Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Is UConn's dominance a blessing or curse for rest of AAC

Over the years I have been able to see the positive side of UConn's blowout victories as the Huskies use those contests to lay the foundation for national-championship run.

However, since I also cover the UConn football team, I have seen a different side of the ledger. I've seen the confidence of a team and players damaged following a disappointing performance. With all of that being said I spent a decent amount of time at yesterday's American Athletic Conference women's basketball media day checking in with other coaches to see if there is a down side to having the nation's most dominant women's basketball program in the same conference.

Let's start with a look back at last year. With Louisville now in the ACC and Rutgers in the Big 12 UConn is one of eight returning teams from the inaugural AAC season and the margin of victory for the Huskies against its conference foes was a staggering 38 points.

"I think everybody understands that they are UConn and that is where you are trying to reach and get to that level so making sure your kids understand that there is a competition," said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, a former UConn assistant coach. "So many years of being there so many teams would lose before they stepped on the floor because it was UConn now people are trying to get their kids to understand that just go out, compete and see what happens. Obviously he has done a great job getting talented players but hopefully that margin drops a little bit."

Although Memphis lost to UConn by 41 points, the Tigers led the Huskies for nearly 4 1/2 minutes when the teams met last season in Memphis and that is something that Tigers' coach Melissa McFerrin believes she can use in her team's growth.

"We don't wear it as a badge of honor but at the FedEx Forum with 12 minutes gone we held the lead," McFerrin said. "We have to take it as let's continue to grow those minutes.

"I think you go right at a team like UConn, you go straight at your team saying this team is going to run you off the court if you don't show up and play. I think for a short amount of time our team was able to react to that. They were excited, we were fired up and we were not trying to be cautious in the early part of that game, we were trying to play our game as well as UConn would let us do it."

Memphis lost in overtime in the next game but then won its next three games so the Tigers were able to not let the bitter taste of the blowout loss linger.

"You can't have emotional baggage in this game or this conference will chew you up and spit you up," McFerrin said. "You can't be fragile in this conference and you can't assume anything because any game you can either win big or get one put on you, get embarrassed."

Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, a member of national-championship teams at UConn as a player and a coach, has a similar philosophy to McFerrin when it comes to the UConn games.

"I just look at small victories, we held Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart under 10 points, I believe in that game (actually Stewart had 12 points and Dolson seven in a 63-34 UConn win). If it wasn't under 10 it was way under their season average so that is a small victory we pointed out after the game or holding them under their points per game average so you look for little, different things. You don't go into games saying 'if you do this you are going to beat UConn.' We have offensive goals, defensive goals that we know is realistic to accomplish.

"I have been very fortunate, I don't know if my players get up extra for that game because of my affiliation with UConn but I have never had problem with their confidence going into the game or getting beat before the ball goes up and leaving the game like we lost everything we had tried to accomplish up to that point."

When the AAC preseason poll came out South Florida was picked to finish second and East Carolina came in at No. 3 so how do the coaches of those teams address the shadow that the Huskies figure to cast on the league this season.

"If I don't wake up every day with my goal being 'I want to beat Connecticut' I am doing my kids a disservice," USF coach Jose Fernandez said. "You are chasing the dragon every day and I am going keep trying until I catch it. (The losses are)not because of how we are working recruiting wise or on the floor."

East Carolina will be introduced to life as a UConn opponent on New Year's Eve.
"Happy New Year," East Carolina coach Heather Macy said with a laugh. "UConn always has a great draw and look what they have built there. When I look at the job Geno has done there, it is something I respect and go wow, it is going to be a great opportunity for our fans and our players to experience. If you want to be a nationally recognized program, you better go ahead and play the top teams and see what that gap is. It is a really good measuring stick."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

UConn's game at Colgate was news to Breanna Stewart

As I reported on Tuesday, UConn signed a contract to play at Colgate next season so that Breanna Stewart could play a game close to her home.

Well, when I asked her about having a game set up so friends and family could see her play within an hour of her Syracuse home, she admitted it was the first she was hearing about it.

"I didn't know about that," Stewart said. "Obviously not to look ahead but it will be neat to have a game like that where people can see you play your senior year."

It was not an easy task for UConn to find a game for Stewart which is nothing new as the Huskies had the same problem trying to secure a homecoming game for Maya Moore.

"Ultimately you would it to be in her hometown but it is getting harder and harder to pull that stuff off," Auriemma said. "Teams are less inclined to bring back a player that they thought they should have gotten, they are going to come and play in your gym against you. That is just the world that has been created. I think it will be good for it is kind of like playing at the University of Hartford last year. You go in and it is a small gym, it is kind of different from what you are used to, score some points with our President (Susan Herbst) because her brother is the president at Colgate."

So has Auriemma had a conversation with Herbst about getting the Colgate contract signed?

"No but she will mention something if we don't play well and lose."

The winners here will be the folks at Colgate. Last year 12 home games drew a total of 5,471 fans. Cotterell Court holds 1,760 or 3,000 depending on where on the Colgate site you look. Needless to say that the game, expected to be played around Thanksgiving, will be one of the largest home women's basketball crowds in Colgate's history.

UConn's Chong, Temple's Atkinson opening eyes

Four players, all expected to have pivotal roles in the UConn women's basketball team's bid for a third straight national title, accompanied Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma to Thursday's American Athletic Conference media day at the New York Athletic Club.

However, it wasn't reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart, former All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, standout point guard Moriah Jefferson or underrated center Kiah Stokes who received the most praise from Auriemma.

Sophomore guard Saniya Chong, who failed to score in nine of her last 16 games during her inconsistent freshman season, has been downright spectacular in the first couple weeks of practice according to Auriemma.

"In the first eight or nine practices, Saniya’s been the best player we’ve had," Auriemma said.

"She just really goes, she is playing at a really high level. She is playing like she did in November of last year even better. It was a struggle last year to get her motor going at top speed.

So does Auriemma credit Chong's improved play to the fact that UConn added four talented freshmen who could keep from starting or playing a significant role?

"I think it is just growing up," Auriemma said. "I think she was a little immature last year. I think being away from home, you are the only freshmen and these kids are spoiled rotten, They are not just spoiled by basketball but they are spoiled by their parents so when they get there and nothing is easy and every little thing that they do is 'what the hell is that?' They lose their mind."

During the post-game celebration after UConn topped rival Notre Dame in the national championship game Jefferson leaned over to Chong and told her that the 2014-15 season was going to be hers to shine.

"I talked to her last year so I knew she was going to come in and do that stuff," Jefferson said. "You could tell that she was struggling with some of the same stuff I did (as a freshman).

"We lost Bria (Hartley) at the 2 guard position and she is just feeling it right now."

ATKINSON PUSHING FOR A STARTING SPOT

Chong wasn't the only young guard to draw words of praise at media day.

Temple coach Tonya Cardoza, a former UConn assistant coach, was able to secure a commitment from former Career High star Tanaya Atkinson. It hasn't taken long for the New Haven native to make her presence felt.

"She is doing amazing right now," Cardoza said. "She is somebody we are going to count on. Right now I am thinking of starting her, that is how well she is doing because I think she is capable of helping us in so many ways. She is going to be one of those players that in a few years she is going to leave her mark on Temple.

"She is a big guard and we haven't had a lot of big guards, she can get to the basket, she is physical, quick, athletic, can jump, she has a toughness about her. She can play both ends, she can play multiple guard positions."

Cardoza loves how Atkinson is responding to the demands placed on her by the Owls' coaching staff.
"I am hard on her because I know she has a talent and she is embracing it," Cardoza said. "She wants to hear everything, she doesn't want to disappoint me and I love that in a player."

LOOKING  AT THE BIG PICTURE
A couple of events that proved that there are things more important than the pursuit of championships have warmed the heart of Auriemma and his players.

UConn, like so many programs across the nation, have tried to help out in the courageous and selfless acts of Mount St. Joseph sophomore Lauren Hill, who has brain cancer and is not only waging a fight for her life but looking to raise awareness while raising money for cancer research.

UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey got the UConn team to donate signed items to aid in the cause.

"Our guys were all genuinely touched by it," Auriemma said.

"I had heard about it. CD (Dailey) brought it to my attention and I saw that they did a story on it. Unbelievable, I couldn't even imagine. You see something like that and it really makes you sad and heartbreaking for her and her family.

"People are always looking for stories that make them feel better, stories that you normally have to deal with involve either winning or losing, four hours or why they won or why they lose or something that somebody did that was so stupid that you have to spend three hours on this particular thing. You don't get too many of those stories and when they come out everybody rallies around them because it is an unbelievable story. When you get to know the human being behind it, we all want to feel a part of it because it you are a part of it that is makes your feel better."

Closer to home, Auriemma still gets chills when he called that 2009 day when UConn football star Jasper Howard was stabbed to death on campus.

In the last couple of years Dan and Lisa Lowry have been at the forefront of a movement to have a permanent memorial to Howard at Rentschler Field. Well, that day is almost here as the memorial will be dedicated at halftime of Saturday's game against Central Florida.

"I think I was like anybody else, it came out of nowhere," Auriemma said. "I was not used to that happening so close to home and adding to that a lot of the guys on our team were friends with him, how it affected them and we had to cancel practice. I've never experienced anything like that before or after where something that tragic happens. You go to bed at night after something like that and imagine what they are feeling, his family, my son is playing football and you don't expect that to happen. It is not like you are walking the streets, he is not hanging out with bad people, he is not somewhere where he is not supposed to be. All of a sudden you start thinking 'what about if that was one of my players?' I have three kids in college and what is going on here? It just really knocks you for a loop. I am glad they are doing something. I hope people really take the time pause and remember."

UConn's Stewart dealing with minor foot issue

Reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart was happy to leave part of her footwear behind when she headed to New York for the American Athletic Conference women's basketball media day.

Stewart has been bothered by soreness in a bone under the ball of her left foot. It hasn't caused her to miss any practice time but she has been wearing a protective boot.

"It is something that has been bothering me in my foot, it is not anything serious,' said Stewart, who was named the AAC's Preseason Player of the Year. "I am in the boot because it takes the pressure off walking on that part of my foot but I am still practicing and going through everything."

Stewart doesn't recall what caused the pain.

"I am not sure if it was practice," Stewart said. "It is hard because the season starts. They said I can play on it so I am going to play on it. It is just a thing where you rehab it, you stay off of it, you are not trying to put as much pressure on it.

"I am in the boot because they think it is smart. It is a precaution and then my left shoe doesn't really get dirty."

UConn picked to win AAC; Stewart and Nurse earn individual honors

Those partial to the pure suspense of preseason poll likely stayed clear of the New York Athletic Club this morning.

With the departure of Louisville and Rutgers, the closest thing the UConn women's basketball program had to rivals in the inaugural American Athletic Conference season, the real question was whether the Huskies would have a conference game decided by fewer than 20 points this season.

Predictably, UConn was picked by the other 10 conference coaches to win the title, reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart was the unanimous pick to be the AAC Player of the Year while UConn's Kia Nurse was selected as the preseason Freshman of the Year.
Since coaches can't vote for their own team, UConn coach Geno Auriemma cast his first-place ballot for South Florida which was picked to finish second in the league. Newcomer East Carolina was picked to finish third while Temple and Tulane tied for fourth

The seven other American Athletic Conference teams lost to UConn by an average of 38.1 points per game last season with the closest game being a 63-38 win over South Florida on Feb. 16.
.
Stewart was joined on the first team by teammates Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson, Memphis guard Ariel Hearn and South Florida's Courtney Williams, the only other unanimous seletion. UConn senior forward/center Kiah Stokes was a second-team All-AAC selection.

UConn kicks off the conference portion of its schedule on Dec. 27 when the Huskies play Southern Methodist at the XL Center.

Although UConn lost All-Americans Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley off a team which went 40-0 and won a second straight national title, the Huskies return six of their top eight scorers including top point producer Stewart, prolific 3-point shooter Mosqueda-Lewis and assists leader Jefferson.

Here is the preseason poll
Team Points 1. UConn (10) 100
2. USF (1) 91
3. East Carolina 72
T-4. Temple 67
T-4. Tulane 67
6. Memphis 54
7. SMU 52
8. Cincinnati 37
9. Tulsa 28
10. UCF 24
11. Houston 13
First place votes in parenthesis

AAC Preseason Player of the YearBreanna Stewart, UConn
AAC Preseason Freshman of the YearKia Nurse, UConn

Live blog off American Athletic Conference media day

There will be a live blog running off today's American Athletic Conference media day. The preseason poll and individual awards will be released at 10 a.m. but for those who don't want to wait, the Temple official website didn't honor the embargo on the release and put it up yesterday. It looks like it has since been taken down but sure it could be found for those not wishing to wait a couple of hours.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Contract signed for homecoming game for UConn's Stewart

It hasn't always been the easiest of chores to get homecoming games for UConn's superstars but the Huskies have a signed contract to play Colgate next season with the same expected to be played right around Thanksgiving.

Colgate, located about 45 miles from Stewart's home in Syracuse, is coming off an 8-22 season. The Red Raiders are coached by former DePaul assistant coach Nicci Hays Fort while 2012 UConn graduate Justin Paluch is an assistant at Colgate,

Classmate Moriah Jefferson won't have a specific homecoming game scheduled since both SMU and Houston are in the American Athletic Conference and the Huskies have set up a home and home series with DePaul in large part so Morgan Tuck can play in front of friends and family.

Labels:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UConn recruiting target Willoughby taking her time

Three prospects from the Class of 2016 visited UConn over the weekend and two of them (guard Crystal Dangerfield and forward Kyla Irwin) committed earlier this week. Obviously that got me thinking it might be a good idea to check in on Jocelyn Willoughby, the other talented high school junior to visit over the weekend.

Well, here's what her high school coach Liz Bona Beach had to say when I reached out to her via email.

"She is early in the process. UConn was a very good visit. She was impressed. It was an important visit that will help her as she goes through the process."

Willoughby, a 6-foot wing, is coming off an outstanding sophomore season at Newark Academy as she averaged 23.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 4.4 steals. She had 10 double-doubles with 20 20-points games, six games with at least 30 points in 26 games. She came one steal shy of a triple-double in a Jan. 30 game against Newark Central.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kyla Irwin commits to UConn

Before Kyla Irwin arrived on campus over the weekend for her unofficial visit to UConn she dreamed of one day suiting up for Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma's Huskies.

That dream became a reality when she became the second member of the Class of 2016 to commit to UConn.

"It was everything," Irwin said. "It the best of both worlds. It is such a great program; the campus is very nice; the coaches coach just like I like it; I have family in Connecticut and it can't get better than that.

"I am cloud nine and I have never been so happy."

Irwin, a 6-foot-1 junior forward at State College (Pa.) High School, had 13 20-point games and averaged 19.6 points per game. She is a hard-nosed, aggressive player who attempted 150 free throws in 26 games as a sophomore.

"I love this game more than anything," Irwin said. "Every play I am in there, I talk a lot, always excited and always enthusiastic about the game and I think that is kind of what drew coaches to me. I know this game inside and out so I think i have been around this game long enough that it is the only game I really ever loved."

UConn began showing up at her AAU games and although she was unable to make it up for First Night, she was on campus later in the weekend.

"It is something I have always dreamed of. I literally dreamed of it so I know I made the right decision," Irwin said.

Irwin is coached by her mom, a former Branford High School star who played at Penn State. While the former Bethany Collins remained in State College, the rest of her family remained in Connecticut so there will be a large caravan with her supporters from Branford to Storrs when Irwin gets to UConn.

SNY to televise 17 UConn games

SNY announced its broadcast schedule for the upcoming UConn women's basketball season.

The first of the 17 games being televised is the Nov. 23 game against Creighton. SNY will also air all three games in the Gulf Coast Showcase while the Dec, 19 game against DePaul is another highlight.

Here's the list of games being televised by UConn's regional television partner.

With that part of the schedule released that means the only the Nov. 14 season opener against UC Davis will not be on television as it will streamed live exclusively on ESPN3 and through the ESPN app. The two exhibition games will also not be televised.

 NOVEMBER
Sun. 23 CREIGHTON Gampel Pavilion, 1 p.m.
GULF COAST SHOWCASE, GERMAIN ARENA, ESTERO, FLA.
Fri. 28 College of Charleston  8:30 p.m.
Sat. 29 Minnesota or Vanderbilt 
Sun. 30 vs. TBA 
DECEMBER
Fri. 19 DEPAUL Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 27 SMU XL Center 1 p.m.
Wed. 31 at East Carolina Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, Greenville, N.C. 2:30 p.m.
JANUARY
Wed. 7 TULSA XL Center 7 p.m.
Sun. 11 at SMU Moody Coliseum, Dallas 3 p.m.
Wed. 14 TEMPLE Gampel Pavilion 7 p.m.
Wed. 21 at UCF CFE Arena, Orlando, Fla.  7 p.m.
Wed. 28 EAST CAROLINA XL Center 7 p.m.
FEBRUARY
Tue. 3 CINCINNATI XL Center 7 p.m.
Sat. 7 at Memphis FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn.  3:30 p.m.
Tue. 17 HOUSTON XL Center 7 p.m.
Sat. 21 at Tulsa Reynolds Center, Tulsa, Okla. 3 p.m.
Mon. 23 at Tulane Devlin Fieldhouse, New Orleans, La.  8 p.m.


Here's the full schedule with TV information

Date Opponent Site TV Time
NOVEMBER
Sun. 2 WEST CHESTER (exhib.) Gampel 1 p.m.
Sun. 9 POST (exhib.) XL Center 4:30 p.m.
Fri. 14 at UC Davis The Pavilion, Davis, Calif. ESPN3 10 p.m.
Mon. 17 at Stanford Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, Calif. ESPN2 9 p.m.
Sun. 23 CREIGHTON Gampel SNY 1 p.m.
GULF COAST SHOWCASE, GERMAIN ARENA, ESTERO, FLA.
Fri. 28 College of Charleston SNY 8:30 p.m.
Sat. 29 Minnesota or Vanderbilt SNY 2:30 or 8:30 p.m.
Sun. 30 vs. TBA SNY
DECEMBER
Sat. 6 at Notre Dame ESPN 3:15 p.m.
Fri. 19 DEPAUL Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, Conn. SNY 7:30 p.m.
HALL OF FAME WOMEN’S CHALLENGE, MOHEGAN SUN ARENA, UNCASVILLE, CONN.
Sun. 21 vs. UCLA ESPN2 5 p.m.
Sat. 27 SMU XL Center SNY 1 p.m.
Mon. 29 DUKE XL Center ESPN2 9 p.m.
Wed. 31 at East Carolina SNY 2:30 p.m.
JANUARY
MAGGIE DIXON CLASSIC, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK, N.Y.
Sun. 4 at St. John’s ESPN2 1 p.m.
Wed. 7 TULSA XL Center SNY 7 p.m.
Sun. 11 at SMU SNY 3 p.m.
Wed. 14 TEMPLE Gampel SNY 7 p.m.
Sun. 18 USF Gampel ESPN2 1 p.m.
Wed. 21 at UCF SNY 7 p.m.
Sun. 25 at Cincinnati ESPN2 3 p.m.
Wed. 28 EAST CAROLINA XL Center SNY 7 p.m.
FEBRUARY
Sun. 1 at Temple ESPN2 2 p.m.
Tue. 3 CINCINNATI XL Center SNY 7 p.m.
Sat. 7 at Memphis SNY 3:30 p.m.
Mon. 9 SOUTH CAROLINA Gampel ESPN2 8 p.m.
Sat. 14 TULANE Gampel CBS SN 4 p.m.
Tue. 17 HOUSTON XL Center SNY 7 p.m.
Sat. 21 at Tulsa SNY 3 p.m.
Mon. 23 at Tulane SNY 8 p.m.
Sat. 28 MEMPHIS Gampel CBS SN 2 p.m.
MARCH
Mon. 2 at USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Fla. ESPN2 7 p.m.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Add a new name to UConn's Class of 2016 recruiting targets

I have a hunch that the recruitment of the Class of 2016 is going to be one of the interesting processes to follow with the first commitment coming out of Tennessee and UConn having its eyes on multiple players from Texas and California which is always a challenging proposition getting those players to come to Connecticut.

With Geno Auriemma away at some key periods in the recruiting process due to his national team coaching commitment he sped up the process of identifying the players in the class who he thinks could be a good fit. It's already paid off with the commitment of top guard Crystal Dangerfield.

There are plenty of guards and wings on UConn's radar but getting a post player is a major priority. Well, they don't come much bigger than a new recruiting target as Auriemma and his staff have been in contact with 6-foot-9 Nigerian Felicia Aiyeotan, a junior at Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia.

Aiyeotan, who plays for the powerhouse Philadelphia Belles AAU program, visited Kentucky over the weekend and Santarelli said UConn, Notre Dame, Penn State and USC are among the major programs taking a look at Aiyeotan.

Santarelli said Aiyeotan runs the floor well, catches the ball well, has an outstanding drop step and has a tremendous upside.

Both her high school and AAU coaches said Aiyeotan, who has only been playing organized basketball for a couple of years, has made tremendous strides over the last several months.

Santarelli said the interest from UConn is relatively new and they haven't been down yet to check her out in an open gym and that the recruiting process is just starting to pick up and there is no date planned for her to come to UConn for a visit yet but she is definitely a name I'll be keeping an eye on.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rival coach: UConn commit Dangerfield "a one-man press breaker"

Now that UConn has its first commitment in the Class of 2016 it is time to try to quantify what type of player the Huskies will be getting.

I watched a highlight tape of Crystal Dangerfield playing at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and she looked so much like Moriah Jefferson did when the current UConn point guard was lighting it up for the THESA Raiders it is eerie. But I wanted somebody with more basketball knowledge than me to give me a take on Dangerfield.

Well, Blackman High School lost just one game during Dangerfield's sophomore season and the defeat was at the hands of Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis (whose best player is UConn Class of 2015 commit Napheesa Collier) so I spoke to IWA head coach Dan Rolfes tonight to get his impressions of Dangerfield since the teams split highly-competitive games a season ago.

"I remember her very well," Rolfes said. "Just like a super quick, super fast athletic point guard. In the game that we lost, we got down and we are a very athletic team but we could not press her. She is just a one-man press breaker."

Does he think she has similar potential as Jefferson did coming out of high school?

"No doubt about it. She has a great jumper, she has a jumper like a guy, a legit jumper. She can dribble penetrate and pull up in the paint."

Dangerfield's commitment gives UConn a head start on what could be a challenging recruiting year. The Huskies have a top-notch group of freshmen in Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams. I've spoken to more than one women's basketball insider who believe the next batch of recruits (Collier, De;Janae Boykin and Katie Lou Samuelson) has the potential to rival one of UConn coach Geno Auriemma's most talented classes. Historically, it has been a challenge to secure commitments from elite players following a class like the one the Huskies have coming in next year so to get a top five national recruit like Dangerfield is a major bonus.

"He just gets great athletes with skill," Rolfes said. "You look at the balance they they've got. You have kind of a do it all in Napheesa Collier, you have a crazy fast athletic point guard, Katie Lou can shoot lights out and you size and you have another big post player in De'Janae."

As for Collier, Incarnate Word Academy starts practice on Nov. 3 and kick off the season in the Tour of Champions in Fort Smith, Arkansas from Dec. 11-13. Unfortunately there aren't any Blackman/Incarnate Word Academy games on the 2014-15 schedule. The first game for Blackman is Nov. 25 against fellow Tennessee school William Blount although Blackman coach Chad Hibdon said he is still searching for a mid-November game after one of the scheduled games was recently canceled.

Hibdon called UConn "a great fit" for Dangerfield.

"She is driven and determined for excellence in everything she does, Hibdon said. "UConn has high standards in academics and in the athletic arena and that firs will with her personality traits.

"Crystal is unbelievably talented and doesn't have to dominate the ball. She understands the team concept. She can shoot it and score and understands how to lead the team to success."

Blackman begins practice on Oct. 27.

I'm very curious to see what UConn's Class of 2016 is going to look like when all is said and done. The Huskies are involved with some elite prospects including Lauren Cox, considered by just about everybody to be the best player in the Class, Joyner Holmes, Natalie Chou, Jaelyn Brown, Tori McCoy and Sabrina Ionescu who could all be top 10 national recruits before the 2015 early signing period gets here. UConn is also very high on Jocelyn Willoughby, one of the first night visitors out of Newark Academy. I happened to be up at UConn this afternoon working on a football story and State College (Pa.) junior Kyla Irwin was up there with her family. I let her, her family and the UConn coaches do their thing without interruption but the whole group seemed to be having the time of their lives. Kelly Jekot is another high scoring Pennsylvania wing who has visited UConn. I also have seen reports that Michigan wing Kysre Gondrezick included UConn among her final seven schools.

Crystal Dangerfield commits to UConn

UConn received its first commitment from the Class of 2016 when guard Crystal Dangerfield committed while on a visit this weekend including being in attendance at First Night festivities on Friday.

She announced her decision on her Twitter account



Blessed to be able to say that I committed to UConn this weekend #BleedBlue ❗️❄️


When I went out to Colorado Springs for the U-17 and U-18 national team trials I spoke the Dangerfield, a 5-foot-5 guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee who is ironically most often compared to current UConn point guard Moriah Jefferson, who she could ultimately end up replacing at UConn.

She admitted that Jefferson is her favorite women's player. 

"Her tenacity is something I look at. I just emulate her."

She still recalls a conversation she had with Geno Auriemma.

"My high school coach is telling me that they want me to call and I talked to Geno, we had a conversation. Three minutes into it my hands were sweating, I was star struck. It was a fun sit down, it was my first time sitting down to talk to a college coach so that was fun."

Dangerfield, considered to be one of the top players in the Class of 2016, helped her Blackman team finish No. 1 in the USA Today final national poll. Blackman, also featuring Tennessee commit MeMe Jackson and Middle Tennessee State pledge Alex Johnson, figures to be one of the nation's top teams again this season.

Dangerfield was a member of the 2013 U-16 national team where she was a teammate of UConn Class of 2015 commits De'Janae Boykin (who was also at First Night) and Katie Lou Samuelson. Dangerfield started two of the five games in the FIBA Americas U16 Championships, averaging 7 points per game to go with nine assists and seven steals. She also was 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the tournament.