Port Wing native makes pro debutJolene Anderson’s parents insisted it wouldn’t have been a longer trip than normal back to Port Wing had their daughter not scored in the Connecticut Sun’s WNBA exhibition opener against the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday at the Target Center.
By: Duluth News Tribune, Duluth News Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jolene Anderson’s parents insisted it wouldn’t have been a longer trip than normal back to Port Wing had their daughter not scored in the Connecticut Sun’s WNBA exhibition opener against the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday at the Target Center.
But after three misfires, there was something a bit magical about Anderson’s high-arching shot in the waning minutes of the Sun’s 68-57 loss before 1,155. Sun guard Natalie Berglin drove the lane and then kicked it out to Anderson, who was all alone on the wing. The Wisconsin Badgers’ all-time leading scorer knew what to do with it.
With Minnesota’s Candice Wiggins closing in to contest the shot, Anderson launched a 3-pointer over the third overall selection in last month’s WNBA draft and through the rim, nothing but net. Anderson finished 1-for-4 shooting for three points and two rebounds, but just being on the floor meant the world to her.
“Just putting on that uniform and stepping onto the court was a dream come true,” Anderson said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It probably won’t for a long time.”
Anderson logged most of her playing time in the first half. Wearing No. 33 instead of her customary No. 41, the 5-foot-8 shooting guard checked into the contest with 1:56 remaining in the first quarter and was very active, although she couldn’t get her shot to fall. Her first attempt from the top of the key early in the second quarter caught the right side of the rim. Moments later, Anderson had a nice drive, but her shot off the glass didn’t drop.
Later in the quarter, Anderson attempted a 3-pointer from the left side that again just missed, and she let out a little frustration after missing the open look. Her attempts, however, looked solid compared to that of some of her teammates. The Sun missed all but two of their first 26 shots and finished with a 16.2 field-goal percentage in the first half compared to 31.4 percent for the Lynx, who led 24-18 at the half.
Anderson, who the Sun selected in the second round of the WNBA draft on April 9 with the 23rd overall pick, logged 6:02 of her 10:34 in playing time in the first half.
“Everybody in this league is trying to earn a spot on the team, and just trying to win,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to pay your dues and just have to wait for your time to come. I’m just going to keep working hard right through the final two exhibition games.”
Thursday’s contest was truly an exhibition, with several veterans absent. Minnesota star Seimone Augustus just wrapped up the Russian Superleague playoffs on Wednesday and is scheduled to be in the Twin Cities on May 8, while former Minnesota Gophers standout and current Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen was in attendance but not active. With them out, Wiggins stole the show, scoring a game-high 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting.
The Sun play home exhibitions against Phoenix (Sunday) and Houston (May 9) before opening the season May 17 at home against Atlanta. The team’s final cut is May 16. Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said the team has as many as nine guards competing for as few as four spots.
“It’s going to come down to the wire, but I like Jolene’s savvy and ability,” Thibault said. “The first time in the pros is like the first week in college, trying to figure out where you fit in and what you can do. Jolene has been kind of up and down, but she’s going to get a lot of opportunities over the next 10 days to compete. It’s going to be tough. We’re going to cut some players who can play in this league.”
The WNBA pays $35,000 for first-year players plus per diem for about four months of work. Anderson can hook up with another team if she is cut but said she loves the Sun. She said the team’s home base in Uncasville, Conn., reminds her of tiny Port Wing, located on Lake Superior’s South Shore.
About 15 Anderson relatives were in attendance Thursday, with her family leaving Port Wing about 5:30 a.m. Thursday. Jim Anderson, Jolene’s father, was asked what her daughter thought about her WNBA experience thus far.
“She loves it,” Jim Anderson said. “Absolutely loves it.”
The family worried that Jolene Anderson wouldn’t play in the second half, but she entered the game with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter and finished it out. She also made her first professional basket.
“That 3-pointer brought back memories. It was just like old times,” said Jolene’s mother, Julie Anderson. “But even if she didn’t make it, it wouldn’t have mattered. We were just happy to see her play.”