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On eve of playoff opener, White and Thomas secure honors from AP

Alyssa Thomas (25) was named to the Associated Press’ All-WNBA team on Tuesday. Thomas and the Sun open the playoffs on Wednesday hosting Minnesota in Uncasville.

When the WNBA season began, it was the defending champion Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty with all of the attention.

The Aces, who beat Connecticut in last year’s WNBA Finals, 3-1, and the Liberty were called super teams for their off-season addition of All-Stars and national team players to their respective rosters. Last year’s MVP, Brianna Stewart, joined the Liberty, along with Jonquel Jones, who won a MVP in 2021 with the Sun.

After losing Jones and long-time head coach Curt Miller, many through the Sun would slip and fade away. Not true. Connecticut won 12 of their first 15 games and set a new franchise record for wins (27) in claiming the No. 3 seed in this year’s WNBA playoffs that begin on Wednesday.

The Sun maintained their status as a contender even after All-Star Brionna Jones was lost for the season after tearing her achilles tendon in June after 13 games.

Connecticut (27-13) opens a best-of-3 quarterfinal series on Wednesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena when they host No. 6 seed Minnesota Lynx (19-21) at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Game 2 is Sunday in Uncasville beginning at 1 p.m. with game 3 on September 20 in Minnesota, if necessary.

The Sun hope this begins a run to the franchise’s first WNBA championship. Connecticut has made the finals twice in the last five seasons (2022, 2019) only to lose to Las Vegas and Washington, respectively.

The Sun took two of three games from Minnesota this season but didn’t face former UConn star Napheesa Collier, who leads the Lynx in scoring (21.5) and rebounding (8.5) in back-to-back contests at the end of July.

Collier will be in the lineup along with UConn rookie Dorka Juhasz, who had a great game against the Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena on July 30 blocking a potential game-winning shot, and veteran Kayla McBride. Juhasz and Diamond Miller were named to the Associated Press’ All-Rookie team on Tuesday.

Sun coach Stephanie White was named the AP Coach of the Year in the WNBA on Tuesday while Alyssa Thomas was a unanimous selection for the AP’s All-WNBA team.

After inheriting a veteran core group, plus five Sun newcomers, White was also named one of the two 2023 WNBA All-Star head coaches after guiding the Sun to the second-best record in the WNBA as of June 30 (12-4).

Faced with adversity after two-time WNBA All-Star and reigning WNBA Sixth Player of the Year, Brionna Jones, went down with a season-ending Achilles injury in mid-June, the Sun, under White’s guidance, still finished the season third overall in the WNBA standings (27-13) and second overall in Eastern Conference (14-6).

White joins Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright as the only two former WNBA players to be recognized as the AP Coach of the Year.

It’s the first time that Thomas has been named to AP’s first team All-WNBA team. She was on the second team in 2020.

Thomas is enjoying an MVP-caliber season, having been named a WNBA All-Star, WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month (June), WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week (three times).

The 6-foot-2 forward finished the regular season leading the league in rebounds per game (9.9 rpg), second in assists per game (7.9 apg) and third in steals per game (1.8).

Additionally, this season Thomas became the WNBA’s all-time leader in regular season triple-doubles (8). She recorded six triple-doubles in 2023, also becoming the first player to tally more than two triple-doubles in a single regular season in league history.

She also set new WNBA single-season records for assists (316) and double-doubles (28) and became the first player in WNBA history to record 600+ points, 300+ rebound and 300+ assists in one season.

Thomas finished third in the AP’s race for league MVP. Stewart beat Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson by one vote from the 12-member panel. Stewart and Wilson were first and second in the MVP race a year ago as well.

Stewart, Wilson and Thomas were unanimous first-team selections on the AP’s 2023 All-WNBA team. Joining them on the first team are Seattle’s Jewell Loyd and Las Vegas’ Chelsea Gray.


Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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