Bonner arrival invigorates Sun camp

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

May 6—Bonner arrival invigorates Sun camp

By Adam Betz

abetz@journalinquirer.com

For a WNBA veteran, training camp can start to feel mundane after going through the process year in and year out.

But for Connecticut Sun forward/guard DeWanna Bonner, the 2021 edition of training camp has been anything but.

"I'm just really excited about this season for some reason," the 11-year league veteran said during the Sun's virtual media day Wednesday. "It just feels different."

One reason Bonner gave for that "different" feel is that it's her first training camp as a member of the Sun that's actually in Connecticut. She was traded to the Sun from Phoenix in February 2020, and the entire 2020 WNBA season — including training camp — was held in a bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

The other is the high volume of new players on the team, coupled with the lack of a veteran presence in the first 11 days of camp.

"I've never been in a training camp where I've had like 10 new people," Bonner said. "And then you have so many people coming in late...It feels like we're starting over from the beginning."

Bonner herself was a late arrival to camp. Her first day of practice was Friday, five days after camp began. Like the other veterans on the team, Bonner had to finish her overseas commitments before joining the Sun — she played with Elitzur Ramla in the Israeli league this season. Once she arrived in Connecticut, Bonner had to have six consecutive days of negative COVID-19 tests to begin full-team practice.

Bonner was the first veteran to join the team. Before her arrival, the Sun had to rely on players like Kaila Charles, Natisha Hiedeman, Beatrice Mompremier and Brionna Jones to be leaders at practice, all of whom have less than five years of WNBA experience.

Once Bonner arrived, however, the change in camp's atmosphere was palpable.

"She just elevated it in terms of intensity," Charles said. "Having another veteran and having her voice helps a lot of us. We have a lot of new faces this year in our camp because a lot of people are still overseas with their commitments. So having DB there helps us learn the flow, learn the program, learn the system and just learn how to play."

One of the new players this season, DiJonai Carrington, had a similar feeling to Charles. She said she felt the level of play rise as soon as Bonner stepped on the court. Carrington, the 20th overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, has been tasked with guarding Bonner frequently in practice.

"She's helping me even when she's not on my team," Carrington said. "She'll cook me on one possession, then she'll be like 'okay, this is what you should've done, then I would've had to do this.' It's been fun learning from her."

Bonner did admit that the process of catching the new players up to speed has been slow going at times, especially since fellow veterans Jasmine Thomas and Briann January haven't joined the team yet, and since Alyssa Thomas can only help from the sidelines as she recovers from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

"It's a lot of learning, a lot of teaching," Bonner said. "So, we do a lot of video to get better. We're not focusing on Atlanta right now. We're kind of just working on ourselves. We're missing a lot of key pieces, have people out of position. It's just really hard to get a flow sometimes in practice."

Still, she has enjoyed every moment of helping players like Carrington adjust to the WNBA style of play, calling the praise from her teammates Wednesday an "honor."

"I'm trying to talk and teach them as much as I can," she added. "But it's been a lot of fun. They're young, and they get after it. So, my old body some days can't take it. But if I could talk a little bit more, that's what I'm trying to do. So, I'm glad they're learning from me and I'm excited. I'm excited to see what we can get from this group."

This season will be Bonner's 12th season, and her second with the Sun. She made an immediate splash with the team in the abbreviated 2020 season. She started all 22 games, averaging a team-leading 19.7 points a game. That output was third-best in the WNBA. She also added 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game, all of which were top-four on the team.

In the Sun's playoff run to Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals, Bonner started all seven games. She led the team in rebounds (10.4), steals (1.9) and blocks (1.1) per game, and was second with 15.4 points and third with 3.9 assists per game.

"DB is kind of different," rookie Micaela Kelly said. "She's a guard that can elevate, and there's no contesting that. So, it's pretty tough. It's a good thing that she's on my side instead of the opposing side because that's tough. She can elevate and rise on anybody."

The Sun play their final preseason game Saturday at Dallas before kicking off the regular season May 14 in Atlanta. They open play at Mohegan Sun Arena two days later against Phoenix.

"Everything is going so fast," Bonner said. "Since I've been here, it's just been non-stop. Whether it's basketball, off the court. I think with this group, it's really just taking a deep breath and taking this all in at this moment."

For coverage of the Connecticut Sun and professional women's basketball, Hartford Athletic pro soccer team, as well as area high school and local youth sports, follow Adam Betz on Twitter: @AdBetz1, Facebook: Adam Betz — Sports Writer, and Instagram: @AdBetzJI.