Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

UConn's Auriemma thankful for his pioneering Hall of Famer

Rebecca Lobo stood on the court that began the journey from talented local girl to nationally-recognized basketball ambassador and made her latest moment in the sun about everybody but herself.

Her brief remarks to the 8,103 fans in attendance at Gampel Pavilion for last night's 82-47 victory over nationally ranked Cal were quick to credit her coaches, teammates and the Husky faithful for helping her become the first UConn player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Then she turned the spotlight onto the UConn legends who followed her to Storrs.

"You are going to have to make room because there are going to be a lot more women's basketball players going into the Hall of Fame," Lobo said before her Hall of Fame banner was unveiled.

Lobo was a national player of the year in college who led the Huskies to the first of their record national titles, she was one of the faces when the WNBA was launched. When a knee injury shortened her promising professional career, she remained connected with the game as a highly respected commentator for ESPN. Some of the people she works with on ESPN's coverage of women's basketball made sure they were at Gampel for her special night even though not even one eyebrow would have been raised had they not made an appearance.

It didn't take much prodding for UConn coach Geno Auriemma to reflect on Lobo's impact on the program, in his life and on the sport.

"The longer you are in this, the more you realize how fortunate you really are to have gotten to know some of these people that I have been fortunate enough to get to know," Auriemma said. "We had dinner (Thursday) night and talked about a lot of things from the beginning to the end. All of sudden, a 17-year-old kid that you recruited is enshrined in a place reserved for the greatest basketball people of all time and she is a part of that. It is hard to think back and say, 'I knew this was going to happen' but at the same time I am not surprised one bit that it happened.

"She is just a unique woman who has qualities that you don't find very often in people. A lot of people have some of Rebecca's qualities but very few if any people that I have ever met have all the qualities that Rebecca has. She is a great person, a great ambassador, a great mom, a great wife, a great daughter, a great sister. She's got every box, she is a professional, she has every single box checked of what you want accomplished in life."



Friday, November 17, 2017

Samuelson injured in UConn's home opener

There was a lot to like about UConn's victory over No. 20 in its home opener. Six different players scored in double figures for the Huskies and the defense played by seniors Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse on Cal's 6-foot-4 offensive dynamo Kristine Anigwe was impressive to say the least.

However, the biggest news to come out of the 82-47 victory was that All-American Katie Lou Samuelson left the game with what was called a mid-foot sprain by UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Samuelson will have x-rays on her left foot, the same one she injured as a freshman forcing her to miss the national championship game. Her status for Sunday's game against No. 15 Maryland is yet to be determined.

"According to Janelle (Francisco, UConn's athletic trainer), it's something called a mid-foot sprain so we will find out more tomorrow, get some x-rays and make sure nothing is broken and then we will see after tomorrow."

Samuelson, who was wearing a protective walking boot following the game, wasn't available to speak to the media but her teammates said she was in good spirits after the game.

"She wasn't too down which I was happy about because she takes that stuff really personally and it really does affect her, she showed that she is still here for us and that shows a lot that he  is not going to sit there and feel bad for herself," Williams said.

Samuelson came into the game needing one 3-pointer to hit the 200 mark. She missed all four of her shots from behind the 3-point line and wasn't particularly close on any of them. However, she found different ways to score. The play she was hurt on came on a strong cut which likely would have resulted in an opportunity for a three-point play. But she fell to the ground awkwardly after being fouled by Cal's Mikayla Cowling with 4:02 left in the second quarter.









Thursday, November 16, 2017

Geno Auriemma dishes on newly signed recruiting class

When Christyn Williams called UConn coach Geno Auriemma to let him know she was planning to become a Husky, it wasn't a stunning revelation. However, Auriemma admitted he wasn't sure which way Olivia Nelson-Ododa was leaning before she committed to the Huskies on Monday.

"You never know about recruiting," Auriemma said. "I remember the very first time I sat down and watched her play, I thought this kid plays really hard, she is really competitive and she has incredible athletic ability. There are a lot of things that she does well, then when you meet these kids, sometimes it makes you question (if you want to continue to recruit them) and other times it just adds to it. She is one of the nicest kids we have been involved with in recruiting - both of these kids her and Christyn,

"I know Olivia hasn't played, it's been a little while since she played (as a result of a knee injury). She is a little bit like Azura' as a person, laid back kind of easy going, nice kid and just a really talented kid. She is not a 'stick them in the low post and forget about them' player, she is a basketball player. Needless to say we were pretty excited when we got her."

UConn entered the early signing period with no commitments but with the No. 1 rated player in the ESPN rankings (Williams) and in the All-Star Girls Report ratings (Nelson-Ododa), the Huskies are challenging Baylor for the top recruiting class.

The Huskies never look at a ton of kids, they are very selective in the way they recruit but this year it seemed like they were involved with fewer recruits than ever.

"We take kind of a different approach to recruiting," Auriemma said. "We try to identify pretty on what we are looking for and then when we find it, we spend all our time and energy on those kids. If it is one, two or three we go in believing we are going to get the kids we think work hard enough and fit what we want. You roll the dice and you might come up empty but that is the chance we might take. We've been in that situation a lot of times. People said what was your Plan B back in 1991 with Rebecca Lobo? We didn't have a Plan B. What was your Plan B with Stewie, Tuck and Moriah? We didn't have a Plan B, those are the guys we want. Who would your shooter be if you didn't get Lou or Pheesa? I don't know, those are the two guys we wanted and we got them so there are years when you come up empty but we have gotten pretty much what we need more times than not."

Auriemma appreciated the low maintenance  way that Nelson-Ododa handled her recruiting process.

"It wasn't the normal recruiting scenario," Auriemma said. "She is not your typical kid who wants to have 20 schools involved so she can get 20 phone calls and then put out on social media that I am being recruited by 20 schools and when signing day comes, I am going to have 20 different hats and I will pick one out, I am going to post it on all the message boards and let everybody know that I am taking my talents to this particular school. You couldn't get a hold of Olivia for weeks and weeks and weeks you couldn't get a hold of her which was fine with me, apparently it was fine with her and fine with her mom but this wasn't one of those, we have to call them three times every day, we have to text them or be on instant message an all that other nonsense that I don't even know anything else about, she was unusual in recruiting and because of that I don't think anybody really knew where you stood.

"This was old fashioned, when she came up on campus that is when I felt like, CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) did and the rest of the coaching staff felt like we are going to get her just because of the way it evolved when she was on campus. The other kids by the time they come on campus, you know but not with this kid."

Before suffering a season-ending knee injury as a junior, Nelson-Ododa's high school team faced the teams that current UConn freshmen Mikayla Coombs and Megan Walker were on in a tournament in South Carolina.

"She is aggressive and around the basket, she is really talented, she hustles and on defense she will get the blocks," Coombs said. "We've always been in the same (age) group but we were never close. Once she came here, we were able to bond a little bit."

Coombs in thrilled to have another Georgia product coming to UConn.




"They always made fun of me because of how I talk so she will be able to advocate for me that this is how people talk in Georgia so I am excited," Coombs said

The 6-foot-4 Nelson-Ododa will give the Huskies some needed size. Azura' Stevens is 6-foot-6 and she could return for her senior season, Katie Lou Samuelson is 6-foot-3 but she tends to play on the wing.

Auriemma has said that it can be challenging landing commitments from players in the 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 range.






"There are so few of them anymore, it used to be that there are a couple of choose from and now there aren't very many. You watch college basketball today and do you see any of them who are any good? I don't too many that are any good. I look out there and see a lot of 6-4. 6-5 kids that you go, wow they are really, really good. We've had our share, we probably gotten more than most, you don't have a lot to choose from., If you do get one, it is not like there are seven others  who went to seven other schools, if you got one or two, there's a pretty good chance you were one of the schools to get one so that is a little bit different."

It should be no surprise to hear that Nelson-Ododa and Williams were named to the preseason watch list for the Naismith high school player of the year.





UConn announces details on free shuttle

UConn announced that a pair of shuttles will run before and after every basketball game at Gampel Pavilion beginning with tomorrow night's UConn women's home opener against California.

Here are the details:
The Gameday Shuttle will start running 90 minutes before each game and will run continuously until approximately 90 minutes after each game ends. Fans can catch the shuttle every 20 minutes or so outside the Nash-Zimmer Transportation Center (23 Royce Circle, Storrs) and will be dropped off at the Alumni Bus Stop on Hillside Road on campus.

UConn Transportation will run a second shuttle between F-Lot on the north side of campus and the Werth Family Champions Center. Find route maps and additional information about both the F-Lot and Storrs Center Gameday Shuttles at uconnhuskies.com under “Fan Zone.”

“We are very pleased and appreciative that UConn has implemented a shuttle for our Storrs Center visitors to take to Gampel for a basketball game,” said Mansfield Downtown Partnership Executive Director Cynthia van Zelm. “This is a great service for visitors who want to make a night of it with dinner before or after a game, bringing additional vital traffic to our businesses.”

“I am thrilled that UConn Transportation has agreed to offer free shuttles to our fans during basketball Gamedays in Storrs,” Director of Athletics David Benedict said. “We are always looking for ways to enhance the fan experience, and I’m thankful UConn Nation can take advantage of this option to help alleviate traffic congestion around Gampel.”

Parking is available in the Storrs Center Garage, which is free for the first two hours and $1 per hour thereafter, with a daily maximum charge of $8.
For a list of dining options in Storrs Center, please visit mansfieldct.gov/storrscenter/dine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Olivia Nelson-Ododa commits to UConn

Several hours after Christyn Williams, the No. 1 player in the ESPN's Class of 2018 recruiting rankings, committed to play for the 11-time national championship UConn women's basketball team, the Huskies' Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma admitted, "it's a weird recruiting year."

Thanks to Williams' commitment and the news that Olivia Nelson-Ododa, the No. 5 player in the ESPN rankings and No. 1 by the All-Star Girls Report, would join Williams in a star-studded recruiting class, it is also a special recruiting year for Auriemma and his staff.

Although the 6-foot-4 Nelson-Ododa announced her commitment at a ceremony at Winder-Barrow High School which is located about an hour outside of Atlanta, she called Auriemma Monday to inform her of her intentions.

"I don't think he expected it," Nelson-Ododa said with a laugh. "I was on the speaker phone with my parents and when we called him. We started to talk in the beginning and I said, 'Coach I am going to cut to the chase, I want to play for your program and want to play for UConn.' He took it really well so he was really excited about it."

The 6-foot-4 Nelson-Ododa picked UConn over Duke, Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina and Stanford. It was her recent visit to UConn that sold her on the Huskies.

"My visit when I went up there, I realized how much of a family atmosphere it was," Nelson-Ododa said. "It had a great balance of not only athletics but academics and that is exactly what I was looking for, I am looking forward to developing relationships with the coaches and the entire staff."

Nelson-Ododa was averaging 16.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots per game before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The most serious aspect of the injury was a dislocated kneecap. She led Winder-Barrow to the Georgia AAAAA final as a sophomore when she averaged 17 points and 3.5 blocked shots per game highlighted by a 29-point game in the state semifinals. Nelson-Ododa, who had 13 points and 19 rebounds in the state final, spearheaded a remarkable run by Winder-Barrow which was making its first state playoff appearance since 1994.

Nelson-Ododa said she has been fully cleared to practice and will play in her first game this weekend as she looks to lead Winder-Barrow to a state title.

"This is the best team we've had in the four years I have been here so it is definitely a lot of expectations on us," Nelson-Ododa said. "Each day we come into practice we are focused and we have the mentality that the ring is our goal so we are working towards that."

Nelson-Ododa, who at one time was the top ranked player in the Class of 2018 by ESPN and is currently the No. 1 player on the All-Star Girls Report rankings, played on U.S. U-17 team along with UConn signee Christyn Williams. Nelson-Ododa was the team's leading scorer with 84 points in seven games (one more than Williams), was second on the team with 66 rebounds and 12 blocked shots.

"She is an amazing player, has such a high basketball IQ and she is somebody I would like to play with," Nelson-Ododa said of Williams. "She is a great person off the court, any time I can talk to her about anything and I hit her up about basketball. I think we have a relationship not just on the court but off the court too. She was excited because she was the only one to commit so far so when I told her, she was really excited and happy to hear that news."

Matt Huddleston, who coached Nelson-Ododa with the powerhouse Georgia Metros AAU program, believes that Nelson-Ododa and Williams could form an impressive duo at the next level.

"Both are extreme competitors, they chose the program partially because you have leadership in the program both from the coach and player standpoint, everything is a competition and they will go there together looking to do something really special."

Nelson also has some familiarity with the game of current UConn freshmen Mikayla Coombs and Megan Walker as her Winder-Barrow squad faced off with Coombs' Wesleyan School and Walker's Monacan High School teams at the 2016 Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational. Nelson-Ododa had 27 points and seven rebounds in Winder-Barrow's 65-60 win while Coombs led Wesleyan with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Walker had 22 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a 54-49 win in the championship game two days later. Nelson-Ododa had 16 points, 22 rebounds and two blocked shots.

"Playing against Mikayla's team, I never played against her today, she is so quick and is a hard person to guard and so is Megan," Nelson-Ododa said. "Playing against them, I think that is a good indicator of how they are going to be able to play at UConn and how we are all going to be able to play together and I am really looking forward to it."

Nelson-Ododa came out of the Georgia Metros AAU program which produced UConn's all-time leading scorer Maya Moore.

Huddleston coached both Moore and Nelson-Ododa with the Metros and sees plenty of similarities in the intangibles they bring to the court as well as their impressive work off the court as Nelson-Ododa has a 4.0 grade-point average.

"She is unique player build wise, her height and athleticism have always been (her strength)," Huddleston said. "I met her several years ago  sat down with her, her parents and myself and kind of set out a plan. Olivia's goal was to try to improve as far as she could. It was all about maximizing her ability. Not everybody is willing to put in the time to perfect the little things. It is hard to find kids with natural gifts who are willing to push themselves that little extra. Maya Moore came through our program and was very lucky to work with her, I think she shares a lot of unique qualities that Maya does when it comes to effort, work ethic and getting to be a team-first person. What she will bring there outside of her athleticism is a willingness to work hard and be a part of what Geno's done a great job and that is building a program that doesn't let anybody slack off."

Huddleston recalls Moore writing down her goals before she became a multiple NCAA, Olympic and WNBA champion and Nelson-Ododa has done the same thing.

"She sat down and we have written out some goals and scripted out what the path was, probably a few days before the injury there was already a plan in place for her, high school, prepare for national team trials," Huddleston said. "She is an extremely optimistic kid, she sought out the most aggressive surgery but also one that would give her the opportunity to come back."


Nelson-Ododa attended Moore's basketball camp in Atlanta a couple years ago.

"I got to see first hand how much of a leader she is and how she is so successful not only in my AAU program but at UConn so she is somebody I definitely like to look up to," Nelson-Ododa said.

Her ties to WNBA players don't end there. Her brother Alonzo, a former player at Richmond and Pittsburgh, married former WNBA first-round pick Dearica Hamby of the San Antonio Stars who will now play in Las Vegas.

"She went through the college recruiting process too and was able to watch some of her games," Nelson-Ododa said. "It is really cool to see the distinction between college basketball and pro level basketball, the difference in those levels so she has been able to give me advice and mentor me through this process."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

UConn honored with its own set of bobbleheads

Figured I would pass on an email I received about the UConn women's basketball program being honored with its own bobblehead at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.

Here is the release

MILWAUKEE, Wi., November 14, 2017 – – This morning, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled a limited edition bobblehead commemorating the University of Connecticut’s 11 Women’s Basketball NCAA Division 1 National Championships. The bobbleheads, which are individually numbered to just 216, are only available in the National Bobblehead HOF and Museum’s Online Store. This is the first bobblehead commemorating UConn’s record-breaking 11 National Championships.

The bobblehead features UConn’s mascot, Jonathan the Husky, on a University of Connecticut logo base. Jonathan is holding two replica National Championship trophies with nine additional replica trophies on the base. A commemorative backing lists the years of Connecticut’s National Championships. The officially licensed bobbleheads, which just arrived, cost $40 each plus flat rate shipping of $8.

UConn is one of the most storied program in all of college sports, with the Huskies winning 11 National Championships since 1995. Connecticut, which has been led by head coach Geno Auriemma in each of the championship seasons, captured the Women’s Division 1 title in 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The team has finished the season undefeated in six of the eleven championship seasons.

"This bobblehead is the perfect way for UConn fans to commemorate the school’s 11 historic championships,” said Phil Sklar, Co-Founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. “These will be cherished collectibles that celebrate the tremendous success of the Huskies’ program.”

Last year, the National Bobblehead HOF and Museum started a series of bobbleheads commemorating college basketball teams that have won National Championships. The Connecticut Huskies Men’s Basketball program, which has won five National Championships, was included in the series, and a limited number of those bobbleheads are available for sale.

The bobbleheads were produced exclusively for the National Bobblehead HOF by Forever Collectibles and are officially licensed.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Top prospect Christyn Williams picks UConn

Christyn Williams ended the suspense when the top-rated player in the Class of 2018 when she committed to UConn.

Williams, joined by her parents at a ceremony at Central Arkansas Christian, made the decision with flair having three person walk out with UConn sweatshirts on accompanied by a Husky as she made it official that she was picking UConn over her other finalist, South Carolina.

On an interview with ESPN, she said "I want to be legendary."

This is the second straight year that UConn landed the top player in the country on November 10 as that was when current freshman Megan Walker committed to the Huskies.

Since 2006 UConn has secured a commitment from the top player in the ESPN rankings eight times and been a finalist on three other occasions.

Williams averaged double-doubles as a freshman and sophomore and as a junior she averaged 26.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.

She was the only player with remaining high school eligibility on the silver-medal winning U.S. team at the FIBA U19 World Cup. She averaged 3.2 points and 1.7 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game. UConn's Walker and Crystal Dangerfield were members of that team while UConn freshman Lexi Gordon is Williams' former AAU teammate.

At her signing press conference, Williams said that Dangerfield is the player she is most eager to play with at UConn.

UConn had a commitment from the No. 2 rated player in the class but 6-foot-5 Texas native Charli Collier decommitted from UConn and signed with Texas.

The Huskies are in the running to land No. 5 rated prospect Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a 6-foot-4 post out of Winder-Barrow High School in Winder, Ga.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Pretty quiet on UConn recruiting front - for now

This has been a rather interesting recruiting year at UConn.

With a commitment from a player many consider as the top post player in the Class of 2018 as well as in strong position to land the best player in the class, the Huskies weren't involved with many top prospects.

They did look at Aquira DeCosta and NaLyssa Smith, who have both committed to Baylor but things never got too serious. Very, very early in the process the Huskies looked at Maryland commit Olivia Owens.

However, with the early signing period underway, UConn doesn't have a commitment after Charli Collier decommitted from UConn and is set to be a headliner in the Texas recruiting class. I don't anticipate it being that way for much longer.

Christyn Williams, the No. 1 ranked player by ESPN and No. 4 by Prospects Nation, will announce whether she will commit to UConn or South Carolina on Friday.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, the No. 5 player in the ESPN rankings and No. 7 by Prospects Nation, is planning to make her announcement at her high school as is Williams. I reached out to Nelson-Ododa's high school coach and Kimberly Garren said, "there has not been a date set yet, but we will be doing something at school when she does."

This time of the year is always an interesting one. College coaches are prohibited from commenting due to NCAA regulations, players have answered the same old recruiting questions enough so while I do have Williams' contact information from an interview I did with her over the summer, she's got enough to deal with right now than a call from me. So who would be a good person to talk to about this process? Well, Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of Megan Walker, the top-ranked player in her class, announcing her commitment to play at UConn. After UConn's preseason win over Ashland, I asked Walker what advice she would give to players preparing to make their college decision known over the next several days.

"Make sure it is the right decision for you, I wouldn't listen to any outside advice," Walker said. "You are going to be the one so you should be happy in your decision, just prepare as hard as you can for college and it is a whole different level

"It relieves a weight off of your chest and you can just play, have fun but then it is opening a new chapter."



Something tells me that regardless of what happens in the next eight days, the next recruiting cycle will be significantly more hectic for the UConn coaches. The Huskies have already done quite a bit of work in the recruitment of Aliyah Boston, the top scorer and rebounder on the U.S. U-16 national team, and Samantha Brunelle, who was tied for second in scoring on the U-16 squad. I always view the recruiting process in two-year cycles as a small recruiting class in one year is almost always followed by a monster class so stay tuned.