, just hours before the semifinal round of the WNBA Playoffs begins (full schedule, bracket, and TV details here).

Jones received 48 of 49 first-place votes and 487 total points from the panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who select honorees. It is Jones’ first time receiving MVP honors.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury center) finished second (224 points, one first-place vote), Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm) was third (156), Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx) placed fourth (137) and Tina Charles (Washington Mystics) was fifth (127 points).

During the 2021 WNBA regular season, Jones averaged 19.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.26 blocked shots and 1.26 steals in 27 games. She led the league in rebounding and defensive rebounding.

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Also on Tuesday, the Sun’s Brionna Jones was named 2021 Most Improved Player and Curt Miller was named WNBA Coach of the Year. The team found out about their three honorees before practice on Monday.

“I don’t think there was a question – not for us, at least – for who deserved those awards,” Connecticut Sun guard Briann January told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the Sun’s first semifinal game against the Chicago Sky.

January, a 13-year veteran who has played for three WNBA teams, said she counts Jonquel Jones among the best.

“I’ve been able to play with Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi and [Jonquel Jones] mirrors them in the way she shows up every day,” January said. “She’s consistent in her work ethic and her attitude. That’s huge. She belongs with those elite players for sure.”

Jonquel Jones’ ascent to Most Valuable Player in the WNBA

Jonquel Jones was born in Freeport, Bahamas, as one of seven siblings. Growing up, she desperately wanted to move to the United States to pursue basketball, but her parents – Preston and Ettamae Jones – didn’t think they could pay for their daughter to live and attend school outside of the Bahamas.

Jonquel got her chance when Diane Richardson, the coach at Riverdale Baptist high school in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, sponsored her and later became her legal guardian. But Jones wasn’t exactly a prodigy. During her first year at Riverdale Baptist, she was on the J.V. team.

Jones worked her way up to varsity – thanks in part to the long hours she spent on the driveway court at the Richardson’s house – and then earned a scholarship to attend Clemson, but decided to transfer eight games into her freshman year. A few months later, she enrolled at George Washington University, where Richardson had been named as a new assistant coach.

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After graduating from George Washington University in 2016, Jones was drafted sixth overall by Los Angeles Sparks, and later traded to the Connecticut Sun. In her WNBA rookie season, she averaged just 14.1 minutes per game, but the upward trajectory continued. The 6-6 forward was named Most Improved Player in 2017 and Sixth Player of the Year in 2018.

2021 WNBA Playoffs: History on the Line for the Connecticut Sun

Led by Jonquel Jones, the Connecticut Sun finished the 2021 WNBA regular season ranked first in the league and earned a bye to the semifinal round of the playoffs.

The Sun enters tonight’s game against Chicago on a 14-game win streak – a franchise record and fourth-longest win streak in league history.

The Connecticut Sun franchise – established as the Orlando Miracle in 1999 and rebranded as the Connecticut Sun in 2003 – has never won a WNBA title. The team last made the WNBA Finals in 2019, losing to the Washington Mystics three games to two.

2021 WNBA Playoffs: Full schedule, bracket, results, and how to watch

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC