(Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

Reserved free agent Natisha Hiedeman has signed her qualifying offer to return to the Connecticut Sun for the 2022 WNBA season, the team announced Monday. Hiedeman’s contract is for one year at the veteran minimum for 3-plus years of service, sources tell Just Women’s Sports.

The 5-foot-8 point guard thrived for the Sun in a backup role last season, averaging a career-high 7.6 points in 20 minutes per game. Her 39.8 three-point shooting percentage ranked among the best in the league.

In her three seasons with Connecticut, Hiedeman’s numbers and efficiency have increased in nearly every statistical category. Her production off the bench and ability to step up in key moments have proven key for the Sun, who finished the 2021 regular season first in the league with a 26-6 record before falling to the Chicago Sky 3-1 in the semifinals.

Hiedeman entered the WNBA in 2019 as the No. 18 overall pick of the Minnesota Lynx. The Lynx traded her rights to the Sun on draft day in exchange for Lexie Brown. Hiedeman then bounced between the Sun and the Atlanta Dream in 2019, eventually returning to Connecticut and playing 27 games during the regular season and playoffs.

Sun assistant coach Chris Koclanes, who is entering his seventh season on Curt Miller’s staff, has been instrumental in the development of the Sun’s guards and especially Hiedeman. The 24-year-old has improved every year while working closely with Miller and Koclanes.

Hiedeman’s signing is an important first step for the Sun in free agency as they look to contend for a championship in 2022. Connecticut has DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas, Kaila Charles and DiJonai Carrington under contract for the 2022 season. Reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones and starting point guard Briann January are unrestricted free agents. Teams may begin negotiating with free agents on Jan. 15, but contracts may not be signed until Feb. 1.

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.