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Brionna Jones showing what Sun knew all along in Most Improved season

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Brionna Jones was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player on Tuesday, deservingly so after a dominant season for the No. 1 seed Connecticut Sun. The reality, however, is the forward’s impact goes beyond the spirit of the Most Improved award.

Jones is on her way to being one of the best players in the league. Period.

Jones’ emergence could be the golden ticket to the Sun’s long-awaited first WNBA championship after making three Finals appearances in franchise history. Entering Game 1 of the semifinals Tuesday on a 14-game win streak, the Sun are having their best season to date at 26-6.

The 25-year-old shot a team-high 57.1 percent from the field during the regular season, averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Her numbers have improved every year and have dramatically since she averaged 2.9 points and 1.7 boards as a rookie with the Sun in 2017.

Jones’ 2021 season has been storybook. Just a couple of days after being named the AP Most Improved Player on Wednesday, the 6-foot-3 forward was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team for the first time in her career.

“After going through it and the work that I put in in the offseason, being able to get a shoutout with this is really special,” Jones said of the AP honor, days before she’d also earn the WNBA version of the award.

Sun teammate and fellow Maryland Terp Kaila Charles wasn’t surprised by the recognition Jones was receiving.

“I knew it was just a matter of time when she got to the league until she would be able to step into her own and make a name for herself,” Charles said. “Being able to actually witness it, to play with her and see just how far she’s grown as a player, as a woman, it’s just amazing to see.”

Jones had a breakout season in 2020, when she was moved into the starting lineup in Jonquel Jones’ absence. Through 21 starts in 22 games, Brionna Jones led the Sun with a 60.5 field-goal percentage, averaging 9.4 points per game. Before 2020, she hadn’t averaged more than 3.5 points per game

After the season, the Sun offered Jones a multi-year contract and she’s started all 32 games in 2021.

Connecticut head coach Curt Miller credited Jones’ growth to her knowledge of the game.

“She deserves this recognition. She deserves this [MIP] award because she puts in the work to continue to improve, to transform her mind – you name it,” he said. “She just continues to get better and better.”

Assistant coach Brandi Poole has seen the most improvement in Jones’ confidence, which has grown her teammates’ faith in her as well.

“I think we all know when Breezy touches the ball, something good is going to happen on the offensive end of the floor,” Poole said.

The Sun’s dominant season has earned them a bye to the best-of-five semifinals series starting with Game 1 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Many eyes will be on AP MVP Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner, but the Chicago Sky — the Sun’s opponent — will not be taking Brionna Jones lightly.

Charles knows the best is yet to come for Jones.

“She’s going to be one of the best to put on a Connecticut Sun jersey,” she said.