As the Connecticut Sun aim to keep their dreams of capturing the franchise’s first WNBA alive Tuesday when they face the Chicago Sky in Game 4 of their best-of-five semifinal series, they’ll rely heavily on their All-Star trio of Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones, who recently earned honors as the 2022 WNBA Sixth Player of the Year.
“Bri Jones is just an elite player, bar none,” Miller said prior to Sunday’s 76-72 loss, giving the defending champions a 2-1 series lead. “She plays both ends of the court for us. She is a proactive defender. …She sees actions before they happen, which allows her to be proactive and a post player that plays below the rim. So she is just so smart X’s- and O’s-wise, defensively.
“Offensively, she’s old school. She’s going to be a high-percentage finisher and inside, she’s physical. When she gets to her spots and touches where we want, she’s really difficult to stop.”
That sharp yet unselfish play earned Brionna Jones the second All-Star nod of her career this season as well as her second annual performance award. Last year, 26-year-old Maryland native was named the 2021 WNBA Most Improved Player. Jones, who earned 53 of 56 votes from a national media panel for the Sixth Player Award, came off the bench in 29 of 36 regular-season games in 2022 and started the other seven.
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Her role on the bench was a significant change from her last two seasons as a starter, when she stepped in to fill the hole left by Jonquel Jones, who opted out of the 2020 bubble season due to COVID-19 concerns. But despite averaging five minutes less per game (25.1 minutes in 2022 vs. 30.6 in 2021) this year, Brionna Jones still put up similar numbers, averaging 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals. She finished the season as 20th in the league in scoring and fourth in field-goal percentage (56.9).
“I think I’ve just embraced this role, coming off the bench this season,” Brionna Jones told media on Friday. “For me, though, it’s just about approaching it the same way, I’m watching the same film, I’m trying to execute the same thing, when I’m coming out on the court and just be the extra spark from off the bench. …Whatever the team needs me to do to win.”
Brionna Jones has brought the same attitude to the court since the start of the season, her sixth in the league after being drafted out of the University of Maryland as the No. 8 pick overall by Connecticut in the 2017 draft. It’s a team-first mentality instilled in her by her dad, Michael Jones, who played basketball at the University of Hartford from 1981-85 and also coached at the junior college, AAU and high school levels. He taught Brionna and her three siblings – Jarred, Stephanie (who was cut from the Sun earlier this season) and Jordon – the fundamentals of the game as well as a relentless work ethic, which she believes contributes to her current success.
“In the back of my head, I know there’s going to be less minutes on the table this year, but just, you know, coming into practice every day, coming into workouts and getting in the extra work, if I need to,” she said in the preseason. “I think for me, it’s just about getting into that routine that got me here, that’s allowed me to be successful the last couple years.”
Jones is the third Sun player to win the Sixth Player of the Year Award, joining Jonquel Jones (2018) and Renee Montgomery (2012). She’s also among the invitees to USA Basketball’s national team training camp this month, which is being held in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Cup that runs Sept. 22-Oct. 1 in Sydney, Australia.
Connecticut hosts Chicago in Game 4 on Tuesday, at 8 p.m. ET.