Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kay Yow golf classic coming up

Chances are if you are looking for a prominent women's college basketball coach the weekend of Sept. 13-14, they will be in Greensboro, N.C. taking part in the second annual Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund 4Kay Golf Classic.

UConn's Geno Auriemma is among the impressive list of coaches who are scheduled to be in attendance. Yes, Tennessee's Pat Summitt will also be there so feel free to insert the overused "only Kay Yow could get Geno and Pat together" schtick is you are so obliged.

On a more serious note, this is a great cause and I can think of no greater legacy for a class person like Kay Yow than to have her name used to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for cancer research. For the coaches, I'm sure it will be a welcome diversion from their hectic schedules traveling from state to state for home visits with recruits. The quiet period is set to end on Sept. 6 so from Sept. 7-Oct. 14, college coaches will be making the rounds looking to either seal the deal with uncommitted prospects, reconnect with those who have already committed or zero in on some new candidates.

Yow will also be inducted posthumously into the FIBA Hall of Fame on Sept. 20 in Katowice, Poland.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

More info on non-conference schedule

With the Atlantic Coast Conference releasing its 2009-10 women's basketball schedule on Friday, three more dates of UConn's non-conference schedule are now confirmed.

UConn will play at Florida State on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m., host North Carolina on Jan. 9 at 4 p.m. and play at Duke on Jan. 18 (Martin Luther King Day) at 7 p.m.

The only non-conference dates yet to be confirmed is the one at Holy Cross. The Holy Cross is expected to fall between the Nov. 17 game against Texas and WBCA Classic which begins on Nov. 27.

Here is the non-conference schedule
Nov. 14 Northeastern
Nov. 17 Texas (at San Antonio) ESPN2
TBA at Holy Cross
Nov. 27-29 WBCA Classic at Storrs
Nov. 27 Hofstra, 7;30 p.m.
Nov. 28 Richmond, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 Clemson, 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 3 Vermont
Dec. 10 Hartford
Dec. 20 Iona
Dec. 23 Stanford
Dec. 28 at Florida State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9 North Carolina, 4 p.m. CBS
Jan. 18 at Duke, 7 p.m. ESPN2
Feb. 15 at Oklahoma

The complete schedule is expected to come out around Labor Day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner with the Huskies

Tickets went on sale for UConn's celebration dinner in honor of the national championship squad. The event will be held at the Aqua Turf in Southington on Sept. 22 beginning at 6 p.m. with a social hour followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the social hour, dinner and the night's festivities are $75 while those wanting to attend a special reception with the UConn coaches and players beginning at 5:30 p.m., the cost is $175. That will get you into the social hour, dinner and let you partake in all the night's festivities.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another scheduling tid bit

Hartford released its non-conference schedule and the UConn game is Dec. 10 at the XL Center.

It's a pretty good slate beginning with a Nov. 14 home game against Quinnipiac. Three days later the Hawks host 2009 NCAA finalist Louisville. Former UConn assistant Tonya Cardoza will bring her Temple team to West Hartford on Nov. 28.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sun's biggest loss

Considering that much of my time is spent on reporting on the winners and losers of women's basketball games, it is easy to get caught up into the trap of referring to devastating losses or heartbreaking defeats.

With all due respect to UConn and the Connecticut Sun, the reminder of what is truly important came in form of an e-mail yesterday informing me and other members of the media that the wife of Connecticut Sun coach Scott Hawk passed away at the age of 52. Forget UConn's losses to LSU in the 2007 regional finals or to Stanford in the 2008 national semifinals or even the knee injuries suffered by Mel Thomas, Kalana Greene and Caroline Doty in the last couple of years, there could be no more devastating a loss than the one the Hawk family suffered.

Suddenly Scott Hawk, a good coach and a better man, is a widow and his children are without a mother. Age 52 is just too young an age to referring to somebody in the past tense. Somehow, the players will take to the court tonight against Detroit, a key game for both teams in the tightly-contested Eastern Conference playoff race. Unfortunately, my duties as the lead writer for the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament will prevent me for being there but knowing with high esteem with which the Connecticut Sun players hold Scott Hawk, I expect they will do everything in their power to win the game in honor of the Hawk family. If they don't, you will not be reading in this blog what a "devastating loss" the Connecticut Sun suffered.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

WBCA Classic schedule released

It's been known for some time that UConn would be playing Hofstra, Richmond and Clemson in the WBCA Classic from Nov. 27-29 at Gampel Pavilion.

Here are more details, the UConn/Hofstra game is on Nov. 27 at 7 p.m., the Huskies' game against Richmond is Nov. 28 (7:30 p.m.) with the UConn/Clemson contest on the 29th at 4:30 p.m..

Here's the complete schedule

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fighting Irish coming to town

The 2009-10 Big East schedule is not out yet but thanks to ESPN sending out an e-mail about its planned stops for the Primetime game of the week broadcast, it has been confirmed that Notre Dame will play at UConn at Gampel Pavilion on Jan. 16.

It is the first time the College Game Day/Primetime Game of the Week broadcasts have originated at the women's game. Unfortunately for those opposed to late starts, the game will tip off a few minutes after 9 p.m. Here's the schedule

Date Site Game (All 9 p.m. ET on ESPN unless otherwise noted)
Jan. 16 Storrs, Conn. Notre Dame at Connecticut (women’s)
Jan. 23 Clemson, S.C. Duke at Clemson
Jan. 30 Manhattan, Kan. Kansas at Kansas State (6 p.m. show and game at 7 p.m.)
Feb. 6 Champaign, Ill. Michigan State at Illinois
Feb. 13 Lexington, Ky. Tennessee at Kentucky
Feb. 20 Seattle, Wash. UCLA at Washington
Feb. 27 Syracuse, N.Y. Villanova at Syracuse
Mar. 6 Durham, N.C. North Carolina at Duke

Staying on the ESPN theme, spare me the e-mails about how UConn has been disrespected because the players who have previously committed to UConn have dropped in the latest ESPN/Hoopgurlz rankings. Anybody who has read this blog should know by now that there are few things which cause me to yawn with more frequency than rankings done by internet "experts." Dating back to the days when UConn signed Ashley Battle and Jessica Moore, I offered the same bit of advice - I value the recruiting rankings done by Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey over any of the recruiting services. Are the UConn coaches right 100 percent of the time? No they are not. But with six national championships, three undefeated seasons, five WNBA All-Stars, two of the eight "core" players on the U.S. Senior National Team with other ex-Huskies strong candidates to join Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi on the 2012 Olympic team, I think they are doing OK in the player evaluation department. If you don't approve of the Hoopgurlz rankings, don't visit the site but if you are expecting me to call them to task and do your dirty work for you, don't bother. It is so far down on my list of priorities in terms of covering the UConn program that it is laughable - as is the reaction to these rankings.

In other scheduling news, Vermont has released its non-conference schedule and the UConn game will be on Dec. 2. This is what I know for sure regarding the non-conference portion of the 2009-10 schedule.

Nov. 14 vs. Northeastern
Nov. 17 vs. Texas (at San Antonio)
Dec. 3 vs. Vermont
Dec. 20 vs. Iona
Dec. 23 vs. Stanford
Feb. 15 at Oklahoma

UConn will also play Hartford (at the XL Center), North Carolina and will face Clemson, Hofstra and Richmond in the WBCA Classic. The road games are against Holy Cross, Florida State and Duke. One of those, likely Duke, will be on Jan. 18 (Martin Luther King Day) making it a pretty challenging three-day span from Jan. 16-18 for the Huskies.

For this interested in such things, both Florida State and Clemson have recaps of its recently completed trips to South Africa and Canada respectively..

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Big shoes to fill

Something tells me that over the next couple of weeks, Asjha Jones true value as a basketball player will finally begin to be appreciated as she shuts it down for two weeks to rest an ailing left Achilles tendon.

Dating back to her days at UConn, Jones was always overshadowed by more glamourous teammates. Much of that was due to her no-frills personality and the fact that she did not consistently force the issue offensively until her senior season. Still, when she graduated as a member of two national championship teams, she played in a then school record 144 games, had more than 1,500 points and nearly 800 rebounds. But Jones' value has and still does transcend her numbers. Whether it was setting a screen, boxing out her opponent, deflect a pass, she has an ability to do all the little things.

Now, even as she is one of the WNBA's premier players, she is still overlooked. I covered Jones her final three seasons in college and for much of her WNBA career and yet I have never received one e-mail about Jones whether it be good, bad or indifferent. I get e-mails on Bria Hartley on a regular basis who may or may not play at UConn and assorted other high school phenoms who may or may not suit up for the Huskies but not one for a player who epitomizes everything UConn stands far. Jones is talented, driven, successful, modest, classy and pretty much ignored by what is supposed to be the best women's basketball fan base out there. She was the seventh leading vote getter among Eastern Conference forwards and 15th among all Eastern Conference players. Some day somebody needs to explain that one to me.

With the Sun smack dab in a tight playoff race, the remaining 10 players will need to fill the void left by Jones' absence. While her 16.7 points will be missed, I think her biggest contributions come on a defensive end. Jones ability to lock up on the opposing team's top post player has allowed Sandrine Gruda more freedom on the defensive end. Lauren Jackson, arguably the world's top player, was 3 for 16 the last time she went up against Jones. In Seattle's seven-game losing streak to Connecticut, Jackson is shooting 39 percent from the floor. As a point of reference, Jackson's career field-goal percentage is 46.3. If you discard Jackson's first two seasons in the league, she is shooting 48.5 percent.

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault referenced Jones' success against Jackson. It isn't limited to WNBA showdowns. When Jones' UMMC Ekaterinburg's team upset Jackson and Spartak Moscow Region in the best of three game Russian championship series, Jackson was just 14 of 35 from the floor.

This brings me to my next point regarding Jones, shouldn't she be in the mix to be on the U.S. squad in next year's world championships. From head coach Geno Auriemma, women's national team director Carol Callan to selection committee member Renee Brown, the talk was of adding a post presence to complement the eight players named to the Senior National Team on Monday. No offense to UConn's Tina Charles or Stanford's Jayne Appel, who are outstanding players who will likely be in the running for national team berths for years to come, but considering that defending Jackson will be one of the United States squad's No. 1 objective, wouldn't a player like Jones with experience and success slowing down Jackson be a wise addition to the squad.

Auriemma doesn't pick the players he will coach but he is not shy at offering his opinions on any matter and there may not be a person who is a bigger supporter of Jones than Auriemma. When he was putting together what is considered by many to be the best recruiting class of all time, Auriemma's one directive he gave associate head coach Chris Dailey was "just make sure we get Asjha Jones."

Now for a bit of trivia, tomorrow's game will mark the first time since the team moved to Connecticut that the Sun will have no former UConn players to call upon in a regular season game. Nykesha Sales played every game from 2003-05. When Sales missed 12 games in 2006, Jones was in the lineup for each game. Jones missed four games and Sales eight in the 2007 games but they were never sidelined at the same time. Last year with five UConn players in the fold, not having an ex-Husky to call upon was never an issue.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Jones sidelined; Taurasi honored

Connecticut Sun forward Asjha Jones will miss two weeks to rest her ailing left Achilles tendon. Jones, who has missed just six of 259 games since entering the WNBA in 2002, is Connecticut's leading scorer (16.7 points per game) and is second in rebounding and assists.

The top candidates to replace Jones (Amber Holt, Tamika Whitmore, Kerry Gardin and Chante Black) have all started at least one game for Connecticut this season.

Jones' former UConn teammate Diana Taurasi, who averaged 25 points, 4 assists and 3.5 rebounds for the Phoenix Mercury, was named the WNBA's Western Conference Player of the Week.

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Bird, Taurasi selected

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, members of the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic gold-medal winning basketball teams, were among eight players named to the Senior National team.

Tamika Catchings, Cappie Pondexter, Seimone Augustus, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Kara Lawson - all former gold medalists - were also named to the team.

With a conference call in about four hours, more on the selection of the eight core players and likely an update on plans to hold a training camp in the fall will emerge.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Getting to the core of things

There will be a conference call tomorrow where USA Basketball will announce the players who figure to form the nucleus of the 2012 Olympic team. The key word here is "figure."

The bottom line is the powers that be in USA Basketball want to hold a training camp somewhere between the end of the WNBA season and the time where the players head overseas and tomorrow's announcement will be a beginning of that process.

Expect many familiar names including ex-UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi to top the list. However bear in mind that in 2006, 26 players appeared in games for the U.S. Senior National Team. None were named Lisa Leslie, who started all eight games in the 2008 Olympics. Of the top eight scorers on the team in 2006, only four were members of the Olympic squad two years later. What I'm trying to say is that the best players in 2009 and 2010 may not be the best players when the Olympic team takes the court in London in 2012. Exhibit A is Cappie Pondexter. The former Rutgers star was 23rd in minutes played in 22nd in points scored with the national team in 2006 but played a key, if a bit of an understated, role on the Olympic squad two years later.

The program has to start preparing for the 2010 World Championships at some point and that is what tomorrow afternoon's call (including UConn and U.S. Senior National team coach Geno Auriemma, USA Basketball executive director Jim Tooley and
women’s national team director Carol Callan and select national-team players) is about.

Auriemma didn't win six national titles by taking unnecessary risks with the health of his players so don't look for reigning national collegiate player of the year Maya Moore to be on the initial list nor should she be. Moore's time on the national team will come, whether that comes in 2010, 2011 or 2012 still remains to be seen. Her priorities should be on making sure she is 100 percent physically heading into her junior season and trust me, that is what she has been focusing on since returning to campus after not playing in the World University Games because of a sprained knee.

With Bird, Taurasi, Fowles (the leading scorer on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team who played 25 minutes in two games with the squad in 2006), Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter, Tamika Catchings and Seimone Augustus (who is currently sidelined with a knee injury which should keep her off the court for the national team training camp in the fall), the core players the U.S. will be calling on in the quest for another run at Olympic gold are among the best players in the world. The challenge will be meshing some new blood with the impressive nucleus of returning players.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Johnson is "ahead of schedule"

I reached out to Jason Nichols, the high school coach of UConn commit Michala Johnson to get a sense of where the athletic 6-foot-3 rising senior at Montini Catholic of Lombard, Ill. in recovering from her torn ACL.

Johnson missed nearly her entire junior season but looks like she will be good to go for her senior season.

"Michala is ahead of schedule and doing well," Nichols said in an e-mail. "She has been running since the first of June. That was the same time she was on the court doing light basketball workouts. She has built up her level of intensity in her rehab and her basketball workouts since that time."

Johnson was cleared last week to start doing half-court basketball drills. Nichols and his staff can't work with her since it is the off season but her teammates have
been working out with her three days a week. Johnson plays for about an hour and spends 1 1/2 hours rehabbing the surgically-repaired knee.

"She looks good," Nichols said. "She looks stronger and has put nine pounds of strength on in the rehab and has a goal of six more pounds by the start of the season. We don't start the season till the first of November so she has plenty of time to keep working on getting back to where she was last July 31 when she
originally hurt the knee."

Nichols said UConn coach Geno Auriemma is planning a home visit to see Johnson on Sept. 19.

Those who think UConn has some one-sided basketball affairs, we present you the United States' first game in the FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship for Women.

The U.S. defeated the Dominican Republic 128-17, yes you read that correctly. It was 39-2 at the end of the first quarter, 78-7 at halftime. The UConn hit the 100-point plateau in the third quarter.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who took an unofficial visit to UConn in January, led the U.S. with 21 points. Mosqueda-Lewis was 4 for 6 from the floor and 4 of 5 from 3-point range to lead seven players in double figures.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Iona completes non-conference schedule

Iona will be headed to play at UConn on either Dec. 20 or 21, completing the Huskies' non-conference schedule.

Here are the dates which have been confirmed
Nov. 14 vs. Northeastern
Nov. 17 vs. Texas (at San Antonio)
Nov. 27-29 WBCA Classic at Gampel Pavilion (games against Clemson, Hofstra and Richmond)
Dec. 23 vs. Stanford
Feb. 15 at Oklahoma

The Huskies will also have home games against Vermont, Hartford (at the XL Center) and North Carolina and road games against Holy Cross, Florida State and Duke. There is a chance that UConn's official non-conference schedule could be released later this month. If not, the entire schedule figures to be released around Labor Day.

Staying on the subject of scheduling, Arizona State will play at Yale on Nov. 19. The Sun Devils reached the Trenton Regional final before losing to UConn. Look for Arizona State to be in the preseason top 25 polls. Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne, who led the U.S. to the World University Games title last month, began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Washington in the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons. Current Yale coach Chris Gobrecht was the Huskies' head coach at the time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bonvicini hired at Seattle

Former Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini, who played collegiately at Southern Connecticut State, was been named the new coach at Seattle University

Bonvicini coached at Arizona for 17 seasons and coached at Long Beach State before taking over at Arizona. She was a member of two AIAW Final Four teams during her playing days at Southern Connecticut.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Montgomery a finalist

Former UConn guard Renee Montgomery is one of the 10 finalists for Women's Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year.

Actually, she is one of 11 finalists since the tennis doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber are considering to be one of the finalists along with former Penn State volleyball star Nicole Fawcett, University of Washington pitcher Danielle Lawrie, former Northwestern lacrosse star Hannah Nielsen, former Wisconsin hockey goalie Jessie Vetter, Brazilian soccer star Marta Vieira da Silva, pro bowler Kelly Kulick, German bobsled Sandra Kiriasis and Canadian curler Shannon Kleibrink.

The winner will be honored at a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York on Oct. 13.

Fans can cast their ballots for Montgomery, who led UConn to a 39-0 record and the program's sixth national title before being selected in the first round of the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx. Voting is open until Aug. 9 and the winner will be notified on Aug. 14.

Montgomery and the Lynx will host the Connecticut Sun Friday at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on NBA TV. Montgomery is averaging 7.9 points in her rookie season with the Lynx.


Vails to Louisville

One-time UConn recruiting target Sheronne Vails has committed to Louisville according to a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Vails is an athletic 6-foot-4 forward from Arundel High in Gambrills, Md. She was in attendance with her mom at UConn's game at Georgetown on Jan. 31 but interest on both sides appeared to wane shortly thereafter.

Just a note, you may notice that Sheronne's name is spelled Sherrone both in the newspaper report I linked and by ESPN but I was in contact with her mother early in the recruiting process and she spelled her daughter's name "Sheronne" in the e-mails we exchanged. I will never go against the spelling given to me by a player's mom so I will go with "Sheronne."


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Faris: "A great experience all around"

As her teammates reveled in the moment, some more boisterous than others, UConn incoming freshman Kelly Faris just tried to take in the scene unfolding around her as the United States defeated Spain 87-71 to win the FIBA Under-19 World Championship for Women on Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.

"It is a lot of emotion and enthusiasm afterwards," Faris said. "I am kind of a calm person so I kind of just fed off everybody else. It was an exciting game, a high-energy game and to win it, hear the buzzer go off and know we get to step up there and get the gold, it was a great feeling. I am grateful to be here and blessed to be on the team. It is just a great experience all around."

Faris, a 5-foot-11 guard from Plainfield, Ind., played just four minutes in the gold-medal game. She missed her only shot, did not score and had one blocked shot as U.S. coach Carol Owens relied mostly on the quintet of Nneka Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins, Kelsey Bone, Shenise Johnson and Samantha Prahalis.

Faris averaged 3.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 13.1 minutes a game. She had nine steals and an 8/2 assist/turnover ratio in the nine games.

Faris, who was also a member of the 2008 Under-18 national team, believes her experience will help as she makes the transition from high school to college.

"It will help a lot, competition wise and mentally it is a whole different game," Faris said. "College is obviously a whole different game from high school so be able to be a part of it, play with our girls and all the other players it definitely will help prepare me for how the game is in college."

Faris is planning to spend the next couple of weeks at home in Indiana before heading to UConn in late August. In between playing in the Indiana/Kentucky all-star games and heading to Thailand, she spent a couple of weeks on the UConn campus. She roomed with UConn redshirt freshman Heather Buck, a living arrangement that will continue when Faris returns to Storrs.

"She's a great girl, obviously she is one of the people who would give you the shirt off her back if you need it,' Faris said. "I am really thankful that she offered to stay with me because I am going to be the only real freshman. I am lucky to have her to kind of help me along but at the same time let me figure it out. I got the chance to hang out with them (her future UConn teammates), obviously all of them weren't there, but I am looking forward to getting back and looking forward to start being a Husky."

In the gold medal game, Ogwumike had 22 points and 20 rebounds, Prahalis had 21 points, two assists and three steals while Bone (18 points, six rebounds), Johnson (11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and Diggins (10 points, seven rebounds) also scored in double figures as the U.S. avenged a four-point loss to Spain in the opening game of the tournament.

There will be more on Faris' experience with the U.S. U-19 team in a story in Monday's edition of the New Haven Register.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Faris, U.S. go for gold

South Carolina incoming freshman Kelsey Bone had 16 points to lead four players in double figures as the United States easily dispatched of Canada 82-51 to advance to the gold-medal game in the FIBA Under-19 World Championship for Women.

Stanford rising sophomore Nneka Ogwumike had 12 points while Notre Dame incoming freshman Skylar Diggins and Ohio State rising sophomore Samantha Prahalis added 11 points each.

UConn incoming freshman Kelly Faris missed all three of her field-goal attempts and did not score but had two rebounds, one steal and one block.

The victory set up a rematch with Spain in Sunday's 7 a.m. championship game. Spain defeated the U.S. 90-86 in the tournament opener for both teams.

Spain reached the finals with a 67-49 win over Argentina. Marta Tudanca hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points to lead Spain while Marta Xargay Casademont had 13 points for Spain, the only undefeated team in the tournament.

UConn commit Lauren Engeln had eight points to help her Cal Swish Black team defeat Boo Williams 46-40 in the championship game of the prestigious Nike Nationals in North Augusta, S.C.

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