Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, April 24, 2015

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter heading to U.S. U-16 trials

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter is one of 35 players who have accepted invitations for the U.S. U-16 trials.

Espinoza-Hunter, a former teammate of UConn's Saniya Chong at Ossining (N.Y.) High, has spent the last two seasons at Blair Academy.

The training camp will be held from May 21-25 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The list of attendees will grow as about 150 players who send in applications will be able to take part in the training camp. The full roster of athletes is expected to be announced by the end of the month.

The 12-member squad, announced at the end of the training camp, will compete in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, a qualifying event for next year's U-17 World Championship for Women.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

UConn's Stewart named Honda Award winner

Yes, there are more honors for UConn resident superstar Breanna Stewart to collect.

Stewart added the Honda Award for women's basketball honor to her growing list. Stewart beat out three other finalists including teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to win the award for the second season in a row. She now joins Maya Moore as the only Huskies to win the award more than once.

Stewart swept the major national player of the year awards winning the Associated Press, Naismith, USBWA and WBCA awards as well as being the Wooden Award winner after she averaged 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a junior to lead the Huskies to their third straight national title.

She is now a candidate for the Honda Cup.



 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

UConn to play home and home with Kansas State

Kansas State has put out a release saying it will play at UConn on Nov. 23 as the front end of a home and home series signed between the schools. The return game is set for the 2016-17 and will be the third annual Team Hally game in honor of Hally Yust, who passed away at the age of 9.

Kansas State and UConn have met once with UConn winning 72-26 in a 2012 NCAA tournament game played in Bridgeport although Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie did meet up with UConn in the 2003 NCAA tournament when he was the head coach at Texas Christian.

Friday, April 17, 2015

UConn signee Collier steals show at Jordan Brand Classic

There are few things more valuable when catching up to the next generation of UConn stars than running into people who have true insight into the way the Huskies go about their business.

Dealing with the tiresome "is UConn's dominance bad for the game" nonsense that has been so prevalent at the last two Final Fours, it's always a delight to catch up with people who actually comprehend why the Huskies are so damn good.

My two trips to New York in the last three games allowed me to catch up with two such people.

On Wednesday I spoke with Christ the King coach Bob Mackey, who coached former Huskies Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Lorin Dixon in between practices for the Jordan Brand Classic. Today it was time to chat with Mater Dei High School coach Kevin Kiernan, who coached Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and for the last three seasons was the head coach for current Huskies' prize recruit Katie Lou Samuelson.

Much like Mackey did, Kiernan spoke as much about the type of kid that goes to UConn and how those prospects go from high school phenom to collegiate stars.

"That is the great thing about UConn," Kiernan said. "They get the best kids in the country sure but they come in wanting to get better. There are some talented kids who don't want to get any better, they feel like they are fine the way they are. They don't want to get yelled at, those guys want to and that is the difference. That is why Coach (Geno Auriemma) is able to take it to a high level."

An elbow injury kept Samuelson, who won every major national high school player of the year award, out of the game. But Kiernan got a first-hand look at another dynamic UConn recruit.

Collier, a 6-foot-1 forward out of Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, had game-high totals of 13 rebounds and four steals. She also had 22 points on 7 of 9 shooting (joining Louisville commit Taja Cole as the only players to make more shots than she missed) and two assists. Returning to the game late in the second half with the East team trailing, Collier had two points and two steals including one leading to the go-ahead 3-pointer by North Carolina commit Stephanie Watts with 15 seconds left.

"Napheesa Collier is just a great kid, forget about the basketball part, she has an energy and life in her," Kiernan said. "She is very versatile, she is a winner, she proved that tonight but she plays with enthusiasm, people like playing with her."

Want an example of what makes Collier the player that she is? One of the first things she mentioned about her game was her four turnovers in the first half. Then when I asked her what was the best part of the all-star game experience she said it was the "win."

"When Stephanie hit that 3-pointer it was like the best rush ever, it was amazing," Collier said. "There was no way I was losing two all-star games in a row (Collier was on the losing side in the McDonald's All-American Game.) It was cool."

Samuelson was understandably disappointed that she couldn't play but with the U.S. U-19 trials coming up in about a month before she heads to UConn for summer session, she wasn't going to risk causing more issues with her elbow by playing in an all-star game
"I hurt my elbow a little while back and have USA coming up so the doctor said three weeks of no contact so I knew I could play and maybe risk injuring it," Samuelson said. "I have bigger things coming up that I really have to focus on so I just sat this one out. I wanted to get out there but I was having a lot of fun on the bench."

While on the bench she had a first-hand view at how impossible is can be to guard Collier.

"She was awesome," Samuelson said. "She was unstoppable, I don't think anybody  could stop her in the paint. She was rebounding like crazy, she is so long, it amazes me how long her arms are. Going in that's awesome knowing I have a teammate that can do all that. She is very versatile so I am looking forward to all of that."

One of the highlights for me was the couple of possessions when Collier was matched up with fellow UConn freshman De'Janae Boykin in the post.

"Napheesa did very well today," said Boykin, who had two points and four rebounds. "It was fun to be with her when I was able to guard her for one or two possessions. I think our games are kind of the same for us guarding each other is like guarding ourselves so it was pretty cool.

"It (Watts hitting two 3-pointers in the final 24 seconds to lift the East to a 76-75 win) was crazy," Boykin said. "We came in and we were up then they started cutting (the lead) and towards the end we were up again and they came back.."
By the time the three incoming freshmen arrive in UConn on June 1 for the start of summer session, Samuelson should be 100 percent healthy. That may not be the case for Boykin who lost most of her senior season at Flowers High in Springdale, Md. due to a wrist injury.
She will return to therapy and there's a chance more of that process could occur when she is at UConn.

ONE FORTUNATE COACH
Kiernan considers himself blessed to coach two incredible shooters.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis played for Kiernan for four seasons at Mater Dei before going to UConn, winning three national titles and setting the NCAA Division I women's record with 398 career 3-pointers. There are some who think Samuelson, who played her final three seasons at Mater Dei, has range comparable to what Mosqueda-Lewis possesses.

"How lucky have we been. I keep telling my coaches are we going to get anything close to that or is that it?" Kiernan said. "(Coaching) the Jordan Classic and then you never hear from me for the rest of my life. They are such different players, it has just been a great experience.

"It would have been nice to coach her (Samuelson) one more time but you don't want to hurt her health with the USA (U-19 trials) and she is going to start summer school pretty soon. It was better for her health."

Kiernan watched the WNBA Draft with great interest and was thrilled to see Mosqueda-Lewis go to Seattle with the third overall pick.

"I am really glad to see her drafted No. 3 because I was hoping she wouldn't fall," Kiernan said. "I am just happy for her. She just finds a way to make big shots, she is that kind of kid. She had a great career and will play with Jewell Loyd now. She will fit into any sort of culture or atmosphere, she is just that kind of kid. She is going to find a way to help the team, she will fit in culture wise and she will be a professional."

GILLESPIE MAKES AN IMPACT
It was a bit of a tough shooting day but Meriden native and former Capital Prep star Kiah Gillespie was one of three players with a double-double.

Gillespie finished with 11 points and led the West team with 12 rebounds.

"I just tried to come out and do things that I already know how to do," said the Maryland-bound Gillespie.
"We made history (playing in the first girls' game in the history of the Jordan Brand Classic) and all the things we did today, it is in the history book forever. It is amazing."

Last but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I didn't thank the organizers of the Jordan Brand Classic for their help. I went up on Wednesday and I was able to get Boykin, Samuelson and Gillespie in rapid succession. Then they got me Mackey and Collier to talk to as I was in and out of 23 Terminal so quickly it amazed me. Stephanie, one of the media contacts for the event, was equally helpful today in getting all the players and coaches we needed to talk to. The best compliment I can give to her is she would fit in well with the folks at USA Basketball who are always incredibly helpful. I wish that was the rule and not the exception but I would be lying if I said that was the case. My last experience covering the McDonald's All-American Game was a nightmare and trying to get enough access at the WNBA Draft to do my job properly just does not happen.



Three UConn incoming freshmen in Jordan Brand Classic

We're about an hour away from the Jordan Brand Classic. All three UConn incoming freshmen are set to play in the first girls' game in the event's history.

Here's a look at some of what I have written over the last couple of days including De'Janae Boykin being a little more excited than your typical all-star performer to get onto the court, Napheesa Collier able to end her high school career with a third state title in a row and Katie Lou Samuelson relishing the pressure that goes with being a part of the UConn program.

I also caught up with legendary Christ the King coach Bob Mackey, an assistant coach on the East team, about the potential of UConn's incoming freshman class and also have a story on Capital Prep's Kiah Gillespie thriving on a national stage.

Connecticut Sun thrilled to land Duke's Williams

Even on her most glass is half full kind of days Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan never figured to have a chance to draft either Elizabeth Williams or Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday's WNBA Draft.

However, when Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd and Minnesota's Amanda Zahui B. took advantage of a rule allowing them to declare for the draft because they would turn 22 this year, it set in a series of events leading to Williams becoming the most recent building block for the Sun.

"This draft changed two weeks ago. All of a sudden we had a chance to get somebody who we thought was completely out of our reach," Donovan said. "Kaleena or Williams we never thought it was possible. We waited and knew we were going to get a good one.

I have seen her a lot, I live in North Carolina during the offseason so I visited a lot and talked to a ton of people, this kid is hungry and she is ready. She has the nicest demeanor, she has a lot of history in our locker room she has played with Chiney (Ogwumike), Chelsea (Gray) obviously so I am really excited about that."

Loyd went No. 1 to Seattle while Tulsa took Zahui B. Seattle was up next with the pick it acquired ironically from Connecticut in a deal that sent former UConn guard Renee Montgomery to Seattle with Camille Little and Shekinna Stricklen heading to Connecticut. Donovan viewed it as a win-win proposition. If Seattle took Williams, the Sun would gladly take the NCAA Division I career leader in 3-pointers. When Mosqueda-Leiws went to Seattle, the Sun selected Williams.

"Either way it would have gone we would be thrilled because we needed a shooter and we needed a 5 (center) so we felt like either way we were going to be really pleased," Donovan said.

"We want somebody to come to practice every day and challenge Kelsey Bone, keep her on her toes. We have had some post players do that in practice but I think Elizabeth Williams could have a nice career in this league. It is not so much a message to Bone, it just gives us another strong paint player who is defensively present so when Kelsey struggles or gets into foul trouble we have a really good alternative."

After taking former DePaul guard Brittany Hrynko, the Sun sent her to Atlanta for Jasmine Thomas, a former Duke guard who played in Washington for two seasons before starting 52 games over the last seasons for Atlanta. The deal won't be official until Thomas passes her physical.

"We looked at Jasmine for a while, another Duke kid go figure but that's more about helping Chelsea along, kind of understanding what it takes to be a pro and mentoring Chelsea as she grows into what I think is going to be a premier point guard in this league," Donovan said.

Williams and Thomas have reputations as top-notch defensive players who goes right with Donovan's coaching DNA. However, they will not be asked to merely contribute on one end of the floor.

"We need to score clearly," Donovan said. "I love defense but putting points up we want to sit a lot higher than we are currently so we are going to ask a little from both. That is what I like about Williams, we have struggled with production in the post especially when Bone struggles or goes out, we haven't had a lot of points there so I think Elizabeth Williams really helps. Thomas gives us flexibility to move (Alex) Bentley over and Bentley can score for us in the off guard spot."

With a knee injury sidelining Ogwumike for at least a couple of months it is going to be interesting to see where the points come from. There are some serious concerns about the back issues hampering Katie Douglas and with the prospects of Spanish national team star Alba Torrens ever playing for the Sun seemingly more of an if rather than a when scenario, it's not going to be easy.

Players like Allison Hightower, Bentley, Stricklen, Little, Kelsey Griffin, Alyssa Thomas and Bone have proven to be able to score in the WNBA but haven't been No. 1 options before.

Ogwumike is well aware of Williams' potential.

"She talked to me and said 'this is my time,'" Ogwumike said. "I think she will step up especially since I am out for a couple of months."

It is interesting that the Sun now have three former Duke players on its roster. Williams, accustomed to being on the opposing team when she plays in Connecticut, will have a chance to hear cheers from the Connecticut women's basketball fans for the first time.

"It will be interesting but cool," Williams said. "I am really excited and really happy to have them on my side."

Williams, the final piece in the trade that sent Tina Charles to New York, will also be added to a relatively young nucleus.

"Hopefully as we continue to grow, we can use our youth to our advantage and really show some cool things," Williams said. "Alyssa Thomas she is a great player as well and seeing her in the conference and getting to be on her side will be pretty cool."

UConn seniors excited to play alongside pair of Husky legends

There was a fairly good chance that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes would be teaming up with at least one former UConn stars considering the large number of former Huskies playing in the WNBA.

Now that the dust has cleared, the two soon to be graduated seniors might have found the perfect mentors to aid their transition from college to professional basketball.

Mosqueda-Lewis, the NCAA Division I women's basketball all-time leading 3-point shooter, will get to play alongside of future Hall of Fame point guard Sue Bird in Seattle while shot-blocking dynamo Kiah Stokes will be teamed up in New York with Tina Charles, the all-time leading rebounder in UConn history.

"I am excited to learn from one of the best point guards to ever play," Mosqueda-Lewis said shortly after going No. 3 overall.

Sue Bird has been to some practices during Mosqueda-Lewis' four seasons and she was the color commentator on the ESPN2 broadcast when UConn hosted South Florida so there is already some familiarity between the two.

When she was in Storrs she spoke to a couple of us and of course the possibility of Mosqueda-Lewis joining the Storm was a popular topic of conversation as a potential No. 1 overall pick. As it turned out, early entrants Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. went No. 1 and 2 with Loyd set to join Mosqueda-Lewis in Seattle.

"When Seattle got the No. 1 pick, shortly thereafter Kaleena played in that Stanford game and a lot of people had a lot of opinions based on that one game and truthfully I didn't think that was fair," Bird said. "I get it, people say big players play well in big games and I get it but one game doesn't define you. With that being said, it is no secret that this draft isn't as strong as previous ones so it tough for a kid like Kaleena who in my opinion is the best player in the class and she is going to get compared to other No. 1 picks where maybe she isn't as talented as those players but that is just the way it is. I think people will try to compare her to past guards who have been picked high and she is going to be compared to them. Is that fair? No.  You put her in last year's draft, she goes five or six and that team is thrilled to have her. If she does go to Seattle and that is who they decide to pick, we will just as thrilled as any other team to have her and she can complement a team, bring things to a team that you probably haven't even seen here in Connecticut because she hasn't had to do it. For her that will be a challenge."

Mosqueda-Lewis' 3-point prowess has been her "get out of jail free card" when she struggled in other areas of her game according to UConn coach Geno Auriemma. While Mosqueda-Lewis is a proven offensive commodity who will need to prove herself on defense, the opposite is true for Stokes.

Stokes set UConn's single-season record with 147 blocked shots and it's hard to forget her 18-rebound performance at Notre Dame. She has not always been a player looking for her own offense. Playing alongside Charles, one of the most talented offensive post players in the world, is something that could help in her development.

"I met her on my (recruiting) visits," Stokes said of Charles. "I don't talk to her that much so I am excited to get to learn from her and get better. She is a great player and I want to follow in her footsteps."

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

UConn's Mosqueda-Lewis, Stokes both go in 1st round

During their collegiate careers Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes rarely showed any anxiety. However, waiting for their names to be called in Thursday's WNBA Draft was a completely different situation.

"I was shaking under the table," said Stokes, who went 11th overall to the New York Liberty. "My mom felt my hand and said 'why are you so sweaty.' I said 'I am not sweaty, I am clammy but I am nervous.' Once I heard my name, I got nervous again."

Mosqueda-Lewis didn't have quite as long of a wait as she was taken with the third overall pick by Seattle which also took former Notre Dame star Jewell Loyd with the No. 1 overall pick.

"I was waiting for my name to get called and to finally know where I am going," Mosqueda-Lewis said.  "I am super excited.

"I have been able to play against her (Loyd) all these years, unfortunately I haven't been able to play with her."

The Connecticut Sun took former Duke star Elizabeth Williams with the fourth overall pick.

"I figured once Kaleena went third the likelihood of me going to Connecticut was pretty high,' Williams said.

The Sun also took former DePaul star Brittany Hrynko in the second round before trading her to Atlanta for Jasmine Thomas, who started 52 games over the last two seasons for the Dream.

Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan said the team has been looking to trade for Thomas and it just recently came together. Donovan said that Thomas should be able to help in the development of last year's first-round pick Chelsea Gray, like Thomas a former Duke star.

The surprising twists and turns weren't over yet. Former UConn forward Michala Johnson, who transferred to Wisconsin after her sophomore year, was taken in the third round by New York and former Hopkins star Lauren "Lady" Okafor went to Atlanta six picks later.

Johnson, who has dealt with more than her share of knee injuries, saw her redshirt senior season end at Wisconsin with another serious knee injury. The belief was that she was going to apply for a sixth season of eligibility. The WNBA has not been notified of her intentions to return but if she receives that additional year, it will be ruled an ineligible selection. I reached out to the folks at Wisconsin and here's the response I received back.

"We are still waiting on her appeal on the sixth year - probably won't know until this summer. She is in grad school so hopes to come back. She was very surprised that she got drafted though she is still not able to play due to her most recent ACL."
Okafor, who began her collegiate career at Providence before becoming one of the nation's leading rebounders at James Madison, is part of a desire by the Dream to add some young posts to backup Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle.

The Dream coaches saw Okafor play durign the season and met Okafor in Tampa at the WNBA combine and came away impressed.

"She was somebody who brings a physical presence, a hard-working kid who has worked for everything she has accomplished in her college career," said Angela Taylor, the Dream's President and General Manager. "She will provide us with solid size at 6-4, a physical presence, a competitive nature and somebody in the post who plays with a high basketball IQ.

"We have a solid core group but when we look at our post position, we want to be able to get younger in post. We have one of the best frontcourts in the WNBA with Angel McCoughtry, Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza. We are looking for players who can complement them, can learn from those posts and develop."

Taylor had nothing but great things to say about Thomas.

"Jasmine has been the consummate professional for the Atlanta Dream," Taylor said. "She is somebody who the Connecticut Sun has sought for the last couple of months. It is a win-win for both parties. She will bring high energy for the Connecticut Sun, a great defender who can have a dynamic impact on the game on the defensive end and turn that into offense. This will be a nice solid veteran addition for the Connecticut Sun."

Perfect ending for UConn commit Napheesa Collier

Unlike her fellow UConn incoming freshmen, Napheesa Collier was able to experience the utter joy of walking off the court for the final time as a state champion.

However, the journey to a third straight Missouri 4A title wasn't an easy one.

Incarnate Word Academy lost a total of one game during her sophomore and junior seasons. That loss was courtesy of Blackman High out of Murfreesboro, Tenn. featuring UConn Class of 2016 commit Crystal Dangerfield.

Fast forward to the start of Collier's senior season and things got off to a rocky start. Incarnate Word lost the No. 2, 3 and 4 scorers of a 31-1 team.

The season began with a 56-55 loss to Fayetteville (Ark.) in a tournament played in Ft. Smith, Ark. Two days later came a humbling 20-point loss to North Little Rock.

Collier, the team's only senior, knew that things had to change. She raised the level of her own play while contributing to the increased production of a young supporting case as IWA finished the season with 28 wins in a row.

The last team standing between Collier's Incarnate Word squad and a 3-peat was Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School, a team that only lost by eight points in the regular-season meeting between the schools.

Collier would end up outscoring MICDS by herself in the 60-27 victory.

"We had our best practice of the year (before the state final) and we just brought it so hard," Collier said. "It feels great.

"Coming out and losing my 20, it really refocused us so show that we had to work hard, it definitely helped us."

These days Collier's focus is more on the future and not her glorious past.

She will be playing in the inaugural girls' game at the Jordan Brand Classic on Friday at 3:30 at Barclays Center.

"It is the first game so we are the founding girls here so it is going to be awesome," Collier said.

Collier will play for the East squad and will go up against a West team featuring both Boykin and Samuelson. The trio teamed up this summer to lead the U.S. to the gold medal in the 3x3 competition at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. They could be teammates again this summer on the U.S. team playing in the FIBA U19 World Championships. In early June they will all be on the UConn campus taking summer classes and getting introduced to life as a UConn women's basketball player.

"We are going to bring a lot of energy," Collier said. "Coming in as freshmen we are going to have to prove ourselves, D (Boykin) is an inside force and (Samuelson) can shoot the ball really well.

"You have to be able to handle pressure really well, it is a winning program, tough coach, tough players so I think you are going to have to handle pressure."

If Collier needs any advice on how to deal with the pressure, she can look to fellow Jefferson City, Missouri native Maya Moore who happened to be in attendance at the festivities leading up to Friday's game.

"It was awesome to see her again and catch up," Collier said.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

UConn commit Samuelson "I want to win four national championships"

When Breanna Stewart headed to UConn she made it clear that among her goals was to win four national titles. She is just one championship shy of making that become a reality.

With Katie Lou Samuelson sweeping the major national player of the year awards as Stewart did as a high school season. I headed up to New York today to talk to Samuelson and fellow UConn incoming freshmen De'Janae Boykin and Napheesa Collier in between practices for Friday's Jordan Brand Classic. I asked her if her goal was also to win four titles with the Huskies when I spoke to Samuelson and she did not hesitate.

"I want to win four national championships," Samuelson said. "I think all of us do. We definitely don't want to bring anything down and we all just ready to go."

This group of incoming freshman is similar to the group that Stewart came in with as all three players are high school All-Americans. There are no under the radar players in either class which is normally the case.

"I think we have a lot of potential, all three of us are All-Americans, we definitely have a lot of talent within us and I think all three of us work together well," Samuelson said. "We played 3 on 3 together (leading the United States to the 2014 Youth Olympic Games title) and we meshed together. Going in we are all excited and we know we can bring different stuff and can each contribute so I think it is going to be good.

"I like the pressure. I am very competitive and I want things to be tough, I think all of us are like that and we are really excited to go to such a great school and we want to keep on winning. We are all supercompetitive, I think that is what brought us together."

Samuelson downplayed the importance of the national player of the year awards that she has received since the season ended.

"Overall, I am super grateful for all of them probably last year I didn't even think I would be in this situation," Samuelson said. "I am very blessed to be here and it is all because of my high school team, all my teammates really made it possible for me."

Samuelson said she hasn't noticed more eyes on her as the UConn commit and national high school player of the year, especially not from the fellow All-Americans who she has gotten to know through AAU and USA Basketball circles.

"With these girls, I know a lot of them and we are all frieds so it is like hanging out with each other and I don't really notice anything else," Samuelson said. "I try not to let anything get to my head."

One thing that Samuelson believes is that all three incoming freshmen have what it takes to thrive in the pressure-packed environment at UConn where one loss become a huge news story.

"It definitely takes a competitive player who wants to win and wants to challenge themselves every single day," Samuelson said. "It is one of the places where we know the target is on our back. Everybody wants to beat UConn. I think that takes a certain type of player and all three of us are really excited about it."

Samuelson knows about playing for a team with a target on its back. Mater Dei finished with a 31-3 record. However, one loss came to Chaminade in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title and Samuelson's career at Mater Dei came to an end with a loss to St. Mary's of Stockton in the CIF Open Division title game.

"We are definitely bummed that we didn't end up winning the state championship but overall we did a lot more than we thought we could at the beginning of the season," Samuelson said. "We were pretty young, we had a couple of freshmen who came in and played huge for us and they helped a lot. Overall, my senior year has just been awesome."

Finally, I heard the story about Samuelson watching UConn win its record 10th national title with her sisters and the rest of the Stanford team so I had to ask her about that.

"It was spring break I was visiting with my sisters (members of the Stanford team) and visiting them, watching games and we were with the whole team in the lounge," Samuelson said. "It was pretty fun, they were waiting for the announcer to say 'after that loss to Stanford' so they were happy about that one but it was fun, we were all just hanging out together.

"I had to be pretty cool, I was at Stanford and I wasn't going to rub it anybody's face."

I didn't get any concrete update on her status but Samuelson wasn't doing the drills in practice when I was there so I am curious how much she will play in Friday's game. I do, however, know what is next. She will head out to Colorado Springs next month for the U.S. U-19 trials and come to UConn in early June  for the start of summer session.

"I am excited for it and excited that it is almost here," Samuelson said. I enjoyed my high school career but I am ready to move on."

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Legendary coach dishes on UConn's incoming freshmen

Over the years there may not be a high school coach who I have sought out more often to get scouting reports on UConn's incoming recruits than Christ the King's Bob Mackey. So when I heard a familiar voice during the East team's practice in preparation for Friday's Jordan Brand Classic, I add Mackey to those I wished to talk to during my trip to New York today.

Mackey is an assistant coach on the East squad which includes UConn signee Napheesa Collier but I knew he would have plenty of insight on fellow future Huskies De'Janae Boykin. As I expected, Mackey, who was on the Christ the King staff when Sue Bird played there and the head coach when Tina Charles and Lorin Dixon were stars for the Royals, delivered.

"They are going to be incredible assets, (UConn) won't miss a beat," Mackey said. "Those kids know how to play, they know how to space, they know how to see the floor, they are fundamentally sound and they work hard."

The first player I asked Mackey about was Collier since he has had a chance to work directly with her.

"Wow," Mackey said  "She has tremendous upside, the kid can flat out run and she can't be guarded. She's a wing, she is a forward, she is a guard, she can play any position she wants. She is not Breanna Stewart but she is in that realm, she can do just about anything. They are not going to miss a beat, it is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

"I think every kid they recruit, you see some of that (competitiveness). They work hard, they are dedicated and they are coachable. You say I want you to step out three steps and make that back-door cut, they make that back-door cut. You are not going to get a player who say 'wait a minute.' The kids that they recruit are not going to do that."

As for Katie Lou Samuelson and De'Janae Boykin, Mackey was equally impressed.

"I don't want to say she's a better 3-point shooter (than Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who also played at California powerhouse Mater Dei) because I will get my butt handed to me by one of more alumni but they have a pretty good 3-point shooter coming," Mackey said. "I know the best 3-pointer shooter in history just graduated but that kid can shoot. I saw her play as a sophomore and junior, that kid can flat out shoot. She has one of the best 3-point shots I have ever seen. Geno doesn't miss a beat. CD doesn't miss a recruit.

"(Boykin) could be the x factor in that threesome because she has some intangibles in what she does. She can run the floor, can make the pass, can make the shot. She has a lot of versatility. I don't think you are going to see (a drop off). They are really going to complement the system really well, the rich get richer."

With Mackey being one of the truly legendary girls'/women's basketball figures in New York, I also wanted to get his thoughts on the Jordan Brand Classic adding a girls' game for the first time.

"Being a New York and having the Jordan game in New York is appropriate, having the girls game as a component of it I think it phenomenal and it is long overdue," Mackey said. "I think the fact that Women's Basketball Coaches Association isn't running a game any longer is deplorable, it is phenomenal that the Jordan people have picked up the game because I think it is necessary. They represent the game and they are the future stars of college basketball and it is tremendous chance to showcase that."

Finally, I did ask him about the landing spot of former Christ the King star Sierra Calhoun. Actually, I never mentioned the name of the former Duke guard/forward but just said I had a Christ the King related question when he volunteered that he hasn't spoken to Calhoun since before the news broke that she was leaving Duke. I took most of the conversation about her potential landing spot as being off the record so will not be revealing his thoughts on where she might land.

I caught up with Boykin, Collier and Samuelson as well as Meriden's Kiah Gillespie so there will be much more coming in the next couple of days.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quite a day of sports in Connecticut

While UConn draws most of the attention when the talk is about female athletics in the state of Connecticut, there was plenty of news courtesy of those not associated with Geno Auriemma's Huskies.

Seymour's Alyssa Naeher was one of three goalkeepers and the only Connecticut native named to the 23-member United States team playing in the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada this summer.

"I am incredibly excited about being named to the roster and going to my first World Cup this summer," Naeher said via the USSoccer.com site. "This is such an amazing opportunity and something I have been working toward for a long time. It is always an honor to represent the U.S., and to be able to do that with my teammates at a World Cup is a blessing and an experience I will never forget. It has been quite a journey already, and I am looking forward to the next chapter.”
Meriden's Kiah Gillespie was named a second-team USA Today All-American following a spectacular senior season at Capital Prep. UConn commits Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier were named to the first team with Samuelson being named the player of the year.

Finally, veteran Yale women's basketball coach Chris Gobrecht left to take the job at Air Force. This is just me talking out loud but I would think that Yale AD Tom Beckett would be wise to make a call to former UConn star Carla Berube who led the Jumbos to back to back Division III Final Fours and posted a 272-81 record in 13 seasons at Tufts.