It has been a long journey to get where Jasmine Thomas is today with the Connecticut Sun, but it would seem to be worth it.
It has taken seven WNBA seasons for Jasmine Thomas to get to where she is today, the starting point guard on a team that appreciates her strengths, and respects her abilities.
Thomas was drafted by the Seattle Storm, but traded to the Washington Mystics before she could play a minute in Seattle. After two years in Washington, she moved on to the Atlanta Dream. After two years with the Dream, she was sent to the Connecticut Sun and the rest, as they say is history.
Each year it seemed teams drafted her replacement; even last season Connecticut drafted Rachel Banham with an eye on making her a point guard. Yet every year, there is Thomas, starting at point guard for her team.
Over the winter, Thomas signed a new contract to stay in Connecticut, a place where several quality players have asked out of in years gone by. For Thomas, staying was a pretty easy decision.
“I really love my teammates. These are people that I enjoy coming to work with every day and you can’t ask for something better than that,” she said. “Also my relationship with Curt [Miller, Sun head coach] keeps growing, we are getting more comfortable with each other all the time and we’re just all on the same page. Why wouldn’t you want to continue your career somewhere like that?”
Curt Miller, in his first year as general manager with one season as head coach under his belt, knew how important signing both Thomas and her backcourt mate Alex Bentley to contracts would be to changing the image and growing the franchise.
“She is the extension of our coaching staff on the floor and provides needed leadership for the youngest roster in the league,” Miller said. “She is a great role model for our young team and I truly admire the work ethic and professionalism she displays on a daily basis.”
This will be the first season in her career that she has the same coach in consecutive years. Think about that for a second; every year a new head coach with a new system, new names for sets and plays, and new ideas as to what their point guard should do.
Those previous six years have taught Thomas how to deal with expectations of others, and how teams handle personnel.
“I feel like I have been hit with adversity, and I have learned to just focus on me,” she said. “I can’t control who they bring in via free agency or draft, but what I can control is my effort and my passion to continue to get better. I need to be realistic with my weaknesses and my strengths and knowing that I can play a confident game and be successful in this league. Once I realized that and really believed in myself things just came together.”
Last season was a breakout year for Thomas. Miller trusted her with the young Sun, and she in return gave him career highs in minutes per game, points per game, and assists per game, field goal and free throw percentage, and rebounds per game.
Her 5.1 assists per game was the second best in the league, and her 2.53 turnovers per game was fourth. It is limiting the turnovers that Thomas knows are key to her success.
“It’s extremely important, especially with this up-tempo league, not to turn the ball over,” according to Thomas. “Some of the players and teams thrive off of live ball turnovers to create open-space opportunities. If you can minimize those turnovers, of course it helps your team out much more.”
With Thomas, Bentley, and also Chiney Ogwumike (out for the season injured) locked into contracts, Alyssa Thomas still under contract for this season and no reason to doubt she would be willing to re-sign, plus second year players Jonquel Jones, Morgan Tuck, and Banham lined up, Miller knows the core of the Sun is set for years to come.
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Thomas will continue to drive the train though, and will need to push a group of posts that are either inexperienced or unfamiliar with each other. A new challenge for her, but at least it is not someone being counted on to take her place anymore. Those days are over.