How Connecticut Sun star Alyssa Thomas led during training camp despite healing from Achilles tear

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The biggest blow of the offseason for the sun came in January when star striker Alyssa Thomas tore her Achilles tendon while playing abroad in the Czech Republic. She would be out of the 2021 season to recover from the injury, which can take nine to 12 months to fully heal.

However, the injury and his recovery process haven’t stopped Thomas from continuing to lead the team – even though they are on the bench.

“I’m just used to always being on the pitch and leading by example, playing hard and not being able to enter the pitch with them anymore, I just try to coach what I see, communicate and try to do. Help them however I can, ”Thomas, a member of the 2020 WNBA All-Defensive team, said on Sun Media Day on May 5.

During training camp, the players said Thomas has become almost a fourth coach on the team. She uses her voice on the sideline to help correct and teach players, sometimes pushing them aside one by one after a drill to tell them what they did wrong and how they can improve.

“Even if she isn’t playing this year, you wouldn’t know from how much she still communicates with us on the side,” Sun rookie DiJonai Carrington said.

Sun head coach Curt Miller said it was Thomas’ ability to talk to players like a peer, rather than a coach-to-player conversation, that helped the team deal with feedback. constructive during the camp.

“AT lends a great voice, an active voice in practices,” Miller said. “There is a challenge for her for the players to play better, to be more precise, to stay focused. She does a really good job of catching players individually and talking to them individually. She’s just really smart at basketball so she sees it and as a peer can get their attention and sometimes be very critical of them and the players don’t take it that personally. Sometimes a peer can say something even more critically than maybe a coach and they respect it because they know they are going there too and doing it.

For Carrington, Thomas helped her make the transition to the fast-paced pro basketball by teaching her to slow down the game and control herself.

“It was the most important thing,” Carrington said. “Every time I come to the side she’ll look at me, especially if she can see the wheels are turning, she’ll just say, ‘Slow down. Take a deep breath as you catch the ball. Wait for your screens. Wait for it, wait for it. ”

During Morgan Bertsch’s time at camp, Thomas helped her be aggressive and physical. When the team was practicing two-team situations last week, Thomas pushed her aside and said, “Don’t be afraid to make yourself uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to go crazy and go out there and be disruptive.

The next time Bertsch went through the exercise, she said she “went crazy” and caused a roll.

“I thought it was really helpful and it was cool to have a veteran, someone that you, you know, watched her on TV and then brought her over here and like trying to get me to learning, trying to help me is really great, ”Bertsch said on media day last week.

Those who have played with Thomas before this season see a more vocal and patient version of the eight-year veteran. When training camp began, Connecticut was missing a handful of its veteran players due to overseas commitments. Having Thomas to help navigate the incoming players has been helpful for both new players and the few veterans.

“She’s every practice with us from start to finish,” said DeWanna Bonner, a 12-year-old veteran. “Help me a lot because it’s new to me. I don’t know if I’ve been in the field with so many new people, young people, at the same time. … She sees everything. She was very vocal. So thankful that she is there and thankful that she is going to be at all of our practices, it really helps a lot.

Thomas underwent successful surgery on his Achilles on January 19. The operation was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson, associate physician for the Green Bay Packers team.

On May 5, the two-time WNBA All-Star told media she’s feeling great and feeling better every day.

“Rehabilitation is tough, of course, but every day I feel stronger and more like myself,” Thomas said. “I come early every day and do my training, rehab and training, I watch training every day and now it’s just a matter of polishing up and really getting ready for it. on the opening day. So for me it’s just about pointing out what I see and trying to help them as much as possible.

“That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to help young players and help them improve and feel comfortable.

Last season, Thomas helped carry the Sun to the WNBA semifinals and led the team with 9.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. She was second after Bonner with 15.5 points per game.

When the Sun opens the season in Atlanta on Friday, they know they’ll have to replace her on the pitch, but also know her sideline presence will help them see them through.

“She’s our leader,” Kaila Charles said. “AT, even though she’s not on the pitch, she’s having a big impact off the pitch and we can’t wait to get her back. But now we’re just listening to her voice and just trying to make up for what she was bringing to the team.

TEAM UPDATES

The Sun has suffered two more rounds of list cuts since last week’s media day. On May 10, Connecticut waived two-round draft picks Micaela Kelly, Bertsch and Feyonda Fitzgerald. On Tuesday, May 11, the team also waived third-round pick Aleah Goodman and Brianna Fraser. Connecticut has until 5 p.m. on May 13 to make final cuts on the list.

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