Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Duke Grad Jasmine Thomas Looks to Use Her Long WNBA Journey to Help End Connecticut's Playoff Drought

By ROB KNOX
Twitter: @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON – Jasmine Thomas has experienced plenty during her seven-year career in the WNBA from playing in the Finals, being traded, feeling the pain of playoff heartbreak and learning from different coaches.

Now the 5 foot, 9 inch Connecticut Sun guard is in the unique position of being the most seasoned member of a talented and youthful team. Her passion, positivity, and persistence are vital ingredients for the Sun, who are looking to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

“Bringing that vocal leadership and leading by example is what I naturally love to do,” a smiling and relaxed Thomas said while sitting on a tan chair in the visiting locker room at the Verizon Center following the Sun’s tough 78-76 loss to the Mystics Wednesday afternoon.

“I am also bringing my playing experience into this young group, which has been my role. I’ve played on a bunch of different teams and been in a lot of different situations. I want to make it back to the playoffs real bad. That’s definitely what I am thinking about when I go there every night. Every game is important.”

Thomas, who is faster than lightning, is in a perfect place as her career continues to evolve. The 27-year-old Libra has blossomed into one of the top guards in the league. She is picking up where she left off last season after establishing new single-season career highs for minutes (1,091), assists (172), points (11.7 per game), rebounds (140) and steals (43).

The durable Thomas was second in the WNBA in assists per game last season (5.0) and fifth in minutes (32.1). She carried her strong play to Israel during the recently completed overseas season. Thomas averaged 14 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists for Ramat Hasharon, which narrowly missed qualifying for the Israeli League postseason quarterfinals.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve really grown more into an offensive player and into the point guard role,” Thomas said. “A lot of times in my career, a lot of people would say that I am not a point guard. I think now I’ve gotten to that place.”

Thomas, who deserves serious consideration for next month’s all-star game in Seattle, is averaging 11 points per game after scoring eight points and handing out a season best six assists against the Mystics.

Last week against the Minnesota Lynx, Thomas drained a career best five 3-pointers and finished with a season best 18 points.

“I am just getting more and more confident,” Thomas said. “Knowing what I am good at and just playing my game. My coaches and teammates are supportive. That helps when you have them behind you and encouraging you. I’ve matured a lot and sticking to my identity. I came into this league as a quick defensive guard. That’s something I still try to do. Every night I go out on the floor I try to be a great defender.”

The Duke graduate has manhandled the point guard position and captivated fans with her unselfish and pristine performances.

 Teaming with the explosive Alex Bentley, the Sun have one of the top backcourts in the league. Courtney Williams, Rachel Banham and Jordan Hooper are also some of the Sun’s shining stars that will make Thomas’ job easy on the floor as the season progresses.

While Thomas has picked her spots to score, she also enjoys the luxury of dishing the ball to some of the best young post talent in Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, and Morgan Tuck. Next year, she’ll be able to include Chiney Ogwumike, who is sitting out the season after undergoing surgery on her left Achilles’ in late November.

She missed one game this season at Indiana, ending an impressive streak for Thomas, who had played in all 205 WNBA games since she was drafted out of Duke by the Seattle Storm with the 12th overall pick in 2011. She was acquired by the Sun in 2015 draft day trade with Atlanta for Brittany Hrynko.

It’s a transaction that feels more like a Tiffany’s heist.

With head coach Curt Miller returning for a second year, it marked the first time in Thomas’ career that she has played for the same head coach in consecutive seasons. That has also made a difference for Thomas, who signed a two-year contract extension to remain with the Sun back in February.

Thomas, who inspires her teammates, also is a superstar away from the court as her pleasant personality makes everybody comfortable. Her million-dollar smile lights up the entire state of Connecticut. Thomas’ nine tattoos all have the theme of love. She does plenty with Breast Health Awareness because her mom, Sharon, is a breast cancer survivor.

“I have a big heart,” Thomas said. “I am just a big lover. I feel like that something that defines me is that I really care about people’s well-being. As a team, we’re really close off the court. We are always celebrating birthdays, going to eat as a team and having house parties. We do a lot of stuff off the court together that makes us close on the court too.”

It’s that beautiful bond that Thomas believes will help the Sun reach its goal of qualifying for the playoffs. While Connecticut was disappointed with falling short to the Mystics, the team still remained optimistic that brighter days are ahead.

“Everyone plays hard and wants to win,” Thomas said. “I mean we are talented so we just have to find a way to close out games. We’ve gotten ourselves into situations where games are close and we have a chance to win. We just haven’t closed them out. Those are the things we have to work better at doing. This team has strong character.”







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