During the team’s home opener, an 80–74 win over the Washington Mystics, the Connecticut Sun celebrated the career of one of its founding members, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who began her 14-year WNBA career with the Orlando Miracle (the team that relocated to Connecticut in 2003). Her time with the franchise—four of those years in Connecticut—included five WNBA All-Star appearances, two-time All-WNBA Second Team, and the WNBA Sportsmanship Award. 

The ceremony included hanging her No. 11 jersey in the rafters of the Mohegan Sun arena alongside those of her former teammates, Nykesha Sales, Katie Douglas, Lindsay Whalen, Asjha Jones, and the late Margo Dydek.

“It’s a little overwhelming to know it’s been 20 years since we came to Connecticut, and the fans have been amazing and embraced us—seeing those faces that I haven’t seen in a number of years and knowing that they still appreciate what they meant to me but also what I meant to the franchise,” McWilliams-Franklin said. 

McWilliams-Franklin was already a veteran of professional women’s basketball when she came to the WNBA in 1999, having played overseas and in the ABL. To this day, she and only two other WNBA players played at NAIA schools. She praised the Sun’s coaching staff, which was headed by Mike Thibault, who took the team to the WNBA Finals twice during her time in Connecticut.

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“It’s really hard to be self-reflective for me because I really never put myself in that spot or position,” said McWilliams-Franklin, who played with the New York Liberty in 2010 and won WNBA titles with the Detroit Shock and Minnesota Lynx. “It’s surprising to have this honor bestowed upon me, but when I look at the wider lens of the women’s game and the trajectory of it from when I was playing and when I was part of this franchise, [I’m] just amazed. Women’s sports have come so far.

 “[The coaches in Connecticut] instilled in us the ability to do it all and do it well,” she added. “Besides being a leader, that’s what I was able to take into all the other teams.”

Today, McWilliams-Franklin is the WNBA manager of player relations and player development, helping former and current players transition and figure out what they want to do after pro hoops. “I help them solidify what’s next,” she said. 

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