Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Game time is still 54 minutes away because of "Senior Night" festivities and all is relatively quiet in the XL Center.

Looking around, there is not one visible sign in honor of UConn's three seniors Renee Montgomery, Cassie Kerns and Tahirah Williams which is a bit a surprise. I am expecting to see the creativity that UConn fans are known for to be on display before Montgomery, Kerns and Williams make the emotional walk out onto the court along with their parents to greet UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

The starting lineup is up on the board and as expected, Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes are out to make room for Kerns and Williams to make their first career starts. True to his word, Auriemma said he would sit the two youngest players in his normal starting five. It will end a run of 58 straight starts for Moore. Seton Hall's starting lineup consists of Noteisha Womack, Ashley Booker, Shantel Brown, Nicole Emery and Jadis Rhodin.

An interesting stat brought to my attention by Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal-Inquirer is that even though UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina both were hired in 1985, Auriemma has won almost as many games (685 and counting) than Mangina has coached (686).

There will be a surprise duo signing the national anthem. I am not allowed to divulge their names but suffice it to say no introductions will be needed.

The clock is now approaching 28 minutes until the ceremony honoring Montgomery, Kerns, Williams and senior student manager Matt Gade of Wallingford.

UPDATED (7:30 P.M.) The table with the framed jerseys was just brought out. The clock will stop in about 30 seconds to start the ceremony. I saw my first Senior Night sign under the basket saying "All the Way with Renee, Tahirah and Cassie."

UPDATED (7:41 P.M.) Kerns came out with her parents, Williams was accompanied by her parents and twin brother Isaiah (a receiver at the University of Maryland). Montgomery just came out with her parents and a niece (who was held in UConn coach Geno Auriemma's arms during the photo op). As expected, the majority of the fans in the house are standing to applaud one of the winningest senior classes in UConn history. Among the non-seniors, freshman Heather Buck appears to be most emotional of the group.

The game clock is moving again, down to 7:20

The house was brought down when sophomore Maya Moore and junior Kaili McLaren come out to sing the national anthem. When they finished, the UConn team rushed to embrace them with Tina Charles leaping into the arms of McLaren. They are the first active UConn players to sign the anthem since Stacy Hansmeyer in 2000.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

So much to say, so little time

OK, so where do we start today.

The post-practice interview session with Geno Auriemma was as entertaining and far reaching as ever.

First, he confirmed what we expected - that seniors Cassie Kerns and Tahirah Williams would make their first career starts on Saturday in their final regular-season home game. Tiffany Hayes will be coming off the bench to make room for the seniors but Geno was not 100 percent clear on whether Maya Moore or Tina Charles would be relinquishing their starting position on Saturday.

"I usually go with the youngest guys. I try to keep the youngest guys and keep the guys who have been with them the longest in there with them. That's one way to accomplish that."

Taking that at face value, that would mean that Maya Moore would be pulled from the starting lineup. But reading between the lines, it would not be shocked if he opted to sit Tina Charles instead.

Geno said that Tahirah Williams' new hairstyle reminded him more of Angela Davis, a political activist during the 60s and 70s, than former Husky Charde Houston.

He also addressed one topic which delighted him (the success of his former assistant Tonya Cardoza) and one which causes him much disdain (the ongoing saga of former UConn recruit Elena Delle Donne).

Cardoza posted the most impressive win of her young coaching career when Temple handed Xavier its first Atlantic 10 Conference loss of season on Wednesday.

"They are an NCAA tournament team now and Tonya, Dan Durkin and crack assistant Brittany Hunter," Auriemma said. "When you get some fresh ideas and fresh blood it can do either way. It could go south or all of a sudden it goes the other way. The kids have responded, 10-3 in the league."

The subject of Delle Donne's renewed interest in basketball (since she started working out and doing a little volunteer coaching work with her former high school was brought up by television announcer and former UConn star Meghan (Pattyson) Culmo during a special taping of his show on CPTV, this one with fans in attendance able to ask questions. While Auriemma was predictably asked about recruiting, the question that surprised him the most came from Culmo.

"It's funny, the way it was presented. Meghan is saying I can't tell you how many e-mails, I am flooded with e-mails that unimpeachable sources are telling us ... As soon as I hear that, I want to throw up. It is what it is.

"One of the unfortunate things that we've created, it is nobody's fault, is the story surrounding our seasons most of the time have nothing to do with our games because our games have become so predictable. There is too much boredom so let's go to everything else, no matter what that is because there is no mystery of how they are going to do Saturday, how are we going to do Monday. The mystery is all gone, the anticipation is all gone so the people in Boneyard (the UConn online fan forum), the chat rooms hope we play on Saturday? We are struggling a little bit, we have to get back on track. What are they going to talk about? It's just a not there so it took me by surprise when Meghan said it. I was like 'what?' I was the most shocked person in the room, I think."

Auriemma's response to the inquiry about Delle Donne, the 2008 Naismith national high school player of the year, was brief and emphatic. When the subject was raised on Thursday, he was just as succinct.

"I wake up every morning and read she is playing basketball at Delaware. She is not playing at Connecticut, if she was going to play at Connecticut, she'd be here by now. People generally just don't do that. You don't go, leave and then come back. Look at the history of any sport and then come back."

Speaking of recruiting, assistant coach Jamelle Elliott was in attendance last night when Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif. defeated Laguna Hills in a state tournament game. UConn has received unofficial visits from Matei Dei sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Laguna Hills junior Lauren Engeln. Shea Ralph was down in West Virginia doing some recruiting of her own although I am not certain which player she was looking at.

Auriemma was up at North Babylon High School watching highly-touted junior guard Bria Hartley in action at practice. All I have to say is that each member of the UConn staff who goes to see Hartley in action comes away even more impressed than the one who previously witnessed her play or practice. Since I get plenty of e-mails about recruiting, let me make this clear - Hartley and Engeln are atop UConn's wish list for the undecided guards/wing players among the current high school juniors. New Jersey phenom Laurin Mincy and Aaryn Ellenberg out of Las Vegas have caught the eye of the UConn staff but it is Engeln who secured a scholarship offer and Hartley will also be offered once she makes a campus visit. If UConn gets pledges from Hartley and Engeln to go with Samarie Walker and Stefanie Dolson, UConn will likely set its sights on adding a forward like a Michala Johnson to complete what would be a spectacular class.

The last bit of info, I received the ESPN announcing teams for the conference tournaments.

Beth Mowins, Brooke Weisbrod and Bob Picozzi will do the noon and 2 p.m. quarterfinals on Sunday (UConn is already slotted in for the 2 p.m. game) while John Rooke, Meg Bulger and Picozzi will do the 6 and 8 p.m. quarterfinals. All four games will be shown on ESPNU.

Monday's semifinals, also televised on ESPNU, will be called by Mowins and Weisbrod. Tuesday's championship game, shown on ESPN, will feature Pam Ward, Carolyn Peck and Rebecca Lobo.

Air time for Geno

UConn coach Geno Auriemma will be the guest on the "Pardon The Interruption" show on ESPN. His segment will be taped at 4 p.m. and will run at 5:30 p.m. today.

Also, all three autographed jerseys up for bid went for more than $1,000, all three pairs of players sneakers sold for somewhere between $237-$308, the sneakers worn by Auriemma went for $280 while the autographed ties Auriemma wore for the Pittsburgh and Rutgers games drew winning bids of $500 and $212 respectively. The online bids for the ties he wore during the Villanova and Notre Dame games are still up for bid and the auction for the tie he will wear Saturday against Seton Hall will open at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Anybody who wants to take part in the bidding can visit

Last by certainly not least, it was a nice touch of the Atlantic Coast Conference naming its annual women's basketball scholar-athlete award in honor of the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.

California state of mind

While I was able to get permission to drive to watch Stefanie Dolson play in December and go to Bria Hartley's game earlier this week in these challenging economic times, I was not able to convince the powers that be to let me drive to Santa Ana, Calif. to watch UConn recruiting targets Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Lauren Engeln go head to head.

Something tells me if I had made the 40-45 hour drive, I would have noticed that Mater Dei freshman Jordan Adams stole the show with 18 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals in a 77-39 win over Engeln's Laguna Hills team in the quarterfinals of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division II-A quarterfinals. Mosqueda-Lewis, who made an unofficial visit to UConn in January, finished with 15 points as Mater Dei improved to 28-0. Engeln, who visited UConn earlier this month, led Laguna Hills with 14.

Haven't had much success getting in touch with Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin since Engeln and her dad returned from their visit to Storrs but did hear back from Engeln's AAU coach Russ Davis who said he is planning to sit down with the Engelns in the next week or so to sort out the recruiting situation but he doesn't expect a decision to be forthcoming until probably April.

A couple of players who have committed to UConn have key games this weekend.

Samarie Walker, a 6-foot-1 junior wing from Chaminade Julienne of Dayton, Ohio, will lead her team against Xenia in the semifinals of Ohio District I tournament on Saturday. Also on Saturday, UConn signee Kelly Faris, a 5-foot-11 guard, will lead her Heritage Christian of Indianapolis, Ind. squad against Austin. If Heritage Christian wins, the Eagles will play for their fourth straight Indiana 2A championship against either Oak Hill or Garrett on Mar. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taurasi, Bird power Spartak

Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird combined for 37 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and four steals as two-time defending champion Spartak Moscow Region defeated Ros Casares 79-70 to advance to the semifinals of the EuroLeague championships.

Ros Casares forced a decisive third game with a 73-71 win over Spartak in the second game of the best of three series and were within four points of pulling off a big-time upset with 1:42 remaining before Spartak scored six of the game's final seven points to advance.

Former LSU star Sylvia Fowles led Spartak with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Taurasi had 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal while Bird finished with 15 points, six rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

If I am reading the brackets correctly, Spartak will face fellow Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg (which features former UConn greats Asjha Jones and Svetlana Abrosimova as well as the Connecticut Sun's Sandrine Gruda) in the semifinals. That April 3 game should produce some pretty high-quality basketball. MKB Euroleasing of Sopron, Hungary and MiZo Pecs 2010 of Pecs, Hungary will square off in the other semifinal. The championship game is April 5.

I couldn't confirm it but the word I heard was that there could be a UConn staff member in the stands when Mater Dei of Santa Ana hosts Laguna Hills in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section's quarterfinals tonight at 10:30 p.m. Why has think game caught UConn's attention? Well, Matei Dei is led by dyamic sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who took an unofficial visit to UConn in January, while Lauren Engeln, who leads Laguna Hills in points, rebounds and steals, was at UConn last weekend.

Making the cut

Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles are among the 30 candidates who made the cut as mid-season candidates for the Naismith Trophy.

With Louisville's Angel McCoughtry, Epiphanny Prince of Rutgers, Pittsburgh's Shavonte Zellous and Laura Kurz of Villanova also making the list, the Big East leads the way with seven of the nominees. The winner will be announced at the Final Four.

Here's the list:

2009 Naismith Women’s Mid-season Candidates:
Last Name First Name Class Position School
Appel Jayne Jr. Forward/Center Stanford
Black Chante Sr. Center Duke
Bonner DeWanna Sr. Guard Auburn
Breland Jessica Jr. Forward North Carolina
Charles Tina Jr. Center Connecticut
Clark Alysha Jr. Forward Middle Tennessee
Fields Shayla Sr. Guard North Carolina State
Fitz Rachele Jr. Forward Marist
Grant Tyra Jr. Guard Penn State
Kurz Laura Sr. Forward Villanova
Lavender Jantel So. Center Ohio State
Lehning Shalee Sr. Guard Kansas State
Littles Lyndra Sr. Forward Virginia
McCoughtry Angel Sr. Forward Louisville
McCray Danielle Jr. Guard/Forward Kansas
Mohammed Aisha Sr. Center Virginia
Montgomery Renee Sr. Guard Connecticut
Moore Maya So. Forward Connecticut
Paris Ashley Sr. Forward Oklahoma
Paris Courtney Sr. Center Oklahoma
Phillips Ta'Shia So. Center Xavier
Prince Epiphanny Jr. Guard Rutgers
Riley Andrea Jr. Guard Oklahoma State
Toliver Kristi Sr. Guard Maryland
Walker Ashley Sr. Forward/Center California
Warburton Morgan Sr. Guard Utah
Wilson Danielle Jr. Forward Baylor
Wisdom-Hylton Lindsay Sr. Forward Purdue
Wright Monica Jr. Guard Virginia
Zellous Shavonte Sr. Guard Pittsburgh

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making the grade

With all due respect to the 19 players who took part in UConn's 74-47 win over Villanova Tuesday night, the festivities at Gampel Pavilion served a bit of a higher purposes.

On a day when word of UConn sophomore Maya Moore being named an first team Academic All-American hit the streets, the brightest and best student/athletes at UConn were honored in a halftime ceremony which included UConn women's basketball players Moore, Tina Charles, Meghan Gardler, Cassie Kerns and Heather Buck.

"I’m very excited," said Moore, the first UConn women's basketball so honored since Jen Rizzotti in 1996. "It’s a great honor. My family pretty much has an education background. Everyone has been a teacher, so education is pretty big in my family so I know that they are really proud of me for this. Hard work has paid off."

Moore's streak of double-figure scoring games was snapped at 28 as she finished with eight points although she was one of three Huskies to pull down at least 10 rebounds.

The victory guaranteed UConn the top seed in next month's Big East tournament and at least a share of Big East regular-season title. But with this being UConn's 17th regular-season conference title, sharing is not high on their priority list.

Kalana Greene went as far as to say with a smirk on her face that she would prefer smacking her elbow against a door - as she did on her way to the post-game press conference - than sharing the Big East regular season crowd.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma set the table for the Huskies after the game by telling them to think about the history that awaits them if UConn beats Seton Hall on Saturday and wins at Rutgers on Monday to complete the fifth undefeated regular season in the program's history.

"I don't like to bring up things that you can't reach out and grab, talking about things that are down the road is not the way I do things," Auriemma said.

"For today, we talked about being a game that gives us an opportunity to do something we have been trying to do since September. It is going to be about we clinched a tie and I don't think anybody in our locker room is doing any celebration for ties so we talked about what's next and what those two games mean. It's right there now, they can feel it, they can sense it. It is a tangible thing and I wanted them to think about that (today) because there is something we can accomplish in those five days that puts them up there with some of the great teams."

Kaili McLaren did not play but it was not because of tendonitis in her knee. It was a coach's decision as Auriemma felt Villanova was a tough matchup for McLaren.

"Kaili is Kaili," was how Auriemma described it.

I took the ride to North Babylon High School Monday night to see its gifted junior point guard Bria Hartley play.

Hartley, despite getting off to a slow start, did not disappoint. Hartley finished with 23 points on 8 of 18 shooting (3 for 5 from 3-point range) to go with three rebounds, five assists (I actually had her with eight) and seven steals in a 72-36 win over Ward Melville.

Purely by coincidence, I sat next to Hartley's father during the game. I had no idea who he was but I always look for the highest possible seat at high school games so I can rest my back up against the wall and as luck would have it, Dennis Hartley had found his seat when I got comfortable next to him. At halftime I introduced myself and he gave me the deal.

She has already taken unofficial visits to St. John's, North Carolina and UConn (Dennis and Bria were in attendance at Sunday morning's shoot around and then had prime seats for the UConn/Notre Dame at the XL Center). Apparently both father and daughter enjoyed themselves very much. Bria posed for photos and asked for autographs.

Dennis said they want to visit the UConn campus either during the Big East tournament (even if it is being held in Hartford) or when UConn is hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The Hartleys are in no rush as they still want to visit Duke, Stanford, Georgetown, Kentucky and Louisville (preferably taking the last two on the same day or at least on the same trip.

"I am going to take my time, get out there and see a bunch of schools and see what I like," Bria Hartley said. "I want to go to a good school, I want to play for a big school in college and make sure I have a good time doing it. You can't let all that stuff get to you, just enjoy what you have left of high school and make a decision when I am ready."

Dennis Hartley also said Bria is a "legit 5-foot-10 and still growing" and not 5-7 as some of the internet recruiting databases list her. As for her game, she is a classic scoring point guard with a sweet shooting stroke but also a keen passing eye. She could easily have finished with 15 assists had her teammates finished routine shots set up by Hartley's playmaking skills. She can score from the perimeter or drive to the basket but also has an impressive mid-range game set up by a jump-stop in the lane.

Hartley's on-court demeanor is similar to UConn signee Kelly Faris. Even when a questionable call goes against her, she does not cause a ruckus. She merely lets her game do her talking for her. The most emotion she displayed is when she drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before halftime.

Hartley said she may not make a decision until the beginning of the next school year.

She seems to have a similar personality to her easy-going father. I've seen and heard plenty of parents of big-time recruits and never seen one who handled themselves like Dennis Hartley. Not once did he scream out in disgust at a call although the way the game was officiated, it would have been easy for him to do it. Both the father and daughter come off as extremely down to earth people who don't take themselves too seriously.

I did find it interested that Bria caught the eye of more than a few Division I lacrosse coaches before figuring out that basketball will be her best option for college stardom. She plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse in high school which is a good move. I personally think too many kids specialize too early in their lives when it comes to sports.

There will be more on Bria in Wednesday's edition of the Register.

Tomorrow I will also throw in a blog on Villanova coach Harry Perretta's opinion on Mercy of Middletown senior Rachel Roberts, who signed with the Wildcats in November but this blog is already long enough and it is time to hit the road.

Moore an Academic All-American

Sophomore forward Maya Moore was one of five players named to the CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-America First Team.

Moore is the first Connecticut women's basketball player to receive first-team Academic All-America status since Jennifer Rizzotti in 1996. Former men's basketball player Emeka Okafor was the last University of Connecticut student-athlete to be named to an ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team (2004 & 2003).

Moore's selection marks the sixth time a member of the UConn women's basketball program has earned first-team Academic All-America status and the ninth time a Connecticut player has been named to any of the Academic All-America squads (first, second or third team).

Moore, who boasts a 3.74 GPA, was the only sophomore named to the five-member first team.

Joining Moore on the 2009 CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-America First Team are: Megan Frazee (Liberty/3.91 GPA), Paige Guffey (Murray State/3.97 GPA), Theresa Lisch (Saint Louis/3.95 GPA) and 2009 Academic All-America of the Year Amber Guffey (Murray State/3.97 GPA).

Also, senior guard Renee Montgomery is one of 13 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award given to the nation's top point guard and is one of the top candidates to win the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the top senior who stands 5-foot-8 or under.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Achievement worth honoring

UConn does not underestimate the importance of honoring its past. One look around Gampel Pavilion and it is impossible to be struck by the reminders of past glory - from the 11 numbers hanging as part of the "Huskies of Honor" and five national championship banners.

However, the true essence of UConn women's basketball will be on display at halftime of Tuesday's game against Villanova when the UConn student/athletes who made the dean's list for the fall semester will be recognized.

Nine of UConn's 13 players will be among those who are invited on the court although Jessica McCormack is home in New Zealand awaiting surgery on the area around her Achilles tendon.

Four starters - Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Kalana Greene will be honored along with Meghan Gardler, Tahirah Williams, Jacquie Fernandes and Heather Buck will be joined by the other UConn student/athletes who made the grade.

UConn's status as one of the premier programs in women's college basketball allows the Huskies certain benefits including getting to recruit the cream of the crop of the high school players. While some other sports have to take flyers on kids who may have questionable academic backgrounds in order to compete, the UConn women's program can afford to go after the best players and students at the same time. Still, getting nine of 13 players including seven of its 10 veteran players making the dean's list is a remarkable achievement.

Freshman Tiffany Hayes earned her second straight Big East Freshman of the Week award and third overall after averaging 12.5 points and 7 rebounds in wins over Providence and Notre Dame. Louisville's Angel McCoughtry was named the Big East Player of the Week for the sixth time this season and the 11th time in her career.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Now for something completely different

Couldn't help myself with the Monty Python reference but back on topic, it was refreshing to actually see UConn challenged.

Notre Dame led by 16 1/2 minutes in the first half and was tied with the Huskies five minutes into the second half before a 22-1 UConn run put the game away.

Here are a few thoughts on the game. While the faces may change, year after year UConn never seems to be able to get much done against Notre Dame's matchup zone. Today was no different. UConn's inability to drive against the zone may them a bit timid. Not surprisingly, it was the trio of Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore and Tina Charles who sparked the run.

As always, the post-game press conference was almost as entertaining as the game itself.

First, here is Auriemma's take on what it's like to live in UConn's world where a two-loss season will lead to questions to what is wrong.

"You are at somewhat of a disadvantage at Connecticut because the lessons that you learn to really help you become a better team is when you lose, you go home, regroup and try to figure out what you did wrong," Auriemma said. "Guys get upset with the way you play and the teams get back on track so you can learn a lot when you lose. It is a disadvantage because you almost never lose so how do teach your guys to learn from wins. That is hard to do."

Auriemma sees similarities to Saturday's style of game to what the Huskies will see on Tuesday when Villanova comes to Gampel Pavilion.

"Tuesday will be similar because both teams are very patient, they want to use the clock, try to use all five players on the perimeter. Tuesday will be a lot like today," Auriemma said.

I asked Auriemma about drawing the biggest crowds of the season at Gampel and then at the XL Center in consecutive home games.

"We had a stretch there for a couple of years when we moaned and groaned at who wasn't coming to the games, we are used to selling out and it hasn't been like that," Auriemma said. "As coaches, we notice that. I remember (UConn assistant coach) Jamelle (Elliott) saying 'hey, they like our team again.' Winning 36 games and going to the Final Four is not enough to make people love you. You have to play a certain way, do certain things and I think this team is easy to love. It was a great crowd and we got a couple of kids (Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley) who got to come visit us and they got to enjoy that. It is fun, you don't get this atmosphere just anywhere."

Tongue in cheek, I asked Auriemma if he was concerned that Dolson (who committed to UConn on Christmas Day) and Hartley (who is expected to be offered a scholarship assuming all goes well on her yet to be schedule campus visit) would commit to Notre Dame based on how the game was going.

"They have enough good guards and good players. A couple of kids who were here today say that we could use a couple more scorers so it was perfect we played it just for them."

The subject turned to Saturday's verbal exchanges between UConn men's coach Jim Calhoun and political activist Ken Krayeske.

After Calhoun gave his opening statement, political activist Ken Krayeske questioned Calhoun on his salary since Calhoun is the highest paid state employee.
The line of questioning drew a heated response from Calhoun.

Auriemma was asked how he would have dealt with such a situation.

"You’re just not prepared for it," Auriemma said. `"You come in and you ask somebody `hey, how was attacking the zone or how was their offense different?’ You’re just not prepared for it probably. So it’s probably a little bit of a stunner. That’s one of the perks that you have working at a state school. Everybody knows what you do. Everybody knows what you have. And there comes a point in time when you’re going to be faced with that. You just don’t expect it in this setting. If somebody calls up campus and says `hey, we’ve got a guy that wants to come up and do a story on this.’ But to have it happen in this setting I don’t think I’d wish that on anybody. I’m sure Jim was thrown for a loop and I’m sure he handled it better than most coaches would handle it. I would not have wanted to be that guy 20 years ago and asked Jim that question. So I think Jim handled it pretty well if you ask me.

"I think it’s unfair in that setting," Auriemma said. "I would even go so far as to say it’s unfair to ask someone who’s worked that hard to get to where they are and insinuate that they don’t deserve it. I think it’s unfair in this setting and I would venture to say it’s unfair in any setting. How do you answer questions about money, about your personal life? Any coach can answer questions, and rightly so deserves to be asked questions about how their basketball program is progressing, how their team is progressing, how they use their personnel or how is recruiting going. But once you start I think going down that road there just are some things that I don’t think we as coaches are equipped to deal with in that setting."

Auriemma had one last parting shot at Krayeske, who was arrested in January of 2007 at Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s inaugural parade, where Hartford police charged Krayeske with breach of peace and interfering with an officer. The charges were later dismissed.

"I’ve never met the guy and I don’t know who he is," Auriemma said. "I’m glad he got out of jail when he got arrested, but maybe he got out too soon. He should’ve waited until after basketball season."

After the press conference, Auriemma continued a thought he had following Saturday's practice that Heather Buck, who is sitting out this season as a redshirt, is going to make a major impact in the post when she makes her UConn debut. While some may have viewed Buck's recruitment as a bit of an afterthought, Auriemma has been impressed by Buck's competitiveness and said that the men practice players struggle to defend Buck in practice.

One last time, heard at the game that 8,000 all-session tickets have been sold for the Big East tournament, a 40 percent jump from last year.

Faris, Heritage Christian onto Semi-States

UConn signee Kelly Faris had 32 points to lead her Indianapolis-based Heritage Christian team to a pair of wins in the Lawrence Central regional on Saturday. The Eagles defeated Hagerstown 69-44 and Winchester 63-46 to advance to the Semi-State portion of the Indiana state tournament.

Heritage Christian (24-1) will face Austin on Saturday and with a win, the Eagles will advance to the 2A state championship game to face either Garrett or Oak Hill on Mar. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Heritage Christian won the 2A title in each of Faris' first three seasons.

Word is that UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey could be California bound in a few days with a pair of prime UConn recruiting targets set to square off.

Junior guard/forward Lauren Engeln, who was offered a scholarship during her unofficial visit to UConn last weekend, will lead her Laguna Hills team against top-seeded Matei Dei of Santa Ana in the quarterfinals of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section's Division IIA tournament. Mater Dei is led by highly-touted sophomore wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who made an unofficial visit to UConn in mid-January.

Since it is bringing in just one player (although a multi-faceted player like Faris is a pretty high-quality class of one) this year, the UConn staff is going all out in its effort to secure a top-notch Class of 2010.

The Huskies are already off to a good start with commitments from Chaminade Julienne of Dayton, Ohio wing Samarie Walker and Minisink Valley of Slate Hill, N.Y. center Stefanie Dolson. Engeln and North Babylon (N.Y.) guard Bria Hartley also top the Huskies' wish list for the next class. They would also like to bring in a forward. Michala Johnson, a 6-foot-3 junior at Montini Catholic in Lombard, Ill., is planning to visit UConn next month. UConn also has their eyes on 6-foot-4 Sheronne Vails out of Arundel High in Gambrills, Md. and Orsi Szecsi a 6-foot-3 Hungarian native who plays for Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. However, as I have previous reported on this blog, Vails mother said she doesn't consider her daughter to be a priority recruit of the Huskies while Szecsi probably won't be making any campus visits until the fall.

Another name to keep an eye on is Laurin Mincy, a junior guard at University High in Newark, N.J. UConn coach Geno Auriemma is said to have been impressed when he saw her last earlier this month. However, with a commitment from Samarie Walker already in hand, it would be a bit surprising if UConn pursued both Engeln and Mincy.

The feeling is UConn could bring in a class of at least four but I have heard that at least one member of the UConn staff wouldn't mind bringing in six players. It should be an interesting process. In fact, it has already been quite intriguing on some levels.


Time is running short for some of the Big East teams on the NCAA tournament "bubble."

The belief is that UConn, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and DePaul have put together impressive enough bodies of work to earn spots in the field of 64. Villanova and Rutgers have a little bit of work to do but seem to be in position to join its conference counterparts in the NCAA field. After playing UConn on Tuesday, the Wildcats end the season with games at Georgetown and at home against South Florida. If Villanova wins both games, I can't see how they can left out of the field.

Rutgers, with one of the toughest schedules and a very strong RPI, should also make it if - and this is a big if - there are no more stumbles. Rutgers hosts Cincinnati on Tuesday and plays St. John's on Saturday before ending the regular season with a home game against UConn. If Rutgers beats Cincinnati and St. John's (which could be playing without leading scorer Monique McLean who has been suspended indefinitely), the Scarlet Knights would be 17-11 and 9-7 in the Big East heading into the Big East tournament even with a loss to UConn. That should be enough, especially if Rutgers can win a game or two in the conference tournament.

I could be wrong but I don't see the Big East getting an eighth team in for the third year in a row. Using a .500 record in the league as a minimum requirement, Marquette, Georgetown, Syracuse and South Florida are the only other teams capable of finishing at or above the .500 mark in the final Big East regular-season standings.

Marquette is 7-6 after beating St. John's and a win at Providence on Wednesday would guarantee that the Golden Eagles finish no worse than 8-8 in the Big East. If Marquette wins at DePaul or at home against Louisville, their NCAA resume suddenly improves especially considering they own a win over Notre Dame but barring an upset win, I would think Marquette will get the chance to defend its WNIT championship.

Unlike Marquette, Georgetown doesn't have a win over a team with a top 50 RPI (although that could change if the Hoyas beat Villanova on Saturday). With wins over Syracuse today and Villanova, Georgetown's NCAA tournament hopes would get a major boost but if that doesn't happen, the Hoyas figure to be WNIT bound which would be a nice accomplishment since it would be the program's first postseason appearance since being invited to the 2003 WNIT.

Syracuse would have to win out to finish 8-8 in the conference although sweeping Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Providence will be no easy feat. Wins over Rutgers and Notre Dame (if the Orange pull it off) would at least merit them consideration for a bid.

South Florida may have kissed its NCAA tournament hopes goodbye with a loss to West Virginia Saturday night. The Bulls could finish the regular season with 20 wins but will need to beat DePaul, Cincinnati and Villanova just to finish at .500 in conference play.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Greene takes the fifth

When Kalana Greene informed her roommate and fellow senior Renee Montgomery that she had decided to apply for a fifth year of eligibility, Montgomery's response was something along the lines of "what, hadn't you already decided that weeks ago?"

Actually, Greene had made that decision subconsciously but didn't make it official until this week. After speaking with her parents following Sunday's win over Pittsburgh and sitting down with UConn coach Geno Auriemma on Thursday, Greene went public with her decision to return to UConn for the 2009-10 following Saturday's practice at Gampel Pavilion.

"I love being in college and I love playing basketball in college and I am not ready to leave yet," Greene said. "I don't have to think about it anymore, I still have to play the rest of the season and my goals as still the same. I have a lot to work on this summer. I didn't want to think about it but when it started to become an issue ... I love playing for this university, I love playing for this team."

Since Greene played just eight games in the 2007-08 season before suffered a season-ending knee injury, she was eligible for receive an additional season of eligibility. Greene kept putting off the decision but between her father pressing her on whether he needed to buy a new suit to wear to the Feb. 28 game against Seton Hall, which would have been Greene's final regular-season home game and Auriemma informing Greene that she needed to let him know before the Seton Hall because she "only gets one Senior Night" Greene finally did some soul searching before coming to the decision that her teammates and coaches knew she would ultimately reach.

"I had a feeling she would stay because I know she would have so much more to show and offer here at the University of Connecticut," UConn sophomore forward Maya Moore said. "That gives me a lot of confidence for next year even though we have a lot to do this year."

With a story on the emotional price paid by basketball players who suffer multiple ACL tears coming in Sunday's Register, I was able to speak with UConn freshman guard Caroline Doty about the subject after Saturday's practice.

It was clear that Doty has been struggling to keep it all together in the last couple of weeks as the reality of her not being able to play another game this season began to sit in.

"It is completely different," Doty said. "The first time I was sad, disappointed. The second time is what the heck, you seem more mad and think 'this is awful' and the situation (is different). The first time I am home with my family, my mom would stay home from work and my brothers would be around. Up here, now that I have a new family, the coaches have been like my new parents, everybody on the team have been like my sisters and Rosie (Ragle, UConn's trainer) has been there 100 percent. Whenever I need to talk, a bowl of soup or a shoulder to cry on, they are there.

"I will be feeling down one day but feeling great the next two days. As long as I can get the tears out a little bit and know when to get it out, I will be fine. After games, I am so happy that the team has won and I will sit in the locker room and think 'I want to play, I want to do this or that.' Certain days are harder than other days."

Among those expected to be in attendance for Sunday's game against Notre Dame at the XL Center are Minisink Valley (N.Y.) junior center Stefanie Dolson and North Babylon (N.Y.) junior guard Bria Hartley.

Dolson committed to UConn on Christmas Day will be checking out her third UConn game of the season.

This will be the first trip to see the Huskies play for Hartley, who has quickly emerged as the top point guard on UConn's recruiting radar. Plans are in the works for Auriemma to check out a North Babylon practice in the next week or two.

UConn, which also has a commitment from Chaminade Julienne junior wing Samarie Walker, offered Laguna Hills (Calif.) junior wing Lauren Engeln a scholarship before she headed home following an unofficial visit to UConn last week but Engeln has not made a college choice yet.

Auriemma did go to see talented New Jersey guard Laurin Mincy last week and Montini Catholic of Lombard, Ill. forward Michala Johnson is expected to visit UConn on Mar. 16-17. UConn does still have an interest in Arundel High of Gambrills, Md. forward Sheronne Vails but it is uncertain when or if she will visit UConn. Vails was at UConn's game against Georgetown on Jan. 31.

It doesn't appear as if Norwich Free Academy guard Kastine Evans is as high on UConn's recruiting radar as she was a month or two ago.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taurasi blowing up

With teammate Lauren Jackson limited by foul trouble, former UConn star Diana Taurasi is doing everything in her power to lead two-time defending champion Spartak Moscow Region to a sweep of its EuroLeague quarterfinal series against Ros Casares.

Taurasi had 29 points through three quarters before she also had to sit with foul trouble as Spartak is trailing Ros Casares. Midway through the fourth quarter, Taurasi and Jackson had four fouls as does Delisha Milton-Jones and Erika de Souza for Ros Casares. There's no truth to the rumor that Dee Kantner and Bonita Spence are among the officials assigned to the game. UPDATED AT 3:50 P.M., Taurasi finished with 33 points but Spartak lost 73-71. After Ros Casares' Amaya Valdemoro missed a jumper, Spartak had a chance to either tie or win the game at the buzzer but former UConn star Sue Bird lost the ball. The steal by Laia Palau iced the game for Ros Casares and forced a decisive third game on Wednesday.

The other three series all ended with two-game sweeps. Sandrine Gruda of the Connecticut Sun had 14 points and eight rebounds to help UMMC Ekaterinburg to a 70-68 win over Fenerbahce to complete the sweep despite getting a combined two points and four rebounds from former UConn stars Asjha Jones and Svetlana Abrosimova.

MKB Euroleasing advanced to the EuroLeague Final Four for the first time after completing the sweep with a 70-63 win over Bourges Basket. Amber Holt had five points, four rebounds and three assists for MKB Euroleasing. Halcon Avenida, behind 20 points from former Connecticut Sun forward Le'Coe Willingham, eliminated MiZo Pecs 2010 with a 81-76 win.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

McCormack surgery delayed

There has been another delay in Jess McCormack's surgery on the area around her Achilles tendon.

I just heard back from the sophomore forward/center who is sitting out this season after transferring from the University of Washington who said she had a reaction to the anaesthetic causing the surgery to be delayed. Here is what she said in the e-mail.

"Went in for surgery on Monday but only got as far as being anathatised. I had a massive reaction to the anasthetic and ended up in the ICU. Will go in for the surgery under local anaesthetic in about a week's time to give me some time to recover."

It is the second delay for the surgery. On the flight home, McCormack got sick and that forced the procedure to clean up the scar tissue around the tendon to be pushed back.

Since McCormack withdrew from school to go back to New Zealand for the surgery and rehabilitation, she will not be eligible to make her debut for the Huskies until the fall, 2009 semester is complete.

Been there, done that

Just call the theme of this entry the Yogi Berra "it feels like deja vu all over again."

First, if it seems as if a UConn signee has played in every McDonald's All-American game that's because that is the deal.

In the inaugural game in 2002, UConn commits Wilnett Crockett, Gillian Goring (who never actually played a game for the Huskies), Ann Strother, Barbara Turner and Nicole Wolff all suited up. Liz Sherwood was UConn's representative (although Brittany Hunter did play in the game). In '04 it was Charde Houston and Mel Thomas getting invites. Renee Montgomery (2005), Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren (2006), Lorin Dixon and Maya Moore (2007) and Tiffany Hayes last year along with the still trying to find herself Elena Delle Donne. Now it is Kelly Faris' turn.

Before I get to my Big East-related tangent or some say it could be classified as a rant, I would say the most memorable part of Wednesday night's game outside of referee Wesley Dean admonishing the mild-mannered Jacquie Fernandes when she voiced her displeasure over the lack of a foul call was the attitude and spunk of the breast cancer survivors who took part in the contents held during the television timeouts. The UConn marketing staff might want to take note because if ever I saw an idea worth stealing, that was the one. If you weren't inspired watching those women taking part in the "Dress Like a Friar" or various shooting competitions, there's something wrong.

Now back to the Big East. My take on this will not be popular (what else is new) but do not include me in on a Big East love fest this season. Each February, like clockwork, the conference will hold its final teleconference with the coaches and each year the most popular topic is exactly the same "who is going to be the conference player of the year." Yeah, like they are going to tell us who they are going to vote for. All the questions do is allow the conference's coaches to wax poetic about the great Big East. This year was no different.

Maybe I'm way off here, but if the Big East is go darn great than why can't UConn get at least one competitive game from the top women's basketball league in America? I posed this question to UConn coach Geno Auriemma a couple weeks back that if the Big East is supposed to be the top conference why it is that his starting five is combining for more points than half of the conference. Updating that thought process, if you combined the points scored by Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles, Kalana Greene (even with her two scoreless games on consecutive Wednesdays) and Tiffany Hayes, they would rank ahead of every conference team except Louisville in conference games. I put Auriemma in a tough spot by asking him if his team was that good or was the rest of the conference not living up to their end of the bargain. It's really a no-win situation for Auriemma since if he answers the question honestly, he will upset the Big East bigwigs (although that concept is nothing new to Auriemma). I thought he handled it about as well as could be expected.

"I think it is style of play, I didn't realize that we are in that situation but it is style of play. It is wins and losses, it is not points per game. I thought we had a great non-conference record - the teams in our league - and the team that is in last place (West Virginia) beat the team that is in second place (Louisville). I don't know how many conferences that happens in. There are difficult styles of play. This league is so defensive orientated in so many ways that it is difficult to put up big numbers night in and night out. I know there are other leagues were there is a lot of scoring going and as a result, those teams sometimes struggle in the NCAA tournament but this conference is built on defense for the most part."

Yet against this defensive-orientated conference, UConn's average margin of victory is 31.5 points. I do find it curious that the teams which actually decided to play against UConn (Georgetown and St. John's) were picked to finish 11th and 13th respectively in the conference in a preseason balloting of the coaches while Louisville (picked third), Pittsburgh (picked fifth) and Syracuse (picked sixth) lost to the Huskies by 28, 53 and 54 points. Of course, it is not only Big East frontrunners who have failed miserably to stay with the Huskies since Oklahoma lost 106-78 and North Carolina fell 88-58 to UConn. Hey, maybe UConn is just that good. I guess we will find out with postseason play fast approaching.

Auriemma did manage to crack me up after Wednesday's demolition of Providence by accident when he began his campaigning for Hayes to be the Big East Freshman of the Year.

"There are freshmen in the league that I haven’t seen and maybe there’s someone I’ve missed," Auriemma said. "But I haven’t seen one that does more things than Tiffany has."

Oh really Geno? How's the line 11 of 17 from the floor, 5 of 6 from the free-throw line, 27 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two turnovers in 32 minutes. That was what former Trinity Catholic star and current St. John's freshman Da'Shena Stevens dropped on the Huskies. This wasn't one of these, let's pile up the stats when all of UConn's starters were on the bench type of games either. Hayes may win the Big East Freshman of the Year award. After all, in conference games she is second in scoring, second in assists, third in steals and first in 3-pointers among conference freshmen but Stevens certainly belongs in the discussion since she is the top scoring and rebounding rookie in the conference if you count all the games. In conference only competition, she is first in scoring, third in rebounding, fourth in assists, third in steals and fourth in blocks. Now Auriemma has forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know but I would say that you could make an argument that Stevens does as many things for her team as Hayes does for hers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Faris Miami bound

While she was not selected to the WBCA All-American game being held in St. Louis on April 4, UConn signee Kelly Faris was one of the 24 players selected to play in the McDonald's All-American game on April 1 at the University of Miami.

Before she heads for the Sunshine State, the 5-foot-11 wing from Plainfield, Ind. who is averaging 14.4 points, 9 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.7 steals and 1.8 blocks has some unfinished business as she attempts to lead her Indianapolis-based Heritage Christian to its fourth straight Indiana 2A title.

After rolling to two wins in the sectional portion of the tournament, Heritage Christian will play in the Lawrence Central Regional on Saturday. If Heritage Christian beats Hagerstown in the 10 a.m. game, the Eagles would play either Winchester or North Decatur at 8 p.m. A victory would move Heritage Christian into what Indiana calls it's "Semi-State" portion of the draw on Feb. 28. The 2A championship game is Mar. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The merchandise UConn coach Geno Auriemma is putting up for the bid to raise money for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund is growing by the day.

Four pair of the pink sneakers brought out for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh including the pair Auriemma wore in the game, will go up for bid on The online bid, which also features a Brioni tie and three jerseys autographed by the UConn team, are already up for bid. The four items have brought in $1,875 as of 6:45 p.m. Wednesday night.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

From Russia with victories

Former UConn stars Asjha Jones, Svetlana Abrosimova, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird got their Russian-based teams off to winning starts in game one of the EuroLeague quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Jones had 19 points (on 8 of 10 shooting) to lead six players in double figures as UMMC Ekaterinburg to a 94-62 win over Fenerbahce of Istanbul, Turkey. Abrosimova had 10 points and four steals while Sandrine Gruda, a teammate of Jones and Abrosimova on the 2008 Connecticut Sun, had 11 points and seven rebounds. UMMC Ekaterinburg will attempt to sweep the best of three game series on Friday. Game three, if necessary, is Feb. 25.

Two-time defending champion Spartak Moscow Region had a tougher than anticipated open against Ros Casares of Valencia, Spain.

Taurasi had 12 points, six rebounda, two assists and two blocks and Bird added 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 65-57 win. As is the case with the UMMC Ekaterinburg, game 2 is Friday and game No. 3 is Feb. 25.

In the other two series, Amber Holt of the Connecticut Sun had 12 point and seven rebonds as MKB Euroleasing (Sopron, Hungary) defeated Bourges Basket (Bourges, France) 68-65 while Halcon Avenida (Salamanca, Spain) defeated MiZo Pecs 2010 (Pecs, Hungary) 85-63.

Looking ahead to tomorrow's game at Providence, while it will be televised on CPTV, it will not be the normal broadcast team as the announcing crew will be Mike Logan and Chris Fama. Sunday's game against Notre Dame will be carried on ESPNU (with no whiparound coverage that I am aware of). Beth Mowins will handle the play by play while former West Virginia star Meg Bulger will be the color commentator.


The Wilbur Cross squad has been named the Connecticut Sun High School Girls' Basketball Team of the Week.

Here's the release from the Sun.
The Governors opened the week with a 58-53 victory on the road at fifth-ranked Career on February 10, getting 17 points, eight rebounds, four steals and one block from Chantell Alford as Wilbur Cross clinched a share of the SCC Oronoque title with Career with the win. Shaniqua Fuller added 15 points, nine rebounds and two steals in the victory, while Shanilya Bush had 13 points, four assists and three steals for Wilbur Cross. The Governors defeated Guilford 55-38 on February 13th to improve to
13-5 overall.

Channeling their frustration

As I promised, I am addressing ESPN's ill-advised decision to break away from the UConn/Pittsburgh game in Connecticut on Sunday.

I received a couple of e-mails from ESPN in advance of their "February Frenzy" including one that stated the whiparound coverage would not be applied in home markets. What that means is that all of Connecticut (except lower Fairfield County which is considered to be part of the New York market) should have seen the UConn/Pitt game in its entirety.

I just received an e-mail back from one of the two media relations contacts at ESPN I reached out to looking for comment on the matter. She said she is checking into the issue.

Believing it is my job to offer ESPN a chance to comment before I let fans do the same, I believe I held up my part of the deal. If they offer a comment, I will certainly pass it on.

As far as I can tell based on the readers who e-mailed me, it seems to be a satellite issue with DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers being the ones who could not see the second half of Sunday's UConn game. Obviously I was at Gampel Pavilion so I could not channel surf to see if the UConn game was being televised on another of the ESPN stations but I am a DirecTV subscriber and taped the game. The second half, the Iowa State/Texas game was being shown in place of UConn/Pitt.

I know that in Madison, Comcast Cable subscribers were able to see the entire game.

Now here are some of the comments. I left the names off just in case people don't want their names associated with this entry but the comments pretty much speak for themselves. Before I publish them, I will say that ESPN would be well advised to rethink their approach to whiparound coverage. I realize they are contractually obligated to show a certain number of games and with one day like Sunday, they can live up to those obligations by 16 games being televised in one afternoon. However, in Connecticut fans love their Huskies and deserve to be able to watch the entire game. Save me the "game is a blowout" shtick. Something tells me that when the New England Patriots were blowing out pretty much every team en route to an undefeated regular season, viewers in Boston did not have to worry about the second half of Patriot games not being shown so the third and fourth quarters of the Jacksonville/Tennessee game could be televised. Could you imagine the backlash if that were the case?

Now without further delay, here are some of the comments:

"I was really miffed when ESPN cut off the game at the half, they switched to the Texas vs. (Iowa State) game. I kept watching thinking they would go back. They did not even give an update on the score."

"Yes, I know that the Women's team "blew out" Pitt yesterday but it wasn't because I was able to watch it. With the infinite wisdom only bequeathed to television bigwigs, ESPN switched away from the game to some other contest at halftime. What about all of the young girls that aspire to play for the likes of teams similar to UCONN? How are they supposed to watch a well played game when the coverage is switched?

"Please do something about this for the sake of UCONN fans. The team is the number one team in Women's basketball. I wonder if it was the men's team would it have been switched? Or Tennessee? The only good thing about ESPN's coverage is Kara Lawson's unbiased, knowledgeable and honest comments during the talking heads moments.
"Since it nationally televised games are the decision of the conference, the Big East should not allow this bait and switch to happen. It is pitiful. I appreciate watching the UCONN games because of the beauty of the game itself. Thankfully, CPTV affords us the opportunity to enjoy the entirety of the games which makes the fund-raising efforts bearable."

"I live in Guilford and have Comcast with the additional sports package. I was also one of the many people watching on ESPN HD. After watching 7 or so minutes of the second half (not UCONN), I was switching to listen on the radio. It was then that I discovered that the UCONN game was on regular ESPN, not HD. Both channels had the same listing, so I had assumed that both channels had the same coverage. Very frustrating when you consider the cost of the various cable packages. Thank you for looking into this for the many UCONN fans."

"I live in New London, and I have DIRECTV! I went to the game and TIVOed the whole day 1pm to 7pm. When I got home my buddy in Bloomsburg, PA called me that PA and CT only got the first 1/2! I then watched my TIVO and the 2nd 1/2 was NCST v VA & mostly TX v IAST and Marshall & SOMISS! There's nothing ESPN can do to fans to make it up, but it shows the fans/bill payers are the last considered!
Thanks for taking an interest in righting a wrong!"

"I was thoroughly disgusted with ESPN's decision to not show the entire UConn/Pitt game on Sunday. I had thought, as you stated, that they were doing "regional" broadcasts and that meant a commitment to the UConn game. I was watching it on ESPN-2's HD channel (203) via Comcast cable (I live in Bloomfield). Interestingly, though, for some reason I decided to look at the "non-HD" ESPN channel (30) and, lo and behold, our game was being broadcast there! I do not understand the semantics here but I was just grateful to see the game at all.

"One major beef with Comcast in Connecticut is that they do not offer ESPNU in any way, shape or form - which means that every year we can not see a fair amount of the Big East Tournament games and an occasional regular season game as well. For whatever reason, they can not seem to come to terms with an agreement with ESPN to carry ESPNU. They are too darn independent and obviously do not care about their customers - that is what happens when you are pretty much the "only show in town".

Thanks to everybody who responded.

Monday, February 16, 2009

February Frenzy or February Freezeout

Have been hearing from people saying they were not able to watch the entire UConn/Pitt game last night. The deal with ESPN's February Frenzy is to provide coverage of multiple games but to remain with the game of interest in the home market. What that means is all of Connecticut (except lower Fairfield County which is seen a part of the New York market) should have stayed with the UConn game. Just out of curiousity, I replayed the game which I taped and ESPN did not return to the UConn game after halftime. That is not supposed to be how it works.

If anybody else dealt with this issue, feel free to e-mail me with your town and cable or satellite provider and I will attempt to get a clarification from ESPN. You can e-mail me at

Changing gears, congratulations to Tiffany Hayes who was named the Big East Freshman of the Week for the second time this season.

Finally, there should be no cause for concern regarding my report that while at the game last night that Laguna Hills (Calif.) junior Lauren Engeln had yet to receive a scholarship offer. The fact that she was encouraged to come out to Connecticut should be a pretty good indication that the UConn staff likes her. Sometimes people can be in a rush in the recruiting process which can occasionally prove to be self-defeating (the names Elena Delle Donne and Kelsey Bone come to mind). UConn has a way of letting those recruits they like know where they stand and if Engeln is somebody the Huskies would like to see play in Storrs, a scholarship offer will be coming her way when the time is appropriate. Expect more to follow on this subject in the coming weeks and months.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Race for second place

Yes I know there are four games remaining for defending champion UConn and am aware of all the cliches about it never being over until it is over, taking one game at a time yada, yada, yada. But I am declaring the race for the Big East regular-season title over.

UConn's 95-42 win over Pittsburgh Sunday gives the Huskies a two-game lead in the loss column over Louisville and Villanova, two teams who just happen to play on Saturday. Of UConn's remaining games, two are against Providence and Seton Hall who currently sit tied for 13th and 16th respectively in the Big East race. Sure, strange things can happen in sports but losing to either Providence or Seton Hall would fall more under the surreal than the surprising category so barring an upset of stunning proportions, UConn would need to lose at home to Villanova and Notre Dame and still would finish no worse than tied for the top spot in the final conference standings.

UConn's 23-3 run to open the game was a showcase of utter dominance as a talented Pittsburgh team had no chance of scoring - or so it seemed. Shavonte Zellous, the Big East's leading scorer, had 16 points (although she needed 16 shots to get the points) in the game but the Panthers' starting center Pepper Wilson and top reserve Taneisha Harrison were a combined 0 for 18 from the floor and outside of Zellous, the rest of the Pitt players were 11 for 52 from the field. That is not a winning formula.

UConn has beaten then No. 4 Oklahoma by 28 points, then No. 2 North Carolina by 30 and then No. 6 Louisville by 28. Now the Huskies dismantled No. 19 Pittsburgh by 53. Wow.

Perhaps the most noteworthy part of the day was the shock on the face of UConn senior guard Renee Montgomery when she realized that the "Huskies of Honor" banner being unveiled before the game was for her.

Montgomery's teammate and roommate Kalana Greene managed to keep it a secret for a couple of weeks, no easy feat considering Montgomery's ability to find out everything that goes on with the UConn program.

"Renee is one of the nosiest people, you can't keep anything from her because she has her nose everywhere so do keep anything from her from that amount of time ...," Greene said with a laugh.

Auriemma said that Maya Moore, eligible to be inducted into the "Huskies of Honor" by being named a first-team All-American last season, will also be honored when she is a senior. If Tina Charles earns first-team All-American honors this season, she would likely receive the same treatment next season, her senior campaign.

The crowd of 9,987 was the largest to see a women's game at Gampel Pavilion this season. Among those in the stands were Laguna Hills (Calif.) junior wing Lauren Engeln and her father Tim, who both certainly seemed to enjoy the show. Engeln, wearing a pink and white UConn t-shirt, had an omnipresent smile on her face pretty much from tip-off until she made it to court level after the game. She seemed especially captivated by the halftime show featuring frisbee-catching dogs. I heard from a recruiting source after the game that the Engelns were very impressed by their unofficial visit. I was surprised to hear that at least by game's end, Engeln had yet to be offered a scholarship considering how impressed the UConn staff is reported to be with her. The Engelns were set to go out to dinner with the UConn coaches after the game but I did not receive any word on whether a scholarship offer was forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Engeln previously visited Cal and Vanderbilt and came away very impressed with those campus visits as well so I am told. She is drawing interest from all over the Pac-10 but doesn't seem adverse to leaving the west coast. While I wouldn't read too much into it, I did find out that talented Manchester High freshman guard Ashley Perez was sitting about two rows behind the Engelns with her mom so perhaps she is a player to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Back to Engeln, the California Interscholastic Federation basketball pairings were announced on Sunday. Engeln's Laguna Hills team is seeded eighth in Division II-A of the CIF's Southern Section. Laguna Hills will host South Torrance Thursday night in the first round. If Laguna Hills wins its first two games and top-seeded Matei Dei of Santa Ana wins its second-round game after receiving a first-round bye, the quarterfinals will feature a showdown of California phenoms who have taken unofficial visits to UConn this season. Matei Dei is led by dynamic sophomore wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. If that matchup takes place, it would be played on Feb. 25. UConn would likely not have practice that day since it is the day after the home game against Villanova. You'd have to wonder which member of the UConn staff would be headed for California to check that game out?

One last bit of info even if it is non-UConn related, I heard that Connecticut Sun guard Erin Phillips is recovering nicely from her recent knee surgery. She had a minor procedure to clean out some scar tissue from her previous operation and reportedly said she feels better than she has in about two years. That is good news for Sun fans since Phillips figures to play a prominent role in the Sun's quest for that elusive first WNBA championship.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Center of attention

It is a pretty safe bet that Pittsburgh senior guard Shavonte Zellous will not be lonely on Sunday.

UConn has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's top scorer - particularly in Big East play - and figure to shadow Zellous, the Big East's leading scorer.

For those who are statistical mavens, it should be noted that the only leading scorer of a Big East team to top their season scoring average and shooting percentage against the Huskies. Karee Houlette of Georgetown is the player in question, hitting 7 of 12 shots en route to 20 points.

Here's a look at how the rest of the top offensive options have fared versus the Huskies.

Kahla Roudebush, Cincinnati 16.2 points 3-12 7 points
Deirdre Naughton, DePaul 15.8 points 7-21 21 points
Karee Houlette, Georgetown 10.2 points 7-12 20 points
Angel McCoughtry, Louisville 22.4 8-19 24 points
Angel Robinson, Marquette 14.0 points 0-11 1 point
Epiphanny Prince, Rutgers 20.5 points 8-21 19 points
Shantia Grace, South Florida 14.9 points 2-12 8 points
Monique McLean, St. John's 17.3 points 1-12 3 points
Erica Morrow, Syracuse 16.3 points 2-8 8 points
Liz Repella, West Virginia 15.4 points 6-17 15 points
Takisha Granberry, West Virginia 15.4 points 6-14 17 points

As previously mentioned, Laguna Hills (Calif.) junior wing Lauren Engeln is in town along with her father for an unofficial visit. The Engelns figure to have prime seats behind the UConn bench Sunday.

There will be plenty of off-court things going on Sunday.

UConn's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will hold a book drive with fans invited to drop off children's books which will be donated to the Burgdorf Health Center in Hartford.

Also, UConn will unveil the newest addition to its Huskies of Honor before the game.

UConn will be wearing uniforms with pink included as part of "February Frenzy." The annual promotion used to raise money for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund. Three UConn No. 1 jerseys will go up on an online auction tonight beginning at 6 p.m. at and will be open for bidding until Saturday.

Then there is the reunion between UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph and the Panthers. Ralph spent five seasons at a Pittsburgh assistant before returning to her alma mater to coach when Tonya Cardoza took the head job at Temple.

"Obviously I am excited to see them, they are like family to me and excited to see everybody but once the beginning of the game happens, it is just a game," Ralph said. "I work here, I love it here and it is where my heart is. This is the big game for us, a big game in the conference for us and we have to win it."

Zellous and her teammates are anxious to see Ralph or as they called her "Coach Shea."

"We miss her so much since she left," Zellous said. "We keep in touch with her even though she is gone, she will always be our Coach Shea and we will always love her. There are going to be a lot of emotions going through us and her because we know she misses us just like we miss her. She had a big role (in Zellous' development) because she was one who contacted me all the time and told me 'get you behind in the gym, you need to do this or do that.' Coach Shea has a big role because she really helped me develop my game."

I asked Ralph if all the players called her Coach Shea and where that came from. She said they wanted to call her "Coach something" and she didn't want to be called "Coach Ralph." I asked her what UConn players call her and she said "Shea."

So much for formalities in Husky Nation, I guess.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jekabsone signed

It took a few weeks longer than anticipated, but the Connecticut Sun officially came to terms to Anete Jekabsone-Zogota.

Although her commitments overseas will likely keep her from joining the Sun until late June, the aigning of the 2007 FIBA Europe Player of the Year should be a perfect fit for the Sun who have been in the market for a light's out shooter. That is exactly what the 5-foot-9, 25-year-old Jekabsone-Zogota is.

She was the fourth-leading scorer in the 2008 Olympics and finished second in assists for Latvia.

In a pre-Olympic tour, Jekabsone-Zogota was 5 for 5 from 3-point range en route to scoring 34 points in Latvia's 76-69 upset of Russia. She followed that with 24 points, three assists and five steals in an 84-74 loss to the U.S. Her performance did not go unnoticed by Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, an assistant coach on the U.S. team.

Reality check

In the last couple of years I have had UConn women's basketball fans tell me that it is a tragedy that:
Elena Delle Donne opted to withdraw from UConn summer school and matriculate at Delaware rather than be a member of UConn's women's basketball team
UConn and Tennessee do not play each other in the regular season
Caroline Doty's promising freshman season ended when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament
Kelsey Bone will enroll at a school other than UConn.

To me, there is nothing tragic about any of those circumstances. Certainly Doty suffering yet another tear of her ACL is very sad and unfortunate. However, when I think of a tragedy, I think of Continental Flight 3407 which crashed into a house about five miles short of the Buffalo airport runway killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground.

Few things in this world cause me to be more reflective than a plane crash. Perhaps it is because I fly often (I boarded 12 flights between Jan. 5 and Feb. 8) and somewhere subconsciously I know that on any flight, true tragedy could strike without warning. But more likely it is because I know all too well the emotional scars that families and friends of the victims of Flight 3407 will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. My parents died on a crash of Delta Flight 923 back in 1973. It wasn't even supposed to be their flight but with their original flight was cancelled, the decision was made to make an unscheduled stop in Manchester, N.H. and take them to Boston's Logan Airport. A total of 89 people including New Hampshire's Attorney General died on the flight. Just as newspaper and television reports did back in 1973, names of the "prominent" victims are starting to emerge from the most recent airline tragedy. For me, every victim is "prominent." They are prominent to their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, co-workers and neighbors, husbands and wives.

The 44 passengers boarded that flight yesterday for different reasons, most were returning home, I would guess. I read of one victim flying in for a reunion of women's hockey players, there were bandmates who played for Chuck Mangione and some were likely going there on business. I had to fight back tears when I read of the widow from Stamford who lost her husband on 9/11. She was on that flight on Thursday and that just doesn't seem fair to me that one family should have to endure two such tragedies. It reminded me of a co-worker who had both his father and father in law die a week apart.

Had the passengers clicked another button on a computer screen perhaps they would have been on a different flight on a different airline and been welcomed home by their loved ones. Maybe they would have complained about having to pay $15 to check bags or terrible traffic getting to the airport or long security lines like each and every one of us have done. But circumstances out of their control conspired to bring a premature end to their lives. That is truly a tragedy.

I wrote this blog not to bring attention to my circumstances or ask for any sympathy. I have made peace with what happened and outside of refusing to board a Delta flight out of respect to my parents' memory, I step into an airplane without any feelings of doom or gloom and do not feel as if the world wronged me or my family. I do get a little perturbed when Southwest Airline flight attendants make jokes about water landings and any potential mishaps but I'm pretty sure I am justified in being annoyed by their making light of a subject that is not humorous in any way in my opinion.

I'd like to say that I know exactly what the victims of Flight 3407 are going through. I do not. My sisters and brother all dealt with the same tragic loss of our parents in completely different ways. Each person who had a loved one on doomed flight 3407 will be impacted in their own unique way.

My heart goes out to the victims and those whose lives will forever be changed because of Thursday's unfortunate chain of events. I am sure that if UConn reaches the Final Four, I will be a tad bit melancholy when I board my flight for St. Louis. Back in 2001, when I took my first flight following 9/11 I couldn't help but think about all those people who lost their lives and what it must have been like making their way to their seats and waiting for their plane to take off. I feel certain many of those same emotions will return in a couple of months.

If my circumstances have taught me anything it is that I realize that you can never know what life has in store for you. My mother used to joke when people asked her why she would not quite smoking that "I could walk across the street and be hit by a bus." In a way that is exactly what happened to her. However, if one person who reads this takes the time to realize what a true tragedy is and how fleeting life can be, it will be an entry well worth writing. If nothing else, maybe I will never get another e-mail saying how "tragic" it is that a 19 or 20 year old basketball prodigy tore her ACL. But in the big scheme of things, I will not consider receiving such an e-mail as a tragedy. I have a harrowing understanding of the true meaning of what a tragedy is. Unfortunately, so do those who had loved ones on Flight 3407.

Johnson visiting next month

When I first wrote about the potential dates that some of the UConn recruiting targets could make unofficial visits, I mentioned the possibility that Laguna Hills wing Lauren Engeln and Montini Catholic forward Michala Johnson could be on campus at the same time because of the break between the end of the regular season and beginning of their respective state tournaments.

Well, that is not going to be the case. As my previous entry stated, Engeln is planning a visit to Storrs this weekend. I spoke to Montini Catholic coach Jason Nichols earlier today and he said Johnson is planning a visit to UConn on Mar. 16-17.

Johnson, who is out for the search with knee injury, had surgery to repair her torn anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 31 and Nichols said she is progressing nicely although don't expect to see her on the court until she begins preparations for her senior season. Nichols said Johnson is hoping to make visits to Maryland, Penn State, Georgia and Vanderbilt somewhere from March to May although there is a chance the process of making campus visits could extend into June. Illinois, Purdue and DePaul are still on Johnson's list according to Nichols although they are all close enough to drive in for a campus visit.

Johnson was in attendance at Saturday's UConn/Marquette game and by all accounts, enjoyed herself.

"I asked her what she thought and she said 'they are really good,'" Nichols said. "I asked her if she thought she could play for them and she said 'I think I could beat all of them down the floor.'"

Nichols didn't disagree with his athletic star who is considered to be one of the most athletic posts available in the high school Class of 2010.

I was asked why Engeln wasn't rated in the list of top 60 players in the Class of '10. I have no say in the process so can not offer a reasoning for it but if the scuttlebutt surrounding the big-time programs intrigued by Engeln proves to be true, something tells me she will be soaring up the list. I believe Arkansas freshman Ciera Ricketts wasn't ranked among the top 100 players by Hoopgurlz last years. Ricketts is leading the Southeastern Conference in steals, is ninth in scoring, 14th in rebounds and sixth in assists so I wonder if those entrusted in ranking the best high school players wouldn't mind a second chance to rank Ricketts a tad bit higher? Personally, if I were a UConn fan I would be more interested in where Engeln ranks in the Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey database than I would be on hoopgurlz, blue star or whatever other service attempts to pass themselves off as experts. I wonder where Angel McCoughtry or Shavonte Zellous were ranked coming out of high school? I would guess there were not that highly touted but since both are expected to be first round picks in April's WNBA draft, I don't think their lack of notoriety coming into college held them back too much. I do know that the UConn coaching staff is extremely high on Engeln. If that was not the case, she would not be flying in with her dad to check out the UConn campus or attend Sunday's Pittsburgh game.

Remaining on the recruiting subject, the WBCA named the 20 players who will play in the annual high school All-American game at the Final Four. Kelly Faris, the only high school senior to sign with the Huskies, was not selected although seven players who were on UConn's recruiting radar at one point in the process (Kelsey Bone, Skylar Diggins, Krista Gross, Jasmine Hassell, Tayler Hill, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Taber Spani) have been selected. The WBCA game will be played on April 4 in St. Louis.

The 24 players who made the cut for the McDonald's All-American game will be revealed on Wednesday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Faris is in the running to be invited to play in that game, set for April 1 in Miami.

Speaking of Faris, she will lead her Heritage Christian of Indianapolis squad against host Triton Central tonight in the first game of Heritage Christian's quest for a fourth straight Indiana 2A title.

Samarie Walker, one of two juniors who have orally committed to UConn, and her Chaminade Julienne of Dayton, Ohio squad will play its first postseason game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against West Carrollton at Trotwood-Madison High School.

One last item, for those fans hyperventilating over Tina Charles' offensive struggles in games against Marquette and Rutgers, it should be noted that back in the 2001-02 season when UConn finished 39-0 and had what some think was the best season in women's college basketball history, Asjha Jones failed to score in double figures in three of the first four games, Swin Cash was 12 for 34 from the field in games against Notre Dame, Boston College and Virginia Tech in a span of nine days in January of 2002 and Bird was 9 for 23 in a three-game stretch late in that season. Bird and Cash have Olympic gold medals and WNBA titles on their post-UConn resumes and Jones is one of the top players in the WNBA. Just thought I might try to offer a little bit of perspective in those wishing to overreact about Charles' recent off-kilter efforts.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Englen visit a go

Just got off the phone with Laguna Hills (Calif.) High coach Jim Martin who said that his star junior guard Lauren Engeln is planning to be at UConn this weekend for an unofficial visit.

The 5-foot-11 Engeln had originally hoped to be on campus when the Huskies played Oklahoma on Nov. 30 but those plans fell through. Martin said she is expected to be in attendance when UConn plays Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Engeln, the Pacific Coast League MVP and Division IV-AA Player of Year as a sophomore, is averaging 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.1 steals for Laguna Hills, which finished the regular season with a 19-5 record. The pairings for the state tournament will be announced on Sunday and Martin said Laguna Hills will open postseason play a week from today. With 1,409 career points, Engeln could reach the 1,500-point plateau depending on how far Laguna Hills advances in the state tournament. UConn is hoping to have Michala Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward from Montini Catholic High in Lombard, Ill. and Bria Hartley, a guard at North Babylon (N.Y.) who has been listed anywhere from 5-7 to 5-10, to make visits but I haven't heard anything concrete about when those visits will occur.

Now for a bit of news on one of UConn's former great - Nykesha Sales didn't waste much time making an impact for the ZVVK USK Prague team. Signed recently to fill the roster spot formerly held by ex-Husky Swin Cash, Sales did not score in her first game but in game No. 2 she had 22 points off the bench in Wednesday's 115-71 win over Valosun Brno.

Evanthia Maltsi and Lindsay Whalen, Sales' former teammates with the Connecticut Sun, had 24 and 10 points respectively for ZVVK USK Prague.

St. John's/UConn: The day after

My first thought after reflecting on UConn's 77-64 win at St. John's last night is why can't more teams play the Huskies like St. John's did.

The Red Storm's intensity level never wavered even when they were staring a 20-point deficit in the face in the second half. Led by former Trinity Catholic star Da'Shena Stevens, St. John's came back to cut the lead to seven points before the Huskies' Big Three of Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles took over. The game bore an uncanny resemblence to the Georgetown game although the Red Storm are a more talented team than the Hoyas in my opinion making the second half compelling, something that can't be said too often about UConn games this season.

"It's not an easy game, it was hot, we had to play guys a lot because we weren't getting much off the bench," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It was good to be in that situation, we are not in that situation enough."

Both Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery broke out of shooting slumps. Charles was 3 of 13 from the floor against Rutgers and Marquette but she did her first four shots and finished with 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Montgomery was 4 for 25 from 3-point range in the last four games before going 3 for 6 from behind the arc against the Red Storm. Maya Moore was her typical solid self, finishing 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks in 39 minutes.

Kaili McLaren played just five minutes - all in the second half and missed her only two shots. She was held out because of the matchup and not because of a flare up of the tendonitis in her knee.

"I don't think there was anybody on the floor that I think she can guard," Auriemma said. "They are playing with five guards sometimes so I didn't think there were any good matchups we could find for her. We didn't want to play zone."

While its leading scorer Monique McLean missed her final 11 shots, St. John's was buoyed by the best game of Stevens' young career. Stevens finished with a career-high 27 points on 11 of 17 shooting and has nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks. When she came out of the game with 52 seconds to play, a bemused Red Storm coach Kim Barnes Arico was waiting for her.

So what did the coach and pupil talk about before Stevens took a seat on the bench.

"I said 'are you kidding me? Where has this been all year?'" Barnes Arico said. "She has been doing fine, especially early but with the length of the season and the physical play it kind of wears on her at times but after seeing her (Wednesday), I don't know how she can't be (Big East) Freshman of the Year. She went against the best team with a freshman named Tiffany Hayes and she did a great job, dominated."

The 27 points are the most scored by an opposing player this season, topping the 26 Tyra Grant of Penn State dropped on the Huskies on Dec. 14. That also happens to be the last time UConn played a game in New York.

I went through all the box scores dating back to the 1997-98 season and could not find a freshman who scored as many points against the Huskies as Stevens did. In the last 12 seasons, 15 players have scored at least 27 points. The last time it happened came courtesy of DePaul's Allie Quigley's 27 points on Mar. 1, 2008. WNBA first-round picks Betty Lennox (Louisiana Tech), Gwen Jackson (Tennessee) and Tasha Humphrey (Georgia) are on the list as are Louisville's Angel McCoughtry, the likely No. 1 overall pick in April's draft and Rutgers' Epiphanny Prince, who figures to be taken in the first round in the 2010 draft. Amy O'Brien of Holy Cross tops the list with 38 points in a Nov. 12, 1999 game against the Huskies.

"I just wanted to come out and play hard and contribute in any way," Stevens said. "My shots were falling in the beginning and I wanted to come out and play a full, complete game. I came in here to play against the best, this is what I came here for and what I prepared for. Knowing they are a great team and the No. 1 team in the nation, you always have to come out and play hard. I tried to be aggressive and stay with it, whether it was scoring, rebounding or finding one of my teammates and that was what I did tonight."

UConn commit Samarie Walker wrapped up the regular season of her junior campaign at Chaminade Julienne in Dayton, Ohio. Walker had 14 points in a 57-25 win over Fenwick. The win allowed Chaminade Julienne (14-6) to clinch a share of the GGCL Grey North with Alter as both teams finished 9-1 in league play.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crowded rookie field

Unlike past seasons, there is no clear-cut favorite emerging to be named Big East Freshman of the Year. Two of the leading candidates are going head to head tonight when Tiffany Hayes and UConn face former Trinity Catholic star Da'Shena Stevens and St. John's.

It is an interesting race.

In all games, Stevens is the top freshman scorer in the Big East and second in rebounding. Keisha Hampton of DePaul is the No. 1 scorer in Big East games. Hayes has the added advantage of playing a key roll for a UConn team running away with the regular-season title. Pittsburgh's Pepper Wilson, Shanasa Sanders of Cincinnati, Notre Dame's Natalie Novosel, Adria Crawford of Georgetown, Marquette's Jessica Pachko, Khadijah Rushdan of Rutgers and Seton Hall's Kandice Green are other players who could figure into the equation.

While there are so many factors going into picking the Freshman of the Year or any vote that involves balloting of 16 head coaches, I decided to break down the race from the statistical end.

What I did was assign point totals based on where the players rank among the freshmen in the league. I broke it down both in overall and conference only games and ranked the players from 1-10 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-pointers with the conference leader getting 10 points, No. 2 getting 9, the No. 3 player being assigned 8 all the way to No. 10 getting one point. Here's what I came with.

Player, Team Conference-All Games-Total
Da'Shena Stevens, St. John's 37 41 78
Keisha Hampton, DePaul 30.5 37 67.5
Tiffany Hayes, UConn 39 27 66
Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers 39 10 49
Pepper Wilson, Pittsburgh 20 22 42
Shanasa Sanders, Cincinnati 26.5 14 40.5
Adria Crawford, Georgetown 11 20 31
Caroline Doty, Connecticut 15 16 31
Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame 20 10 30
Jessica Pachko, Marquette 22.5 7 29.5
Kandice Green, Seton Hall 7 17 24
Erica Solomon, Notre Dame 5 14 19

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A bunch a this, a little bit of that

With my e-mail folders filling up by the hour, it is time for a bit for one of those jack of all trade entries so I can keep my e-mail folders nice and tidy.

Let's start with a look to the future. As I'm sure you've heard, Jessica McCormack won't be making her debut with the Huskies until December so there's no reason to fret about news out of New Zealand that surgery on the area around her Achilles tendon has been pushed back a week until the 6-foot-5 McCormack is feeling better.

By returning home for the surgery and withdrawing from school, she will not be eligible until the fall semester is completed.

McCormack's future UConn teammate Kelly Faris will lead her Heritage Christian team in its first game in a quest for a fourth straight Indiana 2A title. Heritage Christian received a first-round bye in the Triton Central regional and will face the host school on Friday at 6 p.m. as Triton Central opened with a 57-41 win over Indian Creek on Tuesday. If Heritage Christian wins, it would be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the championship game to move to the next step of the state playoffs.

Assistant coach Jamelle Elliott was not at UConn's practice on Monday. The belief was that she was checking out the North Babylon/Copiague game to check out North Babylon guard Bria Hartley. The game report mentioned that coaches from Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Virginia and Pittsburgh were on hand as Hartley's 36 points (10 in the final 1:50) led North Babylon to a 72-56 win over Copiague.

Now for the previously-mentioned housecleaning.

Sunday's UConn/Pittsburgh game will be part of ESPN's annual "February Frenzy."

During its broadcasts on Sunday and Monday, ESPN will be asking for donations to support the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund of The V Foundation with the aid of a television commercial featuring Yow, the long-time North Carolina State who lost her two decade long battle with cancer last month.

ESPN Classic will show the 1998 East Region final where Yow led NC State to its only Final Four appearance with a win over Connecticut. The game will be shown at 3:30 p.m. on Monday.

ESPN recently announced that almost $700,000 during its recent Jimmy V week featuring special V-related content across ESPN platforms to drive awareness of and donations to The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

The week began Dec. 3 with a replay of former North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPYs re-aired simultaneously across numerous ESPN networks and the ABC SuperSign in Times Square. Jimmy V Week concluded with the Jimmy V Women’s Basketball Classic Dec. 8 and the Men’s Jimmy V Basketball Classic doubleheader on Dec. 9.

The Connecticut Sun is inviting Connecticut students in grades 4-8 to participate in the Inaugural Women in Sports Essay Contest in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. All Connecticut students that are interested in participating in the project may submit a one-page essay answering the question: Who is your favorite female athlete and why? All essays must be received by the Connecticut Sun front office by Friday, April 10th. Sun players, along with
members of the organization, will judge the essays.

Entry forms are now available on One grand prize winner will receive an exclusive school assembly with Sun mascot Blaze and/or players to recognize the winning student, essay and school. The winner will be recognized at a Sun pre-season game, receive
four tickets to a pre-season game and have their essay posted on Five runners-up, one from each grade level, will receive four tickets to a Sun pre-season game and their essays posted on The first 50 entrants in the contest will receive a special gift from the Connecticut Sun as well as two complimentary tickets
to a Sun pre-season game.

Mercy High of Middletown has been selected as the Connecticut Sun High School Girls' Basketball Team of the Week for the week of February 2-8.

Mercy improved to 11-6 with a 58-49 victory on the road at fifth-ranked Hillhouse on February 5, getting 19 points from Bianca Simmons and 18 points from Villanova signee Rachel Roberts. Amanda Hamilton chipped in with 10 rebounds. Earlier in the week, Roberts had 19 points and eight rebounds while Amber Bepko had 12 points as the Tigers beat West Haven 63-33.

Monday, February 09, 2009

More on McCormack

As expected, the subject of Jessica McCormack's impending surgery was a popular topic of conversation when UConn coach Geno Auriemma met with the media following Monday's practice. Not much to report about the actual surgery other than it is supposed to take place in her native New Zealand on Wednesday.

Auriemma did say that by her leaving school, she would not be eligible until the Fall, 2009 is over.

Also, Kalana Greene is still pondering her decision to apply for a fifth year of eligibility but no decision has been made yet. Don't be surprised if it happens sooner rather than later.

Taurasi, Whalen and Whitmore All-Stars

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi and Connecticut Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen were among the 24 players selected to compete in the EuroLeague All-Star Game on Mar. 8 in Paris.

Taurasi, who plays for two-time defending EuroLeague champion Spartak Moscow Region, will start for the Rest of the World team while Whalen of ZVVK USK Prague and Whitmore of Gambrinius will be reserves on that team.

Former UConn star Sue Bird and her Spartak Moscow Region teammate Sylvia Fowles were among the top five vote-getters in the fan balloting for the Rest of the World team but since a maximum of two players per team are allowed to play in the game, Bird and Fowles were left off the team as Taurasi and Lauren Jackson will represent Spartak.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cash leaving, Sales coming

Just ran across a news item about some roster changes on the ZVVK USK Prague team which might be of interest to UConn fans.

Swin Cash, bothered by a back injury, has left the team to return to the U.S. while Nykesha Sales has joined the team.

Sales made her debut with the team on Friday. Sales played 14:59, missed all three of her shots and did not score but did have two rebounds in an 83-67 win over Kara Trutnov. Evanthia Maltsi, another former Connecticut Sun product, led the way with 30 points while the Sun's Lindsay Whalen added 10 points.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hayes, Ellis in

The starting lineups were just posted on the big board and as expected, freshman Tiffany Hayes will be making her second straight start.

An interesting stat with Hayes joining Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery, Tina Charles and Kalana Greene, UConn's starting five averages 68.3 points per game. Marquette, as a team, averages 68.4 points.

Krystal Ellis, who will be presented a ball in a couple of minutes in honor of her becoming Marquette's all-time leading scorer, is starting for the Golden Eagles. Ellis, who comes into the game with 1,824 career points, came off the bench in the last two games. She replaces Tatiyiana McMorris in the starting five.

Some breathing room

Raise your hand if you saw West Virginia's win over Louisville coming? Yeah right.

I honestly believed UConn was going to have to run the table to win the Big East regular-season title outright. That was until West Virginia 79, Louisville 70. Yes, West Virginia the last place team in the Big East went to Louisville and won with each. Wow. That result gives UConn a little wiggle room in its quest for the conference title. If win beats Marquette tonight, the Huskies will lead its closest pursuers by two games in the loss column.

I guess Takisha Granberry, West Virginia's senior guard, is OK after going off for 27 against the Cardinals. On the most recent Big East coach's conference call, West Virginia coach Mike Carey said he feared Granberry would be sidelined with a torn meniscus.

Rutgers managed a 60-47 overtime win over Georgetown even though the Scarlet Knights had 39 (yes that's right 39) points at the end of regulation. The good news for Rutgers outside the victory was the performance from senior Kia Vaughn who had 16 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks in 40 minutes. But a 39-39 going into halftime? Was the shot-clock broken or what?