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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

UConn's Ekmark transferring to Arizona State

Courrney Ekmark, a member of two national championship teams at UConn, will finish her college career back in Arizona as she is transferring to Arizona State.

"It was a difficult decision to leave but I'm really excited to play for (Arizona State coach) Charli (Turner Thorne)," Ekmark told the Arizona Republic on Tuesday, "I'm just looking to start a new chapter in my life. I'm a west coast girl to be honest. I learned a lot from playing for Geno Auriemma."

Ekmark averaged 2 points, 1.1 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game as a sophomore. She played at least 10 minutes in 13 games seeing a season-high 19 minutes in wins over Colgate and Central Florida. She finished her UConn career with 119 points, 75 rebounds and 23 3-pointers in 61 career games.

With the graduation of Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and with transfers Batouly Camara and Azura' Stevens not being eligible until the 2017-18 season, there was an opening for Ekmark to earn a more significant role during the upcoming season.

“Courtney is a great kid and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know her and her family,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "Everyone at UConn misses her already and we wish her nothing but the best in the future.”

I spoke with Ekmark at the Final Four about her fight to earn minutes in her first two seasons with the Huskies.

"Mostly it is just consistency, trying to show up for practice every single day and really just working hard, really doing whatever I can," Ekmark said.

"It is always hard to play here but it definitely has been easier than my freshman year. Sophomore year with more experience, you have been here before and you know how it all goes so it has gone better for me

"I think it is really really important to show up every day with the same attitude, work my butt off no matter what happens. As long as I can control the things that I can control, that is what I need to do."

Ekmark was Arizona's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013 helping St. Mary's High School, coached by her father Curtis, to its third consecutive Arizona Division I title. With most of the St. Mary's team graduating, Ekmark opted not to play as a senior and spent the season working out to prepare for her time at UConn.

Ekmark is the second player from her class to leave UConn for the Pac-12 as Sadie Edwards transferred to USC after playing six games during the 2014-15 season. Edwards averaged 11.3 points in 22 games after becoming eligible following her transfer. Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams remain from the recruiting class although Natalie Butler is also a part of the rising junior class.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Women's basketball legend Pat Summitt dies

When I woke up this morning to the news that women's basketball icon Pat Summitt had passed away at the age of 64, I began having flashbacks to my interactions with her.

The first thing I recall is setting up an interview with her back in 2002 for a feature I was doing on Diana Taurasi. When she called she asked me if it was OK if she called me from her home as if a legendary figure like her needed my permission. Then in the middle of the interview she couldn't apologize enough when one of her dogs was barking up a storm. I recall how much it meant to me when she made it a point to come over and shake my hand when I passed by her at one of the last WBCA High School All-American Games. I also remember how she answered my question about which of her assistant coaches were responsible for game planning for Taurasi's 40-foot shots in the tongue in cheek manner with which it was asked. When family members and people outside the journalism business would ask me about covering the UConn women's basketball, it wouldn't take long for the "what is Pat Summitt like?" question to be asked. When I said she had one of the best sense of humors of any coach I've dealt with they were always shocked to hear that. There are those who think of her incredible intensity, her legendary glare but there are so many other facets to her personality that enabled her to touch so many people.

I was fortunate enough to cover 12 of the 22 games between UConn and Tennessee and she was the same following the seven UConn wins as she was in the five games her team won. Charming, insightful, classy would be the words I would use to describe her dealings with the media. She understood our role in the world of women's basketball and always held up the end of her bargain and then some. There was a situation last year when I waited for a high-profile coach after a UConn game and was told they did not conduct interviews once the press conference was done. That is something that never would have happened after one of Pat Summitt's games.

Yesterday Geno Auriemma said that Summitt was synonymous with women's basketball and he is absolutely right. Her accomplishments are incredible but it was her class and dignity as well as the desire to do whatever she could to promote the sport of women's basketball that really set her apart. She will be recalled for her 1,098 victories and eight national championships but those are not why the women's college basketball world is mourning today as the sport lost one of its irreplaceable figures.

UConn sent out a release with a statement from head coach Geno Auriemma.

"Today is a sad day for me personally and for everyone in the women's basketball community.  One would be hard-pressed to name a figure who had a more indelible impact on her profession than Pat Summitt. Pat set the standard for which programs like ours dreamed of achieving, both on and off the court.  Our sport reached new heights thanks to her success, which came from an incomparable work ethic and a larger than life, yet, compassionate personality.  But her legacy is illustrated most clearly by the Lady Vols who went on to achieve greatness in basketball and in life. "

Also, here is a statement from the Connecticut Sun sharing the thoughts of Shekinna Stricklen, who played for Summitt at Tennessee.

 “It hurts. This whole situation has been very difficult. She meant a lot to me. She was a teacher on and off the court. It was an opportunity and a blessing to play for her. She really helped me grow up and become a woman. She always told me to stay loyal and respectful, and she always treated everyone the same. What you saw in these finals days was what Pat Summitt was as a person. She did not give up easily, and she went out on her terms, not on anybody else’s terms.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Former UConn star Breanna Stewart wins Honda Cup

Breanna Stewart became the fourth UConn basketball player to win the Honda Cup as the nation's top female collegiate athlete.

Baylor's Brittney Griner, the 2012 winner,was the last basketball player to earn the honor. Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti gave UConn back to back winners in 1995 and 1996 while Maya Moore won in 2010 and 2011 to join swimming legend Tracy Caulkins as the only two-time winner of the Honda Cup.

Stewart was a finalist for the award for the third straight season as gymnast Kim Jacob was the winner in 2014 and swimmer Missy Franklin was the honoree last season.

Stewart had 20 games with at least 20 points as a senior with 16 double doubles as she headlined a senior class that was the first in Division I history to win four consecutive national titles.
Stewart finished as UConn's career leader with 414 blocked shots, was second with 2,676 points, third with 1,179 rebounds.
She was taken first overall in the WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm and is currently second in the WNBA in rebounding and eighth in scoring.

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UConn's Auriemma: Pat Summitt is synonymous with women's basketball

The biggest news in the women's basketball in the last few days has been focused on the failing health of legendary former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.

Whether it is fair or not, if there were a word association game involving Summitt, the first name likely to be uttered would be Geno Auriemma.

Auriemma, during a break in his annual Fore The Kids Golf Tournament, spoke for more than 10 minutes on the legacy of Summitt as well as the unforgettable showdowns between Tennessee and UConn from 1995-2007.

"We don't have a long history in women's basketball," Auriemma said. "The history before Tennessee, before Pat Summitt is kind of checkered because there wasn't a lot of interest in the game, a lot of support from universities so it is a short history. During that short history, there is one person for a long time and nobody else was even in that category. A lot of times there is competition among a lot of coaches but for the longest time there was only Pat Summitt, nobody else. Other people took their turn getting their 15 minutes of fame but when people talked about college  women's basketball in America ... When you get on the cover of Time Magazine, when's the last time a women's team coach got on the cover of Time Magazine? For that to happen, that is saying a lot. Pat Summitt is  synonymous with women's basketball."

Seven times UConn played Tennessee in the NCAA tournament including the 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2004 national title games. When the teams played each other from 1995-2007, UConn won five national titles, Tennessee won the championship four times (with another crown in 2008) while the other teams combined to win four national titles. Friction between the coaches led to the end of the regular-season meetings between the women's basketball super powers but Auriemma has fond recollections of that rivalry.

"We had a chance to shape the landscape of women's basketball, the two of us," Auriemma said. "She did her part and I did that part. It didn't necessarily go over with everybody else but that is OK because that is how things grow. I knew we made it big - Connecticut/Tennessee, Geno/Pat - when they asked a bunch of coaches at the NCAA tournament who do you think is going to win the NCAA tournament  and they said 'I really don't care as long as it is not either Tennessee or Connecticut.' That is when I thought to myself, we have something special going.

"I remember saying something to her at the Final Four, I forget which Final Four,  remember walking up to her before the tournament started and said you guys need to win, we need to win and we need to play each other,  we have a pretty good thing going and we don't need anybody breaking into this party. She kind of got a little chuckle out of it."

UConn leads the series 13-9 and from 1995-2007, the two programs helped bring eyes to the sport. It is hardly a coincidence that the most viewed women's NCAA tournament game in ESPN's history is the 2004 national title game between UConn and Tennessee which also happens to be the last NCAA tournament showdown between the Huskies and Lady Vols.

"It certainly was unique," Auriemma said. "There certainly wasn't anything happening before that and hasn't been anything ... Notre Dame is the closest thing that has evolved. If you think about, that rivalry only lasted 12 years, it is not a long time but we played 22 times in 12 years and that it what made the rivalry what it was. It seemed like, to me the most fun about it was that every single game that we played against them, there seemed to be something at stake - either an NCAA tournament game, a national championship or just in the minds of a lot of people 'something at stake. I don't know how many times we were either 1 or 2 in the country when the played so suffice it say there were never any meaningless games between us and Tennessee."

Summitt, who won a record 1,098 games and her eight national titles were the standard before Auriemma won 11 championships, announced that she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Word began to spread that Summitt's condition had taken a turn for the worse and her family released a statement saying "the past few days have been difficult for Pat."

Former players, including those in the WNBA, have visited the Hall of Fame coach and social media is buzzing with prayers and other words of support for Summitt and her family.

Auriemma hasn't had much contact with Summitt but said he has reached out to those in her inner circle so they could pass on his thoughts to her.

"As this thing has played out, the thing I have appreciated the most kind of what it evolved with (former North Carolina men's basketball coach) Dean Smith, there really wasn't a whole lot of information out there, very private so my conversations were through other people who were close to her, who were going to see her on a regular basis," Auriemma said. "I talked to them and told them what I thought, had them relay it."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

UConn's Stewart, Auriemma up for two ESPYs each

Breanna Stewart, a three-time national player of the year, has been nominated for a pair of ESPYs as has UConn's Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma.

Stewart is up for ESPYs as Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete. Auriemma is a candidate for Best Record-Breaking Performance and Best Coach/Manager while UConn is in the running in the Best Team category

Former Huskies Tina Charles and Maya Moore are candidates in the Best WNBA Player category.

The ESPYs will be announced on July 13 and fans can vote at www.espys.com.

Here are the list of candidates:
BEST MALE ATHLETE
Stephen Curry
Cam Newton
Bryce Harper
LeBron James

BEST FEMALE ATHLETE
Breanna Stewart
Elena Delle Donne
Katie Ledecky
Simone Biles

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE
Von Miller – Super Bowl
Carli Lloyd – World Cup Final
Sidney Crosby – Stanley Cup Playoffs
LeBron James – NBA Finals

BEST BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE
Jake Arrieta
Conor McGregor
Chloe Kim
Karl-Anthony Towns

BEST RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Stephen Curry – single season three-pointers made
Geno Auriemma – most NCAA basketball titles in D1 history (11)
Christian McCaffery – single season NCAAF all-purpose yards

BEST UPSET
Holly Holm knocks out Ronda Rousey – UFC
Middle Tennessee over Michigan State – Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament
Roberta Vinci over Serena Williams – US Open

BEST GAME
Villanova vs. North Carolina – Men’s NCAA Basketball Final
Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers – NFL Divisional Round
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – NBA Finals Game 7

BEST PLAY (16 NOMINEES VOTED BRACKET-STYLE)1.Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary vs. 16. Crazy 66-yard Ole Miss’ TD
2.Kris Jenkins buzzer beater vs. 15. Connor McDavid goal
3.Michigan St punt block TD vs. 14. Stanford trick play w/ circus catch
4.LeBron Game 7 block vs. 13. Louis Oosthuizen hole-in-one off of ball
5.Steph Curry 38-foot game-winner vs. 12. Army softball player leaps over tag
6.Holly Holm knockout of Ronda Rousey vs. 11. Bartolo Colon first home run
7.Tiffany Howard HR robbery WCWS vs. 10. Josh Donaldson diving into stands
8.Jairo Samerio scores on scissor-kick ground vs. 9. Dele Alli juggling goal for Tottenham

BEST TEAM
Cleveland Cavaliers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Kansas City Royals
Denver Broncos
Alabama Crimson Tide
UConn Huskies
Villanova Wildcats

BEST COACH/MANAGER
Ned Yost – Kansas City Royals
Geno Auriemma – UConn Huskies
Jay Wright – Villanova Wildcats
Nick Saban – Alabama Crimson Tide
Tyronn Lue – Cleveland Cavaliers

BEST INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE
Cristiano Ronaldo
Novak Djokovic
Lydia Ko
Luis Suarez
Canelo Alvarez

BEST NFL PLAYER
Cam Newton
Tom Brady
JJ Watt
Antonio Brown
Julio Jones

BEST MLB PLAYER
Bryce Harper
Josh Donaldson
Jake Arrieta
Mike Trout
Clayton Kershaw

BEST NHL PLAYER
Patrick Kane
Alex Ovechkin
Sidney Crosby
Joe Pavelski
Braden Holtby

BEST DRIVER
Kyle Busch
Lewis Hamilton
Erica Enders-Stevens
Scott Dixon
Alexander Rossi

BEST NBA PLAYER
Stephen Curry
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James
Kevin Durant
Russell Westbrook

BEST WNBA PLAYER
Elena Delle Donne
Maya Moore
Angel McCoughtry
Tina Charles
DeWanna Bonner

BEST FIGHTER
Conor McGregor
Gennady Golovkin
Canelo Alvarez
Robbie Lawler
Roman Gonzalez

BEST MALE GOLFER
Jason Day
Dustin Johnson
Danny Willett
Jordan Spieth

BEST FEMALE GOLFER
Lydia Ko
Inbee Park
Brooke Henderson
Ariya Jutanugarn

BEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER
Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray
Roger Federer

BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER
Angelique Kerber
Flavia Pennetta
Serena Williams
Garbine Muguruza

BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Derrick Henry
Buddy Hield
Jordan Morris
Jarrion Lawson
Alex Dieringer

BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Breanna Stewart
Raquel Rodriguez
Samantha Bricio
Taylor Cummings
Sierra Romero

BEST MALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE
Ryan Dungey
Gus Kenworthy
Nyjah Huston
Pedro Barros
Mark McMorris

BEST FEMALE ACTION SPORTS ATHLETE
Chloe Kim
Keala Kennelly
Jamie Anderson
Carissa Moore

BEST JOCKEY
Mario Gutierrez
Kent Desormeaux
Javier Castellano
Irad Ortiz Jr.

BEST MALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Richard Browne
Joe Berenyi
Aaron Fotheringham
Nikko Landeros
Brad Snyder

BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Tatyana McFadden
Heather Erickson
Oksana Masters
Bethany Hamilton
Shawn Morelli

BEST BOWLER
Jason Belmonte
Jesper Svensson
Ryan Ciminelli
Anthony Simonsen

BEST MLS PLAYER
Sebastian Giovinco
Kei Kamara
Laurent Ciman
Luis Robles

LYNX WILL HEAD TO WHITE HOUSE ON MONDAY
The WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx will make the trip to the White House to be recognized by President Barack Obama.

The 2015 Lynx squad featured four former UConn stars who know a thing or two about ceremonies at the White House but none more than Maya Moore, who has been on receiving end of barbs from President Obama for her many trips to D.C. in previous ceremonies. Renee Montgomery, who had a game-winning 3-pointer in Minnesota's recent win over previously undefeated Los Angeles, Asjha Jones and Kalana Greene were also members of the championship team.

The ceremony is set for 4:45 p.m at the East Room of the White House/

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

UConn's Stewart, Tuck up for NCAA Woman of Year award

It seems to be the day for former UConn stars to receive prestigious honors.

First, it was Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi named to the WNBA 20@20 as the 20 best players in the 20 WNBA seasons. Now it is Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck being nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year.

They are now in contention to join 1995 honoree Rebecca Lobo as the only winners of the award from UConn.

Rachel Banham, Tuck's fellow rookie with the Connecticut Sun, is also a candidate. Other nominees from Connecticut colleges or universities include Southern Connecticut State's Lauren Anderson (field hockey, lacrosse), Fairfield's Olivia Brooks (golf), University of New Haven's Ashley Dawson, Hartford's Emma Donnelly (soccer) and Trinity's Martha Griffin (lacrosse).

The NCAA will announce the top 30 candidates (10 each in Division I, Division II and Division III) in early September. Nine finalists (three from each division) will be announced in late September with the winner being announced on Oct. 16.

Candidates are chosen based on their academic achievement, athletic excellence, service and leadership.

Stewart is also one of the finalists for the Honda Cup which will be announced on Monday.

Stewart won the Honda Sport Award for basketball making her a finalist for the award along with the other 11 individual sport winners. The winner will be announced live on the Collegiate Women's Sports Awards Show which begins at 9 p.m. and will air live on CBS Sports Network.

Stewart has finished in the top three in 2014 and 2015 in her attempt to join Lobo, Jen Rizzotti and two-time winner Moore as UConn players to be named the nation's top collegiate female athlete. Gymnast Kim Jacob was the winner in 2014 and swimmer Missy Franklin was last year's honoree.

Four former UConn stars on WNBA's 20@20

Four former UConn stars including three members of the undefeated 2002 national championship team were named to the list of the top 20 players since the inception of the WNBA.
The WNBA 20@20, which was voted on by a 15-member panel WNBA coaches and administrators as well as national media members, was unveiled on ESPN's 10 a.m. edition of SportsCenter.

Sue Bird and Swin Cash, the top two picks in the 2002 WNBA Draft, and 2004 No. 1 overall pick Diana Taurasi were selected along with 2011 No. 1 overall pick Maya Moore, the leading scorer in UConn history.

“To be included among the top 20 players in this league's history is a huge honor," said Bird in a statement. "Watching the level of competition rise over the years has been incredible and I am excited to see where the league goes in the next 20."
Tina Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP, and Nykesha Sales were also nominated giving UConn six of the 60 nominees.

Lindsay Whalen is the only representative of the Connecticut Sun to be named to the list of top 20 players as she was the Sun's first-round pick in 2004.

The list is highlighted by the trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson who teamed up to lead the Houston Comets to the first four WNBA championships. Former MVP Lisa Leslie as well as Teresa Weatherspoon are the other original WNBA players honored by the league while Yolanda Griffith, Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson, Deanna Nolan, career assists leader Ticha Penicheiro and Katie Smith are other former WNBA stars to make the cut.

Seimone Augustus, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker and Cappie Pondexter join Bird, Cash, Moore, Taurasi and Whalen are active WNBA players named to the top 20.
"I grew up watching the WNBA, and to be in a class of athletes of the caliber that this league has produced over the past 20 years is a huge honor,” Moore said. “It’s definitely a dream come true. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to compete at the highest levels and develop my talent to the point that I was even in consideration for this honor.”
UConn leads the way for four players honored, Southern California (Cooper, Leslie and Thompson) and Tennessee (Catchings and Parker) are the only other programs with more than one honoree.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Another showcase for UConn legend Maya Moore

I would be hard pressed to recall a WNBA regular-season game drawing as much attention as tomorrow's clash of undefeated squads when 12-0 Minnesota faces 11-0 Los Angeles (even if the WNBA didn't have the foresight to put it on either ESPN or ESPN2).

Former UConn star Maya Moore, the leading scorer for Minnesota, was among the participants on a conference call this afternoon held to promote the game which the league said is the first time two teams in the WNBA, NBA, NHL, MLB or NFL have met with perfect records this late into the start of the season.

"If you were writing a sports fiction story certainly what is going to happen tomorrow is going to be high up there as far as the excitement built into this game tomorrow," Moore said. "It is just a really cool time to focus on and celebrate the excellence you are seeing on the court from both teams."

The game will tip shortly after 3:30 p.m. and air on NBA TV.

Earlier in the day the WNBA will announce the top 20 players in league history in recognition of the league's 20th season. Moore is among the 60 nominees and it would be a shocking turn of events if she were not among the list of 20.

"It is an honor that I wasn't really thinking about or was aware of but to be playing in the league I grew up watching and loving would be such a humbling, awesome honor another fun moment to celebrate all that this league has accomplished,," Moore said.

UConn's Dangerfield undergoes hip surgery

UConn incoming freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield underwent hip surgery on Friday to repair a preexisting injury and the school announced that she is expected to be fully recovered in time for the preseason.

The procedure forced Dangerfield to give up her spot on the U.S. U-18 national team.

Dangerfield, a member of the U.S. team which won the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women title in 2015, was a consensus high school All-American who is expected to compete for a starting position as a freshman for the Huskies.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Former UConn star Tina Charles no stranger to giving back

Tina Charles was struck by the irony of the timing of her latest honor.

The former UConn star was named one of four finalists for the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award on the same day she would be playing in the state where she first began to spread her wings and display her philanthropic spirit.

Charles has always been a giving soul but it wasn't until she graduated from UConn and began earning money playing professionally that she could put her money where her mouth is.

Charles joins Brent Burns, who just led the San Jose Sharks to their first Stanley Cup Final, NFL star Carlos Dunlap and NBA All-Star Chris Paul as finalists for the prestigious award.

"I think it is more recognition towards Hopey's Heart Foundation, raising awareness for sudden cardiac arrest," Charles said before scoring 32 points to lead the New York Liberty past the Connecticut Sun. "For it to come out today while I am playing in Connecticut, this is where it started. It is huge, we are growing."

I was talking to an official from the New York Liberty yesterday as I waited to talk to some of the New York players during the media access period and heard stories of her dedication, the trips to meetings with the Hopey's Heart Foundation. Little of this ever gets reported and that is fine with Charles. She's often kept the media at arm's length and doesn't get involved in charitable ventures so she can have glowing stories written about her or even receive awards for her work away from the court. When I spoke to her yesterday, her eyes lit up when I mentioned that potential impact the $25,000 donation her charity will receive with her being a finalist for the Sports Humanitarian of the Award. It was almost as if I could see her thinking about how many more schools she can help get defibrillators into and potentially how many more lives of children could be saved by having that piece of equipment in schools.

Charles' philanthropic spirit did not first reveal itself through the Hopey's Heart Foundation. During the season when she would be named the MVP of the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun I put together a piece on Charles that went beyond the points she was scoring and rebounds she was pulling down. She funded the building of a school in Mali through partnership with OmniPeace and buildOn. It was a side of her personality that not everybody saw. I covered her in the final three seasons of her career at UConn and in the early stages of her professional career and didn't fully comprehend just how giving of a person that she is. So one day inside Mohegan Sun Arena I spent probably 30 minutes with her discussing the importance of giving back to people. It was one of the most enjoyable stories I have written in my coverage of the Connecticut Sun and thought of that day and story I wrote when I spoke to Tina for a few minutes last night.

The winner of the Sports Humanitarian of the Year will be announced on July 12 with ESPN giving a $100,000 grant to the charity of the winner.

Former UConn standout Stokes finding her comfort zone

Even as Kiah Stokes was making an immediate impact as a rookie with the  New York Liberty, she was still trying to get comfortable with life in professional basketball.

After a strong rookie season in WNBA and her first chance to play overseas, Stokes has returned to the Liberty with a renewed sense of confidence.

The numbers certainly show that there is no sophomore slump for Stokes. She is playing right around the same number of minutes through the first 11 games that she did a season ago. She went from averaging 5.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game to putting up averages of 7.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. She is seventh in the league in rebounding (fifth in rebounding per 40 minutes) and second in blocked shots.

"I am coming more into my role," Stokes said. "I know more of how the league works. My rookie year I was kind of nervous but I think I understand my teammates and coaching staff more of what it takes to win games. I am just trying to be more comfortable on offense, trying to do what I know I can do, block shots, rebound, post up strong."

Stokes has blocked 24 shots in 11 games this season but none generated as much buzz as the one of her former UConn teammate Breanna Stewart. The block at any point of the game would have been worthy of making the highlight reel especially seeing how her teammates reacted to the emphatic block but the fact that is came during crunch time as the Liberty was holding onto a lead, it became an even more impressive play.

Stokes had been hearing it from her coaches and teammates for giving up a 3-pointer to Sue Bird after the team had been given instructions not to surrender a 3-pointer or three-point play.

"Tina (Charles) went for the shot fake and I said no easy 2s so either foul her or make sure she misses it. I tried to get a block and I did," Stokes said before last night's game against the Connecticut Sun. "I didn't really see my teammates reaction until seeing the replay after but all I know is Tina hit me in my chest really hard, that is the only thing I remember about that.

"It was fun. Stewie is a great scorer, a great player so especially at that point in the game it was pretty intense. It was fun. I am glad I was on my end. I didn't guard her very much (at UConn). I knew she was really long so i had to time it pretty well."