Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trouble in paradise?

In the last couple of years, I often wondered how the sponsors of the Russian teams playing in the EuroLeague can offer to pay the salaries they do in order to secure the services of the WNBA stars.

Apparently, I am not alone. The sponsor of CSKA Moscow, which includes Becky Hammon, Ann Wauters, Janel McCarville and former Connecticut Sun star Katie Douglas on its roster, lost its sponsor and reports circulated that the team folded. Word is that a new sponsor has been found but not before a couple of the U.S.-born stars returned home only to be summoned back. With UMMC Ekaterinburg, which features the Connecticut Sun's Asjha Jones, Sandrine Gruda and Svetlana Abrosimova, also rumored to be dealing with some financial uncertainty, is this an omen that the days of the Russian teams stocking their rosters could be coming to an end? That remains to be seen but is a development which bears watching.

This much I do know, if you go on the EuroLeague women portion of the FIBA site, you will not find CSKA Moscow in the database. The squad is not listed among the teams, none of the players are listed under the player section and the standings show just five teams in Group B.

Wednesday is the planned day of play in EuroLeague so it will be interesting to see if CSKA Moscow takes the court.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buck still waiting

UConn freshman Heather Buck will be examined on Saturday to see how she is recovering from her bout with mononucleosis. The three-time New Haven Register State Girls' Basketball Most Valuable Player during her remarkable run at Stonington High is definitely out for Sunday's game against Oklahoma. An announcement on her timetable to return to practice and then play in games should be coming on Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday, both UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Oklahoma's Sherri Coale believes the game will not be decided by who wins the showdown between All-American post players Courtney Paris and Tina Charles but by the supporting casts. I would have to agree. Top-ranked UConn is averaging 92 points per game and 75.5 of those points come from players not named Tina Charles. Paris accounts for 15 of the fourth-ranked Sooners' 81 points per game.

Proving it is indeed a small world, one of the teams in attendance at Gampel Pavilion for Friday's practice certainly caught my eye. The girls' basketball team Hudson Memorial High out of Hudson, N.H. sat behind one of the baskets. Why is that noteworthy? Well, I attended Hudson Memorial from 1975-79. Last year the Alvirne High School girls' hoop team, also from Hudson, also took in a UConn practice. I graduated from Alvirne in 1983 and found it pretty ironic to see two of my old schools in attendance at Gampel. Now if I attended junior high and high school in Connecticut it would be no big deal but to see Memorial and Alvirne represented at UConn struck a funny bone both this year and last.

Big East tickets on sale

Tickets for the 2009 Big East women's basketball tournament, held from Mar. 6-10 at the XL Center in Hartford will go on sale Monday. For the first time since the Big East expanded to 16 teams, every team will qualify for the tournament.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This and that

Early season schedules are always a little bizarre but this year's slate really takes the cake.

UConn will play six games in 2 1/2 weeks including a recently-completed stretch of three in six days and then will not play for a week and a half (you can thank the final exam period for that). Other than the trip to Utah to face Brigham Young, the furthest UConn has to travel to play its first seven games is a trip to New York to meet Penn State in the Maggie Dixon Classic. The next eight games, however, feature three games in Cancun and one each in South Carolina, Florida and West Virginia.

Obviously Sunday's game against Oklahoma will be the biggest test of the young season with national player of the year candidate Courtney Paris likely to put more pressure on UConn than any inside player the Huskies have faced since last year's game against LSU and Sylvia Fowles.

The high-profile game will also allow UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale to do their part in the fundraising department as they will donate items to be auctioned off all in the name of raising money for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund(tm).

Auriemma will be auctioning off a Brioni tie while Coale will be auctioning off a black Cole Haan handbag. Bid will open Sunday at 8 p.m. at both or and will close on Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.

I guess it is time for a disclaimer to anybody who took umbrage with my previous post about the potential of Elena Delle Donne returning to Connecticut if the Delaware volleyball team gets sent to New Haven to play in the Division I volleyball tournament. At no point in that post was I being critical of Delle Donne's decision to play for the Blue Hens or passing judgment on her. Anybody suggesting I need to "move on" or "give her a break" perhaps is the person with the issues to deal with. I have focused my UConn coverage on the members of the current UConn team and not dealt with the Delle Donne angle since the announcement of her enrollment at Delaware became known. It is a trend I plan on continuing. I merely pointed out that there is a chance Delaware could be sent to the NCAA subregional at Yale, if the Bulldogs are chosen as a host site and that there would be significant media attention because it will be Delle Donne's first public appearance in Connecticut since she decided to leave UConn. It will create a feeding frenzy from the media which is something I am quite certain Delle Donne and the rest of the Delaware volleyball team could do without. It would be naive to think otherwise and for their sake, I would be thrilled to see them sent to another venue so the focus is where it belongs, on the noteworthy achievement of playing in the NCAA tournament. I never said or hinted that I thought there would or should be be any backlash from the Connecticut fans at Payne Whitney Gymnasium if Delaware plays in the NCAA tournament in New Haven. I would be quite stunned if that was the case.

A couple more items:
Connecticut Sun ticket vouchers will go on sale on Monday.

"The Gift of Basketball" packages will be available for purchase until Dec.
19 (while supplies last). For just $99 or $79 (plus the cost of shipping
and handling), Sun fans will receive four vouchers for any 2009 home game,
in seats priced at $20 or $16. Both packages come with a special
commemorative acrylic snowman ornament as well as an invitation for two to
an exclusive Sun practice during the 2009 regular season.

"The Gift of Basketball" packages will be available online at For more information on Connecticut Sun tickets,
including 2009 season packages that are on sale now. Call 1-877-SUN-TIXX (786-8499) for more info.

Former UConn guard Mel Thomas will be on hand for appearance to promote her "Heart of a Husky" book on Dec. 18 at the Waterford Public Library beginning at 7 p.m. and Monaco Ford in Glastonbury on Dec. 20 from noon-3 p.m. There are plans to have her doing a book signing on Dec. 31 at the XL Center, the same day UConn and Hartford will square off.

For more info, visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Plea to the NCAA

I beg, implore, plead with you to just say no.

Please do not do it, if you have any sense of decency.

What, you ask, has led to my favor asking of the NCAA? Isn't the possibility of the Delaware women's volleyball team playing at Yale in in the NCAA Division I tournament enough of a reason?

When Yale made its first and only appearance in the NCAAs, the Bulldogs hosted the first two rounds back in 2004. When Delaware made its inaugural appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2007, the Blue Hens were sent to New York with St. John's being the host site. Could you imagine the commotion if former UConn women's basketball recruit Elena Delle Donne and Delaware plays in the NCAA tournament in New Haven.

I know you know Delle Donne's story, the top-rated recruit in the current freshman class who lasted all of two days on UConn's campus back in June before returning home to Delaware. The basketball prodigy who claims she was burnt out with hoops so she enrolled at Delaware and joined the volleyball team.

When Delaware held a press conference announcing Delle Donne's intentions to play volleyball, Blue Hens volleyball coach and former Meriden resident Bonnie Kenny was extremely protective of Delle Donne whenever the line of questioning even appeared to be touching on the entire "why did you leave UConn" angle. Can you imagine the scene when every newspaper in the state converges on Payne Whitney Gymnasium to do the Elena Delle Donne returns to Connecticut story? It would not be pretty.

This much is known - Yale has earned a bid into the tournament by winning the Ivy League. Delaware is also NCAA-tournament bound courtesy of its Colonial Athletic Association tournament title. Word around Yale is they would not be surprised to be awarded hosting duties for the first and second rounds. The NCAA prefers to cut down on travel costs whenever possible in the first two rounds of the tournament so it is entirely possible that Delaware could be sent to the northeast. We will know for sure when the pairings are announced Sunday night. Ironically, probably around the time that the UConn/Oklahoma game is wrapping up, the NCAA bracket will be announced on ESPNU. What I have been hearing is that Yale will host and America East champion Albany and Northeast Conference winner Long Island along with a team from a BCS conference will likely come to New Haven but nothing is set in stone.

Is it an omen that the Delaware women's basketball team, of which Delle Donne is NOT a member, plays at Quinnipiac tonight?

I have intentionally avoided making any mention of Delle Donne, updating her progress since she made the decision to enroll at Delaware. It is my belief that my time would be better spent documenting the players who actually play for the UConn squad rather than obsessing over the one that got away. However, if Delaware gets sent to play in New Haven, all bets are off.

Send Delaware to Louisville, St. John's, Duke, anywhere but the Elm City and life will go on. Send her to play at Yale and chaos will reign. So if any NCAA types are reading, consider yourself served.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wild start

If the first few days of the 2008-09 women's college basketball season is a barometer, it could to a chaotic odyssey to the crowning of a national champion in St. Louis.

Before the first week of the season was in the books, the No. 2, 3 and 7 teams in the Associated Press' preseason Division I poll had already suffered losses.

It began on Friday when No. 3 Maryland lost 80-68 at Texas Christian. Two days later No. 2 Stanford traveled to Baylor and lost 81-65. The next day No. 7 Tennessee, which defeated Stanford in the 2008 national championship game, lost to No. 15 Virginia 83-82 at home.

For a time in Sunday's season opener against Georgia Tech, top-ranked UConn appeared to be in danger of falling prey to the string of early upsets before pulling away late for an 11-point win.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma admitted to being somewhat stunned by some of the early results but considering the parity in the game today, it shouldn't be such a shocking development.

"It is not surprising because there are a lot of good teams out there," Auriemma said. "Especially in women's basketball, a lot of the top teams play each other. When that happens, it is going to happen. It is surprising that many would lose in the first week but I am not surprised that there are going to be those outcomes and there are going to be more of them."

The upsets can be traced to the changing recruiting landscape in the women's basketball universe. There was a time where the perception was the Connecticut and Tennessee would pick out the three, four or five players they wanted, the other top prospects would land at powerhouse programs like Rutgers, Duke, Stanford, North Carolina, Maryland and Oklahoma. Over the last couple of years, while the top programs continue to clean up in recruiting, more top players opt to head elsewhere.

A look at one recruiting database shows that neither UConn nor Tennessee has a commitment from a top 10 player. Former UConn recruiting target Kelsey Bone has yet to commit, but the other top 10 players committed to nine different programs. If that's not a sign of parity, I don't know is.

"I haven't really kept up with it so I don't know who is going where and who is doing what but I do know that there are too many good players and the gap between the top 10 and the top 20 isn't as wide as it used to be," Auriemma said. "That's one issue and the other is, I don't think kids today say the most important thing is to win a national championship. It's not like they are all going to flock to the teams who are tradition powers, they just want play. They get recruited on 'hey, why do you want to do there? You'll have to wait.' The recruiting pitch is obviously 'come play for us and help us be that.' There are more kids listening to that right now because there are more good players. It doesn't matter who gets who, there are still three, four or five schools that every year or every other year are going to get their fair share and get some of the best players."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Special morning in Cheshire

I've been to CIAC headquarters in Cheshire countless times. Usually the luncheon with coaches and captains of the high school football finalists is what brings me to 30 Realty Drive. This morning it was the announcement of a partnership to raise awareness and increase fundraising efforts in the fight against cancer between UConn coach Geno Auriemma's "Geno's Cancer Team" and the Connecticut Association of Schools.

There were no lack of big names in attendance including Auriemma, former Branford High coach and long-time tournament director of the CIAC girls' basketball state tournament, ex-Shelton High girls' basketball coach Howie Gura, former Notre Dame )West Haven) athletic director Joe Tonelli were just some of the big names. But it was a pair of third graders from Ryerson Elementary School in Madison who stole the show.

Brendan Clark's comments that if not for Ryerson's "Pennies for Patient" program, his brother, who has leukemia, "would not be here right now" touched everybody in the room.

Fellow Ryerson third grader Sarah Sammataro also spoke to the assembled folks - or tried to. Sarah, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003, was overcome with emotion and her intended comments were cut a little short. But the vision of her walking over and resting her head on her mother's shoulder was a heartwarming moment on a day full of emotion.

The daughter of Sarah Darras, Auriemma's overworked but never overwhelmed executive assistant, also spoke as one of the representatives from Quaker Hill Elementary School regarding the Waterford school's "Ponytail Drive." Jayne Darras estimated that 14 inches of her hair was cut off all in the name of raising funds for cancer research.

Auriemma was at his entertaining, caustic best during his 10 minute speech.

From busting on Ryerson's Joey Carusone for mentioning that his fundraising efforts landed him pizza and ice cream while the female students who preceeded him mentioned the books they received as part of their efforts to telling the Cheshire field hockey players in attendance that he does not understand any of the rules governing the sport they happen to play, Auriemma's reputation as a top-notch public speaker certainly wasn't damaged.

All jokes aside, the partnership between "Geno's Cancer Team" and the Connecticut Association of School is near and dear to Auriemma's heart. His father died of cancer and Auriemma has used his celebrity status in Connecticut to raise awareness of the fight against cancer.

"Maybe it's because we are so jaded with what we hear and what we read," Auriemma said. "Are public schools any good? Are our kids being taught? Is anybody learning anything? Then you come here and you watch these kids stand up and so eloquently express what they are doing, why they are doing it and what it means to them. It restores the faith that you want to have as a parent, as a member of the community that good things are happening in our schools. This message should get out more and
more. I just sat there and I was amazed at how poised and how sharp they are, how knowledgeable they are about what they are doing and why they are doing it and how much it means to them. It restores my faith that kids want to belong to something. To me that is part of growing up. It is really gratifying, it really is.

"When it is all said is done, more is said than is done. That is the old saying. You hope what was said today, what was expressed is followed up by people actually doing things. That is going to be the challenge for us and our group. The message from my team at school to the elementary school kids that it is the way that you do things, your heart and passion you put into it which is going to determine your success."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Idle thoughts

A few things to throw out there.

The way Nykesha Sales was getting after it going against the UConn starting team in Friday's practice, she certainly didn't look like somebody ready to file her retirement papers.

It was a bit ironic that on the same day that Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault admitted that the franchise is moving forward without Sales, the team's all-time leading scorer, Sales was up at Gampel. At the end of practice, myself and John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant walked across the court to talk to Sales. When she saw us, she politely but firmly said she was not ready to be interviewed about her basketball future. She said she may be willing to discuss things on Sunday when she will be back at Gampel along with most of the members of the 1994-95 UConn team which will be inducted into the "Hall of Honor." My hunch is that Sales could very well be playing in the WNBA this season, just not with the Sun.

"We have moved on, there was some avenue where we would retain her rights and she would sign with us the next period," Thibault said. "Obviously that has not happened, we have moved onto our younger players. I don't even know if she wants to play, I haven't talked to her in several months. She is not playing overseas right now, at some point when she officially decides to end her career, we would love to honor her here and do something special. But that is still her decision if she wants to play. If she asked about coming back and wanting to play, we would have to have a discussion but the assumption is she is not playing. Our younger players have played well and are getting better. They have earned the right to be the future of this franchise."

Georgia Tech, UConn's opponent in Sunday's season opener, began its season with an impressive 73-49 win over Troy behind 20 points from sophomore Alex Montgomery.

Last thing, the the women's Division I Final Four sites from 2012-16 were announced today. In order, the event will be held in Denver, New Orleans, Nashville, Tampa and Indianapolis.

Buck has mono

As was feared, freshman center Heather Buck does have mononucleosis and is out a mininum of three weeks and will be checked every week for progress. The three-week window of recovery could have Buck returning to practice in time for the Dec. 14 game against Penn State in the Maggie Dixon Classic in New York although it is possible it could take her more than three weeks to get back on the court.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A look ahead

In a perfect world, UConn coach Geno Auriemma would have had multiple letters of intent coming into the university's athletic offices on Wednesday - the first day of the early signing period.

However, the incoming freshman class will be a class of one with the one being 5-foot-11 guard/forward Kelly Faris out of Plainfield, Ind. Faris will be a valuable addition to the UConn program, a heady team-orientated wing player known for her toughness and intangibles. But barring any late surprises, she will be the only high schooler to join the program next fall.

"Some years you get hot and you get this kid, that kid and this kid that all want to play for you and some years you can only get one or two," Auriemma said.

"I don't like to have too many. I don't like to have more than four, I don't like to have one but sometimes it has happened in the past. It really doesn't impact me, I am not that concerned about it. If we only have one the following year, I will be be really concerned about it."

The UConn staff is eyeing about 10 players in the current high school class including Samarie Walker out of Dayton, Ohio who has orally committed. I will save some space by not throwing names out there simply because it seems too early. A year around this time I remember writing about players like Mikaela Reuf and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt neither of whom even made a visit to UConn or seriously in the mix to land at UConn. It seems premature to throw names out right now, just seems a little early. If highly-touted juniors start making visits to UConn like Walker and Olivia Bresnahan, a guard out of Pittsburgh, did then I will change my tune.

The last time for this entry is a possible return to bringing in foreign teams for one of the preseason exhibition games. With so many top players opting to play in Europe, these makeshift teams like Team SRP just don't have the talent pool necessary to challenge a program like UConn.

"We knew going in tonight that this was not going to be a good test so we have to work out what we are going to do here," Auriemma said. "The alternative is we play a
Division I team, close the doors and not let anybody in because that is what you are supposed to do. It is considered a scrimmage with no attendance, no nothing or (play) Division II/Division III teams. I think we still can play international teams. We may have to go back and look but you have to make sure you get the
same ones. I think we can firm some things up, I like the Division II angle. I think it is good for us, good for them so maybe in the future we need to look at one Division II team and one team from Europe some place that has a pretty strong roster. The danger is you never know who is going to be on the team. When we agreed to play this team, we didn't think this was going to be the roster."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wrapup from Hartford

For a 66-point win, there is a decent amount of info to address.

First, freshman center Heather Buck is not feeling well but her exact medical issue may not be known for a couple of days.

"We're waiting on a strep test, we will find out if it is mono, not mono, strep, not strep. I wish I could say definitively that this is what it is. It could be a week, two weeks, three weeks, six weeks (that Buck is out). I have no idea how long it is going to be. She is a healthy kid, she has been healthy her whole life, it is being thrown in with these slugs that got her sick, I think. Put her in with these McDonald's eating vigilantes, all the bad stuff happens."

Auriemma was not pleased with the effort and focus of his team in the first half even though UConn was up 49-18 at the break. Much of that can be attributed to the competition and also that UConn had 12 offensive rebounds on 19 missed shots.

Auriemma took nearly all the time allotted before letting his team out of the locker room. His halftime speech did not fall on deaf ears as the Huskies played with more passion in the second half.

Maya Moore's blocked shot and hustle to save the ball from going out of bounds typified the second half effort. Moore's work was rewarded on that play as Kalana Greene grabbed the ball, raced up court and set up a Tina Charles layup.

"In the second half we were much more active, much more involved and created a lot more opportunities for ourselves on the defensive end and that is what this team will start to understand as we get going that a lot of opportunities are going to come that start on the defensive end. I think Maya got the ball rolling in the second half, was really active and was a major factor on the defensive end.

"That's what makes her unique, the stretch that she had in the second half had nothing to do with how many points she scored and yet she was the dominant player on the floor. Sometimes players that can score that easily will just rely on that and say that is my thing but with Maya, it is so much more than that. I think that is what separates her from all the other really good players but not many have the ability to impact the game in as many ways as she does."

Auriemma was able to talk about Kelly Faris, who is the only player UConn will be signing in the next year's freshman class since he received a signed letter of intent from Faris, a 5-foot-11 guard/forward from Plainfield, Ind.

"Everything that you see, what you see from Caroline is a lot of the same things that Kelly (does)," Auriemma said. "The same kind of player, same kind of personality type. She is a little more reserved from what I've seen. She is much more conservative in her approach to the game and coming from the Midwest I guess you expect that rather than the smart (aleck) from Philadelphia in Caroline. Their skills are very similar and what they do for their team, they are both really smart,
physically and mentally tough kids. Kelly's probably a better defender than either Tiffany or Caroline. Kelly is going to step in as a freshman next year and have an immediate impact on the team."

Little housecleaning

With the preseason coming to an end with tonight's game against Team SRP, I figured what better time to do a little tidying up.

First, tickets are still available for Sunday's season opener against Georgia Tech where the No. 1 ranked Huskies not only take the first steps to what they hope is a sixth national program but the 1994-95 squad, which started all of this by winning UConn's first national title, will be inducted into the "Hall of Honor." It should be a special day all around. Game time is 2 p.m.

Also at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday, UConn's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will be holding a food drive.

Fans can bring non-perishable food items to those games to benefit the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic.

National signing day is underway. Kelly Faris, a 5-foot-11 wing from Plainfield, Ind. is the only player who will sign with the Huskies. As hard as it may to be believe since Connecticut has yet to crown its state championships in any fall sports except cross country, Faris and her Indianapolis-based Heritage Christian team opened its season with a 77-62 win over Northwest High School Tuesday night.

Before I leave you, time for a little scouting info. Georgia Tech defeated the Peach State Elite 87-70 in an exhibition game Sunday behind 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Revised Team SRP roster

Some of the names have changed from the tentative Team SRP roster we received a few days back.

Former East Catholic and Southern Connecticut State star Shamika Jackson and Fairfield's Kelly Nash, who played collegiately at Villanova are among the additions.

Here's the full roster
1 Johnell Burts (St. Peter's), 5-4 G
3 Jenel Stevens (Canisius), 5-8 G
8 Valerie Katsorhis (Delaware), 5-8 G
10 Goska Radwan (Long Island), 5-9 G
11 Laura Aloisi (Holy Cross), 5-8 G
23 Kindyll Dorsey (Boston College), 5-9 G
24 Becky Hogue (Columbia), 6-0, F
32 Shamika Jackson (Southern Connecticut), 6-1, F
33 Kelly Nash (Villanova) 5-10 F/G
44 Allison Glover-Thorne (Fairfield), 6-1 F
50 Sara Oblak (Long Island), 6-2 C
55 Jackie Woods (Loyola Marymouth), 6-2 C

Team SRP will play UConn Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

3 Huskies on Wooden watch list

Senior guard Renee Montgomery, junior center Tina Charles and sophomore forward Maya Moore were among the 30 players named as preseason Wooden Award candidates.

Here is the complete release I just received from UConn

STORRS, Conn. (November 6, 2008) -- The University of Connecticut women’s basketball is the only team in the nation to have three players named among the 2008-09 preseason candidates for the Women’s Wooden Award All-America Team and Player of the Year, which were announced late Wednesday.

Representing the Huskies on the 30-player list are senior Renee Montgomery (St. Albans, W. Va.), junior Tina Charles (Jamaica, N.Y.) and sophomore Maya Moore (Lawrenceville, Ga.).

Joining Connecticut with multiple players selected were Maryland (Toliver and Marissa Coleman), California (Devanei Hampton, Ashley Walker) and Rutgers (Prince, Kia Vaughn), each of which had two players named to the list.

UConn has had a total of two players named to the Wooden All-America Team as Moore was named to the five-member squad in 2008 and Diana Taurasi in 2004, which was the inaugural season in which a team was chosen for women’s basketball.

In mid-January, the Wooden Award Committee will release the Midseason Top 20 list, followed in March by the National Ballot, consisting of approximately 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA. The Women's Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the week of the "Elite Eight" round during the NCAA Tournament.

The 33rd annual Wooden Award ceremony, which will include the announcement of the Men's and Women's Wooden Award, and the presentation of the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award to Rick Barnes from The University of Texas, will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club in April, 2009.

2008-09 Wooden Award Preseason Top-30 List

Jessica Adair 6-4 C/F Sr. George Washington
Jayne Appel 6-4 F/C Jr. Stanford
Chante Black 6-5 F/C Sr. Duke
DeWanna Bonner 6-4 G Sr. Auburn
Heather Bowman 6-2 F Jr. Gonzaga
Tina Charles 6-4 C Jr. Connecticut
Marissa Coleman 6-1 G/F Sr. Maryland
Allyssa DeHaan 6-9 C Jr. Michigan State
Krystal Ellis 5-9 G Sr. Marquette
Rachele Fitz 6-0 F Jr. Marist
Devanei Hampton 6-3 F/C Sr. Cal
Ashley Houts 5-6 G Jr. Georgia
Jareica Hughes 5-3 G Jr. UTEP
Jantel Lavender 6-4 C So. Ohio State
Shalee Lehning 5-9 G Sr. Kansas State
Rashanda McCants 6-1 G/F Sr. North Carolina
Angel McCoughtry 6-1 F Sr. Louisville
Renee Montgomery 5-7 G Sr. Connecticut
Maya Moore * 6-0 F So. Connecticut
Courtney Paris * ^ ~ 6-4 C Sr. Oklahoma
Ta'Shia Phillips 6-6 C So. Xavier
Epiphanny Prince 5-9 G Jr. Rutgers
Andrea Riley 5-5 G Jr. Oklahoma State
Takia Starks 5-8 G Sr. Texas A&M
Kristi Toliver 5-7 G Sr. Maryland
Kia Vaughn 6-4 C Sr. Rutgers
Ashley Walker 6-1 F Sr. California
Christina Wirth 6-1 F Sr. Vanderbilt
Monica Wright 5-11 G Jr. Virginia
Shavonte Zellous 5-11 G Sr. Pittsburgh

* Indicates player was a 2007-2008 John R. Wooden Award All-American.
^ Indicates player was a 2006-2007 John R. Wooden Award All-American.
~ Indicates player was a 2005-2006 John R. Wooden Award All-American.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Leading the way

It was no secret that senior guard Renee Montgomery would be the leader of the 2008-09 UConn squad but she will have company when the UConn captains are summoned to meet with the officials before the start of Thursday's exhibition game against Stonehill.

Following Wednesday's practice UConn coach Geno Auriemma said that sophomore forward Maya Moore and senior guard/forward Kalana Greene would join Montgomery as captains this season.

Here are the reactions of the newest captains:
"I'm honored that I have the trust of probably the greatest coach in college basketball history to be a captain of the team," Greene said. "With all due respect, I think I've earned it. I've been here a long time, seen a lot. I contribute a lot. I am honored, I'm excited and I'm ready to take the challenge.
"I can't say i came to Connecticut to be a captain. I'm not caught by surprise by it, but I am really honored to be a captain here."

"I do my best day to day to act like that anyways," Moore said. "Renee is a great person, I feel blessed to be able to work next to her and learn from her one more year. If Coach believes in me, I would do my best to prove him right. It is something I aspire to be and something I feel capable of being. It is a big responsibility and it is one I will do my best at."

Montgomery, Greene, Maya Moore and junior center Tina Charles will start. The fifth starting spot will go to Lorin Dixon, Caroline Doty or Tiffany Hayes.

"We're trying to experiment with a couple of different players," Auriemma said. "We always play with three guards so that is nothing new for us so one of the guards, we are not sure who it is going to be, Lorin, Caroline, Tiffany. We will flip a coin or something."

Speaking of exhibition games, here is a tentative roster for Team SRP which will face UConn on Nov. 12 at the XL Center.

Lsura Aloisi (Holy Cross)
Kindyll Dorsey (Boston College)
Allison Glover-Thorne (Fairfield)
Becky Hogue (Columbia)
Valerie Katsorhis (Delaware)
Maureen Leahy (Boston College)
Sara Oblak (Long Island)
Goska Radwan (Long Island)
Jenel Stevens (Canisus)
Jackie Woods (Loyola Marymount)

This is a recording

So let's see if I spot a trend.

On Saturday the Associated Press preseason poll is released and UConn receives 44 of the 45 first-place votes. Then on Tuesday Maya Moore received 44 of 45 votes in the Associated Press' preseason All-American team.

Now comes the hat trick as the Huskies picked up 30 of the 31 votes in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll.

Since writers and coaches rarely view the world in the same fashion, I figured it would be interesting to see how the voting varied in the two polls.

Outside of No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Stanford, the only other similarities came with Duke slotted in at No. 8, California at No. 9, Vanderbilt at No. 12, Texas at No. 13 and Virginia at No. 15 (although Virginia was tied for 15th in the coaches' poll).

It should be noted that Xavier and Purdue, ranked 22nd and 23rd in the AP poll, failed to make the ESPN/USA Today top 25 although they were the teams with the next highest point totals. Pittsburgh and Georgia were the two teams who cracked the top 25 in the coaches' poll at No. 23 and 25 respectively. Pittsburgh fell eight points short to breaking into the top 25 in the writers' poll while Georgia ranked only 32nd in the voting in the AP poll. Outside of the difference of opinion at the bottom of the poll, there seemed to be a general consensus in the voting process as the largest jump/drop among teams who made the top 20 in both polls came with Oklahoma which checked in at No. 4 in the AP voting and No. 7 in the ESPN/USA Today balloting.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Moore makes the list

UConn sophomore Maya Moore was named to the Associated Press' preseason All-American team along with Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, just the sixth unanimous selection, Louisville's Angel McCoughtry, Andrea Riley of Oklahoma State and Kristi Toliver of Maryland.

Moore was named on 44 of the 45 ballots or else she would have joined Paris by being named unanimously to the team. Moore averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks as a freshman as she joined Paris as the only freshman to be named a first team All-American by the Associated Press.

Moore and the Huskies will play their first exhibition game Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against Stonehill College at Gampel Pavilion..

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Walking a fine line

It has been brought to my attention that former UConn recruiting target Kelsey Bone dropped the Huskies from her list partly because of the unwanted attention she received from the UConn media. If that is true - and comments she made on a radio show certainly seem to indicate that is the case - it is an unfortunate turn of events.

I have very strong opinions on this matter, some of which I will detail in this forum in what may turn out to be the longest blog entry I have ever put together.

As the headline to this blog entry states, there is a fine line between reporters practicing due diligence and becoming an unwelcomed parasite making an already difficult process even more challenging than it needs to me. I addressed this very topic a few years ago with a few New Haven high school football stars, one of whom said that he was often called multiple times daily by reporters from internet recruiting services. He went onto say he regretting giving out his cell phone to those people who obviously felt it was more important to live up to their daily story count quotas than it was to respect his time and privacy. It is my hope that in my journalism career I will never once put my desire to break a recruiting story over a lack of common courtesy at the expense of a highly-touted teenaged basketball prodigy.

For the sake of full disclosure, I will address my handling of Kelsey Bone's recruitment. My first - and only - dealings with Kelsey and her mother came when I attended the USA Basketball Under-18 national team trials in Colorado Springs this summer. On the second day I was there, I spoke with both Kelsey and her mom to get an update of where they stood in the process. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting both of them and asked both of them the best way to remain in contact with them during the process. Without hesitations, Kelsey volunteered her mom's cell phone number and said it would be OK if I called her. As I wrapped up an interview with Kim Williams, Kelsey's mom, I mentioned that Kelsey gave me her cell phone and if it would be OK for me to call for periodic updates. She said that would not be a problem. Between the time I conducted the interviews and the news that Kelsey was dropping UConn from her list of schools, I called Kim Williams' cell phone three times. Unfortunately, I never received a call back which does happen occasionally in the process. Looking back, I believe the way I handled the process was respectful to Kelsey and her mom while allowing me to honor the commitment I made to my paper and its readers as the UConn women's beat writer.

The best part of this unfortunate turn of events is that Kelsey probably has a clearer picture of what it is she does not want to deal with in her basketball playing future. It's better to find this out now than after she committed to UConn and wondered what she got herself in to. I can't speak to what or who was the cause of her making statements regarding the persistence of UConn writers but if her trials and tribulations led her to realize she wasn't prepared to deal with everything that comes with being a part of the UConn program, more power to her.

I will reveal a pair of stories which indicate just how different things are in the world of UConn women's basketball.

In 2002, Sue Bird was informed by a member of the Seattle Storm public relations staff that "a lot of reporters" wanted to speak with her on the first day of training camp in her rookie season. Bird walked over and saw perhaps three or four inquiring minds ready to conduct an interview with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft. When the interview was over, Bird had a bemused look on her face. The PR person asked her what was up. Bird's response was something along the lines of "when you said 'a lot of reporters' I was expecting 10 or 12 reporters. I went to UConn, trust me '3 or 4' is not a lot of reporters."

More recently, I was one of three UConn beat writers who headed straight from the Indianapolis airport to watch UConn recruiting target Kelly Faris play a game for her Heritage Christian team last year. We were in town because UConn was playing at Purdue. We took the opportunity to watch Kelly play and speak to her and her coach following the game. The next day I saw ESPN broadcaster Beth Mowins before the game and I mentioned that we stopped off at the game. I jokingly asked her "is there another women's basketball press corps which would go to a high school basketball game to see a player who may not even go to UConn?" Without missing a beat, Beth's response was "is there another women's basketball team that even has a press corps?"

The moral of this rather long-winded entry is that for every Kelsey Bone and Elena Delle Donne who decide that the all UConn, all the time hoopla that comes with becoming part of Husky Nation is not for them, there is a Maya Moore, Kelly Faris and Samarie Walker who fall in love with the passion with which UConn is followed in this state. UConn's success can be a blessing and a curse. Perhaps the only thing in sports I can compare it to is playing for the New York Yankees. There have been more than a few talented Major League prodigies who couldn't cut it playing under the constant glare of the spotlight in New York and needed to head elsewhere to live up to their potential. The same is true at UConn, it is not for everybody. Fortunately Kelsey Bone and her mom came to that realization before it was too late. I wish the both of them nothing but happiness wherever Kelsey may end up going to college.

Huskies No. 1

With three All-Americans returning off a Final Four team, the UConn women's basketball team was the overwhelming No. 1 team in the Associated Press' preseason poll.

Connecticut, led by its top three returning scorers in Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles, received 44 of the 45 first-place votes.

UConn, which was 36-2 last season, had 1,124 points which was 106 ahead of No. 2 Stanford. The Cardinal, which defeated UConn in the 2008 national semifinals, picked up the other first-place vote. It is the first time the Huskies will begin the season as the No. 1 team in the AP poll since the 2003-04 season which happened to be Diana Taurasi's senior season.

Taurasi would lead UConn to its third straight national title.

Seven teams on UConn's schedule are in the top 25 - No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Rutgers, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 10 Louisville, No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 21 Florida State and No. 24 Louisiana State. Big East teams Pittsburgh, Marquette, Syracuse, DePaul and West Virginia are among other teams which received votes but failed to crack the top 25.

The Huskies will play Stonehill in its first exhibition game on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion. The season opener will be Nov. 16 against Georgia Tech at Gampel Pavilion, a game where the 1994-95 national championship team will be inducted into the "Huskies of Honor."