The Connecticut Sun roster has taken shape, and Maria Conlon is not on it.
Conlon, the former UConn point guard and Derby native, was cut along with forward Anna Montanana on Monday as the roster was trimmed to 12. The Sun need to have 11 players on the active roster by Friday, but coach Mike Thibault might not make another cut. The Sun have enough room under the salary cap to keep a 12th player on the injured list.
"Someone would have to get hurt," Thibault said. "And who knows? I might just cut to 11."
It appears Thibault values each player enough to find a way to keep them all. Players felt a sense of finality the day after returning from games in Houston and Minnesota. They closed the exhibition season 3-1 and the team that took the court for practice Monday at Salve Regina University is the team they expect to take to Detroit for Saturday's opener.
"That's the sense we're getting," Lindsay Whalen said, "that these are the players."
Conlon, among the final cuts in Los Angeles Sparks camp last year, was competing to back up Whalen. But after finding an edge when her initial competition, Jess Strom, tired and was released last week, Conlon ultimately was beat out by second-year player Jen Derevjanik and rookie Jamie Carey.
While Thibault likes Conlon's range, he thought Carey, signed last Tuesday after being cut by Phoenix, was a better fit as the third point guard.
Derevjanik likely will be Whalen's primary backup.
"It was hard because I felt Maria had a really good camp, but I think Jamie fits the way we play better, with a faster pace," Thibault said. "Maria is more of a smaller [shooting] guard. I've come to respect [Conlon] quite a bit. I was very impressed with her. It was a very difficult decision."
Conlon did not return a phone call Monday. Having graduated from UConn May 8, she had said getting cut "wouldn't be the end of the world." She could explore options in Europe and try the WNBA again next year, when a 14th team will be added in Chicago.
Carey, drafted in the third round (31st overall) by Phoenix out of Texas, has impressed with her take-charge style.
"She's a natural leader," Whalen said.
A Colorado native, Carey joked about spending time in all four time zones recently.
"Kind of crazy," she said. "All I know is I've been here long enough to know I really like the atmosphere and the organization. Sometimes you don't always know your path. The thing that is so great is that Lindsay is such a great teacher. Just by watching her and defending her, I've learned a lot."
Thibault put the Sun through one of their most demanding practices Monday. The team will practice again at Salve Regina today and will hold an open practice Wednesday at the University of Rhode Island (5 p.m.).
"We've got work to do," Whalen said. "So it's a work vacation, I guess."
Nykesha Sales said she likes the looks of the team heading into the season.
"This last week will be a good push for us," she said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times