Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bird thrilled to be golden again

Former UConn star Sue Bird admitted that her expanded role made her second Olympics a little different from the first but different does not necessarily mean better.

"I hate to talk up China because then it makes it sound like Greece was bad because Greece was amazing as well," Bird said on a WNBA teleconference on Tuesday. "China, everything from the people, the venues, the way things were run there it really was first class. For us as a team, the minute we got together we were tight, we were close. Everything from joking around on the bus ride, we had to eat pretty much every meal together. We just got along so well. It was a fun trip."

Four years ago Bird was often the No. 3 option at point guard behind Dawn Staley and Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson. This time she was the starting point guard.

"It doesn't matter how many Olympics you play or how much you win by or lose by, what matters is that you have a gold medal around your neck at the end. I felt the same exact way this way when the national anthem was being played as I did in Greece."

In a little bit of UConn scheduling news, the Huskies will play two exhibition games - one against a New England Division II team and another against a touring team full of pro players. Southern Connecticut, which played UConn in the preseason in 2007, will not be the Division II opponent. That honor will likely go to Stonehill.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gross eyeing UConn

Earlier today I heard back from Elton Gross, the father of UConn recruiting target Krista Gross.

Elton, a standout basketball in his own right who was inducting into the Guilford College Hall of Fame in 2003, said Krista is planning to visit her final five schools (North Carolina, Stanford, UConn, Texas and Florida). The trip to North Carolina is set for Sept 18-20. She may make another visit before the trip to UNC but the other four visits haven't been finalized yet. I asked Elton if his daughter could visit during the "First Night" Festivities on Oct. 17 and he said that was a possibility.

Krista Gross is an athletic 6-foot wing player with a high energy level and work rate. If the description sounds familiar, it could be used to identify another hot-shot North Carolina high school star Shea Ralph. Ralph just happens to be in her first season as a UConn assistant and would be Gross' position coach if she opts to come to Storrs.

"People who see her play say the best thing about her is she gives 100 percent," Elton Gross. "Coaches have said she can play anywhere from the 1 (point guard) to the 4 (power forward)."

UConn's interest in Gross has picked up this summer.

"This summer it heated up," said Elton Gross. "Coach Auriemma saw her play in Atlanta. He called me up and wanted to know when and where she was playing. They have been there ever since."

Delle Donne back on court

The University of Delaware is holding a press conference Monday at 1:30 p.m. to announce the decision of former UConn recruit Elena Delle Donne to enroll and play volleyball for the Blue Hens.

Delle Donne, Delaware volleyball coach Bonnie Kenny, director of athletics Edgar Johnson, director of NCAA compliance Kerri Cebula and members of the Blue Hens volleyball program will be taking part in the press conference.

Delle Donne was the top recruit in the incoming freshman class. She signed with UConn and was enrolled for two days in summer session in early June before leaving UConn to return home to Wilmington, Del.

Delaware women's basketball head coach Tina Martin will not be available for comment but will issue a statement through a press release to be distributed at the press conference.

Golden girls again

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will return home with their second straight Olympic gold medal after helping the United States past Australia 92-65 in the gold-medal match Saturday in Beijing.

Taurasi, limited to 11 minutes because of foul trouble, had seven points, three rebounds and three assists while Bird added four points. Kara Lawson led the U.S. with 15 points, Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie had 14 and Sylvia Fowles added 13.

Svet, Russia earn bronze

Former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova, a member of the Huskies' 2000 national championship team, had seven points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal in Russia's 94-81 in the bronze-medal game in the Olympics. Abrosimova averaged 7.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. The U.S. is leading Australia 47-30 at halftime.

A couple of other items which appeared in today's edition of the Register: Kelsey Bone, a 6-foot-4 post from Stafford, Tex., and Krista Gross, a 6-foot wing from Charlotte, N.C., are the top two targets to join 5-foot-11 wing Kelly Faris and former University of Washington center Jessica McCormack in the UConn women's basketball Class of 2013.

UConn freshman guard Caroline Doty was named the winner of the Aimee Williard Award given to a three-sport senior athlete in Pennsylvania's InterAc League.
Doty, a 2008 graduate of Germantown Academy, earned the award even though a knee injury suffered during soccer season only allowed Doty to play only soccer as a senior.

"Caroline fit the criteria to a T," Ginny Hofmann, Germantown Academy's Associate Athletic Director said in a statement announcing the award. "Not only is she an outstanding three sport athlete but she is a true team player as shown by her conscientious work on the sidelines as a coach this past basketball season when she was unable to play."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Reading the fine print

In the days since the news broke of Elena Delle Donne's decision to enroll at Delaware, one aspect of the situation has been a little unclear. In normal circumstances, when a player transfers they sit out a year under NCAA rules. Since Delle Donne left before the start of fall classes, I wasn't completely clear on whether she could play basketball at Delaware in this upcoming season if she decides to do so.

I just heard back from the NCAA seeking clarification on the matter and this is what they said:

"Generally any transfer is required to sit out one year as a full-time student, regardless of sport. But the student-athlete and the new institution have the option to seek a waiver if they believe their particular situation merits an exception to the residency requirement and/or contains extenuating circumstances that warrants relief from the one year requirement."

In other words, there would be some red tape for Delle Donne to deal with if she wants to play for the Blue Hens this season.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Taurasi powers U.S.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi had a game-high 21 points and added nine rebounds as the United States advanced to the Olympic gold medal game with a 67-52 win over Russia. Ex-UConn standout Sue Bird missed all five of her shots but had four rebounds, two assists and three steals. Svetlana Abrosimova, a teammate of Bird's on UConn's 2000 national championship team, had eight points and five rebounds.

The U.S. will play the Australia/China winner in the gold medal game. Australia is leading by 20 points in the third quarter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Delle Donne released

Elena Delle Donne has officially been given her release from the National Letter of Intent she signed with UConn in November.

Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward from Wilmington, Del., left UConn after spending two days on campus in June. The reigning Naismith and Women's Basketball Coaches Association national high school player of the year was given the release under the condition that she enrolls at the University of Delaware. The release will allow her to play any sport other than basketball in the upcoming school year.

If Delle Donne was to play basketball at Delaware this winter she will need to receive addition clearance from the NCAA since she signed her letter of intent with UConn.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wade Trophy candidates

UConn senior guard Renee Montgomery, junior center Tina Charles and sophomore forward Maya Moore were among 25 players named as preseason candidates for the Wade Trophy. Here is the complete release.

WBCA Announces Preseason Selections for the 2008-09 "Wade Watch"


ATLANTA - The Women's Basketball Coaches Association, on behalf of the Wade Coalition, announced the 2008-09 preseason "Wade Watch" list for the State Farm Wade Trophy Division I Player of the Year Tuesday. The 25-member list is made up of top Division I student-athletes who best embody the spirit of Lily Margaret Wade according to the following criteria: game and season statistics, leadership, character, effect on their team and overall playing ability.

"Once again our committee has done an amazing job putting together a stellar group of student-athletes that have shown their leadership on the court, in the classroom and in the community," said committee chair Jeanne Lenti Ponsetto. "Each one represents all that this award is about, and I look forward to April when we will name another talented woman to this prestigious list."

This year's list has 18 institutions and six conferences represented. Connecticut boasts the highest number of nominees with three (Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore) while Cal (Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker), Duke (Chante Black and Abby Waner), Maryland (Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver), Rutgers (Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn) and Stanford (Jayne Appel and Kayla Pederson) each add two.

The BIG EAST leads all conferences yet again with eight student-athletes followed by the Atlantic Coast Conference (6), the Pacific-10 Conference (4), the Big 12 Conference (3), Big Ten Conference (2) and Southeastern Conference (2).

A trio of seniors in Coleman, Paris and Toliver are making the list for the third year. Several others become two-time "Wade Watchers" including Allyssa DeHaan (Michigan State), Angel McCoughtry (Louisville), Appel, Charles, Hampton, Montgomery, Vaughn, Walker and Waner.

The only two-time winners of the Wade Trophy include Louisiana State's Seimone Augustus (2005 and 2006) and Old Dominion's Nancy Lieberman (1979 and 1980).

The State Farm Wade Trophy, now in its 32nd year and named after the late, legendary three-time national champion Delta State University coach, Lily Margaret Wade, debuted in 1978 as the first-ever women's national player of the year award in college basketball. This highly prestigious award, regarded as the "Heisman of Women's Basketball", is organized by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), in conjunction with the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS).

The 2009 State Farm Wade Trophy winner will be announced at the WBCA National Convention held in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Final Four in St. Louis, Mo., April 3-7, 2009.

2008-09 State Farm Wade Trophy Preseason List

The preseason candidates for the State Farm Wade Trophy are listed in alphabetical order:


Name
Year
Position
Institution

Jayne Appel
Junior
C
Stanford

Chante Black
Senior
C
Duke

DeWanna Bonner
Senior
G
Auburn

Tina Charles
Junior
C
Connecticut

Marissa Coleman
Senior
G/F
Maryland

Allyssa DeHaan
Junior
C
Michigan State

Krystal Ellis
Senior
G
Marquette

Devanei Hampton
Senior
C
Cal

Jantel Lavender
Sophomore
C
Ohio State

Rashanda McCants
Senior
G/F
North Carolina

Angel McCoughtry
Senior
F
Louisville

Renee Montgomery
Senior
G
Connecticut

Maya Moore
Sophomore
F
Connecticut

Courtney Paris
Senior
C
Oklahoma

Kayla Pederson
Sophomore
F
Stanford

Epiphanny Prince
Junior
G
Rutgers

Andrea Riley
Junior
G
Oklahoma State

Takia Starks
Senior
G
Texas A&M

Kristi Toliver
Senior
G
Maryland

Kia Vaughn
Senior
C
Rutgers

Ashley Walker
Senior
F
Cal

Abby Waner
Senior
G
Duke

Christina Wirth
Senior
G/F
Vanderbilt

Monica Wright
Junior
G
Virginia

Shavonte Zellous
Senior
G
Pittsburgh

Reunion time for ex-Huskies

Three members of the 2000-01 UConn women's basketball, quite possibly the most talented team in the history of women's college hoops, will take the court on Thursday with a spot in the Olympic gold medal on the line.

Svetlana Abrosimova had seven points, five rebounds and three assists as Russia rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat Spain 84-65 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Abrosimova and Russia will face the United States in the second semifinals. Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are starters for the undefeated U.S. team.

Abrosimova and Bird were teammates on UConn's 2000 national championship team. The next year Diana Taurasi joined them on a UConn team featuring seven future WNBA first-round picks and eight players from that team (Bird, Taurasi, Abrosimova, Kelly Schumacher, Ashja Jones, Swin Cash, Tamika Raymond and Ashley Battle) are still playing in the WNBA. Jessica Moore was also on that squad but sat out the season as a redshirt. Perhaps even more impressive is that of the 14 players who appeared in games with UConn that season five have spent time as coaches. Season-ending injuries to Abrosimova and current UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph proved to be too much to overcome as UConn lost to Notre Dame in the national semifinals.

Australia, which may be without injured star Penny Taylor, will face China in the other semifinal.

Semifinals next for U.S.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi was one of five players in double figures with 12 points as the United States blasted Korea 104-60 to advance to the Olympic semifinals against the winner of the Russia/Spain game which is set ti tip off in a couple of minutes. Ex-Husky Sue Bird added four points. Sylvia Fowles continued her scintillating play in the Olympics with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Fowles leads the U.S. in scoring (14.3 points) and rebounding (8.7). Australian and China will meet in the other semifinal on Thursday.

Speaking of Bird and Taurasi, they both had some nice things to say about Jessica McCormack who will play for UConn beginning in the 2009-2010 season after transferring from Washington.

Bird and Taurasi saw McCormack up close and personal when the U.S. defeated McCormack and New Zealand to wrap up a perfect 5-0 run in pool play.

"I think Jess did a great job tonight," Bird said. "She’s obviously got a very good body. She’s big, she’s mobile. She had to go against some tough competition tonight in players like Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, those are probably going to go down as two of the best players to ever play the game. I think she held her own. Obviously she had a tough time here and there, but for the most part she did really well. I think she’s going to bring a lot to UConn."

One last item, now that it appears that the Elena Delle Donne saga is over with his announcement that she intends to enroll at the University of Delaware, I have one question: is it too much to ask for her local paper to spell her name correctly? Last year I attended the USA Basketball national team trials and it was my first chance to speak with Elena, who was trying out for the Under-19 squad. After a series of questions about her experiences at the trials and the predictable recruiting update inquires, I said "I have one more extremely important question, I have seen your name both ways and I need to know - is there is space between Delle Donne?" She said 'yes, there is.'" Yet her local paper, who I assume covered her brother (now a quarterback at Middle Tennessee State) before her continually spells it DelleDonne.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Delle Donne "speaks"

Elena Delle Donne finally broke her silence on her decision not the attend UConn when she released a statement on Monday.

Here is the text of the official statement:

"I have decided that in the best interest of both UConn and myself that I will not play college basketball this year. Both UConn and I require a 100% dedication to the sport, and as of now I feel I can not give that level of commitment. It therefore would be unfair to the excellent program, Coach Geno Auriemma, the team, and UConn fans for me to play.

Coach Auriemma and the team have been extremely understanding during this time of my transition from high school to college, and I thank them for that. I am especially grateful to Coach Auriemma whose kind wisdom has shown me why UConn is such a class program.

I intend to enroll at the University of Delaware for my freshman year this fall."


Now hopefully people will move on.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

McCormack, New Zealand eliminated

Jess McCormack's next stop should be Storrs as New Zealand failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the Olympic women's basketball tournament.

New Zealand lost to the United States 96-60 to finish 1-4 in Pool B play. The top four teams advanced to the quarterfinals and New Zealand finished fifth.

McCormack, who will sit out the upcoming season after transferring to UConn from Washington, had two points, three rebounds and one steal against the U.S.

The 19-year-old McCormack averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in five games for New Zealand. Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird combined for seven assists as the U.S. finished 5-0 in Pool B.

The U.S. will face Korea in Tuesday's quarterfinals.

Abrosimova shines in loss

Former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova did everything she could to keep Russia undefeated in the Olympics but despite 16 points and a team-high nine rebounds Russia fell to Australia 75-55.

The win gave Australia the Pool A title meaning the Aussies would not face the U.S. until either the gold-medal or bronze-medal games.

The United States can wrap up an undefeated run through Pool B championship with a win over New Zealand. The game starts at about 10:15 a.m. Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi (averaging 10.5 points per game) and Sue Bird (4 points, 2 assists) have started every game for the U.S. Jessica McCormack, who transferred from Washington to UConn in the offseason, is averaging 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Tall Ferns.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Take a deep breath

While I can understand that emotions are running high among UConn fans right now as they try to absorb the full impact of Elena Delle Donne's decision not to play for the Huskies, let's keep in mind that the cupboard is anything to empty in Storrs.

When the preseason polls start coming out I fully expect UConn to be ranked first or second at the worst if voters opt to pick Stanford ahead of the Huskies. Just look at the other 2008 Final Four teams for a second.

Candace Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle, Shannon Bobbitt and Nicky Anosike were among the first 16 picks in April's WNBA draft. Alberta Auguste was also taken in the draft leaving two-time defending national champion Tennessee with serious holes to fill.

Sylvia Fowles, Quianna Chaney and Erica White are among eight seniors who graduated at LSU.

Stanford didn't suffer the quantity of losses that Tennessee and LSU did but it will not be easy replacing what Candice Wiggins brought to the table.

UConn is bringing back three All-Americans in senior guard Renee Montgomery, junior center Tina Charles and sophomore wing Maya Moore. Explosive small forward Kalana Greene, who saw her junior season cut short with a serious knee injury, will also be back along with role players Kaili McLaren, Lorin Dixon and Meghan Gardler. Add in incoming freshmen Tiffany Hayes, Caroline Doty and Heather Buck are the Huskies are loaded and will be a run at another Final Four appearance and perhaps even the program's sixth national championship will be celebrated in April.

I have no intention of diving into the speculation game here regarding Delle Donne's decision first to leave UConn abruptly in June after spending two days on campus and then to opt not to return to Storrs. I have left multiple messages with Elena during this process and when she is ready to talk, I will be ready to listen. The fact is that she was not ready to make the commitment to the UConn program so her decision not to enroll in school will ultimately be in the best interest of both her and the Huskies.

In less than two months fans will be packing Gampel Pavilion for "First Night" festivities. Exhibitions games will soon follow and then the regular season will kick off. It promises to be a special year for UConn.

From a personnel standpoint, the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne would have added some much needed size to the 2008-09 Huskies. Yes, Delle Donne is a perimeter player but she has proven she can play inside. The biggest question surrounding UConn is will the Huskies have enough size in the post. If UConn coach Geno Auriemma opts to start Charles and McLaren, there will be a lack of options in the post off the bench. If Buck can give the Huskies 10-15 solid minutes a game, that will be a huge help but it will be interesting to see if the Huskies can deal with teams with a powerful post presence (Stanford comes to mind with Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen returning while Nneka Ogwumike and Sarah Boothe are coming into the program). But the other side of the equation is how many teams can handle a potential UConn lineup of Charles-Moore-Greene-Hayes-Montgomery that is a group that may be more athletic than any group Auriemma has ever put out on the floor in his Hall of Fame career at UConn.

For those fans in the dumps over this turn of events, may I suggest focusing on the performances of former Huskies Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi for the undefeated U.S. team at the Olympic games. Another ex-UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova has helped Russia remain undefeated in the Olympics while future UConn center Jessica McCormack is receiving valuable experience playing for the New Zealand team in the Olympics.

Sure, a future star has left the UConn program but the future of the program is still rather bright.

If reading this entry doesn't soothe your aanxiety, may I suggest placing a paper bag over your nose and mouth and breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out. The 2008-09 season has not been canceled and life will go on.

Another item worth mentioning if that UConn coach Geno Auriemma will be in Dallas on Sept. 8 playing in the inaugural 4Kay Golf Classic to raise money for the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund. A host of women's basketball coaches including Yow and Tennessee's Pat Summitt will also be competing along with several LPGA stars.

Delle Donne not coming back

As it turned out, the two days Elena Delle Donne spent on UConn's campus in June were her last as a member of the UConn women's basketball program.

Delle Donne enrolled in summer school before abruptly returning home to Wilmington, Delaware to ponder her future. Well, the decision she came to will not please Husky Nation.

"I have been recently informed that Elena Delle Donne has decided not to play college basketball and will not enroll at the University of Connecticut," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "Everyone at UConn would like to wish Elena the best of luck."

Delle Donne has not addressed the issue since returning home and did not immediately return a call left on her cell phone on Saturday.

Delle Donne, the Naismith and Women's Basketball Coaches Association national high school player of the year following her senior season at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, finished with a Delaware career record 2,818 points.

The absence of the sweet shooting 6-foot-5 Delle Donne will leave UConn a bit undersized on the bench especially if Auriemma opts to start 6-foot-2 Kaili McLaren alongside 6-foot-4 Tina Charles. UConn still has one of the best freshmen classes in Caroline Doty, Tiffany Hayes and three-time Register State Basketball Most Valuable Player Heather Buck to go with the return of all-americans Charles, Maya Moore and Renee Montgomery as well as the return of the dynamic Kalana Greene who saw her junior season end with a serious knee injury.

UConn's statement said the university would have no further comment on the matter.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

McCormack, Tall Ferns in trouble

Barring some crazy results in the coming hours, UConn's newest addition Jessica McCormack will likely see her Olympic experience end with Saturday's game against the United States.

McCormack and New Zealand's "Tall Ferns" fell to 1-3 in pool play and barring the upsets of all upsets, New Zealand will lose to the U.S. to finish 1-4 in Pool B. The U.S. is 3-0 with a game against

Thursday's game against the Czech Republic figured to be a must-win game for New Zealand and UConn's Jessica McCormack to advance to the quarterfinals. Currently the U.S. leads the pool with a 3-0 record while Spain, China and the Czech Republic all have two wins.

McCormack, who transferred from Washington to UConn, had no points and one rebound in 13 minutes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jones re-ups

Former UConn star Asjha Jones re-signed with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun. Terms of the three-year contract were not released.

The Sun acquired Jones in a three-way trade with Washington in 2004. She is averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. She set a franchise record by leading the Sun in scoring in 10 straight games.

This little disclaimer, I don't plan on addressing the silliness regarding the Elena Delle Donne wikipedia site which was obviously hacked into today. I look at those sites for what they are, a nice forum of information but also hardly a reputable source for journalist purposes. What's next, repeating every rumor posted on an internet message board? If I wanted to go that route I would have taken a job at the National Enquirer coming out of college.

The good news is while UConn and the Delle Donne family hasn't had much to say about whether Elena is planning to be enrolled in the fall semester, it is only a couple of weeks until classes begin at UConn in the fall. Either she will be enrolled at school or she won't. There will be a college season either way. No amount of hoaxes on the internet will change that.

Friday is pay day for McCormack, Tall Ferns

Jess McCormack, who will be enrolling at UConn following the Olympics after transferring from Washington, had six points and four rebounds but New Zealand lost to China 80-63 to drop to 1-2 in pool play. Considering that New Zealand ends round robin play against the powerful U.S. squad, Friday's game against the Czech Republic appears to be an elimination game in Pool B.

The U.S. is 2-0 heading into the upcoming game against Mali. Spain and China are both 2-1 but both have games remaining with winless Mali meaning three of the four Pool B spots in the elimination round seem to be spoken for. The Czech Republic and New Zealand's Tall Ferns are both 1-2. If the Czech Republic were the beat China (not out of the realm of possibility) things could get interesting but a win would give McCormack and the Tall Ferns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Czechs. The game is 9 a.m. Friday Beijing time which is 9 p.m. Thursday in Connecticut.

Former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova had a team-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points ands two steals as Russia improved to 3-0 in Pool A with a 71-65 win over Belarus. Although Russia has struggled in each game, 3-0 is still 3-0 and it looks likely that Russia and Australia's game on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. (Beijing time) would be for the Pool A title and the reward of having to avoid the U.S. in the semifinals.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

McCormack, Tall Ferns fall

After edging Mali in its Olympic opener, the New Zealand Olympic team better known as the Tall Ferns lost to Spain 85-62.

Future UConn center Jessica McCormack, who will enroll at Connecticut following the Olympics, played just 12 minutes, missed both of her field-goal attempts and had no rebounds for New Zealand. Jillian Harmon, who helped Stanford reach the national championship game, led the Tall Ferns with 22 points. Isabel Sanchez had 19 points and Anna Montanana added 18 points for Spain.

Former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova and Russia is set to take on Korea in a game scheduled to start around 2:30 a.m. Monday morning Eastern time. The U.S., featuring ex Huskies Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, play against China at 8 p.m. Sunday night Beijing time which is 8 a.m. Monday morning in Connecticut.

While the next item has nothing to do with basketball, it is worth mentioning nonetheless since Masuk softball pitching phenom will soon be a pitching star in college.

Fico, who is obliterating the Connecticut high school softball record book or at least would be obliterating it if there were such a thing as a Connecticut high school record book somehow avoided the Sports Illustrated Jinx. Earlier this week Fico appeared in SI's Faces in the Crowd. On Sunday she came on in relief and pitched the Gold Coast Hurricanes to the Amateur Softball Association 18-and-under Gold national title. Here is the item which will be appearing in Monday's edition of the Register.

Oxford's Rachele Fico, a two-time Register State Softball Most Valuable Player, was the winning pitcher as the Gold Coast Hurricanes of Plantation, Fla. defeated the Corona Angels Tyson 6-5 in the championship game of the Amateur Softball Association 18-and-under Gold National Tournament Sunday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Fico came on for Hurricanes' ace pitcher Stephanie Brombacher in the fourth inning. Fico, a rising senior at Masuk, allowed one hit, one run and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings. Fico was the winner as Kelsey Horton doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on Kelley Smiley's fielder's choice to break the 5-5 tie and give the Hurricanes the national title.

Brombacher, who was 20-0 as a freshman at the University of Florida, and Fico, who has orally committed to Louisiana State, combined to toss three shutouts and allow just two runs in the first five games in the championship bracket.


Another team Fico played for this summer wasn't as fortunate. The Stratford Brakettes were trying to win five elimination games on Sunday to win the ASA Women's Major Fast Pitch National Tournament for the third straight year and an unprecedented 29th time. But after beating the New York Xtreme 2-1 on a walk-off two-run homer by UMass catcher Jess Serio and rolling past the Lady Explorers of Midland, Michigan 12-0, the Brakettes championship bid was ended by Mother Nature. The combination of lightning strikes and steady rain in the Buffalo area forced the tournament to be called. The Southern California Hurricanes of Irvine, Calif. were the only remaining undefeated team and were declared the champions.

The Brakettes can't complain too loudly about the way the title was awarded since in the 2007 event it won the title under the identical circumstances. The biggest question surrounding the Brakettes is whether they will be back for a 63rd season. Without a primary sponsor, the franchise relied on the large crowd which turned out for the game against the U.S. Olympic team and money raised during the season. One has to wonder how long the team can go on without a sponsor to foot the bill. It was encouraging news to hear that Stratford did put in a bid to host the 2010 ASA nationals, a sign that they plan on sticking around.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Trip down memory lane

Just a disclaimer, this has nothing to do with UConn women's basketball so if you want to read about Elena Delle Donne's summer, Kelsey Bone's list of colleges or Geno Auriemma's cigar or choice, it will have to come at a different time or at another blog. Now on to the business at hand.

I caught the last inning or two of the Little League Eastern Regional and it brought back plenty of memories.

Shelton National hit two homers in the sixth inning to rally for a 2-1 win and earn a spot in the Little League World Series. Shelton became the first Connecticut team since Trumbull National earned a trip to Williamsport, Pa. in 1989 and won it all. I will be dating myself but I was 16 months into my professional career working for a bunch of weekly newspapers for Elm City Citizen Publications back in '89. Among the papers I served as the sports editor for was the now defunct Trumbull Reporter. I was able to follow Trumbull's run to the Little League Eastern Regional title and my company sent me to Williamsport for the World Series. It was the first overnight trip of my professional journalism career and I remember what an exciting moment it was in my young career. I remember I couldn't find a vacancy in Williamsport so I booked a room in nearby Lewisburg. I was only able to get a room for the first night so there was a chance I may not have a room for the bulk of my stay. Driving down I wondered if I might need to sleep in the back seat of my car in a rest area. Fortunately a room opened up for my entire stay and other than locking my keys in my car, it was a uneventful trip travel wise.

I documented Trumbull's run to the title both with a notebook and tape recorder but also with a camera since my company would spring for only one person to make the trip was a thrill of a lifetime. I did miscalculate a bit and ran out of film with about one inning left to play but hey nobody's perfect.

I had no idea when I began to cover this team that history would be made. Chris Drury, now with the New York Rangers, was the most famous player on the squad and he was a star. Splitting time between pitcher and catcher and serving as the leadoff hitter, Drury was indeed a star but he was not alone. He shared pitching duties with Andy Paul. They weren't so much the No. 1 and 2 pitchers as they were 1 and 1A. Ken Martin and Matt Basztura were the slugging stars of the team and slug the team did. Trumbull didn't so much win games as they overwhelmed their opponents. In recent years teams from the greater New Haven area have come close to punching their tickets to Williamsport. The Yalesville team a few years back looked destined to head to the World Series only to fall a win short and last year I was up in Bristol when Shelton National also fell one game short of heading to the World Series.

Now the Shelton National team will head to Pennsylvania with tons of their fans I am sure joining them. My best memories from covering that Trumbull team was dealing with the parents, an unassuming group who never crossed the line between passion and obsession. Never once did any of them ask me my their kid wasn't getting more press or why were there only photos of Chris Drury or Dave Galla, the second baseman and son of the manager. The story of Dan McGrath was particularly engaging. His family was moving out of the country - New Zealand if memory serves me correctly. But he wanted to play on this team so the parents let it happen. It was McGrath would caught the final out in the momumental upset of Chinese Taipei or Taiwan if you prefer. My understanding is Chris Hunn, who is at about the same point in his career as I was back in 1989, will be covering the event for the Register. I'm sure he will do a great job and much like Trumbull did with me 19 years ago, the Shelton team will give Chris and the other reporters who make the trip plenty to write about and document.

Now about Elena Delle Donne ...

Olympics underway

Outside of a slow start leading to an 8-0 deficit there were no problems for the U.S. in its Olympic opener. Former UConn star Diana Taurasi had a game-high 17 points, Sylvia Fowles had 16 points and 14 rebounds, Cappie Pondexter also was in double figures with 12 points and ex-UConn star Sue Bird had five points in 97-57 win over Czech Republic.

Jessica McCormack, who will enroll in UConn after the Olympics, had five points, five rebounds and one steal as New Zealand opened with a 76-72 win over Mali.

Former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova had three points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks as Russia rallied for a 62-57 win over Latvia.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Golden girls

The Olympics are nearly upon us and there is a feature on former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, starters on the three-time defending Olympic champion U.S. team in today's edition of the Register. Here is the link:
http://www.nhregister.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19897475&BRD=1281&PAG=461&dept_id=635050&rfi=6

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

By popular demand

Let it be known that hits on blogs and website views are very well received by my bosses (almost wrote superiors but felt that may too wide ranging of a group of candidates) so I began thinking - what UConn women's basketball subjects draw the most interest. Suddenly two names popped into my head: Elena Delle Donne and Pat Summitt. So I figured in an attempt to drive traffic to this blog, I should have an entry featuring these two popular figures.

Here goes

Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.
Pat Summitt. Elena Delle Donne.

I have performed my public service for the day. I feel better already.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bird, Taurasi lead U.S.

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi earned all-tournament honors as they led the United States to the title in the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball tournament in Haining, China.

In Tuesday's championship game Bird had 11 points and Taurasi six points and three assists in a 71-67 win over reigning world champion Australia.

Taurasi led the team in scoring in the tournament with an average of 11.3 points while Bird averaged 8 points, 3 rebounds and 1.7 assists for the U.S. Candace Parker, who averaged 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds, joined Bird and Taurasi on the all-tournament team.

The U.S. opens play in the Olympics on Saturday against the Czech Republic.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Taurasi leads U.S.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi had a game-high 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting and three steals to lead the United States to a 93-58 win over Russia Monday in the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament in Haining, China.

Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker added 15 and 12 points respectively while Taurasi's former UConn teammate Sue Bird had two points, four rebounds and two assists for the U.S. (2-0) which advanced to Tuesday's championship game against Australia.

The U.S. opened play in the pre-Olympic tournament with an 84-74 win over Latvia.

Svetlana Abrosimova, a teammate of Bird and Taurasi at UConn, had two points in 20 minutes for Russia which surprisingly fell to 0-2 in the tournament and will face Mali in the fifth-place game on Tuesday followed by the bronze-medal game between China and Latvia.

Former UConn stars Asjha Jones and Tamika Raymond will join Danielle Page as the Connecticut Sun representatives at the Dunkin' Donuts at 704 Foxon Road in East Haven from 1-2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The trio will greet customers, sign autographs and participate in a
basketball skills clinic with children from the New Haven Boys and Girls
Club.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

UConn's future and past on display

UConn commit Kelly Faris had 8 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block as the United States finished undefeated in the FIBA U18 Championship for Women tournament with an 81-37 win over host Argentina Sunday in Buenos Aires.

Faris averaged 4.6 points, 4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals in the five games as the U.S. extended its winning streak in the Under-19 Championship for Women qualifier to 19 games.

Stanford incoming freshman Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and set a U.S. Under-18 tournament single-game record with 15 rebounds as the U.S. won the gold medal for the fifth time in the event's seven-year history. Kelsey Bone (12 points, nine rebounds) and Skylar Diggins (11 points, four assists, two steals), two of the top targets on UConn's recruiting radar, also scored in double figures for the U.S. The United States qualified for next year's U-19 event along with Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Diggins averaged 10.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2 steals a game while Bone averaged 10.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1 block per contest. Ogwumike led the U.S. in scoring (12.6) and rebounding (8).

Faris is the eighth UConn recruit to play for the U.S. in the event since 1992. Rebecca Lobo was a member of the silver-medal winning 1992 team, Stacy Hansmeyer was on the 1996 squad which finished second. Diana Taurasi and Ashley Battle helped the U.S. squad, which was coached by Geno Auriemma, to the gold medal in 2000, Charde Houston was a member of the 2004 championship squad while Tina Charles and Maya Moore helped the U.S. win the gold medal in 2006.

"Winning a gold medal kind of makes you speechless," Faris said. "Not only did we win the gold medal for us, but every person who saw us wanted us to win it for them too. It's an accomplishment that a lot of people don't have a chance to experience, and it feels good."


While a future Husky was helping the U.S. to a perfect record, it was a busy day in the WNBA for ex-UConn stars as every UConn product in the league was in action on Sunday.

Asjha Jones led the way with 27 points in Connecticut's 82-60 win at Washington. Former Huskies Barbara Turner (five points, three rebounds), Tamika Raymond (three points, five rebounds) and Ketia Swanier (three points, three rebounds, three assists) helped Connecticut head into the month-long Olympic break on a three-game winning streak. With Detroit's loss to San Antonio, the Sun went into the break in first place in the Eastern Conference.

Ashley Battle had five points, two rebounds and two steals in New York's 86-76 win over Atlanta. Ann Strother had five points, one rebound and one block for Atlanta.

Kelly Schumacher, recently signed by Detroit following the season-ending knee injury to Cheryl Ford, had four points, four rebounds and two assists in her debut with the Shock. However, it wasn't enough as Detroit lost to San Antonio 76-64. In Los Angeles' 92-84 overtime win at Minnesota, Jessica Moore had seven points for Los Angeles while Charde Houston had 15 points for Minnesota.

Diana Taurasi had 25 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals but Phoenix fell to Indiana 88-84 in what could be a costly loss as the defending WNBA champions will head into the Olympic break three games behind fourth-place Los Angeles for the final Western Conference playoff spot with just seven games remaining.

Sue Bird, who along with Taurasi will be a member of the U.S. Olympic team, had 24 points and three assits while Swin Cash had 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in a 77-71 win over Sacramento.

Twelve of the league's 14 teams were on the court on the final day before the Olympic break. It was the first time all season that every team with a Connecticut product was in action on the same day.