Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Former Duke star Stevens transfers to UConn

Former Duke star Azura' Stevens, who likely would have been a leading contender for All-American honors during the 2016-17, will be finishing her collegiate career at UConn.

The 6-foot-6 Stevens averaged 18.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and had a team-high 53 blocked shots as a sophomore before announcing that she was intending to transfer after the season.

She was the team's leading scorer 16 times, scored in double figures in all 25 games she played in last season and had 14 double-doubles.

Stevens will need to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA rules on transfers and will have two seasons of eligibility.

"Words can't express how excited I am to have this opportunity to be part of the UConn family,” Stevens said.  "I appreciate the hospitality that my teammates and coaches showed to me this weekend. I am eager to start journey with the Huskies and can't wait to get back up to Storrs this summer."

Stevens played with UConn rising sophomore Napheesa Collier and incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield on the U.S. team which won the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women. Stevens averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 17 minutes as the U.S. team won its seven games by an average of 32.2 points per game.

UConn has not accepted a large number of transfers over the years but she will be one of two on the UConn team in the next two seasons as former Georgetown star Natalie Butler has two more years of eligibility remaining.

"We don’t usually get involved in transfer situations but this particular one was intriguing," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.  “Getting the chance to speak with Azurá and having her on campus to meet with the coaches and the players really convinced us and her that this was the right place for her going forward.  We are excited and anxious to get Azurá up here and start summer school and look forward to her being a part of our team.”


Friday, April 29, 2016

Explaining Candace Parker's omission from Olympic team no easy chore

I'm not sure if you've heard this news yet but two-time Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker was not among the 12 players selected to the U.S. Olympic team.

The news that one of the world's most talented and versatile players is not a part of the U.S. going for a record sixth straight gold medal was a surprise. The backlash, however, was not.
Whether deserved or not, there are those who believe that the UConn connections on the national team during Geno Auriemma's tenure as the head coach of the women's national team as hardly coincidental.

There were some rumblings when Swin Cash and Asjha Jones were named to the 2012 Olympic team and certainly the omission of Parker from the team figured to bring the Auriemma critics out in full force. A popular refrain was that players who have beaten UConn were left out of equation (not sure how Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner's selections are justified in this convoluted way of expressing one's dissatisfaction).

The fact that Auriemma is not on the committee which selects the 12-member team hasn't stop people from piling on. On my UConn timeline it doesn't take much effort to find tweets laying into Auriemma favoring his former players. When my curiosity gets the better of me and I click on the Twitter profiles, more often than not they hail from Tennessee. That is hardly unexpected considering that Parker is one of the best players to ever play at Tennessee and it is easy to connect the dots by stating that UConn product Breanna Stewart was put on the team at the expense of Parker.

In a perfect world there would some clarity on what led to Parker's omission from the team. I will go on the record as saying that I truly believe the U.S. team is not as strong without Parker on the squad. She is an exceptionally talented player and I think her comments since this story broke have been respectful which is a credit to her.

There was only one question pertaining to Parker being left off the team on the USA Basketball conference call held the afternoon that the team was announced which might be the most stunning turn of events in this entire deal.

Carol Callan, chair of the selection committee and women's national team director for USA Basketball, chose her words carefully when the subject came up.

"Candace is a great player," Callan said. "She's a two‑time Olympian. She's done a lot for us in the past, since she was in high school. As a committee, we don't get into specifics speaking about each player publicly. Needless to say, there are a lot of deliberations. We have a committee for a reason. Every player has an advocate, and in that case, it's not just one person who is making a decision. So, I may not be able to satisfy your question with an answer specifically of why or why not, but I think what it does speak to is that we have incredible depth on this team. We have ten Olympians, as you mentioned, from 2012. We had five more newcomers in the World Championship. That's 15 athletes, without even considering some of the emerging young players that we have currently.  We're looking at depth and talent at each position, and there are just a lot of numbers games that are played at that 3‑4 position. That is the strength of our team. So, we appreciate Candace. It's not an easy call to make. It's not an easy call to hear, from her perspective. And yet what we are trying to do is pick a team collectively that we feel has the best chance to win the gold medal, and we think we've done that."

There has been attempts to make this a two-dimensional process. Geno doesn't like Candace, Geno coached Breanna Stewart therefore Stewart makes the team over Parker. I would think it's not quite that simple although it does make it easy for the Geno bashers. I don't question for a second that Auriemma got his wish in this matter with Stewart making the team and being the strong personality that he is, I am sure he did not hold back in expressing his thoughts during the selection of the team. However, to assume that five committee members would just allow Auriemma to walk all over them just to get his way is quite a reach. I doubt Parker, if she has any hopes of making the 2020 Olympics, is going to come out and get into specifics and Callan made it clear that won't happen from USA Basketball's end of things so it will be a case of people choosing whatever side they like. There will be those, like me, that believe that something significant must have taken place behind the scenes for such a drastic move to be made and others will simply go with the "it's all UConn all the time" party line.

Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko is one of the five committee members and at yesterday's media day he addressed the situation as much as he could.

"It was an eye-opening process because I am very familiar with the athletes in the league and a few collegiate players over the last couple of years," Sienko said. "I just think that the depth of knowledge of who these players are, watching them workout, watching them overseas when I was at the World Championships or on a day to day basis at WNBA games was different than it was before because you look at them with a different (way). How are they interacting with their teammates? How are they responding to adverse situations? What are they doing if things are going against them just all sorts of different things. They may not mean anything in the bigger picture but it is the way that I started to assess players differently.

"The committee is five of us and the coach is obviously involved in the oricess but at the end of rhe day we are responsible for making the selection and not Geno. We want to get input and have an understanding of his feelings but we have to make the decisions."

I was at the 100 Days Out event in Times Square on Wednesday when the Olympic team was announced. I know asking former UConn players to weigh in on the situation might not make for the most impartial responses but I did ask Sue Bird and Maya Moore about it.

"The selection process for the Olympic team is definitely one of the hardest," Moore said. "Our country top to bottom  we have so much talent. It is not always about the most talented 12. Coach Auriemma always tells us that you don't have to be the top person in the world. We want you to come out and bring something that no other person can bring and you have a shot at making the team. I don't envy their position because it is a tough call but anybody from our national team pool who would be put out here would do a great job of representing us and I am looking forward to it."
Bird, who is set to become one of five U.S. women's basketball players to appear in at least four Olympics, also gave her take on the hotly-debated subject.

"I do not envy the committee one bit," Bird said. "I think anytime they sit down to pick the teams for women's basketball whether it is the Olympics or World Championships, I think they have the toughest job. There is going to be a lot of talk of who made it, who didn't. At the end of the day and this is the same at this Olympics, the World Championships, who do you leave off? It sucks that somebody has to be left off."

I asked Bird if Auriemma being criticized for the women's national team being overly UConn-centric was fair.

"I do think that is unfair," Bird said. "Again who do you leave off? I don't think it is fair. We are talking about the Olympic team, I don't know  it is accurate and correct me if I am wrong but it is the committee that selects the team and not Coach Auriemma so I don't really buy into that. I do understand that when it comes to choosing this team, it is not easy, at the end of rhe day there are people who get left off and it sucks."

The person who makes out the worst in this deal is Parker, a wondrously talented player. However, Stewart has been caught in the middle of a situation not of her doing which I find extremely unfortunate. Callan spoke about players having advocates and I've spoken to her enough over the years to figure she was very much in Stewart's corner when it came to picking this team. Will Stewart be more willing to accept a role, even a limited one, than Parker would have been? That is another question that is almost impossible to answer. I expect when the Olympics roll around, this subject will once again pick up some steam. I've seen people say they won't support the team because of Auriemma turning this into a UConn-dominated team (of course with 10 national championships since the 1999-2000 season), it is only natural that there is a large number of former Huskies on the Olympic team. If people want to take that approach, they have the right to do so but I think they will be missing a pretty special team going for some Olympic history.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Former UConn star Tuck thrilled to remain in Connecticut

Not every star who rolls off the assembly line at UConn is completely enamored at the prospect of remaining in Connecticut as a professional.

Four years of living under the microscope can wear on even the most jovial type of person and getting to chance to spread the wings out of the glare of the spotlight can be the best thing to happen to many former Huskies.

However, Morgan Tuck is embracing her role as not only the top draft pick of the Connecticut Sun but a player likely to have attention paid to her due to her UConn roots.

"I think it is something that everybody would want," Tuck said at Thursday's Connecticut Sun media day event at Mohegan Sun Arena. "They want to go as high as they could in the draft, you are going to have high expectations. For me, I am not going to take this as 'I don't want this pressure of having to do well.' I want to be great, I want to be the best that I can be so I am going to try to use that to try to work harder."

Tuck has come to Sun games in the past. A season ago she was in the stands when Los Angeles came to town to see not only her former UConn teammate (and now current fellow Connecticut Sun team member) Kelly Faris but to see UConn graduate assistant coach Jasmine Lister play for the visiting Sparks.

Likely many of UConn's returning players will make the drive down to see Tuck play this season.

"It is kind of weird. I think once we start getting into games (it will sink in)," Tuck said. "It is cool that my old teammates can come and see me play. We came to the LA/Connecticut game so now they will be doing the same thing so it is kind of weird to think about."

Tuck has already impressed her coaches and teammates with her professional attitude and ability to impact the game in a variety of areas. Her versatility could be her calling card in the early stages of her professional career.

"Here I need to use my versatility way more than I did (at UConn)," Tuck said. "I think towards the end of the season I had to use it more because we were playing against teams with big post players but that is going to be more of how I try to play here just even now I am the smallest post on the team so for me it is really trying to focus on my versatility every possession done.

"I feel like I played really well (in the NCAA tournament) especially coming off that February run I had that was terrible so it really felt good to end on the right note and I am definitely going to try to carry it through to the season."

Since she only appeared in eight games as a sophomore Tuck was eligible to return to UConn next season where she likely would have been the No. 1 offensive option more often than at any other time in her collegiate career. Before the season Tuck said her intention was to return next season but after giving it much thought, she made the decision to declare for the draft. With a little and I do mean little down time since the end of the college season Tuck is confident she made the right decision.

"The way everything worked out and the way everything is working out, I think it was the best decision," Tuck said.

Tuck was inducted into the Huskies of Honor one day after helping UConn win an unprecedented fourth straight national title. Then came the draft preparations, the final work so she can graduate as well as moving her stuff out of her apartment to the place she is currently living in.

"It has been crazy," Tuck said. "It has calmed down a little bit now because we are in more of a routine of going to practice but it was crazy after the season ended, there was a lot of stuff that had to get done in a short amount of time. It has been great. I couldn't ask for a better experience for the last month, it's been the best time I've had in my life. "

Speaking of a hectic schedule, just imagine how things have been for Tuck's former UConn teammate Breanna Stewart who was introduced as part of the 2016 Olympic team yesterday in New York.

"It is crazy that she is really going to play in the Olympics," Tuck said. "I think it is literally every kid who plays the sport is to play in the Olympics. For her to be able to do that, being the youngest on the team just shows how great of a player she is. I talked to her about it and she didn't even bring it up when we were talking, she is super humble."

Tuck and Stewart will be reunited on May 28 when Tuck's Connecticut Sun plays at Stewart's Seattle Storm squad. She won't have to wait that long to see former teammate Moriah Jefferson, now a rookie with the San Antonio Stars since the Stars will play exhibition games on May 4 and 5 at Mohegan Sun Arena with the latter game coming against the Sun.

"In an actual game, I don't think we've ever played against each other," Tuck said. "It helps that we won't be guarding each other but it definitely is going to be weird.

"It's been a lot going on. It is kind of crazy what we've been able to do. I wish we could still be on the same team but it definitely has helped us quite a bit being able to do it together is the best possible thing we could do."

The departure of Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck leave three major holes to fill. Incoming freshmen Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin won't be expected to replace the production of UConn's Big Three but there will still plenty of eyes on them. So what advice would Tuck give them?

"To work hard and try to do whatever you can to help the team win," Tuck said. "That is what us three did, when we were needed to step up as leaders we kind of did that. I would tell them to buy into the system, buy into what the coaches are telling  you because they obviously know what they are doing. I think they have to have fun with it but literally do whatever they need to do to make sure the team is going to be good.

"I think the team is taking it as a challenge because a lot of people are saying we aren't going to be as good but it wasn't just us this out there playing, we had a whole team and in our four years, it wasn't just us three. Our freshman year we weren't the ones carrying the team, they have to take it as a challenge. They can still be a great team, they can still win a national championship and Coach (Geno Auriemma) is going to make sure he gets them ready to do that."


Another busy summer for UConn's Nurse

The U.S. Olympic team was garnering the headlines yesterday as the team, featuring five former UConn players, was announced on NBC's Today Show and made its first public appearance in Times Square at the "100 Days Out" Olympic preview extravaganza.

It find of flew a little bit under my radar that Canada announced the summer schedule for its national team featuring UConn rising junior Kia Nurse.

The first of the training camps will run from May 21-30 in Edmonton before the team leaves for Europe to train in Spain and France from June 1-9. The schedule doesn't mention this but you would have to figure some international friendlies will be included during that time. After about 2 1/2 weeks off, the team will reconvene in Edmonton on June 26 for another training camp leading into the Edmonton Grads International Classic featuring games against China on July 9, 10 and 11. From July 22-26 there will be more training, this time in Toronto.

The part that could be of most interest to UConn fans is that there is an entry in the schedule for exhibition games at a site in the U.S. from July 27-31. While nothing is expected to be announced until likely at some point in May, considering how many times the U.S. has trained or held exhibitions in Connecticut during Geno Auriemma's time as the U.S. national team coach, perhaps Nurse will get a chance to play in front of Connecticut fans before the team leaves for Rio.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Getting Olympic spot never gets old for UConn legends

Whenever Sue Bird would look Breanna Stewart's way during Wednesday's "100 Days Out" event at Times Square, she couldn't help but take a trip down memory lane.

In 2004 Bird was just two years removed from her time as an All-American point guard at UConn when she made her first Olympic team. The announcement lacked the pomp and circumstance of Wednesday's festivities when the 12-member team was announced on NBC's Today Show and then there was the meet in greet in New York featuring athletes from nearly every sport, Olympic legends and First day Michelle Obama. However, the memories of Bird's first taste of life as an Olympian have never subsided.

"I remember my first time, what it felt like and being able to say the words for the first time that you are going to be an Olympian for the first time, the weight it carries," Bird said. "In your own little world, for us being an Olympian is huge but even when you talk to your friends at home or random people, being an Olympian has weight."

Bird laughs when asked if she ever thought she would be a four-time Olympian.

"I think when you are younger, ignorance is bliss in a way, you just don't know any better to think about that stuff," Bird said. "It is probably a good thing so it doesn't get all messy in your head, you are able to keep your eye on the prize, It is not until you are older that you have that awareness, you realize what it means and in some ways how lucky you are to get to a fourth."

So could Bird hang around long enough to join Teresa Edwards as the only U.S. women's basketball player to take part in five Olympics?

"I don't really think about it," Bird said. "It is not something that is on the forefront in my thoughts, it is not something I feel the need to announce or comment on. I am just taking it literally one day at a time, one season at a time and going from there."

Bird certainly was thrilled to be a part of Wednesday's extravaganza.

"It is a special day," Bird said. "As WNBA players, we don't really get to be involved in a lot of this stuff and it is a bummer sometimes. This is in my experience the only time we've been at an event like this, the combination of the event itself, the First lady being here, all these other athletes being here and they are announcing our team, it is a big deal. You put all of that together and it has made for a special day."

Tina Charles and Maya Moore combined to play for two national championship teams at UConn and then were teammates once again four years ago when they were among the new faces on the team that would win a fifth straight Olympic gold medal.

Both Charles and Moore admitted that having gone through the Olympic experience in 2012 will allow them to appreciate the process even more this time around.

"I was so excited to be there that I didn''t take in  every little detail from Catch (Tamika Catchings), Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi)," Charles said.

Here's what Moore had to say about now being a two-time Olympian,

"The first one, I am just trying to take everything in but now I kind of know what to expect and I can enjoy it at a different pace I think, in a different way and just help the players that it is their first time so just help them enjoy it,," Moore said. "Also, the ones who are on their way out to enjoy their last one. It is a cool spot to be in where I can  enjoy the people I am around in a different way."

Moore also happens to be on the same Olympic team as Minnesota Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen as well as having formed bonds with the four other former Huskies on the team even if Charles was the only one she played with during her remarkable college career.

"It is super great because the relationships that are already established going in  to be able to make it that much richer," Moore said. "I've had the opportunity of knowing most of my teammates on the Olympic team for five, six, seven years. Tina, we have been playing against each other since we were in middle school so some of these relationships go way back. This is my sixth season with the Lynx so with Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, I played with Diana, Tamika and Sue when I was in college on the Worlds team in 2010 so thee are just a lot of memories, a lot of tie we've been able to build the chemistry that we've had."

Having Wednesday's event in New York was extra special to Charles who not only rose to prominence as a star at New York powerhouse Christ the King but also now plays in the WNBA for the New York Liberty.

"It is definitely special to be able to represent New York, have the jersey so it is definitely special," Charles said.

Charles also made it clear that once the pomp and circumstance came to an end that the team she is focused on at the current time is not the Olympic squad.

"My focus right now is the New York Liberty and getting us a championship but I am enjoying this moment," Charles said. "When the time comes when we get to Rio and I am healthy, that is what my focus (will be on) then."

Photos from today's 100 Days Out Olympic event

It was a memorable trip to New York as I got to catch up with four former UConn stars who were named to the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team in an event at Times Square attended by First lady Michelle Obama.

While my photos might be what you would expect from a smart phone, I figured I would post them here

Former UConn great Stewart ecstatic to get Olympic nod

For almost a week Breanna Stewart had knowledge that another of her basketball dreams had become a reality but needed to keep the information - mostly - to herself.

On Friday USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan placed a call to Stewart to inform the former UConn star that she was among the 12 players being named to the U.S. team playing in the Olympics.

"I was nervous when she called. I thought that either she was going to say I made the team or
didn't make the team," Stewart said on Wednesday at an event in New York commemorating the 100 days until the start of the Olympics. "She congratulated me right away, I didn't even know what to say, I was speechless.

"The first people I spoke to were my parents.They have been with me through this the entire process and I want to make sure that (they knew that)  me going to the Olympics means they are going to the Olympics too."

"It is an unbelievable feeling to be able to be here, be a part of the Olympic team, we've talked about it a lot but to for it actually to be coming true, it is amazing. I think definitely being here celebrating 100 days out makes it hit home a little bit more realizing that this is reality, in 100 days I am going to be in Brazil fighting  with my teammates for a gold medal."

Stewart joins Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner as the first-time Olympians on the team. Four years ago former UConn stars Tina Charles and Maya Moore were among the Olympic newcomers and they both weighed in on what Stewart and the other first-time Olympians should try to take out of the events in Rio in August.

"I would definitely tell them to appreciate the process of what it takes to win," Charles said. "I think for me I was so excited to be there that I didn't take in  every little detail from Catch (Tamika Catchings), Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) so anything they can (learn) from them knowing that this is their last go round they should definitely pay attention."

So what does Charles most appreciate about what Stewart will bring to the team?

"I would have to say her eagerness, her eyes are really wide right now and I know she is going to really value every possession and every minute she is on the floor," Charles said. "I think just how eager she is to be on the team and know that she is going to play hard every second."

Moore looks at Stewart and recalls being in a similar situation four and six years ago when she was the rising superstar playing alongside some legendary players.

"Stewie and I have pretty much identical paths as far as being the young one, being a No. 1 draft pick, coming from a successful college career and having to step up and lead in her class, in her generation because she is one of the leaders of the next generation if things go the way we all think they will for her," Moore said. "It is really cool to make this official and look forward to this opportunity. For her to go into her Olympic (debut) with the captains (Bird, Catchings and Taurasi) that we have, then we have Syl (Sylvia Fowles), Seimone (Augustus), Whay (Lindsay Whalen), just so many different ways she can appreciate her time as a young  player but also wanting to go in and contribute as well so I think it is a really memorable time for her."

Bird joins Catchings and Taurasi by being named to her fourth Olympic team something previously only accomplished by Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie. She also has the opportunity to see Stewart up close and personal as they are teammates with the WNBA's Seattle Storm.

"Being an Olympian has weight." Bird said. "It is pretty special that Stewie can get to experience that and have that on her resume, I know she is going to make the most of it."

So how has Stewart done in her first couple of days at training camp?

"She is doing great. training camp in the WNBA is so short so you really have to throw a lot out there but she has picked up things very well," Bird said. "Offensively, I think the more we are together we will get comfortable but you can already see her talent, you can already see the things she does and her versatility and that she will be able to play multiple spots on the floor. Her defense day one is just unbelievable. Obviously people have to get used to her just like people have to get used to  a player like Brittney Griner but she was immediately blocking pretty much everybody's shot."

Taurasi, Griner, Augustus and Angel McCoughtry were unable to make it to today's event because of they are still playing overseas.


5 UConn products on U.S. Olympic team

Former UConn teammates Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi along with Tennessee legend Tamika Catchings were named to the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team for a fourth time as they headline the 12-member team announced on Wednesday morning.

Lisa Leslie, who appeared in the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and Teresa Edwards, who was a part of five straight Olympic squads from 1984-2000, are the only other U.S. women's players to make at least four U.S. Olympic teams.

The team has an unmistakable UConn flavor to it. Tina Charles and Maya Moore will be playing in the Olympics for the second time while Breanna Stewart is the youngest member of the team.
Stewart's inclusion did come at the expense of two-time Olympian Candace Parker, the leading rebounder for the U.S. during the 2012 Olympics. The move led to criticize UConn and U.S. national team coach Geno Auriemma for favoring his former players or at least influencing the selection committee into leaning towards former Huskies. The ultimate irony is that if Stewart is part of the gold-medal winning team, it will mark the first time a women's player won the NCAA and Olympic title in the same year since Parker accomplished the feat in 2008.

"This was an incredibly difficult decision for the selection committee, but a very positive challenge given the talented athletes in our pool," said Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women's National Team Director and chair of the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee in a statement. "If you combine the returning 2012 Olympians with the 2014 world champions, you have 15 very qualified candidates. Add to that an emerging group of young athletes and the decision becomes that much harder to settle on a final 12-member roster. The good news is that we have developed a deep, talented pool of athletes at each position through our national team program.  We are grateful that the very best athletes in our country want to play and push each other to be better whenever our team gathers to train.

"This team has all of the areas necessary for success covered - talent and depth at each position, flexibility to play several positions, leadership on and off the court, international experience, demonstrated teamwork and a blend of veterans and youth. They understand their roles and the responsibility of representing the U.S. in Rio, and we look forward to watching their journey as they work toward a sixth-straight gold medal."

Bird, Catchings, Charles, Moore and Taurasi will be joined by Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Angel McCoughtry and Lindsay Whalen to give the U.S. nine players back from the team which won a fifth straight Olympic gold medal in 2012. Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner are the first-time Olympians on the team.

The U.S. will be joined in Group B at the Olympics by Canada, featuring UConn rising junior guard Kia Nurse, Senegal and Serbia as well as two of the five teams to emerge out of June's Olympic qualifying tournament. Pool play runs from Aug. 6-14. the quarterfnals are on Aug, 16, semifinals on Aug. 18 and the gold-medal game on Aug. 20 in Rio de Janeiro.

Monday, April 25, 2016

UConn's Stewart named Honda Award winner

UConn All-American Breanna Stewart was named the women's basketball winner of the Honda Sport Award for the third season in a row.

Stewart is now a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the Honda Cup which will be presented on a live telecast on June 27 in the Founders’ Room at the Galen Center in Los, Angeles.

Stewart led UConn to four straight national titles. She finished as the second-leading scorer in UConn history, set the program record with 414 career blocked shots and was the only player in women's Division I history with at least 400 assists and 400 blocked shots. She was taken first overall by the Seattle Storm in the 2016 WNBA Draft.

New-look Connecticut Sun open training camp

All five 2016 draft picks including UConn's Morgan Tuck were among the 14 players on the court as the Connecticut Sun opened training camp.

The biggest news was that former WNBA Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike was back on the court and she is one of six returnees who are currently in camp.

Tuck was joined by fellow No. 1 draft picks Rachel Banham and Jonquel Jones, second-round selection Jamie Weisner and third rounder Aliyyah Handford. Heather Butler, Victoria Macaulay and Jennifer O'Neill are also taking part in the training camp.

All-star guard Alex Bentley could be joining the team soon which could leave first-year head coach Curt Miller with a decision to make. He said he is "talking very aggressively with a 15th person to come into camp" and that player is playing in Brazil. If that is how the team proceeds, that would mean a cut would need to be made when Bentley reports to camp.

"The earliest I could see a cut being made is how fast Alex could get here, if we picked up a 15th and Alex. I think you could see this group of 14 practice all the way to Friday or Saturday without a cut," Miller said. "You hear of people making cuts already and it is one day in so it would be a better screen shot of what they could do and be fair to them."
He did not divulge a name but being the curious soul that I am, I checked into the teams currently alive in Brazil's playoffs. Well, Corinthians and Sampaio are currently in the championship series.

Regular-season champion Corinthians features a roster with 10 natives of Brazil headlined by Damiris Dantas, who was acquired by Atlanta in trade that resulted in Sylvia Fowles landing in Minnesota so obviously she is not in the mix. Now there is nothing stopping Miller from adding somebody from Brazil but if I were to take an educated guess of which player could be on the radar, I would go with former Rutgers guard Erica Wheeler who played last year with the Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty. Keep in mind this is merely speculation on my part and time will tell if I am even in the ball park on this subject.

Wheeler leads Sampaio with an average of 4.4 assists per game and also has a team-high 45 3-pointers while shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range as she is second on the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game.

If Wheeler is the player Miller is eyeing, it would make sense since the team is lacking in bodies to play point guard. Miller said Jasmine Thomas and Banham are the top options there but also said that Banham, Tuck and Ogwumike will be monitored closely because of their past knee issues so having  another player in camp who can run the point in the event that Banham is held out of practice or has her practice time scaled back.

The timetable for Aneika Henry and Camille Little to report to camp is a little more uncertain since both of their teams are still in the playoffs. Little is playing in Italy and those playoffs could be going for a while.

The Minnesota Lynx certainly seem to like bringing in players with UConn's championship pedigree.

There were four former UConn players on the roster as the Lynx won the 2015 WNBA title (Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery, Kalana Greene and Asjha Jones). Moore, Montgomery and Jones remain on the roster and now the team announced that it has invited Kaili McLaren to training camp.

Friday, April 22, 2016

UConn's Collier on the mend after hip surgery

UConn freshman forward Napheesa Collier underwent a procedure on her hip earlier today.

The injury, first reported by the Manchester Journal Inquirer's Carl Adamec as a torn labrum, has bothered her since high school. She is expected to begin the rehabilitation process next week and is expected to be able to practice without restriction when UConn kicks off the preseason.

Collier joined Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams as the only UConn players to appear in all 38 games. She averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and had a team-leading 83 offensive rebounds. In the NCAA tournament she averaged 8.3 and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Collier shot 91.7 percent from the free-throw line, the highest for any freshman in program history to average at least one foul shot per game.

Recovery time for a labral tear tends to fall in the three to four month range.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

UConn's Auriemma released from hospital

UConn announced that its Hall of Fame women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma has been released from the hospital and is back at home.

Auriemma has been ill since returning from the Final Four with flu-like symptoms resulting in him missed multiple public events including the national-championship parade. On Saturday Auriemma was on board of a plane at Bradley Airport when he decided to deplane and check himself into the hospital.

Here is the official statement from UConn

UConn head women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma returned home from the hospital on Tuesday morning.  He is feeling better and enjoying some time with his family.  Coach Auriemma and his family wish to express their appreciation and gratitude to everyone for their thoughts and prayers.  

In an effort to respect the Auriemma family’s privacy, UConn will have no further comment.

UConn commits Espinoza-Hunter, Gordon heading to U-17 trials

Andra Espinoza-Hunter set to make a run at another national team
UConn Class of 2017 commits Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon are among 35 players who have accepted invitations to try out for the U.S. U-17 team.

UConn commit Lexi Gordon taking part in U-17 trials
Espinoza-Hunter is one of 12 players who played on the U.S. U-16 team last summer who have accepted invitations to the team trials. Gordon attended the trials through the application process and was among the final cuts.

Once again USA Basketball will be adding players through an application process and is open to players born on Jan. 1, 1999 or later with the complete list of players heading to the trials likely approaching 150.

The team trials will be held from May 26-30 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The finalists for the team will be announced on May 30 and they will remain in Colorado until June 3 when the 12-member team representing the U.S. in the FIBA U17 World Championships being announced.

The FIBA U-17 World Championships will be held from June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain. UConn rising sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson and former Husky stars Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were members of previous U-17 teams.