Former UConn star Moriah Jefferson comes ‘full circle’ with Connecticut Sun, reunites with Morgan Tuck

When Moriah Jefferson returned to Storrs for the UConn women’s basketball team’s 2013-14 national championship reunion on Jan. 27, the Phoenix Mercury guard was only expecting a short visit in Connecticut.

Seven days later, Jefferson learned she was heading back to the East Coast far sooner than she imagined: She had been traded to the Connecticut Sun for the 2024 WNBA season in exchange for eight-year veteran guard Rebecca Allen.

“It was really exciting, because I was actually here the week before everything happened … so seeing everybody was great, and then getting the news, for me, was just kind of a full-circle moment,” Jefferson said. “I think there’s such a huge crossover from Sun fans and UConn fans, so for me every time I come back to Connecticut and play in Mohegan, I always get a really good cheer from the crowd … It’s really fun to see how my game has grown from college to now and to get a chance to show the fans that.”

Jefferson was part of the iconic UConn class that won four consecutive NCAA titles from 2012-16. New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart, the reigning league MVP, was selected No. 1 overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm. Jefferson went No. 2 to the San Antonio Stars (now the Las Vegas Aces), and Morgan Tuck was selected No. 3 by the Sun. Tuck retired from playing before the 2021 season after grappling with multiple knee injuries but returned to Connecticut later that year as the organization’s director of franchise development.

The trio are entering their eighth season since graduating from UConn, but Jefferson said she, Tuck and Stewart have kept a group chat going since their college days. She said the chance to reunite with Tuck made the trade to Connecticut feel especially meant to be.

“With Morgan being here you couldn’t really ask for a better situation for me,” Jefferson said. “Our four years in college were so incredible, so being so close to UConn I think is going to be a good opportunity for me to get a chance to kind of go back there as well … Me, Morgan and Stewie, we check in on each other and we’ve stayed close through this entire time.”

Jefferson won the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s top point guard, in 2015 and ’16 at UConn, and she also earned first-team All-American honors in her senior season. Jefferson was named to the WNBA All-Rookie team with the Stars, but she missed at least 13 games in each of the following three seasons due to a string of major knee injuries. She played three years with the Dallas Wings from 2019-21 and one with the Minnesota Lynx before signing with Phoenix in 2023.

“My mindset has always been the same. I’m gonna show up every single day and work as hard as I can and play as hard as I can,” Jefferson said. “I know that I’ve dealt with injuries in the past, but my biggest thing was not letting that affect my confidence. I think being fully healthy, my game was able to show more, but there’s a lot of ups and downs in a WNBA career. It’s not easy to stay in this league. For me, keeping that confidence level high is always important, and I’ve done my best to do that.”

With the Mercury, Jefferson had her most complete season since her rookie year, appearing in a career-best 39 games. She averaged more than 10 points per game for just the third time in her career, also recording 3.6 assists, two rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Jefferson shot 43.3 % from the field and a career-best 82% at the free-throw line.

The Sun reached the WNBA Finals in 2022 and had hopes of contending for a title in 2023 behind MVP runner-up Alyssa Thomas, but they were eliminated by the Liberty in the second round. Jefferson brought plenty of trophies home to Connecticut in college, and adding another one as a professional is at the top of her bucket list.

“I’ve won on every level except the WNBA, so obviously I want to get a championship. That’s never an easy thing to do when we’re playing in the hardest league in the world, but for me, that’s my end goal,” Jefferson said. “Coming here, I want to do whatever I can to make this team better and to get as close as possible to that goal. My thing has always been taking it one day at a time. You can’t look too far ahead and you can’t look in the past. You just have to keep moving forward.”