Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, June 29, 2015

UConn's Breanna Stewart a finalist for Honda Cup

It isn't very often that UConn's Breanna Stewart fails to win a prestigious national award she has been nominated for.

However, that is what took place on Monday night in Los Angeles as former Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, a sophomore at Cal, was named the winner of the Honda Cup.

This is second year in a row that Stewart was named one of the three finalists for the award which is picked from the 12 individual sport winners. Florida softball star Lauren Haeger, the first player in history with 70 career wins and home runs, was the other finalist this year.

Stewart was bidding to become the fourth UConn women's basketball player to win the award as Maya Moore joins swimming legend Tracy Caulkins as the only two-time winner while Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti won in back to back years in 1995 and 1996.

Stewart was named one of the top three finalists in 2014 before Alabama gymnast Kim Jacob was named the winner of the award.

Stewart led the Huskies in scoring (17.6 points per game) and rebounding (7.8) and became the first women's player to be named Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four three times.

She will enter her senior season 10th on UConn's career scoring list with 1,960 points, is 10th on the career rebounding charts and fifth with 288 blocked shots.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

UConn's Stewart up for Honda Cup

Breanna Stewart has a chance to win one of the few awards to elude her during a remarkable first three seasons at UConn as she is one of 12 finalists for the Honda Cup.

The winner will be announced on Monday between 9-10 p.m. live on the CBS Sports Network during the Collegiate Women's Sports Awards. Maya Moore (a two-time winner), Jen Rizzotti and Rebecca Lobo are the only UConn women's basketball players to win the award.

If the online balloting counts for anything, Stewart is the favorite as she has received more than twice as many as one of the 11 individual sport winners. Stewart has received 30 percent of the votes. UCLA women's soccer star Sam Mewis has received 13 percent of the votes, California swimmer Missy Franklin and Albany field hockey standout Paula Heuser have picked up 12 percent of the votes.

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter helps U.S. win FIBA Americas 16 bronze medal

UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had 10 points, five assists and four steals as the United States defeated Mexico 81-24 in the bronze-medal game at the FIBA Americas U16 Championships.

Espinoza-Hunter led the U.S. with seven 3-pointers in the five games (which ranked fifth among all players in the tournament) and was tied for second on the team in scoring averaging 10 points per game.

She was one of four U.S. players in double figures against Mexico as the U.S. rebounded after Saturday's loss to Brazil. Alex Morris, the top scorer for the U.S. in the tournament and Jade Williams had 11 points each while Espinoza-Hunter and Destiny Littleton each had 10 points.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

U.S. stunned in FIBA Americas U16 semifinals

For just the second time since 2000 a United States women's team playing in the FIBA Americas U16 or U18 or FIBA U17 or U19 World Championships will not be playing for the gold medal.

The U.S. rolled to three wins in pool play at the FIBA Americas 16 Championships by a combined score of 251-133 and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the U.S. would beat Brazil to advance to Sunday's gold-medal game.

However, with Izabela Leite had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Obalunanma Ugwu had 20 points and 12 rebounds as Brazil posted a stunning 72-63 victory.

Alexis Morris had 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists to lead the U.S. UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had nine points, seven rebounds and two assists as well as five turnovers.

The U.S. will play host Mexico in the bronze-medal game while Canada and Brazil will play for the gold medal.

This is the 20th U16, U17, U18 or U19 event the U.S. has played since 2000 and 18 times they came away with the gold medal including 16 undefeated runs to the title.

The U.S. had an 18-0 record in the FIBA Americas U16 event before the loss to Brazil, is 23-0 in the U17 World Championships and since 2000 is 34-0 in the FIBA Americas U18 championship. The U.S. did lose three games since 2000 in the FIBA U19 World Championships but two of them came in pool play. The lone exception came in the 2001 semifinals when UConn's Geno Auriemma was the head coach and Diana Taurasi the team's leading scorer when the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic and finished with a gold medal.

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter, U.S. advance to U16 semifinals

UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had six points, two rebounds and two assists as the United States defeated host Mexico 85-44 to win Group A at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Destiny Littleton had 17 points and seven rebounds, Alex Morris had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists while Aquira De Costa and Sedonia Prince combined for 17 points and 26 rebounds as the U.S. finished pool play with a 3-0 mark.

The U.S. will play Brazil in Saturday's semifinals while Mexico and Canada will meet in the other semifinal.

Friday, June 26, 2015

UConn GA Lister enjoying the best of both worlds

Jasmine Lister is by nature a positive "glass is half full" type of person but even she is a little stunned at her good fortune over the last nine months.

The undrafted rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt was a last-day cut by the Seattle Storm a year ago and she made such an impression that UConn legend Sue Bird recommended to UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey that she consider Lister for a vacant graduate assistant job.

Lister was there every step of the way as the Huskies won their third national title in a row. While Lister hadn't completely given up on playing professionally, she wasn't figuring to get too many opportunities to return to the court until her two-year run as a GA at UConn was over.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

A couple weeks ago Brian Agler, who left his job as the head coach at Seattle to take over in Los Angeles, reached out to Lister to see if she might be interested in joining the injury-riddled Sparks team. That began a series of events resulting in Lister making her WNBA regular-season debut in Tuesday's loss to Washington.

"He called me last Sunday night, can you be in D.C. early tomorrow morning," Lister said before Friday's game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I found the first flight out, I was in my apartment near campus and had one of our lovely managers take me to the airport at 5 a.m. in the morning and practiced the next day.

"He had kind of asked me a few weeks before what my availability was, if I would be able to come away from UConn stuff so I had to communicate with the coaches over at UConn and they let me go. I got the second call, I was kind of like 'OK, I can go do this now.' Everybody was really happy for me and very understanding and it was a matter of them telling me I could leave tomorrow morning.

"I was in awe, I couldn't believe it at first. I just kind of took it and transitioned as quickly as possible. I was thinking about it and said I have been playing basketball my entire life so do what you know what to do  and listen to instruction, be coachable which is what I do."

There might have been people surprised that Lister stepped right in, played eight minutes and finished with four points, four rebounds and one assist after not playing in a competitive game since the 2014 preseason but Agler was not among them.
"We had her in Seattle last year and we knew we weren't going to keep another point guard because we have Sue (Bird), Temeka (Johnson) and Tanisha Wright and we knew we only had 11 players so having another point guard didn't make any sense. She came in, wasn't drafted and because when she was there, we practiced so well and she helped us practice that we kept her to the last day.

"We were thinking of finding a player two weeks ago so I talked to her and nothing really panned out. We are sitting there in a coaches meeting leading up to the Connecticut game and she called me. I said 'Jasmine it is so ironic that you called because there is a chance that we are going to be looking for a point guard pretty soon.'

"She is sharp. She came in and picked things up within an hour. When she played the other night I wasn't surprised about the energy, the effort or the focus that she had. She is on top of things, she is very vocal in practice, has great leadership skills. I think she has only helped herself with how she has played the other night."

With the injuries to Erin Phillips and Alana Beard and Kristi Toliver not yet back  with team after playing in the European championships Lister is seeing plenty of action. When Johnson went down early in Friday night's game against the Sun and clearly hobbled, Lister played 30:41 in the 80-76 overtime loss. She finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists.

Agler wasn't aware about Lister transitioning to a coaching role until he headed to the UConn/Stanford game in November.

"I sitting on the sideline she walked out and I said 'what are you doing here?'" Agler said. "She keeps coming back into my life."

While Lister didn't have a team to play on since getting cut by the Storm, she did have a support system in place to remain in game shape.

"I had been training, (UConn assistant coach) Shea Ralph had been working me out during the offseason with Sue Bird and Kalana Greene so I was staying ready and I was playing pickup (games)," Lister said. "I just love basketball so in the event that I didn't get a training camp, it was still like 'OK, I am still going to play ball.'"

Lister is thrilled to be able to work alongside Geno Auriemma and his staff while also continue her basketball career.

"It is a huge opportunity on both levels," Lister said. "It is a huge blessing and I couldn't be anymore grateful so I am not taking it for granted at all.

"It (UConn's national-championship run) was so surreal. That is like a once in a lifetime opportunity and to be a part of that was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful to Coach (Geno Auriemma) and all the other coaches on the team to be able to have me."

The  question when she was signed was whether she was a stop gap player while the Sparks wait for their veterans to get healthy or whether she was there for the duration. She is certainly making a strong case to remain with the team for the rest of the season even when Toliver and Phillips return.

"I am going with it and I have a goal to potentially make the team, if not fine, but I want to make the team. I am going back to LA, practicing and playing in the next game."

No European Games medal for former UConn star

Tiffany Hayes has been away from the Atlanta Dream along with teammate Aneika Henry because she was trying to lead Azerbajian to a medal in the 3x3 basketball competition at the European Games.

Hayes helped  Azerbajian win three of its first four games to reach the quarterfinals. Hayes made a one-point basket to break a 16-16 tie but Spain ended the match scoring the final three points to record the 19-17 win in the quarterfinals.

Hayes got off to a slow start with two points in the first two matches, a 15-11 loss to Switzerland and 14-10 win over Netherlands. In the final three matches she had 23 points including a team-high 10 in a 17-10 Round of 16 victory against Lithuania.

Russia won the gold medal beating Ukraine 22-17 in the championship game while Spain earned the bronze medal.

Hayes has played in five games for the Dream, scoring in double figures in each contest. Despite getting off to a tough start shooting the ball making 30 percent of her shots and shooting 27 percent from 3-point range, Hayes is Atlanta's second-leading scorer with an average of 12.2 points per game. Atlanta has a 1-3 record without Hayes heading into tonight's game against Washington.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter, U.S. win big again

UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had nine points and four rebounds as the United States defeated Honduras 86-41 to improve to 2-0 in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Honesty Scott-Grayson, who is Espinoza-Hunter's teammate at Blair Academy, had 18 points to lead three U.S. players (all non-starters) in double figures.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter leads U.S. to win in opener

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had 16 points, five rebounds and an assist as the United States opened with an 80-48 win over Argentina on the first day of the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Espinoza-Hunter had a tough shooting game as she was 1 of 8 from inside the 3-point line but she was 3 of 6 from 3-point range as she shared the scoring lead with Alexis Morris and also played a team high 30 minutes.

Hunter Scott-Grayson, who is Espinoza-Hunter's teammate at Blair Academy, added 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Jade Williams had eight points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

UConn freshmen "have a lot of personality"

We were able to get Geno Auriemma's thoughts on the three freshmen when he held court with the media at his annual golf tournament on Monday.

Today it was associate head coach Chris Dailey's turn to give her impression of De'Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson.

"What I have taken away from the younger players is they have a lot of personality and that is going to be fun to coach," Dailey said after finishing her round in the celebrity pro-am at the Travelers Championship. "I think for us, it is a really long year and we don't do a whole lot at this point because if you start coaching them in June I don't know if they want to listen to you in September, October and November and hopefully we play until April so they got a sense about campus, about academics and workouts. They kind of saw some of the things they needed to work on and showed them how to get better at that but most importantly thy come with a lot of personality which will be fun."

Dailey had a fun day including ending her round in the mini-golf tournament with a hole in one before playing 18 holes in the pro-am.

"I followed the pro's lead and it is all about pace," Dailey said of her ace. "It was fun. It was the easiest hole on the course.

"I get excited about any of that stuff. I was ready to play another round, if you do well you want to play another hole so it was good. I had to carry Geno and Coach Diaco and I did the best I could."

UConn women's basketball reels in ESPY nominations

UConn resident superstar Breanna Stewart was nominated for an ESPY as the best female athlete and best female collegiate athlete.

Geno Auriemma is a candidate for the best coach/manager while former Huskies Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi are among five up for the WNBA Player of the Year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Plenty of debuts in Washington/LA game

It was all about long-awaited season debuts in the nationally-televised Washington/Los Angeles WNBA game tonight.

Former UConn star Bria Hartley, who has been sidelined with a stress reaction in her foot, saw her first action of the season with the winning Mystics. Hartley finished with six points in six minutes in Washington's 84-80 victory.

Nneka Ogwumike, who injured her ankle in a preseason game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, also saw her first regular-season action of the season. Ogwumike played 36 minutes and finished with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists before fouling out (on a silly play around the free throw line in the backcourt).

One surprise was seeing the name of UConn graduate assistant coach Jasmine Lister in the box score. Lister, who starred at Vanderbilt, went to training camp with the Seattle Storm last year before being cut. Brian Agler, who was the Seattle coach at the time and now is the head coach with Los Angeles, obviously made a positive impression on Agler as she was signed to fill a void in the LA backcourt caused by the injuries to Erin Phillips and Alana Beard as well as Kristi Toliver on her way back to the U.S. after playing for the Slovak Republic in the Eurobasket Championships. Lister had four points, four rebounds and one assist in eight minutes in her first WNBA regular-season game.

Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson chipped in with seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Washington.

UConn's Williams expanding her game

Gabby Williams went into her first collegiate season with her eyes wide open.

With her final two high school seasons cut short due to knee injuries, Williams had plenty of catching up to do when she arrived at UConn. She had to work herself into position just to be able to practice and then had to adjust when the coaches informed her that she would be playing forward.

With Williams scoring in double figures five times in her first nine collegiate games and twice having back to back 10-rebound games, it all looked so easy for Williams. The reality, however, is that the learning on the fly aspect of her freshman season was more challenging than it might have appeared.

"I didn't know what was going to happen, I don't think I thought that far ahead," Williams said. "I was like 'I am here now, let's see what I can do.'"

So how did the high school guard make the move to the front court?

"Just put in extra hours, I didn't know one post move so I had a lot to learn," Williams said. "I depended on my athleticism for a lot. I think a lot of it was just mostly the coaches being patient with me and making sure I got it right."

It didn't hurt that she is a world-class high jumper who finished fifth in the event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials. Even if she didn't know exactly what she was supposed to do, she aggressively went after rebounds and when given the ball in the lane, all she did was lead the Huskies with a 63.7 field-goal percentage. She was also UConn's third-leading rebounder even though she played only 15.6 minutes per game.

Unlike a season ago, Williams has been able to spend the entire year working on her game. She has been putting in the work adding range on her jump shot and improving in other areas so she can be more than a reliable finisher in the low block.

"I've been working on my ball handling so hopefully I can move off the block," Williams said. "I do call myself a forward. That is kind of a funny thing now, I like it more down there than I did playing guard. Obviously the coaches know best and they saw something that I didn't see the entire time I have playing basketball so I had to put my trust in them."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma is asking Williams to make gradual improvements to her game and likes what he has seen.

"In the (off)season she has put a lot of time in the gym and she is getting really comfortable and that kid is going to be really good," Auriemma said. "I don't know how far away but right now if we get her comfortable 15 feet away (on her jump shot) that makes it really hard for people. I remember when we recruited Meghan Pattyson and people said she is a 5-10 power forward, how are you going to win a national championship? We didn't but we went to the Final Four. You put somebody who is an incredible athlete, she is good around the basket who as she gets a little bit better shooting the ball, it is a tough matchup for people."

Williams was feeling good enough to try out for the U.S. team playing in the FIBA U19 World Championships. She did not make the 12-member squad but believes the experience was still a positive one.

"It was disappointing because that was my first shot at it," Williams said. "I think even being there I gained a lot of confidence, I was working more on the off the ball screen stuff and mid range and that kind of stuff. I think my shot improved while I was there. Coming back I saw things I need to work on so I think it really is a blessing."

Last year Williams spent plenty of time with Morgan Tuck as both recovered from knee surgeries. This year they are working together doing individual drills as they both look to expand on what they can do on the court.

"We are doing our individuals together and we are both working on the same stuff, expanding more than just back to the basket kind of stuff," Williams said. "It is going to be harder for people to guard us with our mid-range game."

One teammate who hasn't been around to work with Williams is fellow rising sophomore Kia Nurse. Nurse, who was just named to the Canadian team playing in next month's Pan Am Games, has been back in Canada working with the national team. On Monday, the day she was named to the Pan Am Games squad, she also joined her brother Darnell (a top prospect for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers) lighting the flame in the stadium being used to host the soccer competition at the Pan Am Games.

"It is really fun just to watch her," Williams said. "We got really close last year so she tells me about it. I know how much she loves her brother and how much she loves her country so it is really cool to see her with the success that she has."

Williams is putting herself in position for a successful sophomore season with good old fashioned hard work.

"Just paying attention to every detail that I can, how fast I am getting the ball up and that kind of thing because now is the time to do it," said Williams, who said she is taking hundreds of jump shots on a daily basis. "Maybe up to a thousand (per day), just shoot as much as I can."


UConn's Auriemma has seen his golf tournament spread its wings

Annually those who cover the 10-time national champion UConn women's basketball program circle that Monday in June when Geno Auriemma's annual Fore The Kids golf tournament is held at the Hartford Golf Club.

That is the day when we get to catch up Auriemma, some of his returning players and usually get to speak to the freshmen for the first time. While it is an incredibly productive day for the assembled media (this is blog No. 3 off the event with more to come), it would be a mistake not to look at the bigger picture.

The annual tournament has raised millions of dollars for the Connecticut Children's Medical Center making sure a difference is so many lives. Auriemma doesn't even remember how many years in a row he has held the golf tournament but is amazed to see how it has grown. The first event had 60-70 golfers but now there are 190 golfers who sign up for the event.

"Each year we grow it a little bit more," Auriemma said. "What we can offer people to come here, how many corporate sponsors we have been able to add and how much money we have been able to deliver to the Connecticut Childen's hospital but we have a great setup. We have the best golf course, Joe Connerton our pro is the best and his staff, our corporate sponsors take care of us every which we can to maximize the money going to the hospital, all volunteers.

"We can only get it so big without making it a 10-hour day of golf. When I first got involved we made $10,000 and had a very small group of people and ever since then it has gone to 190 golfers and I don't know if you go much more than that. We have a new committee starting next year, Brien Beakey and Joe Campise have stepped down and we have some new people coming in and we will talk about some ideas moving forward and see where that takes us."