Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Charity auction, appearance in Derek Jeter commercial part of former UConn star's growth off the court

It would not be a reach to say that former UConn star Maya Moore has been promoted as the face of the WNBA pretty much from the time her name was being called at the 2011 WNBA Draft.

However, Moore's popularity is on the verge of extending outside of the women's basketball world as was evidenced by her being included in Nike's star-studded tribute commercial to retiring New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

"He is a legend. he is somebody who meant so much to not only baseball but sports," Moore said before Sunday's game against the Connecticut Sun. "He is one of my brothers on the (Nike) brand, to be able to appreciate his career and be a part of something bigger than myself in something like that, so many other people were honored to participate and it will bring great dividends to everybody who was involved."

So what does it mean to have a female athlete in an advertising campaign as mainstream as the one honoring Jeter leading into his final MLB All-Star game appearance?

"It shows growth for the sports world in general, acknowledging people who have already been fans and already know about us and appreciate us," Moore said. "Hopefully it will just continue to get people excited about the large word of sports that we have and you want to continue to have your sports juices flowing in the summer.

While she isn't able to fulfill every promotional request made of her, Moore embraces her place as one of the most recognizable faces in the WNBA.

"It is something that I think it necessary if we want more people to get excited about the WNBA and the awesome product we have on the court," Moore said. "It is an amazing product so having those partnerships with spheres and networks outside of the game of basketball I think if great for the basketball community and greater entertainment community."

Not all of her time away from the court is utilized to spread the word about the WNBA and women's basketball. She is also known to lend her name to various charities. The most recent one is a charity auction of one of her old UConn jerseys worn in the 2010 game against St. John's. The online auction, run on eBay, which ends on Tuesday, has raised $820 and drawn 64 bids to date.

"The team of people who help my life go every day, we got together and it was an awesome program that eBay uses to auction off an item for charity," Moore said. "I am so blessed to have so many different physical, material blessings that I feel people would want or appreciate and in the process raise some money for a good causes that are near and dear to my heart. It has worked out really well, it has been really satisfying to know that these things are stockpiling up in my house and it can be put to good use."

Finally, since this was the first chance I had to speak with Moore since UConn completed an undefeated season and won its second straight national title.

"It was so satisfying," Moore said. "I was there with them in spirit, it was one of those things where I lose my voice because two days in a row I am screaming for Connecticut on the TV (during the national championship games). I am proud of the growth I have seen out of the seniors knowing that there were freshmen when I was a senior. It was great to see how they have grown. The players coming through, it was great to see how they overcome Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) overcoming her injury and playing phenomenally in the Final Four. I definitely am still like a proud big sister when it comes to Connecticut women's basketball."


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Report: UConn in mix for Michigan guard

While I haven't heard much regarding UConn's interest in her, I thought it was worth passing on a story from the Detroit Free Press saying Benton Harbor (Michigan) Class of 2016 guard Kysre Gondrezick listing UConn among her final seven schools.

The 5-foot-9 Gondrezick has Baylor, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Notre Dame and South Carolina on her list along with UConn. Her older sister Kalabrya is a rising senior who has committed to Michigan State while their mom, who happens to be their high school coach, was a member of the Louisiana Tech 1988 national championship team. Their dad is Grant Gondrezick who played two seasons in the NBA is a former star at Pepperdine.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

UConn doesn't make the cut for U-17 standout

Arike Ogunbowale, one of the top guard prospects in the Class of 2015, announced on Twitter that her final five schools consisted of Louisville, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA and home state Wisconsin.

Ogunbowale, the third-leading scorer on the U.S. team which recently won the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, had UConn among the list of 11 schools she was considering before she announced that she narrowed it down to her final five.

A couple interesting things about Ogunbowale (who I was tremendously impressed with when I saw her play at the U-17 national team trials in Colorado) is she will be on the same U.S. team as Class of 2015 UConn commits De'Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson at the Youth Olympic Games in China next month and she is the cousin of top UConn men's basketball recruiting target Diamond Stone.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

One high school, so much talent

Over the years I have blogged about the incredible amount of success UConn players have enjoyed in the WNBA.

There's been plenty of document including the seven future No. 1 draft picks on the 2000-01 UConn team and the fact that all five starters on the 2001-02 team would be taken in the first round with four of them being members of the gold-medal winning 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

However, not even at UConn can they match what is about to occur tomorrow at Mohegan Sun Arena. When the Connecticut Sun host the Los Angeles Sparks, not only will there be three from Cy-Fair High School stars on the court but all three were No. 1 overall WNBA picks. Amazingly, that is the second time one high school can lay claim to three No. 1 overall picks as Christ the King grads Chamique Holdsclaw, Sue Bird and Tina Charles were taken first in the 1999, 2002 and 2008 drafts but they never shared the court in a regular-season game.

It started with Lindsey Harding back in 2007. Five years later Nneka Ogwumike was taken with the top pick and of course the Connecticut Sun made Chiney Ogwumike the No. 1 overall pick this year.

Chiney Ogwumike leads the Sun in scoring (15.3), rebounding (8.5) and blocks (1.3) Nneka Ogwumike is averaging a team-leading 7.7 rebounds per game while she is second on the team in scoring (14.9) for Los Angeles. Harding is second on the Sparks in assists (3.8) while averaging 7.3 points per game.

"That is crazy," Chiney Ogwumike said, "They said (on draft day) that was the third No. 1 pick from Cy-Fair and I said 'who?' They said 'Lindsey Harding' so I guess Cy-Fair is pumping things out, Coach Bique (Ann Robique) knows how to train basketball players. I knew Lindsey, she came back when I was there and I was able to talk to her throughout the recruiting process, our families know each other so we are good friends. I think it is one of those things that it is a sisterhood of basketball and it is cool. We looked up to them because we knew what they could do, they played at a state championship level."

In their final season together at Cy-Fair Nneka and Chiney were the only double-digit scorers and top two rebounders as Cy-Fair won its final 37 games en route to winning the Texas 5A state title.

"We take a lot of pride, we thank Cy-Fair for being who we are," Nneka Ogwumike said. "They are really supportive and we got back as often as we can, we revisit the memories and the people who are still there who really brought us up skill wise and also character wise off the court, it is truly a blessing to be able to go to a school like that and also be successful but I think for three No. 1 picks to come out of one high school is unheard of."

So what's going to happen when the two sisters square off tomorrow?

"I think we are just going to forget everything and just play," Nneka Ogwumike said. "Chiney and I, as complicated as it may seem when we are facing each other on the court, at the end of the day we are just going to release everything and let it all out on the court and be competitive like we truly are."

The 1 p.m. game is the first of two games between the teams as they will meet in Los Angeles on Aug. 3.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

UConn recruiting targets Cox, Durr and Ogunbowale lead U.S. to U17 title

UConn commit Katie Lou Samuelson was the leading scorer for the gold-medal
winning United States team at the FIBA U17 World Championship tournament

With UConn commit Katie Lou Samuelson dealing with foul trouble throughout the game and Spain's Angela Salvadores torching whichever United.States player attempted to guard her, the U.S. needed others to deliver to lead the two-time defending championship to a third straight gold medal to a 77-75 victory.

It was UConn recruiting targets Lauren Cox, Asia Durr and Arike Ogunbowale who stepped to the forefront. Cox had 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks while Durr finished with 17 points and four assists and Ogunbowale had 15 points and eight rebounds. The trio combined to score the final 10 points for the U.S.

Cox grabbed an offensive rebound in transition and scored to snap a 71-71 tie and blocked a shot at the other end while Durr had a crucial jumper to help the U.S. survive a fierce challenge from Spain.

Salvadores had 40 points, hitting 16 of 29 shots from the field including 5 of 7 from 3-point range in a truly sensational performance. She was named the tournament's MVP while Samuelson was joined on the all-tournament team by her U.S. teammate Joyner Holmes. Salvadores had 13 points in the fourth quarter as Spain led for nearly 4 1/2 minutes in the final period. She ended up as the tournament's leading scorer (19.9 points per game), was first in steals (3.7), second in assists (3.6), third in 3-point percentage (50.0), fourth in field-goal percentage (49.6), sixth in assist/turnover ratio (0.8) and 10th in rebounding (7.4).

Samuelson finished with seven points and three rebounds while fellow UConn commit De'Janae Boykin had five points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Asia Durr finishes FIBA U17 tournament
ranked second in assist/turnover ratio
Lauren Cox nearly had a triple-double in title
game at FIBA U17 World Championships
Samuelson finished with a team-leading 97 points and 19 3-pointers in the seven games. She finished tied for seventh in scoring which finished tied for seventh among all tournament scorers and was second in 3-pointers made. Durr (13.4 points per game), Ogunbowale (10.7) and all-tournament selection Joyner Holmes (10.6) were the other double-digit scorers for the U.S. in the tournament. Durr also finished second in the tournament in assist/turnover ratio.

Cox finished as the team leader in rebounding (8.4) and blocked shots (19), finishing fifth and second in those categories in the tournament. Cox set the single game and tournament U.S. records in blocked shots while Samuelson's 19 3-pointers matched the U.S. mark set by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in 2010. UConn commit De’Janae Boykin, one of three U.S. players to start all seven games, averaged 5.1 points. She was the team’s second-leading rebounder (6.1) and tied for second on the team with 16 assists.

Here are quotes from Boykin, Cox, Durr, Sabrina Ionescu, Ogunbowale and Samuelson courtesy of USA Basketball.

De'Janae Boykin
What does it mean to get a second gold medal?
This means a lot to be world champions, it’s great, it’s a great feeling.

What did you think about the game against Spain?
It was a very intense game; very hard, they worked very hard. They’re a great team and so were we, we came out and worked hard and we got the W.

What does this experience mean to you?
This experience means a lot. Just to come out here, we’ve been out here for almost a month, just to come together as a team and come out here and work and it just means a lot that we got the win today.

What do you think is going to stay with you from this experience? 
Just this experience, knowing I’m part of the USA Basketball family and stuff like that.

Lauren Cox
On winning the gold medal:
It’s awesome. It’s a great experience. I’m really blessed to be here to play with this amazing team and these awesome coaches.

On her game against Spain:
I just came into the game wanting to work hard and play hard inside. I knew it was going to be tough. They have big girls inside, so I just had to work hard.

Was there ever any doubt that you might not win?
Spain’s a good team, so we just had to get out there, play good defense and convert on offense.

What’s been the best part of this experience for you? 
Spending time with this awesome team. These coaches are awesome, too. It’s just been a great experience.

Asia Durr
On the gold medal game against Spain:
It was definitely a fight. They have some great shooters on their team. One girl put up 40 or so. It was a hard-fought game for 40 minutes.

Were you ever nervous, were there ever any doubts? 
It wasn't doubt. It was pressure, of course, because they were making every single shot. So, there was definitely pressure.

Do you feel like you executed the game plan or was it all heart?
It was both. We came out there, fought hard and played like there was no other game out there.

Was it the USA’s depth that helped in the end?
Definitely. We have a group of girls who are 12 deep and they all went out there and played their hearts out.

What does it feel like to win your second gold medal?
It’s definitely a blessing. I thank God for all of this.

What will you take away from this experience? 
Meeting a new group of girls, playing with a great group of girls and winning another gold.

Sabrina Ionescu
What does it feel like to win a gold medal?
It feels great. We’ve been practicing for the last, I don’t even know how long, and to finally come here and achieve what we’ve been reaching for this whole time feels great.

What do you think is going to stick with you? 
Definitely the whole learning experience. I’ve learned a lot from Coach Sue and the coaching staff and these girls. It’s a blessing playing with all of these great players so I think playing with all of them gets you better individually and as a team player.

Is there an area in your game you feel like you got specifically better at?
I think the fact that it takes all 12 players to win a gold medal; it’s not just one or two individuals. So the fact that everybody came together through these last couple of weeks; not knowing each other and just coming in and playing and working hard and winning a gold medal.

Arike Ogunbowale
On the game:
I love close games. It was nerve-wracking and crazy, but we kept our composure and played hard.

What do you think was the difference?
They’re a great team, a well-coached team. They’re physical and they have skill like us, so we just had to try to play greater than them. We played really good. They played great, too. But we had to execute at the end of the game and we hit our free throws, which were crucial.

Were you nervous at all?
There’s always nervousness going into big games, but we knew what we had to do. So, we were okay.

What’s it like to win your third gold medal? 
It’s crazy. I’m super excited. I’m super blessed to be able to do this before my senior year and everything that USA Basketball has helped me with, so I’m super blessed.

What have you learned from this experience?
Never give up. We were down in the fourth quarter and we just kept going. Really, just never give up and work with your teammates.

Katie Lou Samuelson
On being named to the all-tournament team:
It’s amazing. I’m just in shock that it all happened that way. I thought I played solid, but I didn’t expect anything like that. I wasn’t trying to go for anything like that, but it’s amazing just to be able to get that and to win the gold medal. It’s amazing.

How does it feel to win your third gold medal?
It’s amazing. It never gets old. It’s the same feeling every time. But, this one was really special. It was such a close game and we played well all the way through to the end. So, it was amazing.

What did you learn from this tournament?
I learned that I have to trust my teammates and just rely on them, because they’re going to come through. I thought everyone played great today. Everyone stepped up when they needed to.

A pair of former UConn stars reached scoring landmarks in the WNBA.

Diana Taurasi moved by Katie Smith to become the second all-time leading scorer in the WNBA. Taurasi headed into today's game against Los Angeles with 6,457 points in 316 career regular-season games. Smith scored 6,452 points in 482 career games. After the 87-69 win over Chicago on Wednesday Taurasi said she considered Tina Thompson's WNBA record 7,488 points to be unreachable for her. I'm not so sure as if she continues to score at the 20 point per game rate she has maintained since arriving in the league, she would need 52 more games to get there.

Speaking of impressive stats, five of the WNBA top scorers played at UConn including four on the 2002 national championship team. Swin Cash and Sue Bird rank 14th and 16th on the career scoring charts with 4,731 and 4.678 points respectively. Nykesha Sales is 24th with 3,955 points and Asjha Jones checks in at No. 27 with 3,834 points.

As for the other milestone, Renee Montgomery scored her 2,000th career point in Saturday's win at Tulsa.

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

UConn commit Samuelson shoots U.S. into U17 final

UConn commit Katie Lou Samuelson hit a U.S. tournament single-game record six 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 25 points along with four steals to lead the U.S. to a 91-63 win over Hungary and into Sunday's gold-medal game in the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women.

UConn commit De'Janae Boykin added nine points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal as the U.S. will play Spain in a game that will be televised live on ESPNU beginning at 2:15 p.m. (EDT).

 UConn recruiting target Asia Durr had 17 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals while Kristine Anigwe added 14 points and 13 rebounds and Joyner Holmes chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.

Here are quotes from Durr and Samuelson courtesy of USA Basketball.

Asia Durr
On tonight's game:
In the first half, we didn't play as well on defense. In the second half, we came out with some fire and played well as a team, got some stops and scored a whole bunch of points.

On the first half:
It was a great game overall. Hungary came out and made some big shots. Coach told us to D up and get a hand up, so that's what we did.

On the second half:
We got some stops with our full-court press, we some steals and we got some fast-break points.

How does it feel to reach the gold-medal game?
It feels great. Hopefully, we can get a win. We are pumped. We are ready to go.

What are your thoughts on meeting Spain in the gold-medal game?
It's going to be a great game. Spain is a great team. They are fast and athletic, and they have some great post players, so it's going to be fun.

Katie Lou Samuelson
On her first quarter:
I think I shot pretty well in warm ups, and then my teammates did a great job of finding me. They knew I was hitting, and they got me open looks. It was a great team effort, and I have to give the credit to my teammates getting me the ball. Then they stepped up their defense, and I tried to contribute in different ways.

On the USA's depth:
They tried to focus on my for a little while, and they realized that was not going to help, because we have 11 other great players that are going to contribute no matter what.

What was the team thinking at halftime, up by seven points:
We knew Hungary came to play and came to take this game from us, and they did well, but we knew we had to focus on ourselves, on our defense and lock them down.

On the second-half adjustments:
We needed to play lot better defense. We had given them too many open looks, and I think we stepped up our defense, especially in the third quarter.

On Spain:
We are excited to get out there. We are going to keep working hard and see how it goes.

Friday, July 04, 2014

UConn commit Samuelson continues to shine at U17 Worlds

UConn commit Katie Lou Samuelson had 10 points, the fourth time in five games that she reached double digits, as the U.S. rolled to an 86-45 win over Canada in the quarterfinals of the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women. Samuelson added five rebounds while fellow UConn commit De'Janae Boykin had two points, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Joyner Holmes led the U.S. with 24 points while UConn Class of 2015 recruiting target Arike Ogunbowale had 16 points, a team-high eight rebounds and her four steals matched the total of UConn Class of 2016 recruiting target Sabrina Ionescu for the team lead. The U.S. will play Hungary in Saturday's semifinals. The game time was originally listed as noon here in Connecticut on the USA Basketball release which would place it in the time slot when ESPNU is televising the semifinals. However, it is now listed as starting at 2:15 p.m. which is what the official site had as the listed time. ESPNU has an episode of E;60 followed by a previously recorded recap of the NCAA Division I Track and Field championships so I have to wonder if ESPNU would consider shifting its schedule around to show the U.S. game. I would recommend tuning into ESPNU tomorrow to see which semifinal they will be showing.

The U.S. held Canada's Bridget Carleton, an Iowa State commit who came into the game as the tournament's second-leading scorer, to seven points (11.5 under her tournament average) on 3 of 14 shooting.

Here are quotes from Boykin, Holmes, Ogunbowale and UConn recruiting target Lauren Cox courtesy of USA Basketball.

De'Janae Boykin
On tonight's game:
Today as a team, we did really great. We played together, as always.

Was there any worry of complacency, since you had previously beaten Canada?
They came out with great intensity, and so did we. We just kept it up.

Has the team continued to improve?
We have continued to improve every time we have played, working together and learning to play with each other.

On the team's defense:
Our defense has improved. Coach stresses defense all the time, and I really love defense myself. Defense is really a key point for this team.

How does it feel to reach the semifinals?
We are very excited, especially since today was the Fourth of July. This is our day basically, and to win feels great. We started the day off right, and we are one step closer to our goal.

Lauren Cox
On tonight's game:
I thought we played really well. Canada is a great team. We came out and played good defense.

On getting a win on the Fourth of July:
It was awesome playing on the Fourth of July. It's our country's day, and we are out here playing in a world championship representing our country, so it was awesome.

On the USA's depth:
We can put any five players in, and they can go win games. We don't have any drop off in intensity.

Was there any danger of being complacent having already beaten Canada in exhibition?
They had people out hurt when we played them last time, so were had to worry about them. They are a great team that can shoot the three, drive and play good defense, so I think we prepared really well for that.

On the USA's defense:
Coach always says, 'defense wins games,' and we are really trying to be known for our defense and lock down teams.

On reaching the semifinals:
It is really exciting. It is one step closer to our goal of winning a gold medal.

On Hungary:
It is going to be a tough game. It will be a challenge. We are going to work hard in practice tomorrow and watch film.

Joyner Holmes
On tonight's game:
I think we had great chemistry today, and we played very well. We got defensive boards, offensive boards and transition points, so I think we played well. A lot of our points come from our defense, because we get a lot of transition points.

What were some of the things the team was focused on?
We wanted to keep them off the boards, and we did that, and just playing together,

How do you feel about your performance?
I'm felt I did well, and I'm proud of myself, but I am going to just continue to keep working and getting better every day.

Arike Ogunbowale
On tonight's game:
I thought we played really well as a team. We kept our intensity up and played pretty good defense.

Did you get the start the team wanted?
We came out really hard. We have played them before, so we tried to pick the tempo up even more than in the last game.

On the USA's depth:
It makes it really easy for and the other guards on the team to be able to play with 11 other great players.

Was this the team's best game?
I don't know if it was our best game, but I think we have really improved since the exhibition tournament in France. I think we are taking the right steps.

On the USA's defense:
Coach really emphasizes defense, and when our defense is on, our offense just comes, so we have to really keep up the defense.

Was there any trouble staying focused?
I think we are pretty much always focused and motivated. We want to win the gold, so that motivates us.

On Hungary:
They are a physical team, and they are a good team, so we have to come out strong.

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