Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Even on her special night, UConn's Stewart proves she is more than just a scorer

It would be easy to look at the scoring numbers Breanna Stewart has put up since she arrived at UConn and be blown away just a little bit.

However, on a night when she became the ninth UConn player to score 2,000 career points, it was her all-around game that was hard to ignore.

Stewart did finish with a game-high 25 points but she might have taken more pride in her overall stat line with eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots as the Huskies won their home opener for the 25th straight season and extended their winning streak to 40 games.

"It is definitely a nice stat line," Stewart said "I should be having a double-double but if I can maintain the assists, keep them high and just the all-around game, that is what you want to see as a player individually and even from your other teammates."

What Stewart's teammates and coaches are seeing from her in the desire not to rest on her laurels even though she led UConn to national titles in each of her first three seasons and is a two-time national player of the year.

"She comes out every night and does something different," Jefferson said. "I don't think people realize it as much because she scores so many points but she is a great scorer, a great rebounder, she can also block shots really well."

The ultimate compliment came when UConn's Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma mentioned Stewart in the same breath as Husky legends Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.

"She averages about 15 shots," Auriemma said. You score 2,000 points when you average 15 shots a game, that is pretty good. The thing I liked about her the most are the intangibles in addition to the points. The thing that I most appreciate about Stewie right now is in her own way she has become very vocal. I don't mean that she is constantly chirping aoout there but when she has something to say, she says it and she asks a lot of questions, that never used to happen because she is seeing things and she is trying to get better all the time. There is not a day that goes by where she is not trying to figure out a way to get better. It is hard to get more stuff into a stat sheet than she gets.

"We went into halftime and complained that we must shoot for an hour every day, guys are passing up open shots. How do you solve your outside shooting problems? We will have our center knock in a couple of 3s. She just has the wherewithal to do when we need them done, that is kind of what Maya did, Dee did."

Stewart hit the 2,000-point plateau in her 117th career game, only Maya Moore (108 games) and Kerry Bascom (113) did in fewer games.

"When you have these kinds of milestones, you kind of just want to get it over with because people are talking about it," Stewart said. "I can still play basketball, play with my team so I just tried to play within the offense and shoot when I normally shoot."


UConn's Stewart chasing a major milestone

If Breanna Stewart scores 16 points tonight (and she has a career average of 17.1 points per game) she would become the ninth Husky with 2,000 career points.

If it happens today, it would take her 117 games. Only Maya Moore (108 games) and Kerry Bascom (113) did it in fewer games than it took Stewart. Rebecca Lobo is next on the list with 118 games.

It would also be UConn's 25th straight season winning its home opener.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chong should be good to go for UConn tomorrow night

Today was the first practice open to the media since UConn's season-opening win over Ohio State and both Saniya Chong and De'Janae Boykin were out there during drills.

Chong, who did get into the season opener during the final few minutes, is expected to be a full go for tomorrow's game against Kansas State (7 p.m., XL Center) although UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that because Boykin is still only practicing on a part-time basis as she works her way back from an Achilles' tendon injury, he doesn't not expect her to play in the home opener.

Chong is excited to hit the ground running in her first extended game action after missing both exhibition games and not getting into the Ohio State game until there was 3:21 remaining.

"I feel very excited. I know it has been hard the last couple of weeks for me, in and out all the time but actually being here and finishing up the practices, being a part of the team it feels really good," Chong said.

With sophomore Gabby Williams looking very much like the Huskies' fifth starter, UConn is extremely young on the bench as the only reserves to play more than 10 minutes against the Buckeyes were freshmen Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson. Without Chong, the other reserves have played a total of 704 career minutes so there's a lot on Chong's shoulders.

"We talked to Saniya and said 'you are a leader on this team too,'" UConn senior Breanna Stewart said. "She is a junior, this is her third year of being here and she needs to help us lead the underclassmen. Saying that, just for her to hear in front of the rest of the team, helps her out
She has to be more vocal because if the freshmen see a junior not talking, they think it is OK to not talk too."

Chong has been dealing with IT Band Syndrome which results in pain on the outside of the knee. She had an injection and there's a chance that she will need more of them during the season.

"I think it will be ongoing this season, hopefully one day it will be like 'I want to go now' and hopefully soon," Chong said.

Boykin figures to make her UConn debut sooner rather than later. After missing most of her senior season at Flowers High School due to a wrist injury, it's been hard for Boykin to deal with being sidelined due to another ailment.

"It is kind of like being back in high school when I had to sit and watch so it is pretty hard for me," Boykin said. "I am excited that I am able to (practice) now.I feel comfortable, everything is fine."

Auriemma said that sophomore center Natalie Butler, expected to be out for at least another month due to a thumb injury, did some drills in practice earlier this week. Auriemma can't wait to get the 6-foot-5 Butler back to practice without restriction.

UConn signee Crystal Dangerfield, a senior guard at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was one of 77 players named to the Naismith Player of the Year watch list.

Dangerfield had 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals in a season-opening 69-55 win over Brentwood Academy.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jefferson, Stewart, Tuck on Wooden preseason watch list

The Wooden Award sent out the list of 30 players on its preseason watch list and UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were among the candidates as is former Hillhouse High star Bria Holmes, a senior guard at West Virginia.

Stewart won the award last season while UConn and South Carolina (Tiffany Mitchell, Alaina Coates and A'ja Wilson) are the only teams with three players on the list.

Here is the list

Lindsay Allen 5-8 Jr. G Notre Dame
Jillian Alleyne 6-3 Sr. F Oregon
Ameryst Alston 5-9 Sr. G Ohio State
Adut Bulgak 6-4 Sr. C Florida State
Alaina Coates 6-4 Jr. C South Carolina
Nia Coffey 6-1 Jr. F Northwestern
Nina Davis 5-11 Jr. F Baylor
Diamond DeShields 6-1 Soph. G Tennessee
Rebecca Greenwell 6-1 Soph. G Duke
Bria Holmes 6-1 Sr. G West Virginia
Moriah Jefferson 5-7 Sr. G Connecticut
Niya Johnson 5-8 Sr. G Baylor
Brionna Jones 6-3 Jr. C Maryland
Jonquel Jones 6-4 Sr. F George Washington
Kelsey Mitchell 5-8 Soph. G Ohio State
Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Sr. G South Carolina
Kelsey Plum 5-8 Jr. G Washington
Aerial Powers 6-0 Jr. F Michigan State
Leticia Romero 5-8 Jr. G Florida State
Azurá Stevens 6-6 Soph. F/G Duke
Breanna Stewart 6-4 Sr. F ConnecticutLili Thompson 5-7 Jr. G Stanford
Morgan Tuck 6-2 Jr. F ConnecticutBrianna Turner 6-3 Soph. F Notre Dame
Victoria Vivians 6-1 Soph. F Mississippi State
Courtney Walker 5-8 Sr. G Texas A&M 
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough 5-11 Jr. G Maryland
Courtney Williams 5-8 Sr. G South Florida
Courtney Williams 6-1 Sr. F/G Texas A&M
A’ja Wilson 6-5 Soph. F South Carolina

Monday, November 16, 2015

UConn's defense steals the show in season opener

When Geno Auriemma saw the halftime score in Friday's Ohio State/South Carolina game, he likely needed to do a double take.

As talented as Ohio State's perimeter duo of Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston are, putting up 47 points on the road against a South Carolina team that is normally a defensive juggernaut made Auriemma wonder what it would look like when his Huskies traveled to meet the Buckeyes on Monday night.

The last thing he expected was a 44-point win or seeing Mitchell and Alston go a combined 5 of 27 from the field including 0 for 6 from 3-point range.

"I thought we were amazing on defense," Auriemma said. "That whole first half, I thought we were great. I thought Gabby Williams and Moriah Jefferson kind of set the tone early on. They may have made it look easy but it is not easy guarding those guys, I am really happy for them and I am really proud of them.

"We watch film just like everybody else watches film and we know South Carolina is a really good team and they are especially a good defensive team so when you see the score, when I saw it was 47-45 at halftime I shook my head and I said this is going to be hard. When we showed some of that stuff to our players, they got the message. They knew that these two guys could score a lot of points. Kelsey Mitchell getting those two fouls early probably put a little bit of a damper on her game."

Mitchell had eight points and Alston seven leaving Shayla Cooper (17 points, eight rebounds) as the only Ohio State player to score consistently against the Huskies.

Just 14 seconds into the game Williams, a sophomore making her first career start, had the first of her game-high four steals which she quickly converted into the game's first two points.

Neither Mitchell nor Alston scored in the first quarter and had just three points by halftime.

"You know they are going to come out and take their shot so you are going to have to do to run with them, get your hands up the whole time and hopefully they don't shoot them as much," Jefferson said.
"It was a great team defense, everybody was switching onto those guys and were being active. I think if we can play like that all season, I think we will be fine.

"I don't think people realize how much defense we do in practice, how hard our practices are so any time you can come out here and show what we have been doing in practice for however many weeks, I think it is good."

Junior guard Saniya Chong, who had been sidelined recently due to IT Band Syndrome, was not expected to play due to the practice time she missed but she did get enough done in the last day or two to take part in warmups before the game and checked into the game late in the fourth quarter.

"I was surprised because at shootaround today she went through it and all of a sudden, 'hey if she feels good coming out of this, she wants to play,'" Auriemma said. "I was the most shocked person in the gym because I thought there was no way she was going to play. I said to myself I am not going to play her, she hasn't practiced in a week. I gave her a choice and said. 'do you want to play a little bit?' and she said yes. Now we can get started when we get back so it was a pleasant surprise for me."

Fast-paced Ohio State offers unique challenge to UConn

Geno Auriemma has been at this coaching thing for quite some time and there are no recent teams that his Huskies have played recently with an offensive style similar to what UConn will see today.
 In a season-opening loss to South Carolina the high-scoring guard tandem of Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston combined to take 43 shots including 14 3-pointers.

 "I am trying to think who had a guard or two guards who take that many shots, I'd be had pressed," Auriemma said. "There haven't been many, we could rack our brains and say it is kind of like that, kind of like DePaul but there haven't been many instances where I can look back and go, yeah I remember that. This is kind of unique."

 Ohio State, bitten hard by the injury bug a season ago, couldn't even practice 5 on 5 without the use of male practice players.  A total of 10 players saw time against South Carolina and Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff believes the Buckeyes will be able to do things that were impossible last season.

"We relied heavily on our male practice squad, we had to have those guys in there every day or else we couldn't go 5 on 5, " McGuff said. "The other thing is I think I made mistakes early on. You see the injuries happen, you are sitting there worrying about somebody else getting hurt but as we started going into the beginning of the year I said to my staff that we aren't making any progress, we aren't getting any better because we are kind of kid gloving them through practice every day. Finally I said forget, not that we are going to go crazy in practice but we are going to ratchet up the intensity and make sure we get better and when we started doing that, I think that was really a (turning) point for us, we started making a lot of progress and having a very successful season. It was difficult trying to find that balance."

The Ohio State campus is more than six hours from where Napheesa Collier and Morgan Tuck grew up but still, they are both going to have multiple family members in attendance.

 "My parents will be there, aunt and uncle, a couple of my parents' friends but it will be good to be able to see my family a little bit," Tuck said.

 "They are definitely excited, they have been calling me all week so they are super excited," Collier said. "It our first in-season game, it is going to be a tough crowd. Ohio State is a great team,"

A little history for UConn today

There was a time when opening the season against a nationally-ranked team was nearly an annual occurrence for the UConn women's basketball team.

Four times in a six-year span the Huskies kicked off the season against ranked foes losing 83-81 in overtime to Louisiana Tech (in Knoxville) in 1995, beating No. 8 Western Kentucky 74-56 in 1996, beating No. 4 Duke 104-74 in 1998 and defeating No. 3 Georgia  99-70 in 2000. The Western Kentucky and Duke contests were played in California while the game against Georgia was in Hartford. I went looking through the UConn media guide to find the last time the Huskies opened the season with a true road game against a ranked opponent and it doesn't look like it has ever happened - until today when the Huskies play at No. 6 Ohio State.

"Those are the kinds of things this team needs to be doing to be honest with you," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We need to put ourselves in as many situations as possible that are not necessarily ideal. If we played Ohio State in the middle of January on Monday night it wouldn't be an easy game, the fact that it is your first game makes it challenging and that is good because this particular group needs it, wants it, wants that kind of challenge. The young guys are going to be a little bit nervous but it is good for them to get thrown into the deep end right away. I've always said that there is no down side to playing these kinds of games early in the season, late in the season so you might as well play them."

The players are certainly looking forward to the season-opening test.

"I think it is good," redshirt junior Morgan Tuck said. "Instead, most teams have some sort of if you want to call it an easy game at home and win by a lot and it is good to get a good game early. I think it is good to kind of test yourself and see if what you are doing has prepared you for a big game."
Ohio State isn't messing around with its schedule to start the season as the Buckeyes opened with an 88-80 loss on the road to No. 2 South Carolina and now face the top-ranked Huskies.

"That wasn't the best scheduling I have ever done but I wanted to play both teams," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. "Certainly Connecticut has been the best team in college basketball for quite some time and I wanted to give our kids a chance to measure themselves against them and South Carolina recently have been terrific, they have a great team and a great coach so I wanted to play them both. We got the South Carolina game scheduled and when we started looking at a date for Connecticut, ESPN said we'd put it on TV if we did it on Monday. I didn't want to pass on that opportunity and where we are with our program and building, that is a great chance to play the best team in the country on TV so that is kind of how it shook out in having to play our first two games against the top two rated teams in the country."
UConn is 24-6 against ranked teams in the month of November. What makes the number even more impressive is that the Huskies lost three of their first four November games against ranked opponents.

(home team in ALL CAPS)
Nov. 28, 1989: No. 11 IOWA 81, UConn  49
Nov. 29, 1990: No. 11 Iowa 58, No. 23 UCONN 41
Nov. 30, 1991: No. 15 UConn 63, No. 24 Louisiana Tech 61 (at Honolulu)
Nov. 19, 1995: No. 4 Louisiana Tech 83, No. 1 UConn 81 (at Knoxville)
Nov. 17, 1996: No. 5 UConn 74, No. 8 Western Kentucky 56 (at Palo Alto)
Nov. 21, 1997: No. 6 UCONN 71, No. 21 Nebraska 61
Nov. 25, 1997: No. 3 UCONN 65, No. 20 Iowa 55
Nov. 13, 1998: No. 3 UConn 104, No. 4 Duke 74 (at San Jose)
Nov. 14 1998: No. 3 UConn 100, No. 18 Arkansas 74 (at San Jose)
Nov. 17, 1998: No. 2 UConn 113, No. 14 UCLA 102
Nov. 26, 1999: No. 1 UCONN 109, No. 14 Old Dominion 66
Nov. 30., 1999:No. 1 UCONN 100, No. 10 Illinois 79
Nov. 12, 2000: No. 1 UCONN 99, No. 3 Georgia 70
Nov. 18, 2001: No. 1 UCONN 69, No. 3 Vanderbilt 50
Nov. 21, 2004: No. 9 North Carolina 71, No. 4 UCONN 65 (at Raleigh, N.C.)
Nov. 20, 2005: No. 9 UCONN 82, No. 25 Oklahoma 62
Nov. 30, 2006: No. 7 UCONN 66, No. 9 Purdue 55
Nov. 22, 2007: No. 2 UConn 66, No. 4 Stanford 54 (at U.S. Virgin Islands)
Nov. 25, 2007: No. 2 UConn 74, No. 9 Duke 48 (at U.S. Virgin Islands)
Nov. 30, 2008: No. 1 UCONN 106, No. 4 Oklahoma 78
Nov. 17, 2009: No. 1 UConn 83, No. 10 Texas 58 (at San Antonio)
Nov. 16, 2010: No. 1 UCONN 65, No. 2 Baylor 64
Nov. 21, 2011: No. 2 UCONN 68, No. 3 Stanford 58
Nov. 18, 2012: No. 2 UCONN 81, No. 16 TEXAS A&M 50
Nov. 24, 2012: No. 2 UCONN 91, No. 14 Purdue 57 (at U.S. Virgin Islands)
Nov. 11, 2013: No. 1 UCONN 76, No. 3 Stanford 57
Nov. 15, 2013: No. 1 UConn 72, No. 8 MARYLAND 55
Nov. 17, 2013: No. 1 UConn 71, No. 13 PENN STATE 52
Nov. 17, 2014: No. 6 STANFORD 88, No. 1 UConn 86

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Road trip for UConn's Nurse?

Kia Nurse will certainly do her share of traveling this season. It has already started as she is in Columbus, Ohio for tomorrow's showdown against Ohio State.

However, there's a chance she could make a couple more trips next month that have nothing to do with her role on the three-time defending UConn women's basketball team.

With the NHL's Edmonton Oilers dealing with some early season injuries on defense, her brother Darnell was called up from the AHL.

Darnell Nurse, Edmonton's first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, made his season debut on Oct. 27 and he recorded his first career NHL goal with an impressive blast in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota. Two nights later he had an assist as the Oilers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to stun Montreal 4-3.

Kia Nurse was unable to get access to a live stream to see Darnell's first NHL goal as it happened but reaction came in at a fast and furious pace on social media. She also got a first-hand report from her parents who made it to the Minnesota game.

"It is incredible," Kia Nurse said. "He just sent a text one day saying I got called up and it was absolutely phenomenal and then to see him score his first goal in his first game, just surfing through social media and every single one of our friends and family members, everybody in Hamilton was tweeting, instagraming and I was so happy. My parents were there, they made the road trip out to the game and were really happy to see that."

Nurse had a string of four straight games with at least 20 minutes played and is sixth on the Oilers with an average of 18:57 played in the nine games he has appeared in. Nurse has a goal and three assists while he has predictably had some growing pains in his own zone as well.

As luck has it, UConn does not play between Dec. 11-21 and the Oilers happen to be playing in Boston on Dec. 14 and in New York the next night. It should be noted that the final exams during the fall semester happen to start on Dec. 14 so there are some scheduling issues to deal with but if Kia can swing it, she plans on being at one or both of those games.

"When they get to Boston or New York, those are the two closest ones I can get to so I will try to get to them," Nurse said. "My parents will be around here and be around with him so there is scheduling all over the place."

The only other trip the Oilers make to the tri-state area comes on Feb. 7 and 9 with games at the Islanders and Devils. However, she will be a little preoccupied around that time with the Huskies playing at No. 2 South Carolina on Feb. 8. The only other game that could be a possibility for Kia to see her brother play live would come on Jan. 21 at Dallas since the Huskies host Central Florida at the XL Center on the 20th and play at Southern Methodist on Jan. 23.

While it is uncertain when or if Kia Nurse will see Darnell play live, their parents will be making their way to see him play.

"They are just proud parents out there," Kia Nurse said. "They will be the first ones to tell us that and then they will be the first people to deflate our heads and that is what is so great about them, they have always pushed us to understand sports are a privilege and everything else that comes before that, if you don't do that you don't play sports."

The Nurse family keeps in touch with regular chats and use of FaceTime since the family is from Hamilton, Ontario, Darnell is on the road regularly and older sister is living in Greece.

"My sister is in Greece, my parents are up there, it is a combination of (catching up) with what is going on in everybody's life and we get a text every single day," Nurse said.

Every once in a while the topic may turn to the player or players who Darnell got into it with physically.

"He is a strong kid and he likes to protect his teammates so that is something that is good about him so if he has to fight somebody, I hope he wins," Kia Nurse said.

Auriemma thrilled with newly signed UConn recruiting class

While there might be those outside the UConn program devaluing the quality of the Huskies' latest recruiting class, UConn coach Geno Auriemma is quite thrilled to be adding the trio of Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin to the fold next season.

Dangerfield is rated as the No. 3 overall player and top guard in the class according to the ESPN HoopGurlz ratings.

ESPN rated Bent as the 25th best guard and Irwin as the 15th best post player in the class which is a far cry from the current freshman class as Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier were the No. 1 and 6 rated recruits while Boykin was rated 23rd.

Still, Auriemma is rather delighted about the class that signed last week.

"It doesn't work every time but a lot of times you can tell a lot about a kid by obviously what their background is, what high school coach a kid plays for a lot of times has a lot to do with it, what AAU program they play in, what their family situation is at home, what the expectation level was for that kid growing up?" Auriemma said. "It is not always a measure and a lot of times it is and by all accounts, that group coming in more than anything, they love to play. They love to play, they understand what the demands are of playing here and they come from backgrounds where they have been well coached and they have been raised under certain expectations and I just feel real comfortable around them.

"There wasn't a lot of drama and maybe it had to do with that when they had the opportunity, all three of them really wanted to come to UConn and to me those are the exact type of kids you want to get. You don't want to get kids that you want to get on your hands and knees to try to convince them that this is the right place for you. You have to do that in a lot of cases anyways but you want to have kids who look around and go 'wow, I have a chance to go play at UConn?. That is what I have always wanted.' That is kind of where it fell with these guys and I couldn't be happier."

UConn was involved at some point in the process with seven of the top 10 players in ESPN's rankings but other than Dangerfield, the only other top 10 prospect pursued heavily throughout the entire process is No. 1 rated Lauren Cox who committed to Baylor.

The strength of the class figures to depend on what kind of players Bent and Irwin turn into. Kelly Faris, Tiffany Hayes and Kiah Stokes were among the recent Huskies who weren't exactly drawing an abundance of buzz when they committed to UConn although Hayes' rating did soar after she committed to UConn. Bent practically came out of nowhere before committed to UConn. it didn't hurt that when she was on her recruiting visit she impressed UConn's top recruiters. No, I am not talking about Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey or assistant coaches Marisa Moseley and Shea Ralph. Auriemma and his staff has relied heavily on the input from the players when recruits visit campus and both Bent and Irwin received glowing recommendations.

"It is tough to find kids who are willing to put it on the line like that and go 'there are no guarantees.' Nobody guaranteed me a starting spot, nobody guaranteed me it would be easy,' Auriemma said. "I willing to go there, fight for whatever I want, whatever I can get and I want to be a part of a winning program. That is unusual today, in today's day and age it is more about what each individual kid can get out of their program. For us, these kids are exactly what we need in this point in time."

Dangerfield, who has been compared to the player she figures to replace (Moriah Jefferson). She is also well acquainted with the current Huskies. She was on the same U-16 national team with Samuelson and Boykin and over the summer she was a teammate of Collier's on the U.S. team which won the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women.
"She is a great player and person, she is the type of person you will get better with every day in practice, she is real dedicated," Collier said. "I liked how confident, aggressive and passionate she was."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

UConn to be without Chong, Boykin and Butler against Ohio State

UConn won't have the services of junior guard Saniya Chong, freshman forward De'Janae Boykin and sophomore center Natalie Butler during Monday's season opener.

Butler was already expected to be out until at least late December due to a thumb injury and UConn coach Geno Auriemma previous stated that Boykin (dealing with a tender Achilles tendon) was likely going to be sidelined when the season began. There was a chance that Chong, dealing with IT Band Syndrome resulting in pain around her knee, could have been able to go against the Buckeyes but after Saturday's practice Auriemma said that is not the case.

"She (Chong) got an injection so she hasn't practiced in about a week so we are hoping she starts for real on (Wednesday) and hopefully by next weekend she will be good. De'Janae hasn't practiced in 10 days and today was the first day that she actually ran on the sideline. Hopefully she'll get her in the middle of next week doing at least some half court stuff and Natalie is in the same situation as before."

UConn won't practice on Tuesday so Wednesday is the earlier Chong and Boykin could be back at practice. Even when they are cleared to practice, they will need to shake the rust off.

"It varies with each kid," Auriemma said. "Some kids are pretty good with trying to simulate it but it is never that you just step in and you are good to go."

Butler is trying to carve out a role on the team after sitting out last season per NCAA rules following her transfer from Georgetown. Chong is eager to show the coaches how much she has improved, especially on defense while Boykin missed nearly all of her senior season at Flowers High School due to a wrist injury so there might not be three players more in need of this practice time on the UConn squad.

"There are no easy ones. I think everybody can benefit from a month of training camp," Auriemma said. "In today's day and age, I don't even talk to (UConn athletic trainer) Rosemary (Ragle) anymore or the team doctors, I just pretend it doesn't exist. If I show up and I see somebody running up and down the sideline and it looks like they might practice, I'll go 'oh, where did they come from?' I don't get involved in that stuff."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

UConn's recruiting class is official

Four years ago a three-player recruiting class came into UConn being touted as one of the best collection of talent in one incoming freshman class.

There won't be the same sort of hoopla surrounding the trio of Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin although they will be part of a UConn team looking to replace All-Americans Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart.

Irwin was the first of the trio to sign and fax her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. Dangerfield's letter arrived in the UConn women's basketball office not long after. Bent's was the last one to arrive.

It's an interesting group. Unlike four years ago when Stewart, Jefferson and Morgan Tuck were among the top five players in the class, the current crop of incoming freshmen include one top five recruit (Dangerfield) and a pair of under the radar prospects.

Dangerfield, a 5-foot-6 guard, averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.5 steals as a junior at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Dangerfield, playing on a team with six college players and three others incoming freshmen, finished third on the U.S. team which won the 2015 FIBA U-19 World Championship with 19 assists (with just four turnovers) and was tied for second (behind UConn freshman Napheesa Collier) with 14 steals.

Bent, a 5-foot-9 guard from Centerville, Mass., scored more than 1,000 points in three seasons at Barnstable High (beginning as an eighth grader) and had a pair of 40-point games in a two-week span. She transferred to Tabor Academy and was part of a balanced offense as she was one of three players averaging between 11-12 points per game for a team which reached the NEPSAC Class A title game.

Irwin, a 6-foot-2 forward, is the daughter of former Branford High star Bethany (Collins) Irwin who happens to be her coach at State College (Pa.) High School. As a junior Kyla Irwin averaged 20 points per game, had a pair of 30-point games and scored at least 20 points a total of 13 times in 23 games.

Here are Geno Auriemma's thoughts courtesy of UConn's official release

"Molly is Molly. She is an old-fashioned kind of guard. She is a throwback to the days when kids just played hard and competed. She sees things and is unselfish and is just a basketball junkie. Molly loves the game as much as anyone I’ve seen in the last 30 years and I think the people here are going to really enjoy watching her play.

"Crystal is one of those unique little guards, like Moriah Jefferson, where she is strong enough and quick enough that she can get things done that a lot of players can’t. She can get to spots on the floor, on offense and on defense, which a lot of kids cant.  She had a great summer with USA Basketball and really learned a lot.  I think with Moriah graduating, Crystal is going to come in and have a chance to have an impact right away.

"Kyla is the kind of kid that we have taken great pride in getting over the last 30 years. She is a hard-working, high-energy kid and has skills that allow her to play more than one position.  She knows how to play the game.  She is exactly the kind of kid that we have looked for at UConn and the fact that she has some connections to Connecticut is an added bonus.  We are really excited about having her and her family as part of our program."