Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Filling in the blanks

When UConn's schedule was released on Sept. 9, the start times for four games were not yet announced. That is no longer the case. DePaul was the last piece of the puzzle and UConn's game at McGrath Arena in Chicago on Feb. 10 is set for 8 p.m.

The other games which had TBA (or to be announced) next to them were Holy Cross (Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.), Rutgers (Jan. 26, 7 p.m.), Louisville (Feb. 7, noon) and DePaul.

Here's the schedule with everything updated except the time of the DePaul game which I found on the DePaul site. The only other change is the Jan. 2 Seton Hall game being moved off campus to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The game will start at 2 p.m. With the times now in place, I would expect the full television schedule to be announced shortly.

Staying on the scheduling topic, here is the schedule for UConn commit Samarie Walker, a senior at Chaminade Julienne in Dayton, Ohio. The season begins on Dec. 5 game with a game at Thurgood Marshall High School in Dayton. Here's the schedule for fellow UConn commit Michala Johnson's Montini Catholic High School. Johnson's first game since she suffered a torn ACL will be on Nov. 17 at Marist High in Chicago. I haven't seen schedules for Minisink Valley (N.Y.) High and Laguna Hills (Calif.) High, the schools of UConn commits Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Montgomery added to USA training camp roster

With five players injured and unable to take part in the U.S. senior national team training camp, which starts Wednesday at American University in Washington, D.C., and four others not being able to compete because they are involved in the WNBA finals, USA Basketball added former UConn star Renee Montgomery to the roster of players at the training camp.

She becomes the seventh either current or former UConn who has accepted an invitation to the training camp. Injuries will sideline Jayne Appel, Seimone Augustus, Alana Beard, Kara Lawson and Lindsay Whalen. Tamika Catchings and Ebony Hoffman of the Indiana Fever and the Phoenix Mercury duo of Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi will leading their teams into the WNBA finals. Doing the math, six of the 14 players planning to take part in the trials played or play for UConn. Montgomery is joined by Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird and Swin Cash as well as Asjha Jones, Tina Charles and Maya Moore.

With Charles and Moore unable to accompany the U.S. squad when it heads to Russia next month for three exhibition games, it's likely that the other 12 players will represent the U.S. for UConn coach Geno Auriemma's first games as the U.S. head coach.

There will be a Doty playing at the Yale Bowl on Saturday but it will not be UConn sophomore guard Caroline Doty. Her twin brother Kevin is a sophomore tight end for Lafayette, which will play at Yale on Saturday at noon.

Kevin Doty has played in all three games for Lafayette and has two receptions for 19 yards.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Report: Taurasi is MVP pick

The Arizona Republic is reporting that former UConn star Diana Taurasi will be named the Most Valuable Player of the WNBA on Tuesday.

Taurasi averaged 20.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks for the Phoenix Mercury. Taurasi had her career-best marks in field-goal percentage (46.1), 3-point percentange (40.7), free-throw percentage (89.4) and rebounding (5.7). She helped Phoenix post the best record in the regular season and has the Mercury in the WNBA finals against Indiana.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eyes on the prize

With Indiana and Phoenix winning the third and deciding game in the WNBA's Eastern and Western Conference finals, three former UConn players will be in the finals.

Diana Taurasi, who led Phoenix to the 2007 WNBA title, will be joined by Ketia Swanier while Jessica Moore is a member of the Indiana squad. It also means that for the sixth time in the last seven years, an ex-Husky will be a member of the WNBA championship team.

The streak began in 2003 when Swin Cash was a member of Detroit's title-winning team. The next year Sue Bird and Seattle were WNBA champions. Sacramento, the 2005 champs, had no UConn players. In 2006, Cash and Detroit won again. Taurasi and Kelly Schumacher were Phoenix's 2007 team and last year Schumacher won her second title, this time with Detroit.

Here's the breakdown of UConn players in the WNBA finals
1997: Rebecca Lobo and New York lost in championship game
1998: no UConn players in finals
1999: Jen Rizzotti and Kara Wolters were on victorious Houston team. Lobo was a member of New York squad but was injured.
2000: Rizzotti and Houston won again. Lobo was again injured and could not play for New York.
2001: no UConn players in finals
2002: no UConn players in finals
2003: Swin Cash and Detroit win title
2004: Sue Bird and Seattle win championship, Asjha Jones and Nykesha Sales played for Eastern Conference champion Connecticut
2005: Jones and Sales members of Eastern Conference champ Connecticut
2006: Cash and Detroit win second title
2007: Diana Taurasi and Kelly Schumacher members of Phoenix's championship team, Cash played for Eastern Conference champion Detroit
2008: Schumacher wins her second straight title, this one with Detroit.

The results of the conference finals means that Indiana's Tamika Catchings and the Phoenix duo of Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter will not be able to take part in the U.S. Senior National team training camp which starts Wednesday in Washington, D.C. It will be the first training camp with UConn's Geno Auriemma as the U.S. head coach.

Phoenix's win also brought an end to the career of future Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, one of the faces of the WNBA since its inception in 1997. Leslie held court in the press conference after her Los Angeles team was eliminated and acted with the grace and dignity becoming of her place in the world of women's basketball.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Jekabsone-Zogota focusing on WNBA

Any questions whether Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is planning to return to the WNBA seem to be answered since she is taking a break from playing with the Latvian national team to devote her attention on the WNBA.

Jekabsone-Zogota played 27 games, starting 16 for the Connecticut Sun this season. She averaged 9.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. After getting off to a slow start offensively, Jekabsone-Zogota ended the season by scoring in double figures in 11 of her final 19 games.

Jekabsone-Zogota will be playing for Russian powerhouse Spartak Moscow Region alongside former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.


Local recruiting update

Figured I'd pass some info courtesy of the Register's high school girls' basketball beat writer Chris Hunn who has been in contact with New Haven area coaches to get the latest on the Division I commitments from the region.

Four players have given oral commitments:
Law's Casey Dulin is going to Marist
Lauren Okafor of Hopkins is headed to Providence
Courtney Schissler of Branford will play at Bryant
Hand's Kerry Wallack has committed to Rhode Island.

Chris has also spoken to the high school coach and mother of Lauralton Hall star Keylantra Langley who said that despite reports to the contrary, she has NOT committed to Marist.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Montgomery an All-Rookie pick

Former UConn guard Renee Montgomery was named to the five-member WNBA All-Rookie team.

The Atlanta Dream's Angel McCoughtry, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 WNBA draft, and DeWanna Bonner of the Phoenix Mercury, were the top vote-getters, garnering 12 points followed by Montgomery, who was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Lynx, and the Detroit Shock's Shavonte Zellous, who each had 11 points. Waashington's Marissa Coleman completed the team meaning that all five players were first-round picks.

It was also a reminder of the talent coming out of the Big East since McCoughtry (Louisville), Montgomery and Zellous (Pittsburgh) all made the team.

Montgomery played in all 34 games for the Lynx as a rookie, starting nine. She averaged 9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Montgomery scored in double figures 11 times, highlighted by a 24-point effort against the Connecticut Sun on Aug. 7.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Night Visitors A Plenty

According to a recruiting source, six of the high school seniors on UConn's recruiting radar will be on campus for the "First Night" festivities on Oct. 16 and the Huskies' first official practice on the 17th.

Leading the list of visitors will be the four players who have already committed to UConn:
Stephanie Dolson, a 6-foot-5 center at Minisink Valley High in Slate Hill, N.Y.
Lauren Engeln, a 5-foot-11 guard at Laguna Hills (Calif.) High
Michala Johnson, a 6-foot-2 forward at Montini Catholic High of Lombard, Ill.
Samarie Walker, a 6-foot-1 forward/guard at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High in Dayton, Ohio.

Bria Hartley, a 5-foot-10 guard at North Babylon (N.Y.) High, and Chiney Ogwumike, a 6-foot-3 forward/center at Cy-Fair High in Cypress, Tex. are also expected to be on hand. Another recruiting target, San Clemente (Calif.) High's 6-foot-2 forward Cassie Harberts has a scheduling conflict which won't allow her to make it for that weekend but plans are in the works for her to make an official visit at another time. Daisha Simmons, a 5-foot-9 guard at Gill St. Bernard's in Gladstone, N.J. made an unofficial visit to campus earlier this month.

Harberts and Ogwumike are among the players UConn coach Geno Auriemma visited on his whirlwind tour last week and he is planning to visit Hartley and her family in the next couple of days before he heads to Washington, D.C. to run his first training camp as the U.S. senior national team head coach. The recruiting source said the visits with Harberts and Ogwumike seemed to go pretty well. Still, geography and family ties are not on UConn's side in the pursuit of either highly-touted prospect.

Ogwumike's older sister Nneka is a sophomore at Stanford and the prevailing notion is that Chiney would follow her there. When I spoke with Nneka at the USA Basketball training camp in Colorado Springs, she said she will allow her little sister to make her own decision even if it means her playing at a different school. The fact remains that a school with a strong academic background is something the Ogwumike's parents have stressed. UConn has managed to attract top-flight student-athletes before. Every player who was a member of Auriemma's squads for four years has graduated (a streak that will continue when Cassie Kerns finishes up her degree requirements in this academic year). But let's be honest, Stanford's academic credentials are hard to top. It should be noted that UConn has never landed a player from Texas and Stanford's batting average of recruits who have been accepted into Stanford is downright gaudy but the fact that Chiney is coming in for a visit should be an indication that UConn is very much in the mix.

Harberts, an AAU teammate of Engeln, had originally committed to Southern California but had second thoughts when a coaching change was made. The recruiting source said that Arizona State is making a strong push for Harberts. It should be noted that the AAU coach for Harberts and Engeln is Russ Davis, who has a very good relationship with Auriemma. In fact Davis is bringing his NAIA powerhouse Vanguard University squad in to play the Huskies in an exhibition game on Nov. 9. That happens to be four days after Vanguard faces the Arizona State squad said to be a major player in Harberts' recruitment. Recruiting kids from California is always a dicey proposition. For every Diana Taurasi and Lauren Engeln who have no qualms of heading East, there are others (Nikki Blue comes to mind) who prefer to play closer to home.

Considering that UConn already has commitments from Dolson and Johnson, it's likely that the UConn staff views itself in a win-win situation. If either Ogwumike or Harberts opt to head to UConn, they will strengthen an already strong class. If they choose to head elsewhere, the Huskies' hierarchy is still in good shape and will focus on a star-studded high school junior class. Ogwumike and Harberts are pretty sharp kids and with Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren graduating after this season, I am sure they must be intrigued by playing time possibilities considering that red shirt freshman Heather Buck will be the only experienced post player for UConn for the 2010-11 season.

The story is a little different when it comes to Hartley. She has been a priority for UConn for quite some time. While no one player will make or break the Huskies' fortunes, losing Hartley would be a tough recruiting defeat for UConn. Auriemma loves his point guards and Hartley is a special talent who has drawn comparisons to another New Yorker Sue Bird. There have been some bantering about the role that Hartley's AAU coach Apache Paschall could play in all of this. The relationship between Auriemma and Paschall is well, they don't have a relationship and I doubt either one has the other on speed dial, that's for sure. Things got pretty nasty between the two during UConn's recruitment of Kia Vaughn, another player of Paschall's, who landed at Rutgers. Fortunately for UConn, Hartley's parents are the ones calling the shots in this process, not Paschall and in my brief dealings with Hartley's father, he could not be more complimentary of UConn and the Huskies' coaching staff. For those hyperventilating because Hartley hasn't committed yet, bear in mind she is a three-sport athlete with a lot on her plate. She will make her decision when the time is right. I periodically have reached out to Hartley's dad (calling once every month and a half is my definition of periodically for those curious about such matters). If I hear anything, I will be certain to let you know in this blog.

Simmons' situation is pretty hard to read. On of the recruiting services spoke to her and her top four schools did not include UConn. I personally would be surprised if she ended up at UConn considering how late the Huskies got involved with her but Auriemma has pulled off some surprises before.

The good news is that we are almost into October and we should have most of the answers by mid-November when the early signing period begins.

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Taurasi leads the way

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi was the top vote-getter and a member of the All-WNBA first team.

Taurasi, the league's leading scorer, picked up 201 points, 22 ahead of Seattle's Lauren Jackson. Indiana's Tamika Catchings, Cappie Pondexter of Phoenix and San Antonio's Becky Hammon were also first-team selections.

The Los Angeles duo of Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, San Antonio's Sophia Young, Indiana's Katie Douglas and Detroit's Deanna Nolan were second-team picks.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Time for a celebration, reflection

Surrounded by throngs of their adoring public, the entire 2008-09 UConn women's basketball team - players, coaches, trainers, support staff included - showed up at the Aqua Turf in Southington to reflect on the Huskies' sixth national championship.

Renee Montgomery, who recently completed her rookie season with the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, and former assistant coach Jamelle Elliott, now the head coach at Cincinnati, flew in to take part in the festivities. The cheerleading squad, which is being replaced in favor of a spirit squad, was there as were many members of the UConn band.

For UConn coach Geno Auriemma, it was the perfect way to wrap up the glorious 2008-09 season before turning the focus on the upcoming season.

"I think it works both ways," Auriemma said. "It is a chance for them (UConn fans, some of whom paid $150 for a private meet and greet with the team) to show how much they appreciate what we do, it is a night of reflection. Some times we are going so
fast that we don't stop to think about what we just did to enjoy it and appreciate it. A night like (Tuesday) is a night to bring it all back and at the same time, put it away and say 'Ok, that was last year and now we are moving onto this year.'"

A week from tonight, UConn stars Maya Moore and Tina Charles will be in Washington, D.C. for team meetings before taking part in the first U.S. Senior National Team training camp of the current four-year Olympic cycle. But the focus on Tuesday was about remembering the journey towards a 39-0 season when the Huskies became the first Division I team to win every game by at least 10 points.

"It's great, we don't always get a chance to interact when they are at the games so it is nice to have that contact, see their appreciation and celebrate and get a chance, be together and just celebrate," Moore said.

Now for some news - Moore said her knee feels fine and she has been practicing without restriction for the last couple of weeks. She will be going full speed at the trials before taking a week off from basketball before UConn starts its official practice on Oct. 17.

Montgomery will leave in a couple of weeks for Europe to join her new team TEO Vilnius of Lithuania. Her Minnesota Lynx teammate and fellow 2009 first-round pick Quanitra Hollingsworth will be joining her on that squad.

Auriemma said he hasn't heard about the availability of former UConn star Asjha Jones for the national team camp. Jones was sidelined with a strained Achilles tendon, forcing her to miss the last 11 games of the season with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun. There are four players among the 22 confirmed invitees not expected to play because of injury (Seimone Augustus, Kara Lawson, Jayne Appel and Lindsay Whalen). That doesn't factor in those who will have conflicts because they are playing in the WNBA finals. Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter of Phoenix, Candace Parker of Los Angeles and Tamika Catchings of Indiana have their teams in the conference finals so anywhere from 1-3 of those players will miss training camp because it runs at the same time as the WNBA finals.

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UConn reunion tour

With former UConn stars Swin Cash and Asjha Jones and current Huskies Tina Charles and Maya Moore among the 14 players being added to the original eight core players, there will be a noticeable UConn flavor to the upcoming U.S. Senior National team's training camp.

Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are among the eight players previously invited although Taurasi's availability will be determined by whether she leads her Phoenix Mercury team into the WNBA finals. If Phoenix beats Los Angeles, Taurasi and fellow core player Cappie Pondexter will have to miss the camp.

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Three former Huskies eye title

Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi, Ketia Swanier and Jessica Moore have one more obstacle to contend to reach the WNBA finals.

Taurasi had 30 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals while Swanier had two points and one steal as the Phoenix Mercury defeated the San Antonio Silver Stars 100-92 in the deciding game of the Western Conference semifinals on Monday night.

The win set up a showdown with Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals.

Moore had four points and one rebound in two games as Indiana swept Washington in the Eastern Conference finals. Indiana and defending champion Detroit will square off in the Eastern Conference finals.

The best of three conference finals begin on Wednesday with Indiana playing at Detroit at 8 p.m. followed by Phoenix playing at 10 p.m. Both games will be televised by ESPN2.

The series move to Indiana and Phoenix on Friday, starting at 7 and 10 p.m. respectively, and will be carried on NBA TV. The third game, if necessary, will be played on Saturday with Detroit/Indiana tipping off at 7 and LA/Phoenix starting at 10 p.m. Again, both games will be shown on NBA TV.

Among the interested onlookers will be UConn coach Geno Auriemma. The head coach of the U.S. Senior National Team, Auriemma knew some of the best players would not be able to go to the Sept. 29-Oct. 5 training camp in Washington, D.C. because they would be playing in the WNBA finals. With Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter playing for Phoenix, Candace Parker a key member for Los Angeles and Tamika Catchings a leader for Indiana, four of the eight "core" players will be in action in the conference finals.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Okafor commits to Providence

Hopkins 6-foot-3 senior forward/center Lauren Okafor has committed to Providence.

Okafor, whose strong summer on the AAU circuit has her moving up the recruiting databases, had originally committed to Louisville but had a change of heart and will head to PC instead.

There will be more on Okafor's decision in Tuesday's edition of the Register.

Here is a video of Lauren when she was named the Register's Female Athlete of Week in January.

Championship dinner tickets still available

I just got off the phone with a staff member from the UConn athletic department and tickets still remain for tomorrow's national championship celebration dinner

Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Aqua Turf in Southington with a reception with the UConn players and coaches. A social hour follows at 6 p.m. with the dinner set to begin at 7 p.m.

There are different levels of tickets for the event so if you are interested in going, specify which event or events you are interested in, bearing in mind that ticket availability figures to vary for the different events.

Quality air time

Defending national champion UConn will be featured in three of the ESPN's 11 "Big Monday" matchups.

The Huskies will be featured in road games against Duke (Jan. 18, 7 p.m.), Oklahoma (Feb. 15, 9 p.m.) and Notre Dame (Mar. 1, 7 p.m.). Each of the games will be televised on ESPN2.

Here's the schedule
Jan 11 7:30 p.m. Maryland at Virginia
Jan 18 7 p.m. Connecticut at Duke
Jan 25 7 p.m. Ohio State at Purdue
Feb 1 7:30 p.m. Notre Dame at Rutgers
Feb 8 7 p.m. North Carolina at Duke
Feb 8 9 p.m. Tennessee at Vanderbilt
Feb 15 7 p.m. North Carolina at Virginia
Feb 15 9 p.m. Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
Feb 22 7 p.m. LSU at Tennessee
Feb 22 9 p.m. Baylor at Texas A&M
Mar 1 7 p.m. Connecticut at Notre Dame

Friday, September 18, 2009

Whalen to miss U.S. training camp

An eye injured suffered in Sunday's season finale will keep Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen from taking part in the U.S. Senior National Team's training camp which will be held from Sept. 30-Oct. 5 at American University in Washington, D.C.

According to a release sent out by the Sun, doctors have advised Whalen to refrain from participating in basketball or any other type of jarring physical activity for at least one month while the injury heals.

"I was really looking forward to this first training camp and I'm disappointed I won't be able to attend," Whalen said in a statement. "I've played through a number of injuries during my career. That's part of being an athlete. But when it comes to your vision, you have to be careful."

The training camp will be the first with UConn's Geno Auriemma as the head coach of the national team. He will be assisted by DePaul's Doug Bruno and Jen Gillom of the Minnesota Lynx.

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Looking ahead

For those UConn women's basketball fans who won't be making the trip to San Antonio for the Nov. 17 UConn/Texas game and are concerned about some hoops withdrawal - there are some basketball-viewing options between the Huskies' season opener against Northeastern and Nov. 20 game at Holy Cross.

On Nov. 16, a Villanova team which upset Notre Dame in the Big East tournament and the program's berth in the NCAA tournament was the ninth postseason appearance in the last 10 seasons for the Wildcats, will play at Sacred Heart University at 7 p.m.

The next day Big East tournament and NCAA tournament finalist Louisville plays at Hartford, tip-off is also set for 7 p.m.

On Nov. 19, Arizona State (which lost to UConn in the Trenton Regional final) plays at Yale at 7 p.m. It will be a reunion as Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne began her coaching career with a two-year stint as a graduate assistant at Washington. The Huskies' coach is current Yale coach Chris Gobrecht who made the trip to New Jersey to watch Turner Thorne's ASU team play in the 2009 NCAA tournament.

There are two other games worth mentioning although UConn fans would have to make tough scheduling calls on both days.

On Nov. 28 former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza will lead her Temple team against Hartford in a 7 p.m. game in West Hartford. UConn will be playing Richmond at the same time in the second day of the WBCA Classic.

On Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Vanderbilt will play at Quinnipiac. UConn and Hartford will be playing at the same time at the XL Center.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bruno, Gillom named

Doug Bruno and Jennifer Gillom, coaches who are no strangers to serving USA Basketball, were named to Geno Auriemma's staff for the 2010 World Championships.

Hard to argue with either choice. Bruno is the only two-time winner of the USA Basketball Developmental National Coach of the Year - winning in 2006 and 2007 after leading the US Under-18 and Under-19 teams to a combined 16-0 record.

Gillom was a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team and earlier this year took over as the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx after joining the staff as an assistant in 2008. She immediately made an impact working with rookies Nicky Anosike and Charde Houston last season. Auriemma has always valued teachers on his staff at UConn. Bruno and Gillom, who I was extremely impressed with when I interviewed her for a feature on Houston in 2008, certainly fit that criteria.

Please spare me the "Bruno isn't eligible to remain on Auriemma's staff through the 2012 Olympics" because of the rule precluding coaches from the same collegiate conference from being on the same Olympic staff. USA Basketball changed the rules to allow a college coach to be the head coach of the United States' senior national team so Auriemma could be named coach. Why wouldn't they change the rules so a person that both USA Basketball and Auriemma have the utmost respect for remains on the staff. Anybody who follows anything USA Basketball does (I would be included on that list since I have flown out to Colorado for the U.S. junior national training camps the last three years) should realize that the organization values loyalty, continuity and excellence over any other attributes. They are not naming Bruno and Gillom to the staff just for kicks or so they can name two other coaches to replace them in the next year or two.

This is just me talking but the only way Auriemma, Bruno and Gillom do not comprise 75 percent of the 2012 U.S. Olympic coaching staff is if Gillom is no longer coaching in the WNBA.

I have to laugh at the mere thought of the subject being raised at the next meeting of the United States Olympic Committee big wigs. "So what do you think of having two coaches from the Big East on the Olympic staff in 2012?" I pause to allow for the committee members to unleash a collective yawn. Of the issues they will be focusing on in the coming years, I find it hard to believe that this will barely garner more than a passing mention at a committee meeting.

The feeling is that the fourth coach will come from the WNBA but don't know that is set in stone. Personally I think Carol Owens, another coach known to give of her time to USA Basketball, would be a great choice even if that would give the staff three college head coaches. It will be interesting to see what they do. I believe the other assistant will be a female. I mentioned quite some time ago that current Los Angeles Sparks assistant Marianne Stanley would be a perfect choice even if she is not a head coach.

My advice to USA Basketball, give us a break with all these by-laws especially when you keep changing them. Why not just name the best staff whether they are an assistant coach, head coach, college coach, pro coach. Other than giving committee members something to do when they aren't selecting teams, what is the purpose of these rules? If they want to deal with wading through red tape and silly obstacles, just take a job with the Internal Revenue Service. I believe adding a coach who is an assistant isn't a bad way to go because they have proven to have the ability to serve in that capacity. If it's going to be female who is currently a head coach in the WNBA, I think the best choice is Lin Dunn of Indiana. With all due respect to Dunn, who is more qualified than Stanley who has won at every level and recently has been an assistant at UMMC Ekaterinburg where she was credited for the development of French star Sandrine Gruda? Gruda just happens to be one of the players the U.S. will have to deal with en route to trying to win the Olympic goal. Coaching in Russia should also give Stanley some scouting reports on not only the stars from Russia but those from Australia and other medal contenders who play in the Euroleague.

Last order of business is to remind the readers that Auriemma, Bruno and Gillom will be conducting their first training camp beginning on Sept. 30 at American University in Washington, D.C.

The event is closed to the public except for the Oct. 4 training session, scrimmage and autograph session beginning at noon. Tickets are $5.00 and available by calling 202-885-TIXX or online at Children six and under will be admitted for free.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Bird, Taurasi top the charts

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi finished atop the WNBA charts in assists and scoring respectively.

Bird, in her eighth season with the Seattle Storm, averaged 5.8 assists per game to finish ahead of Sacramento's Ticha Penicheiro (5.2), San Antonio's Becky Hammon and Phoenix's Cappie Pondexter, who each averaged 5 assists per game.

Seimone Augustus' 21.4 scoring average actually was the best in the league but she played just six games before a knee injury ended her season ended. Among those who qualified, Taurasi's 20.4 PPG was the league's best. Hammon, Lauren Jackson of Seattle and Pondexter were the only other players to average at least 19 points a contest.

UConn also led the league in double-figure scorers with five (Taurasi 20.4, Asjha Jones 16.7, Charde Houston 13.1, Bird 12.8, Swin Cash 12.2) followed bt Tennessee's four (Tamika Catchings 15.1, Chamique Holdsclaw, Nicky Anosike 13.2, Candace Parker 13.1).

Former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow can still raise the funds even months after her death.

A total of $175,000 was raised at the Second Annual Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund 4Kay Golf Classic, up from $142,000 in last year's inaugural event. The sport's bigger names got into the spirit of things.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma and former NC State interim coach Stephanie Glance got into a bidding war for Yow’s director’s chair. Auriemma won with a $5,000 bid and then gave the chair back to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund.

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt donated a pink cowboy hat for a live auction. Summitt $2000, on the condition that Texas assistant Mickie DeMoss, a former assistant coach on Summitt's Tennessee staff, wear the hat during a 2009-10 regular season game. Virginia Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger volunteered to increase the bid if Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors would wear the hat to coach a televised game. The hat drew $10,000 and the stipulation that Goestenkors and Summitt each wear a similar hat to coach in a Dec. 6 game between the two teams.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Home cooking?

If the UConn coaches get their wish, the next recruiting class will include two kids from New York and another from New Jersey but no Connecticut players are currently on the Huskies' radar according to a recruiting source.

Center Stefanie Dolson of Slate Hill, N.Y. is one of four players who have committed to UConn. Guard Bria Hartley of North Babylon, N.Y. has long been near the top of the Huskies' wish list while guard Daisha Simmons out of Jersey City, N.J. was on the UConn campus last week and is being seriously courted by the Huskies.

Lauralton Hall's Keylantra Langley's name has been mentioned as a recruiting target but my source said that simply isn't the case. The in-state player who seems to have caught the eye of the Huskies is Hillhouse sophomore Bria Holmes. UConn has seen the athletic 6-footer play rather often but the key word in all of this is "sophomore." In fact Holmes is still a couple of months from playing the first game of her sophomore season with the Academics so it is premature to go too crazy about the chances of Holmes donning the UConn uniform. That being said, rest assured that I will be monitoring this situation closely over the next couple of years. UConn's main focus right now is closing the deal on what is looking like an impressive current recruiting class while continuing to practice due diligence in attempting to secure commitments from a talented group of high school juniors.

Former UConn player Kristen Phillips is still being hampered by a foot injury limited her to two games as a freshman with the Huskies. Phillips transferred to Richmond in 2007.

Phillips, who played four minutes in two games, missing both of her shots, blocking two shots and pulling down a rebound during the 2006-07 season, is a junior at Richmond and will miss the season because of a foot injury

Ironically, Richmond is one of three teams coming to Gampel Pavilion for the WBCA Classic in late November.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lottery time

The first order of business is clearing up one fact - Sunday's season finale for the Connecticut Sun will tip at 3 p.m. Apparently there has been some confusion regarding the start time of the game against the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun.

There is no confusion regarding the Sun's playoff hopes. Atlanta's 88-64 win on Friday night knocked Connecticut out of the postseason race. It was a stunning way for Connecticut's run of playoff appearances to end, being run off the court by a second-year franchise. Now the first-place Fever come to town and it will be interesting to see how the Sun players respond.

In reality, the playoff exit did not come last night but with Asjha Jones strained Achilles' tendon. With Lindsay Whalen, the MVP runner-up last season, not able to approach her previous level of excellence on a regular basis and rising star Sandrine Gruda not nearly as effective without Jones as she was with her, the Sun stumbled down the stretch. It took the Sun rallying from double-digit deficits for wins against New York and Minnesota and an overtime victory against New York for Connecticut to avoid going 0-10 without Jones in the lineup.

The only positive is that the Sun should finally get a top five draft pick for the first time since trading Shannon Johnson to get the No. 4 overall pick back in 2004. That turned out pretty good with Whalen coming to Connecticut.

While it's unlikely that the Sun would be in position to take either Jayne Appel of Stanford or UConn's Tina Charles unless the draft lottery works to their favor, somebody like Kansas wing Danielle McCray would be a nice fit in Connecticut.

Looking back at the drafts, it is pretty clear that outside of Gruda, which the Sun stole with the last pick of the first round in 2007 draft, Connecticut has not made very good use of the draft in recent years. Whether it is taking Kamesha Hairston over Camille Little in 2007, trading away its 2005 and 2006 first rounders for Margo Dydek (although Dydek did play a role in Connecticut having the best record in the WNBA in 2006) or passing on Nicky Anosike to draft Ketia Swanier last year, some questionable personnel moves in recent years set up the Sun for what happened this year. Add in the curious decision to leave Erika de Souza unprotected in favor of Erin Phillips, allowing de Souza to head to Atlanta and become a key piece in the Dream's rapid rise and the Sun are exactly what they should be - a non-playoff team.

Had the Sun kept de Souza, there would have been no reason to draft Chante Black in the first round this year and could have picked Shavonte Zellous instead. Sorry, but if you around the league and offered to trade de Souza and Zellous for Phillips and Black, the universal response would be "where do I sign?"

The Sun reached into the overseas market and there's no questioning the skill level of Gruda, Phillips and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota but still you are playing with fire every time you attempt to build a team around a European or in Phillips' case, an Australian. I realize it has worked pretty well with Lauren Jackson in Seattle but with the European Championships conflicting with the WNBA season, the status of Gruda will be one of those "let's wait and see" propositions. The prospects of a top four or five pick teaming with Jones, Whalen and Gruda are pretty promising but what about if there is no Gruda? It's a little bit of a different story, isn't it?

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Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11: A look back

September 11, 2001 is one day I will never forget. It boggles my mind that it has been eight years since that world-changing day.

I got into my office probably around 9:30/10 a.m. although don't recall what was on my "to do" list that day. Reports were just starting the trickle in about the two planes that hit the World Trade Center towers. I remember being struck by the absolute naivete of one television reporter who made a comment about air traffic controllers not doing their jobs and hoping her future in his business would be short lived. More than anything, I thought about how many lives would forever be changed because of the events which transpired that day.

I wondered how many kids would lose a mother or father - or both - how many wives would lose a husband, how many husbands would lose a wife. A couple months later as I boarded my first flight since 9/11 and waited in a long security line, I thought about people just like me who were going through the same process of taking laptop computers out of their travel bags, waiting for their chance to collect their belongings and head to their gate. Only they had no way of knowing it would be the last flight they ever took.

Having lost both of my parents to a plane crash, I guess those people who perished in planes on 9/11 were the ones I initially mourned the most. I only saw the images of the planes hitting the towers once. To this day, I have to look away or change the channel if I see those images flashing on the screen. However, the mere thought of people sitting in their offices doing their jobs with no sense that their lives were about to be end still sends chills up my spine.

I did not lose a family member in the 9/11 attacks but couldn't even try to guess how many people I know who did suffer the greatest loss of all on that day.

Out of respect to those who perished and those who have attempted to move on following the tragic loss of a loved one or loved ones, this is the last blog entry I will make on this day. I simply can't imagine that there is anything more important on this day than remembering the victims of September 11, 2001.

Book 'em, Geno

While the details are being worked out, the members of the UConn women's basketball program will be lending a helping hand to encourage students to spend some time reading books after school hours in a joint venture between their head coach Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Association of Schools.

At a press conference at Gampel Pavilion, Auriemma was accompanied by Caroline Doty, Heather Buck and Kelly Fsris to add 18 elementary school-aged students at five schools. Auriemma was at his engaging, entertaining best addressing the kids even promising that "if you all graduate from high school, you will get something from me."

Will Auriemma still be the UConn women's basketball coach when the last of these 18 kids are seniors in high school? Probably not but I trust Auriemma will keep his word providing that 18 youngsters keep their promise to him to graduate from high school.

Beginning next week, schools can register to join the "Geno's Reading Team" program. With NCAA regulations being what they are, all the t's need to be crossed and i's need to be dotted before the UConn players get involved in the program. The tentative plan if for them to provide video reports on a list of books provided to schools who sign up.

My advice to representatives from schools who want to take part in the project is to monitor the website or you can e-mail Dave Maloney at

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bird re-ups with Seattle

Looks like those rumors that former UConn star Sue Bird would land in either New York or Connecticut after her contract with the Seattle Storm expires can be put to rest now that the Syosset, N.Y. native signed a six-year extension with Seattle.

Speaking of the WNBA, the Connecticut Sun's playoff hopes were not aided by tonight's results with Detroit beating New York 94-87 in overtime and Chicago defeating Indiana 86-79. The Sun, who play at Atlanta on Friday before hosting Indiana in the regular-season finale, is currently tied with Washington for fifth place. Connecticut is 1 1/2 games behind third-place Detroit and a 1/2 game behind fourth-place Chicago. With the possibility of five teams finishing tied with 17-17 records in the Eastern Conference, it will take somebody with more mathematical expertise than me to figure out all the scenarions.


Team USA talk

In about 2 1/2 weeks, Geno Auriemma will oversee his first training camp as the head coach of the U.S. Senior National Team.

The timing of the camp (Sept. 30-Oct. 5 in Washington, D.C.) will prevent players competing in the WNBA finals from taking part in the camp and three games in Russia so it will be interesting to see who is actually there and how much Auriemma and the U.S. player selection committee gets out of the deal.

UConn's Tina Charles and Maya Moore will join Stanford's Jayne Appel as the only active college players expected at the camp although it is unknown if Appel will take part as she recovers from surgery to replace a torn meniscus in her left knee.

The combination of injuries and WNBA commitments could conceivably keep many of the eight "core" players from taking part. Seimone Augustus, out with a knee injury, definitely won't be able to play. Kara Lawson is currently sidelined with a quadriceps injury and would have to be somewhere from questionable to doubtful to participate.

If the seeds hold true to form, Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter of Phoenix and Tamika Catchings of Indiana would be vying for a WNBA title and be unavailable. That would mean that five of the original eight "core" players would not be available.

The training camp will be a time for players like Moore, Charles, Candice Dupree, Shameka Christon and others to show the USA Basketball hierarchy that they should be in contention for roster spots. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, it's hard to get too worked up about a training camp held three years before the Olympics. I look at it for what it is, merely a start of the process of picking an Olympic squad. Back in 2006, seven players played at least 100 minutes in the United States' 11 games and only three (Katie Smith, Candace Parker and Kara Lawson) made the cut for the 2008 Olympic squad.

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The Elite Eight

With four high school seniors having already committed to UConn, the focus will be on the remaining four players who are on the Huskies' recruiting radar.

Bria Hartley, a 5-foot-10 guard from Babylon, N.Y., has long been the top point guard in the Huskies' sights and nothing has changed. Hartley, a studious, leave no stone unturned type of kid, is in no rush to make a commitment but UConn is still very much in the running for her services.

A new name has emerged, Daisha Simmons, who plays for Gill St. Bernard's School. Simmons, who was on the UConn campus on Thursday, averaged 26.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 4.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game and had five triple-doubles as a junior according to a story in the Newark Star-Ledger.

Before anybody tries to read too much into another guard being pursued by the Huskies as an indication that things aren't going well in the recruitment of Hartley, the word I am hearing tells me nothing could be further from the truth. A recruiting source said that UConn would take both Hartley and Simmons if they both choose to commit.

The story is the same with the two uncommitted post players the Huskies are going after.

Chiney Ogwumike, a 6-foot-3 forward from Cypress, Tex., has long been considered a strong lean to Stanford but the information I have is that she is still receptive to the Huskies' recruiting pitches. Cassie Harberts, a 6-foot-2 forward from San Clemente, Calif., is also being looked at both Stanford and UConn. While it is hard to figure out exactly how many scholarships Stanford has remaining since the Cardinal have three red-shirt juniors who could opt to graduate with their class and thus open up scholarships. If everybody comes back, Stanford would have one scholarship remaining.

The Huskies could conceivably take nine players but will likely max out the class at seven meaning three of the four would join wing Samarie Walker, center Stefanie Dolson, guard Lauren Engeln (an AAU teammate of Harberts) and forward Michala Johnson as part of UConn's next recruiting class.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

UConn's schedule is out

UConn's 2009-10 schedule is out. Much of the info is out, here are the basics

Season opener: Northeastern (Gampel Pavilion) Nov. 14, 2 p.m.
Road opener: Holy Cross, Nov. 20, time to be announced
Big East opener: at Seton Hall, Jan. 2, 2 p.m.

The stretch of games from Jan. 9-Feb. 15 is downright nasty beginning with a Jan. 9 game against North Carolina followed by contests against Notre Dame (Jan. 16), Duke (Jan. 18), Rutgers (Jan. 26), Pittsburgh (Jan. 30), Louisville (Feb. 7), DePaul (Feb. 10) and Oklahoma (Feb. 15).

Reading between the lines

Thursday morning, Geno Auriemma will be holding court at Gampel Pavilion once again. But it will have nothing to do with perfecting the high/low offense with Kaili McLaren and Tina Charles, freeing up Maya Moore for a 3-pointer or helping with the further development of guards Caroline Doty, Tiffany Hayes and Lorin Dixon.

Principals, teachers and students from Canton Intermediate School, Southeast Elementary School in Mansfield Center, Dr. Charles E. Murphy School in Oakdale and the Wtaerbury based B.W. Tinker School and Washington Elementary School will be taking part in a reading lesson, the latest event as a result of the partnership between Auriemma's "Geno's Cancer Team" and the Connecticut Association of Schools.

The Bugliest Bug written by Carol Diggory-Shields will be the featured book at the reading.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Asjha for MVP?

I know she does not have a chance at the award but if I had a vote for WNBA MVP, I'd have to give serious consideration to voting for Asjha Jones.

Forget her numbers, although they are an impressive 16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks, but the fact that the Sun have been arguably the worst team in the WNBA since a strained left Achilles' tendon forced her out of the lineup points to her importance to the Connecticut team. Maybe I am biased since I don't see the other teams as often as I do the Sun but I think you'd have to search hard and long to find a player as critical to their team's success as Asjha Jones is to Connecticut. The award is "Most VALUABLE Player" and she is as valuable as they come.

Connecticut had to rally from a 17-point deficit against New York and trailed Minnesota by 12 points before winning both games otherwise the Sun would be 0-9 without the former UConn star in the lineup.

It's hardly surprising that Connecticut has struggled without Jones but it is how it is losing which is a bit stunning. One of league's best defensive teams during the first half of the year, the Sun have allowed at least 85 points in eight of the nine games without Jones.

Even with the late-season swoon, Connecticut still has a chance at the playoffs. Currently sitting sixth, the Sun are just a game out of third place with home games against New York and Indiana sandwiched around a game at Atlanta.

Going under the assumption that Indiana and Atlanta will occupy two of the four Eastern Conference playoff spots and that New York won't be making up a 2 1/2 game deficit over its last four games, here is the breakdown of the teams fighting for the final two playoff spots in the East.

Washington (14-15) vs. Seattle, at Chicago, at Indiana, vs. Atlanta, at New York
Detroit (14-15) vs. Indiana, vs. Chicago, at Minnesota, vs. New York, at Chicago
Chicago (14-16) vs. Washington, at Detroit, vs. Indiana, at Detroit
Connecticut (14-17) vs. New York, at Atlanta, vs. Indiana

First things first, Connecticut needs to take care of its end of the bargain and win out. Having the two Western/Eastern games remaining (Seattle at Washington and Detroit at Minnesota) won by the Western squads would be a huge bonus as would either Detroit or Chicago sweeping the other since that would likely knock one of the squads out of the equation.