UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Jonquel Jones, the star center for the Connecticut Sun, has decided not to play in the WNBA this season because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones led the Sun to the WNBA Finals last year, averaging 17.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in the postseason after putting up 14.6 points and 9.7 during the regular season.
She becomes the first WNBA player to cite the virus in opting out of the upcoming season.
Renee Montgomery, the former UConn guard now with the Atlanta Dream, had previously announced she will skip the season to focus on social justice issues.
“This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in," Jones said Monday in a statement.
Curt Miller, the team's general manager and coach, said the Sun respects that choice.
“We recognize the amount of unique challenges, sacrifices, and unknowns this season presents, and from the top down, there is an unwavering commitment to support each player’s respective decision," he said. "We look forward to having JJ back leading us next summer.”
The Sun had already lost star point guard Courtney Williams and forward Shekinna Stricklen to free agency in the offseason.
But the team also acquired veterans DeWanna Bonner, Briann January and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and were expected to again compete for a title in 2020.
The WNBA last week announced plans to play a 22-game schedule that would begin in late July in Florida without fans in attendance because of the pandemic.
The league plans to hold training camps and house players at the IMG Academy and play all the games at the facility in Bradenton or other nearby locations.
WNBA players have until Thursday to opt out of the season.
The Sun, who only had 11 players on their roster because of the salary cap, will be able to put the roughly $150,000 of Jones’ remaining salary this year toward signing players to replace their All-Star, according to the team. All WNBA players have already received their first two paychecks.
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.