Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

UConn duo deliver again for U.S. in U19 World Cup

Crystal Dangerfield had 11 points and four assists as the U.S. defeated China 91-51 to improve to 2-0 in pool play at the FIBA U19 World Cup.

UConn incoming freshman Megan Walker added seven points and seven rebounds for the U.S.. Joyner Holmes led the six-time defending champion U.S. squad with 14 points and nine rebounds, Chennedy Carter finished with 13 points, Ruthy Hebard had 11 points and nine rebounds while Bella Alarie added 10 points and eight rebounds.

The U.S. wraps up play in Group A against host Italy on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

WNBA All-Star Game a UConn showcase

A record seven UConn graduates took part in today's WNBA All-Star Game although not all seven were on the court at the same time.

Maya Moore led the way with 23 points to earn MVP honors and Sue Bird, playing in front of the home fans in Seattle, set a record with 11 assists as the West won 130-121.

"It was fun," Moore said. "I thought it was a great pace. You never want anybody to get hurt, but you also want to play with a certain intensity and show off your athleticism, so I thought we did that."

Here's the breakdown on how the former Huskies fare

Sue Bird 8 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 steal
Tina Charles 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Stefanie Dolson 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 blocked shot
Tiffany Hayes 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Maya Moore 23 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 blocked shot
Breanna Stewart 9 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists
Diana Taurasi 12 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 blocked shot

"Well, Coach Auriemma texted us this morning, the seven of us in a group, just saying
congrats, have fun, that type of thing," Stewart said. "It is a big deal for seven of us to be here and it's over a long period of time, whether it's Sue's 15th,16th season or my second season in the league. It just goes to show that at UConn obviously we want to have long careers. We love to play basketball, and we want to do it as long as we can, and we want to do it at the highest level for as long as we can."
The seven players and five starters from one school are both WNBA All-Star Game records. However, a couple of UConn-related WNBA All-Star Game records still stand.

The 77 combined points by the former Huskies is one shy of the record total for most points coming from one college in the event's history. Yes, that was set by UConn  in 2009 when Swin Cash had 22 points, Taurasi had 18, Bird and Charde Houston added 16 points each and Asjha Jones had six points. Also, in 2011 a record five UConn players (Cash, Charles, Renee Motngomery, Moore, Taurasi) scored in double figures. I thought that record was going to at least tied today.

Speaking of Connecticut, Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun had 24 points, 9 rebounds and 1 steals. She not only had three 3-pointers but also had a dunk late in the game.

A total of 12 players scored in double figures
West: Moore 23, Nneka Ogwumike 22, Candace Parker 13, Rebekah Brunson 12, Taurasi 12, Chelsea Gray 11
East: Jones 24, Layshia Clarendon 14, Candice Dupree 14, Allie Quigley (also the winner of the 3-point contest) 14, Hayes 12, Sugar Rodgers 10

Solid start for UConn duo at FIBA U19 World Cup

UConn's Megan Walker and Crystal Dangerfield were among four players to score in double figures as the six-time defending champion United States squad opened play in the FIBA U19 World Cup with a 95-58 win over Mali.

Walker, an incoming freshman, came off the bench to score 15 points and added three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Dangerfield, the team captain and starting point guard, had 10 points, two rebounds and three assists.

Texas rising sophomore Alecia Sutton had 19 points, four rebounds and three assists while Texas A&M incoming freshman Chennedy Carter finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Next up is a game against China on Sunday beginning at noon before wrapping up pool play against host Italy on Monday at 2:45 p.m.

Also, Walker is one of the finalists for USA Today's Girls high school athlete of the year. Voting runs through Wednesday and Walker is currently trailing hockey player Grace Zumwinkle in the voting.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More WNBA history for UConn

Pretty sure it's not earth-shattering news for me to declare that UConn alums have enjoyed success at the WNBA level.

The seven former Huskies scheduled to play in Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game are the most from one school in the game's history topping the previous mark of six (also by UConn) in 2011. Tina Charles and Tiffany Hayes will start for the East with Sue Bird, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi set to start for the West. Stefanie Dolson is a reserve for the East and Breanna Stewart is a reserve for the West. Seven times in WNBA history four players from the same school have been selected to play in the WNBA All-Star Game and on six of those occasions, UConn was the program to pull off this remarkable achievement. USC is the only team to join UConn in this select company although only two of the four All-Stars from USC played in the 2003 event.

Taking it one step further, UConn has had the most alums in the last nine WNBA All-Star Games counting Saturday's. It should be noted that UConn tied LSU and Tennessee with three selections in 2013. The last time a school other than UConn produced more All-Stars in one game came in 2003 when four USC alums (Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson and Adrian Williams) were selected to play although in the actual game, UConn had three players (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Nykesha Sales) while USC had just two as an injured Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson did not play.

Another piece of trivia is that UConn and Tennessee are the only programs to have players selected for every WNBA All-Star Game.

UConn has two first-time All-Stars in Tiffany Hayes and Breanna Stewart so when they get into the game, they will be the 12th and 13th UConn alums to play in the WNBA All-Star Game. Rebecca Lobo was selected to play in the inaugural game in 1999 but was injured.

Here's the breakdown of most alums selected to play in one WNBA All-Star Game
7 UConn (Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Stefanie Dolson, Tiffany Hayes, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi) 2017
6 UConn (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi) 2011
5 UConn (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Charde Houston, Asjha Jones, Diana Taurasi) 2009
4 UConn (Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Stefanie Dolson, Maya Moore) 2015
4 UConn (Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi) 2014
4 UConn (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Nykesha Sales, Diana Taurasi) 2005
4 Southern California (Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Adrian Williams)  2003

Also, Bill Laimbeer of the New York Liberty was supposed to coach the Eastern Conference team but the WNBA announced that he has a family matter to tend to so Curt Miller of the Connecticut will be the Eastern Conference head coach and will be joined by his staff at the game in Seattle.

NURSE TO TAKE PART IN CANADA'S TRAINING CAMP
Canada announced the 14 players set to take part in the final training camp before the start of the FIBA AmericaCup (formerly the FIBA Americas Championship).

Nurse had permission to skip the first two training camps. It enabled her to rest her body as well as giving some younger players a chance to shine for Canada.

Nurse joins fellow 2016 Olympians Miranda Ayim, Nirra Fields, Miah-Marie Langlois, Katherine Plouffe and Michelle Plouffe.

While the stars of some of Canada's younger teams aren't in the mix with this round of training, Michigan State's Shay Colley, Iowa State's Bridget Carleton and Virginia Tech's Sami Hill will be there meaning four of the 14 players still have remaining NCAA eligibility or in Hill's case completed her final season just a few months ago.

Two-time Olympians Lizanne Murphy, Tamara Tatham and Shona Thorburn announced their retirement from the Canadian national team program. Fellow veteran Kim Gaucher is also not on the roster leaving Canada with a much younger roster than the group that won the title in the 2015 event. Nurse ranked seventh in the 2015 tournament with an average of 13 points per game and figures to have a significant role in this year's event which runs from Aug 6-13 in Argentina.

"We definitely have a changing of the guard in terms of leadership," Nurse said. "Having myself, Miah-Marie Langlois, we still have Miranda Ayim so we are fortunate to have that leadership but kind of understanding that we have to take a new role and stepping up in that sense. What they brought to our team, the passion and energy, we are trying to keep that going on through the next generation. It obviously changes the dynamic of the team itself because the team can change based on the new people we are bringing in so hopefully we will be a force to be reckoned with in the next quad."

Canada has some rising stars but with the FIBA Women's U19 World Cup set to begin Saturday and the training camp starting on Sunday, there's no way those players can be in Edmonton and Italy at the same time.

"We definitely have been on the rise and our younger age groups have been doing a great job and everything Canada basketball has put in place," Nurse said. "I came up in those ranks when I was really young so when they find somebody who they think has that chance, that ability to make a difference, that is for sure something we would love to have. Our talent pool is bigger than ever and I think that is big for us."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

UConn grads Dolson, Stewart to play in WNBA All-Star Game

The number of UConn graduates selected to play in Saturday's WNBA All-Star is now at seven after Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm and Stefanie Dolson of the Chicago Sky were named as reserves.

Stewart entered Tuesday night ranking fourth with an average of 8.9 rebounds per game and fifth in scoring (19.4 points per game).

Dolson is averaging career highs in points (14.2), rebounding (5.8) and assists (2.3) per game.

Former UConn stars Sue Bird, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi will be starting for the West squad while Tina Charles and Tiffany Hayes will start for the Eastern Conference.

Alyssa Thomas is one of the reserves for the Eastern Conference as she will join her Connecticut Sun teammates Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas as All-Star participants.

Thomas is averaging 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game helping the Sun to a 12-8 record heading into Thursday's game at New York.

It was also announced that Bird, Moore and Jasmine Thomas will be joined by Allie Quigley and Sugar Rodgers will take part in the 3-point shooting contest at halftime.

The WNBA All-Star Game will be played at Seattle's KeyArena at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

With Eastern Conference starter Elena Delle Donne and Western Conference reserve Brittney Griner being forced to miss the game due to injury, WNBA President Lisa Borders will select the injury replacements. San Antonio is the only team without a representative so if Borders decides to add a San Antonio player, there's a chance an eighth former Husky could become an All-Star as Moriah Jefferson is a candidate for selection although with Bird, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chelsea Gray all on the Western Conference roster, perhaps a post player (like San Antonio's Isabelle Harrison) could be selected.

Monday, July 17, 2017

UConn's Dailey to be honored by Connecticut Sun

The Connecticut Sun announced that UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey will receive the Margo Dydek Award as its 2017 Woman of Inspiration on August 8 when former UConn stars Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and the Seattle Storm return to Mohegan Sun Arena.

Dailey, who has been at Geno Auriemma side since 1985 as UConn won a record 11 national titles and have seen five of their players be the No. 1 overall picks in the WNBA Draft while 13 of her UConn players have been members of WNBA national championship teams, will participate in a pregame reception and honored at halftime. In her name, a $1,000 donation will be made by the Connecticut Sun Foundation, through the Travelers Championship, to the Jay S. Fishman Fund at the Bruce Edwards Foundation to help find a cure for ALS.

The Margo Dydek Award, named after the former Sun center, is given to an outstanding woman who has distinguished themselves while positively impacting the local community. Previous recipients of the award include PGA of America Vice President Suzy Whaley, former Connecticut governor M. Jodi Rell and former WNBA star Rebecca Lobo.

Dydek was a former Connecticut Sun All Star who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 37 in 2011. 

“I first met Margo in 1994 when we took our team on a foreign tour to France and Italy and we played against her,” Dailey said in a release. “Margo was an imposing and skilled young player and it was not surprising to see her have success in the WNBA.  It is humbling to receive an inspirational award and I am honored to be the recipient of one that recognizes Margo for her contributions to the Connecticut Sun Community, both on and off the court.”

There was more UConn related WNBA news today as Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart swept the WNBA Player of the Week awards marking the second time this season that UConn grads swept the awards. More honors could be coming as the reserves for Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game will be announced tomorrow night. UConn grads Bird, Tina Charles, Tiffany Hayes, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi will start in the game. Stewart would have to be considered close to a lock to be selected while Dolson and Moriah Jefferson could also be selected to play in the game.

Since the WNBA went from awarding one player of the week to giving out awards to players in each conference in 2007, this is the 17th time the honorees came from players who attended the same college. Thirteen times it was a UConn sweep led by the duo of Charles and Maya Moore who swept the awards five times.

 The first time it happened came on June 29, 2008 when Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi were the winners. Sue Bird and Jones were honored on July 26, 2009 (marking the only time players in the same recruiting class won the award the same week).

Also, the U.S. U-19 team played its first exhibition game. UConn's Crystal Dangerfield had 17 points and three assists in the 84-72 victory over Spain. Megan Walker added six points and five rebounds.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Challenging second WNBA season for former UConn star Moriah Jefferson

The image was a perfect snap shot of what a season of frustration and pain it has been for the San Antonio Stars.

The Stars fell to 2-17 thanks to the host Connecticut Sun's 33-point third-quarter explosion and perhaps an hour or so after the game was over, two of the faces of the San Antonio franchise made it into the room inside Mohegan Sun Arena used to provide food for media, team officials and other VIPs. In walked Moriah Jefferson holding a napkin to cover her bloody lip and Kayla McBride had a protective boot on the left ankle she injured in Sunday's loss.

San Antonio was expected to be led by Jefferson, a former UConn star who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft, McBride, who was taken third overall in 2014, and Kelsey Plum, the top pick in the '17 draft. However, the three perimeter players have combined to miss 10 games and even in the ones they have been on the court, they were far from being 100 percent.

"We didn't have a lot of court time together," Jefferson said before Sunday's game. "Kayla came back and played, I wasn't playing because of my knee, Kelsey wasn't playing so there really hasn't been a time when all three of us have been together."

All three got onto the court on Sunday. McBride and Plum started as they combined for 25 points while Jefferson returned after missing the last two games due to a concussion. Jefferson played 20 minutes and finished with eight points two coming on a steal and layup in the second quarter to give the Stars the lead for the first time in the game. McBride was need to be helped off the court after injuring her ankle midway through the fourth quarter.

Jefferson, who missed three games earlier in the season due to a knee injury, was thrilled to be back on the court.

"It's hard not playing knowing that I could do something to help my team, it is tough but I think I have been preaching patience on the off the court," Jefferson said. "My body needed the rest of a little bit. I have played year round so things happen and you can't control them."

The perpetually upbeat Jefferson is not letting the Stars' 2-17 record dampen her spirits.

"It is not like we are getting blown out each and every game," Jefferson said. "We play well together, we've had injuries and a lot of different things, a new coaching staff, new everything. I think five or six minutes change each game. It is just a different coaching staff, our defensive schemes are different, some of the players are the same but we have a lot of different things but it is mostly learning to adjust. It is going to take a lot of time."

Jefferson, who had started only five games, is third on San Antonio in scoring averaging 10.6 points in 25.6 minutes per game. Her averages of 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game are tops on the team. She is shooting 53.4 percent from the field (just behind team leader Kayla Alexander's mark of 53.5) and has a 44.4 mark from 3-point range. However, Jefferson is trying to do more than just impressive individual numbers to the team.

"I am a better leader, smarter," Jefferson said. "You know the girls are going to be a lot bigger, stronger and I have been trying to be smarter with the ball, coming off the screens knowing where my teammates like to catch the ball."

Jefferson credits her time playing overseas in Turkey for making her a better player even if her injuries have slowed her down in Jefferson's second WNBA season.

"They don't call as many fouls as they do in this league, all the guards are really quick so it helps you a lot," Jefferson said. "They expect you to be a scorer every night so it helps you. The ball is in my hands 90-95 percent of the time so it is learning how to score in different ways and still pass the ball."

Due to her overseas commitments, she was unable to make it to Dallas for the Final Four. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the final score in UConn's loss to Mississippi State in the national semifinals.

"It was like 4 in the morning," Jefferson said, "I had a game the next day, I woke up and saw that they lost. I went back to sleep and woke up in shock, it felt like a dream a little bit. Those guys played amazing all season, nobody expected them to do what they did."

As for Sunday's game, San Antonio held a five-point lead at halftime before things fell apart. Connecticut came up with eight steals (a franchise record for steals in a quarter) in the third quarter. San Antonio was outscored 33-10 and despite a late offensive flurry spearheaded by Plum, never challenged again.

Alyssa Thomas, who plays as hard as any player in the WNBA, turned up the intensity to an even higher level in the third quarter as the Sun improved to 12-8. The win combined with Washington's loss to New York means that Connecticut has sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference which is rather impressive considering that the Sun played without standout forward Chiney Ogwumike all season long and has dealt with other injuries.

Today was my first day back at work after being on vacation for the last two weeks.

Among the newsworthy items that transpired while I was away included five former UConn players (Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Tiffany Hayes, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi) being named as starters for the July 22 WNBA All-Star Game. Breanna Stewart should definitely join them at the All-Star Game in Seattle. Stefanie Dolson and Jefferson also could be selected to play which would make the all-star game be a little bit of a UConn reunion. The reserves will be announced on Tuesday.

Also, the list of players heading to U.S. U-23 training camp were also released. When I spoke to Napheesa Collier at Geno Auriemma's charity golf tournament last month, she said that she was going along with Katie Lou Samuelson, Azura' Stevens and Gabby Williams were all going even though UConn's upcoming trip to Italy would prevent them from playing in the 2017 Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo.

"We won't be doing it (the tournament next month) but as least we'll be doing (the trials) and we'll be seen by the same people."

Also, it came out that Saniya Chong's first season playing overseas will feature to trip to Israel to play for Elitzur Holon.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Success has not gone to the head of former UConn star Breanna Stewart

Over the years I have spent my share of quality time with some of the greatest women's basketball players of all time.

I've seen Sue Bird move by the knee injury that cost her most of her freshman season at UConn and become a four-time Olympic gold medalist. Now she stands 101 assists shy of Ticha Penicheiro's WNBA career record. I still remember my phone conversations with Diana Taurasi during her recruiting process and the time that thanks to the folks at USA Basketball, I was able to spend about 30 minutes with Maya Moore before she played her first game at UConn.

Between UConn, the WNBA and USA Basketball, I've interacted with UConn greats so many times. Normally, it is a case of a nosy reporter like me asking the questions and them providing the answers. In those scenarios, they are in their element and so am I. However, it is impossible to know how they will react when we meet in other situations whether it is a case of me staying in the same hotel, boarding the same flight or being at the same hotel. Even the most accomodating of former and UConn player can reach the point when they've seen enough of me and some may say that takes place in the first minute or two that they first meet me. However, I always find it interesting to see how they react when we have chance meetings.

I remember at the 2016 Final Four, it was a who's who of UConn women's basketball waiting to greet the team after the Huskies won the national championship. I was among the media waiting outside the locker room. One by one they walked by, a few would give a polite wave or say hello but the only one who stopped, reached out to shake my hand and ask how I was doing was Tina Charles.

Fast forward to Tuesday night and I was leaving Mohegan Sun Arena after the Connecticut Sun/Los Angeles Sparks game. I turned the corner and started down the hallway leading to the parking garage when I heard a familiar voice say, "hey, what's up." It was Breanna Stewart with a few of her Seattle Storm teammates. Had she kept walking without acknowledging me, I wouldn't have given it a second thought but that is not her way. "You're coming Thursday night, right" she asked as if she needed to ask that question.

When a group of Connecticut media got to speak to her before Thursday's game, she was just as jovial. It speaks volumes into the type of person that she is. If you've met her parents, you would expect her to act the way she does. I still remember when Stewart was a junior and at the Final Four, the press conference to announce the Associated Press player and coach of the year was fast approaching. As I was walking in that direction, her parents asked me where the event was being held so I led them into the room. We all went to the back of the room and I remember her mom asking, "what if is she isn't the winner." I laughed and said if you look around the room, there was only Connecticut media and officials. Then I said, "you'll be the parents of the year if you are here to watch Jewell Loyd win national player of the year." Heather Stewart's response was, "I love Jewell Loyd."

Stewart was among the first of the Seattle players to emerge from the locker room at halftime. The Storm played had every expectation of being able to run onto the floor and get some shots off. However, Katie Douglas, Rebecca Lobo and Nykesha Sales were finishing up a question and answer session as part of the Sun honoring its 15th season. Stewart quickly began to applaud as the three players wrapped up the event. Soon many of her teammates followed Stewart's lead. It was impressive to see.

I've said this before and I will say it again. In all the years I've covered UConn, there has never been a better class to deal with that Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck. Not once in four years did they roll their eyes at a question, seem annoyed to talk to us or send out any vibes about them having better things to do that talk to us.

It was more of the same on Tuesday when I sat down with Tuck for a story I am working on documenting the impact of 15 seasons of the WNBA at Mohegan Sun and specifically how UConn and the Connecticut Sun have benefited from both being in this state that loves its women's basketball. Her answers were thoughtful and she was accommodating as always.

As for Stewart's time with the media, she spoke about the warm welcome she receives when she returns to Connecticut.

"It is really special to be here," Stewart said. "I am walking through and everybody stops me, 'I loved your career at UConn and I still follow you.' That feels good and to see a lot of people here tonight whether they have UConn gear, Seattle gear, I am just happy to be back."

See spoke about her "offseason" playing in China.

"I liked Shanghai and China," Stewart said. "I'm going back next year with a lot of the same players so it is exciting.

"Just continuing to feel more and more comfortable and aware of the pressure. I had to do a lot with my team, bringing the ball up, coming off screens, shooting the 3 off the dribble or just creating something. You have full range to do whatever you want."

Then there was talk about her being more willing to voice her opinion on matters both on and off the court.

"Continuing to become a professional, be a professional and hold myself to professional (standards)," Stewart said. "You have (responsibility) on the court but off the court, using my platform to speak and vocalize my thoughts, just doing things as a pro would."

Stewart rarely spoke on subjects outside of basketball during her time at UConn.

"You don't think about it, there are so many things going on," Stewart said. "CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) has you doing so many things and when I was done with the season at Seattle, there were things that needed to be talked about, when I was at the ESPYs, it seemed like there was a lot happening in our world and instead of spending time (just) saying thank you very much, I was thinking about something that is really important and (speaking) from the heart."

With Stewart and fellow UConn legend Sue Bird returning with Seattle and the game promoted heavily due to the 15th season celebration, the crowd of 8,868 was not only the largest of the season for the Sun but largest since 9,110 turned out when Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury came to town exactly four years earlier.

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