Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Big East tickets on sale tomorrow

Tickets for the Big East tournament will go on sale tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. at all Ticketmaster outlets. Ticket packages to all 15 games of the championship are priced at $99, nearly half of the face value. Tickets have been on sale at tickets offices at the 16 Big East schools for several weeks.

To charge tickets by phone, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. In addition, tickets can be purchased online by logging on to the XL Center website at or the Ticketmaster website at

Tickets can also be purchased at the XL Center box office beginning Tuesday, Dec. 1. Weekday box office hours are Noon-5 p.m. For weekend events, the box office will open four hours prior to the start of an event. All ticket purchases are subject to additional convenience fees.

For group sales (10 or more) information and discounts, call Cheri Lisko of the XL Center at (860) 548-2000.

The Big East tournament will be held from Mar. 5-9, 2010 at the XL Center in Hartford.

Staying on the subject of tickets, the Connecticut Sun put their "Gift of Basketball" ticket packages on sale today. For either $79 or $99 fans can purchase vouchers to four Sun home games, receive a holiday ornament and an invitation for two to a private team practice during the preseason. Packages are available, while supplies last, at or by calling 1-877-SUN-TIXX (786-8499).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

WBCA Classic, a look back

Not too many surprises as UConn rolled past overmatched Hofstra, Richmond and Clemson by an average of 44.3 points to run its winning streak to 45 games.

Tina Charles was named the tournament most outstanding player, averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Kalana Greene was the story in Sunday's 87-48 crushing of Clemson with a career-high 28 points. Charles and Greene were joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes, Clemson's Lele Hardy and Brittani Shells of Richmond.

Caroline Doty played just 10 minutes and did not play the final 18:11. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said it was more of a case of not wanting to overdo it with Doty's surgically-repaired knee and that Doty was dealing with a bit of the flu bug.

Highly-touted Betnijah Laney, a 6-foot wing who is a junior at Smyrna High in Delaware, was in the stands.

UConn student Mike Carson of Naugatuck won $1000 after hitting a layup, free throw (on his fourth attempt), 3-pointer and half-court heave.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Passing grades

On Friday, Caroline Doty had nine assists in a win over Hofstra. On Saturday's win over Richmond, Tiffany Hayes had seven assists and no turnovers. I know that neither the Pride or Spiders will stand between UConn and a seventh national title when March Madness kicks into high gear, but still it seems as if the questions about who will be manning the point is looking like much ado about nothing.

"The last couple of games, I have made a point of having Caroline up top with the ball all the time which would free up Tiffany to go some other stuff," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She (Doty) was making so many shots, I think it kind of flip flopped. That's why I don't buy that point guard, 2 guard (garbage). If you play for us and you are a good guard, you should be able to catch it, pass it, dribble it and shoot it. Both of them can do that and we are really lucky that we have the kind of team when we have two guards like that."

Doty (five 3-pointers) and Hayes (two 3's) can also shoot a little. Maya Moore added three 3-pointers, Kelly Faris had two and Meghan Gardler one as the 13 3-pointers is tied for fifth on UConn's single-game list for 3-pointers.

Among the interested spectators where UConn's point guard of the past (Sue Bird) and the future (Bria Hartley).

I also spoke to Richmond coach Mike Shafer to check on the status of one-time UConn forward/center Kristen Phillips.

Phillips would have been a senior had she stayed at UConn but she transferred to Richmond after playing just two games with the Huskies during the 2006-07 season.

She played six games for the Spiders last year but never shook the persistent foot issues that sidetracked her UConn career. Shafer said Phillips will remain at Richmond until she graduates but that her playing career is over.

"She had a surgery which is keeping her out for a full year," Shafer said. "It is an unfortunate thing but her surgery is a year-long rehab."

Naturally, Richmond had high hopes for Phillips when she transferred from UConn but her college career amounted to playing 34 minutes in eight games and finishing with six points, seven rebounds, one assists and two blocks.

"Obviously you have a 6-5 kid, you hope for best and with our (lack of) size but that's the reality of it," Shafer said. "Honestly just getting her surgery so she can walk and move on with her life was something that was important. She is doing pretty well. I think she understands that getting her degree and moving on, we have find of talked to her and moved her past basketball and see what we can do to further her career after graduation."

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Back to 10

Senior guard Jacquie Fernandes, who missed Friday's win over Hofstra because of illness, is taking part in pre-game drills. Junior guard Lorin Dixon, however, is on the court but once again not warming up so she will miss her fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring.

Clemson escaped with a 69-68 win over Hofstra in Saturday's first game as Keyrra Gillespie hit two free throws with 4.2 seconds to play.

Hofstra, which led by as many as seven points in the second half, regained the lead on a Candice Bellocchio layup with 13 seconds to play.

Lele Hardy, limited to nine minutes in the second half because of foul trouble, led Clemson with 19 points. Gillespie had 12 points, four assists and three steals and Shaniqua Pauldo had 10 points for the Tigers, who are 1-1 in the tournament.

Hofstra, 0-2 in the WBCA Classic, was led by Simsbury's Sam Brigham's 17 points. Jess Fuller added 14 and Joelle Connelly 10 for the Pride.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Richmond wins opener

Brittani Shells had 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals as Richmond defeated Clemson 86-67 in the first game of the WBCA Classic.

Shaniqua Pauldo had 19 points while Lele Hardy overcome a slow start to finish with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists and six steals for Clemson.

Charles honored by USA Basketball

UConn senior center Tina Charles has been named the USA Basketball's 2009 Female Athlete of the Year after her impressive stints with the U.S. squad which won the World University Games title and with the Senior National Team in its trip to Russia.


'Tis the Season

for the future stars of the UConn women's basketball program to get back to work, that is.

Michala Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward at Montini Catholic High in Lombard, Ill. was the first to take the court as she averaged 16.5 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in 16.5 minutes in the first two games of the season. True to his word, Montini coach Jason Nichols is limiting Johnson's minutes early in the season to work Johnson and her surgically-repaired knee back in the flow gradually. Montini is back in action on Tuesday hosting St. Francis.

North Babylon (N.Y.) guard Bria Hartley kicks off her senior season tomorrow with a 10 a.m. game at St. Anthony's followed by a 1 p.m. game Sunday at Christ the King and a Tuesday home game at 3 p.m. against Holy Trinity.

Lauren Engeln and Laguna Hills (Calif.) opens up Wednesday with a game at Tesoro, the next day Stefanie Dolson leads her Minisink Valley of Slate Hill, N.Y. squad against Middletown (N.Y.) High. That game is set to tip at 6:30 p.m.

Samarie Walker will be the last of the five high school seniors who have signed with UConn to debut as her Chaminade Julienne of Dayton, Ohio opens on Dec. 5 at Thurgood Marshall High of Dayton. Speaking of Walker, there's a story in today's Dayton Daily News about her and the Eagles

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For starters ...

Considering that junior guard Lorin Dixon was in uniform but did not take place in practice is a pretty good indication that she won't be called upon when UConn plays Hofstra Friday in the first day of the WBCA Classic.

When Dixon does get the OK to return to the lineup, it's no sure thing that she will move straight into the starting lineup especially with how well Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty (who handled the bulk of the point guard responsibilities when she was on the court with Hayes during Wednesday's practice) are playing.

"It's hard not to like the team the way it is now, so far they haven't done anything to make me say 'OK, we need some changes.' At the same time, you might find some
games when it is better to have Lorin in the game than not have Lorin in the game. I have thought about it a little bit and I am not worried about it. Those things have a tendency of taking care of themselves. It is all about minutes, it is all about who starts and who doesn't start. If you ask me how Kelly Faris is doing, she is
playing more than (starting center Tina Charles). I don't really worry too much about all of that."

Bonnie Samuelson, an AAU teammate of UConn signee Lauren Engeln with Cal Swish Black, took in practice during her unofficial visit to campus on Wednesday.

Samuelson, a sweet-shooting 6-foot-2 wing out of Edison High, averaged 18 points and had more than 60 3-pointers in leading Edison to a league title and into the CIF Southern Section II-AA championship game as a sophomore. Considering to be not only one of the top shooters in the current high school junior class, but Samuelson has already earned a reputation for her high basketball IQ. She took part in the U.S. Under-16 national team trials in Colorado Springs.


UConn's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will hold a toy drive at the Dec. 3 women’s game vs. Vermont and Dec. 6 men’s game vs. Harvard. Fans can donate unwrapped toys that will be given to The Cornerstone Foundation and The Village for Families and Children in Hartford.

Kalana Greene will be presented with a ball commemorating her becoming the 33rd player in UConn history to reach 1,000 career points in the season-opener vs. Northeastern. In addition, Tina Charles will be presented a ball to recognize her becoming just the third player in UConn history to record 1,000 rebounds, which was also accomplished in the season-opening win over Northeastern.

Ticket Update: UConn’s games against North Carolina (Jan. 9) and Notre Dame (Jan. 16) both have a limited number of tickets remaining.

The Jan. 9 game vs. North Carolina has approximately 300 tickets remaining, while the Jan. 16 showdown vs. Notre Dame, which will also be part of the first ESPN Women’s College GameDay, has less than 1,000 tickets available.

Fans can purchase tickets to either of these two games or any other UConn game this season by calling 800-745-3000 or logging on at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

WBCA Classic primer

Getting teams which not only have the opening for a three-game tournament but also would bypass trips to exotic locations like Cancun and the U.S. Virgin Islands to head to Storrs isn't the easy task in the world. Add in the fact that teams aren't exactly to lining up a UConn team which could have the next two overall No.1 WNBA draft picks and there are no ranked teams joining the top-ranked Huskies.

But it should be noted that Clemson, Hofstra and Richmond are a combined 7-2 (not including Clemson's game against Kennesaw State tonight).

Here's the schedule of the six games being played at Gampel Pavilion between Friday and Sunday

Clemson vs. Richmond, 5 p.m.
Hofstra vs. UConn, 7:30 p.m.

Clemson vs. Hofstra, 5 p.m.
Richmond vs. UConn, 7:30 p.m.

Hofstra vs. Richmond, 2 p.m.
Clemson vs. UConn, 4:30 p.m.

Now here's a synopsis of the three visiting teams
CLEMSON (2-1 not including game against Kennesaw State)
Lele Hardy is a 5-foot-10 senior guard closing in on Clemson's record for career steals and is closing in on the 1,200-point mark. One of 50 players named to the Naismith Trophy preseason watch list, Hardy is averaging 16.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 steals in the first three games of the season. She is one of three Tigers averaging more than 10 points a game while point guard Keyrra Gillespie averaged 9.3 points, 7.3 assists and 37 minutes in the first three games.

Clemson's win over South Carolina is the best result of the season among the three other teams coming to Storrs.

Shante Evans (14 points, 8.5 rebounds) leads four players in double figures. Unlike the first three teams UConn has played this season, the Pride does not rely heavily on the 3-point shot. Hofstra has attempted 10 3's and had four of them. Nicole Capurso (3 for 9) has attempted all but one of the treys.

Hofstra has two players who started their careers in the Big East on the roster. Asia Jenkins went to Cincinnati as a freshman but did not play while Marie Malone had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 13 games for West Virginia in the 2007-08 season.

The Spiders' best player is a high-scoring Delaware native (and UConn fans seem to love their high-scoring Delaware natives) Brittani Shells, a junior guard from Camden, Delaware who is averaging 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds with 12 assists and 10 steals.

From the familiar name department, I bring you Crystal Goring, the younger sister of one-time UConn recruit Gillian Goring. While Gillian never played a game at Gampel Pavilion, Crystal will get that chance.

Staying on the subject of ex-Connecticut recruits, former UConn forward/center Kristen Phillips, who came in with the same class as Tina Charles, Kaili McLaren, Meghan Gardler and Jacquie Fernandes before transferring to Richmond, will not play this season because she is still being bothered by a foot injury.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Charles honored by Big East

UConn senior center Tina Charles was named the Big East Player of the Week after averaging 19.7 points, 11 rebounds and becoming the third UConn player with 1,000 career rebounds.

Here's the complete Big East release

Charles, Diggins Earn First BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Weekly Honors
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Connecticut senior Tina Charles and Notre Dame freshman Skylar Diggins, two Naismith Trophy Watch List candidates, highlight the first BIG EAST women’s basketball weekly honors. Charles led Connecticut to a 3-0 week to open the season and was named BIG EAST Player of the Week, while Diggins also led her squad to a 3-0 record and was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week for her efforts.

Charles led top-ranked Connecticut to a 3-0 record to open the season, including an 83-58 win over then-No. 13/10 Texas in San Antonio on Nov. 17. The senior compiled averages of 19.7 points and 11.0 rebounds, while shooting 56.1 percent from the field. She opened the season with a double-double of 26 points and 13 rebounds in 18 minutes of action against Northeastern on Nov. 14. She followed that performance with another double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Longhorns. At Holy Cross, Charles netted 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Also last week, Charles became only the third player in UConn history to reach 1,000-career rebounds.

Diggins averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game in her first week as a collegiate player and helped lead No. 5/6 Notre Dame to a 3-0 week. The freshman guard came off the bench for all three wins, including a road victory at then-No. 21/21 Michigan
State on Nov. 19. Diggins began her career with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at home on Nov. 15. She then showed off her free throw shooting talents with 7-of-8 at the line at MSU. Diggins dropped in a career-high and game-best 17 points, along with four rebounds, three assists and two steals in ND’s win over Iona on Nov. 22.

The BIG EAST Weekly Honor rolls was selected from a pool of 15 women’s basketball players – the list includes:

Ashley Barlow, Notre Dame, Sr., G (Indianapolis, Ind. ) 3-0; 13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 spg; hit tiebreaking free throw to win at then-No. 21/21 Michigan State
Mi-Khida Hankins, Providence , Jr., F (Baltimore, Md.) 3-0; 17.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg; 21 pts., 10 rebs. vs. St. Joseph’s 15 pts.; 11 rebs., vs. Hartford
Nicole Michael, Syracuse , Sr., G (Bronx, N.Y.) 4-0; 19.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.3 apg; 36 pts., 17 rebs., 8 3-pointers vs. Binghamton
Deirdre Naughton, DePaul, Sr., G (Winnetka, Ill.) 4-0; tourney MVP; 17.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.8 apg; netted 1,000th career point
Da’Shena Stevens, St. John’s , So., F (Stamford, Conn.) 3-0; 16.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 62.5 FG%; 17 pts., 9 rebs. at Massachusetts ; 15 pts., 8 rebs. vs. Boston University


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Putting on a show

I'm not sure what was more impressive, the dominating defensive effort by UConn in the Huskies demolition of Holy Cross or the performance of Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons in the post-game press conference.

Gibbons started off by telling the story of one of his golfing buddies making up "41 and Done" t-shirts and threatening to wear them to Friday's game. Gibbons begged him not to knowing the odds were slim and none that a Holy Cross team that lost to Yale would be able to snap UConn's 41-game winning streak.

Midway through his entertaining question and answer session, I asked him his impressions of Heather Buck since he recruited the former Stonington High star extremely hard and was disappointed when she chose to head to UConn.

"We (Gibbons and UConn coach Geno Auriemma) were kidding around during shootaround and he said 'I keep telling Buck that if she keeps playing like this, we are leaving her at Holy Cross but then Billy's going to send her back in a week,'" Gibbons said. "I said 'please leave her.' Obviously she is somebody we are missing, we lost out on her, we lost out on a 6-5 kid last year. It's been tough to get over the hump. She is such a great kid and I thought she has gotten bigger and stronger, real athletic. I would love to see her in purple and white. She is a going to get better in their system because she is going to get pushed every day in practice."

Buck spoke very highly of Gibbons when I spoke to her at Thursday's practice.

"It was a situation where it was close to home, I could have gone there, played and stayed with my best friend (Holy Cross guard Meredith Ward)," Buck said. "(Also) Coach Gibbons is one of the nicest people so it is hard to say no to somebody like that. They hung around for a long time."

A few other notes:
The win was the 699th of Auriemma's career. He will go for No. 700 on Nov. 27 when UConn meets Hofstra at 7:30 p.m. on the first day of the WBCA Classic at Gampel Pavilion.

While it is not news that UConn is playing at Stanford next season, the dates have been finalized. The Huskies will play in Palo Alto on Dec. 30, 2010, two days after starting the two-game California swing with a game against Pacific.

Gibbons said he wouldn't mind moving the UConn game back on campus to the Hart Center. The schools will continue the 2 for 1 deal meaning the game will be played in Connecticut the next two seasons and will be played in Worcester during the 2012-13 season.

Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault and assistant coach Scott Hawk were at the DCU Center doing a little scouting. Jeez, I wonder who they were scouting, cough, Tina Charles, cough.

You will not see a better offensive move than Maya Moore' catch of a lead pass in the lane and her hesitation dribble leading to a layup. That was one sweet play.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

High praise for Huskies

Last night I headed to the Arizona State/Yale game to do a story on the close friendship between Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne and Chris Gobrecht of Yale, who hired Turner Thorne as a graduate assistant when she was the head coach at Washington.

After speaking to Turner Thorne about how her coaching career got started with the aid of Gobrecht, I changed the subject. Turner Thorne was the head coach of the U.S. team which won the World University Games. UConn's Tina Charles, Tiffany Hayes and Maya Moore were all members of that team although Moore was unable to play in the game because of a sprained knee. Here are her thought on the three Huskies.

"Maya Moore is just an incredibly special young lady and I did get to coach her up
until the first game, she was in trials, she was in training camp and was the instant leader of that team as a sophomore.

"Her maturity, her willingness to be coached, her willingness to try to do everything that you asked her was incredible."

"Tina Charles, obviously the light bulb just completely went on for her at the tail end of last year at UConn. I got the benefit of that. I was so proud of her, I got to see some of the Texas game and she has continued (to improve). We all know what Geno will say 'work harder, work harder.' She was real fun to coach and is just a fun person. If you motivate her, she will get to 30 (points). If she is fired up, she is going to get it done."

"Tiffany Hayes, wow what an athlete. There was a block, it was a huge play. There
was a scramble and they were about to score a layup, she took off from behind the 3-point line and in a split second blocked the shot against the backboard. This is Tiffany Hayes, about 5-10. She was a younger player on the team but she was
huge for us, very dynamic and Geno is going to get the most out of her. They are going to be incredibly tough to beat for the next couple of years."

Before heading to Yale, I asked Tiffany Hayes about her thoughts on Turner Thorne.

"With me being the younger player there, I would get down on myself and she would tell me 'calm down, this team has a lot of leaders and take what you can from them.' She told me to play my game and things will come. I learned a lot from her and am
glad to have had that experience.

"The most important thing she helped us with is when things weren't going well in the games, we were down or the other team would go on a run, she would calm us down. She would say 'hey, look everything's going to be OK. Just calm down, you guys
get it back together, come back together as a team.' She was that kind of a coach."

Speaking of Hayes, I asked her about what UConn learned about themselves playing against 10th-ranked Texas when she provided some unexpected comedy relief involving the nickname "omnu" the team gave freshman Kelly Faris.

Here's the transcript of the interview:

Hayes: Caroline and (long pause) Kelly stepped up. I was about to call her omnu and did a pretty good job.

Me: What do you call Kelly?

Hayes: Omnu. At our championship dinner, everybody was 'hi, how are you?' She was like 'I am Kelly, I am new.' We were like 'omnu?' And
we just started calling her 'omnu' that's her name.

Me: Who came up with that one?

Hayes: I think either Meghan or Kalana. We just call her omnu now and I completely forgot her name was Kelly. I was about to say omnu when you asked me that question.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

WICC bails out

While the general manager at WICC did not respond to my inquiry about whether they plan on remaining in the network of radio stations carrying UConn women's basketball games. Fortunately, UConn was kind enough to check and confirm that the only stations carrying the games at WTIC-1080 out of Hartford, WILI-1400 of Willimantic, Old Saybrook's WLIS-1420 and Middletown's WMRD-1150.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Moore, Charles, Hayes make the list

Last year's winner Maya Moore is joined by her UConn teammates Tina Charles and Tiffany Hayes to give the defending national champions three of the 50 players named to the 2009-10 Naismith Trophy preseason watch list.

There are also 13 players who will face UConn during the regular season but shockingly none are named Nneka Ogwumike as her Stanford teammates Jayne Appel, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen made the cut.

Former Trinity Catholic star Da'Shena Stevens was on the list as was Delaware freshman Elena Delle Donne, a member of the UConn program for all of 48 hours before opting to head back home to Delaware.

Delle Donne is one of three freshmen on the list joining Baylor's Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame.

Looking quickly, another omission is Arkansas' Ciera Ricketts.

This list will undergo some revisions as the season wears on.

If Moore wins the award, she will become the first player to win two Naismith Trophies as a high school and college player.

Here's the complete list courtesy of Eric Oberman of the Atlanta Tipoff Club

2009-10 Naismith Trophy Preseason watch list:
Appel Jayne Stanford Center Senior
Barlow Ashley Notre Dame Guard Senior
Breland Jessica North Carolina Forward Senior
Charles Tina UConn Center Senior
Clark Alysha Middle Tennessee Forward Senior
DeHaan Allyssa Michigan State Center Senior
Delle Donne Elena Delaware Forward/Guard Freshman
Diggins Skylar Notre Dame Guard Freshman
Evans Dawn James Madison Guard Junior
Fitz Rachele Marist Forward Senior
Grant Tyra Penn State Guard Senior
Gray-Lawson Alexis California Guard Senior
Griffin Kelsey Nebraska Forward Senior
Griner Brittney Baylor Center Freshman
Hardy Lele Clemson Forward/Guard Senior
Harris Amber Xavier Forward Junior
Hayes Tiffany UConn Guard Sophomore
Hightower Allison LSU Guard Senior
Houts Ashley Georgia Guard Senior
Hughes Jareica UTEP Guard Senior
Jaeschke Amy Northwestern Center Junior
Johnson Shenise Miami Forward Sophomore
Lavender Jantel Ohio State Center Junior
Lucas Italee North Carolina Guard Junior
Marginean Gabriela Drexel Forward Senior
McCray Danielle Kansas Forward/Guard Senior
Monroe Jacinta Florida State Forward Senior
Montgomery Alex Georgia Tech Forward/Guard Junior
Moore Maya UConn Forward Junior
Morris Jené San Diego State Guard Senior
Naughton Deirdre DePaul Guard Senior
Pedersen Kayla Stanford Forward Junior
Phillips Ta'Shia Xavier Center Junior
Pohlen Jeanette Stanford Guard Junior
Prahalis Samantha Ohio State Guard Sophomore
Raven Brittainey Texas Guard Senior
Riley Andrea Oklahoma State Guard Senior
Robinson Danielle Oklahoma Guard Junior
Robinson Angel Marquette Guard Junior
Smith Jenna Illinois Center Senior
Stevens Da'Shena St. John's Forward Sophomore
Stricklen Shekinna Tennessee Forward/Guard Sophomore
Sverrisdottir Helena TCU Guard Junior
Sweat Ashley Kansas State Forward Senior
Swords Carolyn Boston College Center Junior
Thomas Bianca Ole Miss Guard Senior
Thomas Jasmine Duke Guard Junior
Vandersloot Courtney Gonzaga Guard Junior
Whipple Kalee Utah Forward Senior
Wright Monica Virginia Guard Senior

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Texas-sized letdown

First, there is no truth to the rumor that Dee Kantner called two fouls on Tina Charles and Tiffany Hayes as they made their way through the security checkpoint and headed to their gate at the San Antonio airport this morning.

I'm trying to figure out what was more distressing, that 85 fouls were called (many of the ticky tack variety) in the Tennessee/Texas Tech and UConn/Texas games at the AT&T Center Tuesday night, that the appearance of two Texas teams and the two most marketable women's basketball teams in the country drew only 4,586 or that 10th-ranked Texas, even with Charles and Hayes on the bench for the final 10 minutes of the first half, trailed by as many 35 points before losing 83-58. I honestly thought this was going to be a competitive game, silly me.

Before the UConn/Texas game hit the 10-minute mark, Charles and Hayes had two fouls each as did Ashley Gayle and Erika Arriaran of Texas. If this is what the powers that be are using to showcase women's basketball to a nation-wide audience, I have to question their judgment. I sat through (OK, actually I was standing up) Barb Jacobs' spiel about officiating points of emphasis in the game to the UConn team. The entire time I was thinking, shouldn't the points of emphasis center around not turning games into free-throw shooting contests. After what I witnessed last night, I guess the answer is no.

It's not a coincidence that most of the officials in San Antonio are WNBA officials because the UConn game was called with the same lack of common sense that I witness at WNBA games. More than once, a player from either Texas or UConn would have control of a rebound only to have a foul called which did not impact possession or the chance to get out in transition.

On a more positive note, perhaps the three plays which stood out to me was Maya Moore's hustling block in the first half, one ridiculous drive through the lane and finish by Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren's sweet pass to Moore leading to a layup later in the game when McLaren looked as if she was going to deliver a behind the back pass on the perimeter before delivering a perfect pass to Moore. Having McLaren back is a bonus for the Huskies especially since Heather Buck is still dealing with growing pains as she attempts to play her way into the UConn rotation.

A few other observations.

Maya Moore is kind of good.

Kelly Faris' basketball instincts are top notch.

Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma still don't like each other.

Kara Lawson is a very good color commentator offering insight without any biases shining through. She has the rare ability to break down a play without a condescending persona and without trying to show off how much basketball she knows.

If more post players in the country realized that they are most effective within a few feet of the basket which Tina Charles seems to get, it would be a better game.

I do have a suggestion to ESPN, have they ever considered showing Pat Summitt's halftime speeches?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reunion time in Texas

When Maya Moore reflects back on the summer of 2006 when she helped the U.S. win the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women, one of the enduring memories is the infectious personality of teammate Brittainey Raven.

Raven, a senior guard at Texas, will be reunited with Moore and UConn senior center Tina Charles when UConn and Texas play tonight at 9:30 p.m. at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

"I remember playing with her on USA Basketball when I was 17," Moore said. "She's funny, she has a great personality, she is one of those people you always remember. She is very talented, quick and has a lethal shot.

Looking back to the U.S. Under-18 team the trio played on, Charles was the leading scorer (12.0) and rebounder (9.5), Moore averaged 9.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and had a team-high 15 steals in the four games while Raven averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds as the U.S. defeated Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Canada by an average of more than 40 points.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Louisville, Arizona State on their way

For those who aren't able to make it to San Antonio for the UConn/Texas game tomorrow night, there are some viewing options closer to home (assuming you call Connecticut home).

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Hartford will host 2009 national championship finalist Louisville while nationally-ranked Arizona State will play at Yale on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Another game of some interest for UConn fans is Montini Catholic's season-opening game at Chicago's Marist High School on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. here in Connecticut). It will be the first game for UConn signee Michala Johnson, a senior forward for Montini Catholic, since she suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year's opener.

Here are the openers for the other four high school seniors who have signed with UConn:
Stefanie Dolson (Minisink Valley, Slate Hill, N.Y.): Dec. 9 at Monroe-Woodbury HS, 7 p.m.
Lauren Engeln (Laguna Hills, Calif.): Nov. 26 at Mission Viejo HS 6 p.m. pacific time
Bria Hartley (North Babylon, N.Y.): Nov. 28 at St. Anthony's HS, 10 a.m.
Samarie Walker (Chaminade Julienne, Dayton, Ohio): Dec. 5 at Dayton's Thurgood Marshall HS, 2:30 p.m.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good news on McLaren

Senior forward Kaili McLaren is considered probable to play on Tuesday against Texas. An MRI on her injured right foot showed no structural damage and she is diagnosed with a "sore right foot" according to an update I just received. She is listed as day to day.

McLaren injured her foot in practice on Friday and did not play in Saturday's season-opening 105-35 win over Northeastern.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Looking to the future

UConn coach Geno Auriemma is feeling pretty good about his latest recruiting class.

With all the letters into the UConn basketball office, Auriemma addressed the recruiting class of North Babylon (N.Y.) guard Bria Hartley, Laguna Hills (Calif.) High guard Lauren Engeln, Chaminade-Julienne of Dayton, Ohio wing Samarie Walker, Montini High of Lombard, Ill. forward Michala Johnson and Minisink Valley of Slate Hill, N.Y. center Stefanie Dolson.

"I think there is a real good mix in our class," Auriemma said. "We have some big guards, a big center, we've got pretty athletic kids coming in and they are all used to be winning programs which is obviously what we like. They all get along great, they all know each other and play against each other every summer.

"Other than Bria Hartley, there is no 'wow, they got Diana Taurasi, oh, they got Tina Charles and Maya Moore. Bria is the one everybody is talking about but I don't think anybody did any cartwheels when we signed Kelly Faris last year either and she turned out to be pretty good. I don't know if we have the best recruiting class in the country, we don't have the worst. When they get here, they will all be pretty good and they will help us. Unfortunately they are going to have to be pretty good and help us right away so that could be good or bad."

Hartley, a 5-foot-10 guard from North Babylon (N.Y.) High, was in attendance at the game and fills a need for a pure point guard.

Gatorade's New York state player of the year as a junior, averaged 22.4 points, 5.5 steals and 5.3 assists as a junior and enters her senior season with 1,373 points.
Engeln, a 5-foot-11 guard from Laguna Hills (Calif.) High, has 1466 points, 829 rebounds, 252 steals in her career. Walker, a 6-foot-1 wing from Chaminade-Julienne High in Dayton, Ohio, was the only high school junior to attend to USA Basketball junior national trials in May. She averaged 16.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season and enters her senior season with 1,006 points, 676 rebounds, 171 assists and 144 steals.

Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward who plays for Montini High in Lombard, Ill., suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of her junior season but is back, healthy and has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle. As a sophomore she averaged 18.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.9 blocks as a sophomore.

Dolson, a 6-foot-5 center, is the first player at Minisink Valley in Slate Hill, N.Y. to score 1,000 points by the end of her sophomore season.

"I don't know what they are going to do when they get here but I know they all have potentially the ability to be really good players, they all love the game and recruiting them was a (snap)," Auriemma said. These kids all wanted to come to Connecticut and that is everything to me. it didn't take them a lot of convince them that this was the place for the, where they want to be."

Here are a few additional notes,

Senior forward Kaili McLaren will have her injured right foot examined tomorrow. She is likely to miss the game against Texas on Saturday.

After the game, the entire UConn team made their way over to the student section and exchanged hgh fives with the sizeable crowd that were in attendance.

"It dawned on me that our program has been rerally good since 1995, I mean on television all the time and everybody in the state of Connecticut knows who we are," Auriemma said. "For the last 15 years, a lot of these kids were in middle school, high school and kind of grew up with Connecticut women's basketball. Now here they are and they get a chance to experience it first hand. That is why they are all here. I think that is pretty cool and they have made an effort to be here. We had more students here in an exhibition game then we used to get 10 years ago in a non-TV game I think our players appreciate that. These are kids they sit in class with, it is pretty cool for them to come out on a Saturday afternoon and sit through a 70-point win."

Of course auctioning off an i-phone might have helped draw more students than usual. For the record, Melissa Davis was the winner.

Nine is enough

With Lorin Dixon out with a strained left hamstring and Kaili McLaren sidelined after she rolled her ankle in practice on Friday, UConn will have just nine players available today.

North Babylon High's Bria Hartley, one of five high school seniors to sign national letters of intent with UConn, is among those in attendance today.

The national championship banner will be unveiled right after the national anthem, around 2:01 p.m.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

One last look back

In the eyes of Kalana Greene, when the 2008-09 national championship banner is put on display tomorrow afternoon there will be a brief period of reflection and celebration. Then it is time to go to work on this current season.

"You get that little short segment, that short window to think about it," Greene said. "All the hardship, everything we went through and we perservered through it. After that, cut it off. last year is done, no more last year, (no more) bringing it up ever. For us as a team, there is no enjoying it anymore."

Things are getting crowded in the banner department but they are making room as we speak. UConn coach Geno Auriemma believes it is an achievement that can be celebrated but the team is already forming its own identity.

"You would think, the banner goes up and everybody celebrates," Auriemma said. "I would hope that they would feel a sense of pride in what they accomplished, they will be able to look up there for not just the rest of this year but the rest of their careers and when they come back and know that they were directly responsible for that happening. Then it is time to play the game. I don't think from that point on they will ever look up there and say 'why do we have to run so hard? We are national champions.' Or 'why is he yelling at us about blocking out? Coach, we are national champions.' That stuff will be over. It's over now but it will be the last reminder, I am sure."

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dixon coping with injury

UConn junior point guard Lorin Dixon admitted that the first night was the hardest in dealing with her strained left hamstring.

Dixon stayed on campus all summer except when she attended Point Guard College to put herself in position to be the Huskies' starting point guard. Dixon had earned the starting spot before she strained her left hamstring in Monday's exhibition game against Vanguard University. Dixon has been ruled out for Saturday's game against Northeastern and is iffy for Tuesday's game against No. 12 Texas.

"It is something that is bothering me a lot because I worked hard all summer and I am not able to play in the first couple of games," said Dixon.

"That first night was hard for me. I have been good. I have spoken to Shea and everybody. I would rather it happen now than later in the season and my team is all behind me picking me up."

Dixon realizes that rushing back too soon from a hamstring injury only increases the possibility of her suffering another issue with the hamstring so UConn will err on the side of caution.

"They are afraid if I come back too fast, I may redo it and hurt it again which would probably keep me out for the rest of the year," Dixon said.

Tiffany Hayes will move over from the off guard position to play the point with Caroline Doty starting at the other guard spot.

In other news, UConn coach Geno Auriemma has not been monitoring the incoming letter of intent faxes so he will defer commenting on the current recruiting class until after Saturday's game against Northeastern.

The national championship banner will be unveiled before Saturday's game. Auriemma and his players consider the brief ceremony to be the last bit of reflecting on last season's achievements and will focus on the current season.

There are some promotions fans may want to know about on Saturday

The first 350 fans will receive a Nike 2009 UConn Women’s Basketball National
Championship Miniature Commemorative Basketball

All fans will receive a 2009-10 Women’s Basketball Schedule Poster

One UConn Student Season Ticket Holder will win an iPhone. The winner must register
at the North or East Entrance and must be present to win. The winner will be drawn
at the end of the game.

Ogwumike is headed to ...

Stanford according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. She is expected to make it official within the hour when she signs her national letter of intent.

The decision is not an unexpected one considering that her older sister Nneka is a sophomore on the Stanford team and academics was very high up on the 6-foot-3 Ogwumike's list of priorities and there's no questioning Stanford's academic credentials.

UConn made a strong impression on Chiney and Notre Dame also made a late push but in the end, she made the decision most assumed she would.

The Huskies' class with Ogwumike would have been sensational. But a class featuring Bria Hartley, Lauren Engeln, Samarie Walker, Michala Johnson and Stefanie Dolson is nothing to sneeze at.

Look for reaction on UConn's recruiting class later today from Geno Auriemma.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Huskies ready to face Huskies

With all the updates on the letter of intent signings of the five high school seniors committed to UConn and the attempt to update the situation of the highly-touted Chiney Ogwumike, who make her college decision known tomorrow, it is easy to forget there is actually a game on Saturday.

Northeastern, in quest of its first winning season since going 17-13 in the 1999-2000 season, will come to Gampel Pavilion for a 2 p.m. game.

There will be a story about Northeastern senior forward/center Kendra Walton, a former Wilbur Cross star, in Thursday's New Haven Register. I also spoke with fourth-year Northeastern coach Daynia La-Force Mann. Here's some info you may not know about her.

First, she was a member of the last Georgetown team to beat UConn. She had two points in three minutes in the Hoyas' 64-62 win over UConn at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 27, 1993. As a coach, she was on the Long Island staff when LIU lost to UConn in the first round of the 2001 NCAA tournament and spent three years as an assistant at St. John's. From a local standpoint, she may be remembered for coaching the University of New Haven team to the NYCAC regular-season and tournament titles during the 2005-06 season, leading the Chargers into the NCAA Division II tournament.

Here are some of her thoughts

First on what Northeastern gets out of playing UConn
"I have always been a proponent of allowing your teams to compete against the best and that is the only way you can teasch them how to compete at a high level. Every year since I have been here we have played a Big East opponent. I want my kids to be exposed to what it is like to compete at the highest level and to play against a program which such a rich tradition, just the way the whole the entire UConn organization operates. I think our kids need to see and value being on the floor like the University of Connecticut."

Of course I asked her to reflect on the win at Gampel considering that the Huskies are 245-17 at Gampel since it opened in January of 1990.
"The one thing about Gampel Pavilion, you walk in and you are so intimidated by the crowd and the support their women's basketball program gets, you are not only competing against the players on the women's basketball team but you are competing against every fan that's in the building. I just remembered when I was a player and I walked into Gampel, it was a sellout crowd and the entire place was obviously against Georgetown. The one memory I had of that game was we were able to silence that crowd, it wasn't about the fact that we won the game or beat the University of Connecticut but we silenced the crowd and that is a moment that I will cherish forever.

I also asked her about the decision to leave New Haven after just one year to take the job at Northeastern.
"It was difficult because I had bonded with the players. I had bonded with the university and program in general so it was pretty difficult for me to move on but I just felt like in my career, I needed an opportunity to experience rebuilding a program, something that I was familiar with being at Long island University and being at St. John's, I had the experience of rebuilding a program and I felt that Northeastern will be a great place for me to start, really practice the things I have learned over the years."

Michala Johnson signs

Thanks to Montini Catholic girls' basketball coach Jason Nichols and Jessica Sippel, the school's public relations director, here are a couple of photos of Michala Johnson signing her letter of intent with UConn Wednesday morning.

Spartak back on the court

In what must be a very emotional scene, three-time defending EuroLeague Women's champion Spartak Moscow Region is playing its first game since the murder of their owner Shabtai Kalmanovitch.

The game is at halftime with Spartak leading Fenerbahce 47-41 behind 17 points from former UConn star Diana Taurasi and nine from Anete Jekabsone-Zogota of the Connecticut Sun.

Updated at 12:15 p.m.: Spartak won 88-74 as Taurasi had 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists and seven turnovers. Jekabsone-Zogota added 18 points, Sylvia Fowles had 13 points and Janel McCarville 12 points.

I'm sure most people are coming here to get Chiney Ogwumike updates. Sorry I don't have anything new to report. There is actually an item saying her signing will take place on Thursday and not today as was previously reported. Of course the same story has Stanford losing to UConn in the national championship game when the game was actually the national semifinal so I can't vouch for the accuracy of that report.

This is the reason why I make contact personally to get recruiting updates because relying on second-hand information is a dicey proposition. The problem in this case is I have no choice. I finally heard back from her AAU coach yesterday who said he didn't have any information which goes with what I have been told from day one, this process is being handled by the Ogwumike family. I have still yet to hear back from her high school to confirm that date of the signing. Once I hear something one way or the other, I will be certain to post it.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ogwumike to sign tomorrow

Chiney Ogwumike, the last uncommitted high school senior on UConn's recruiting radar, will sign her letter of intent on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. Eastern time) according to a report in the Cypress Sun

As the story indicates, Ogwumike hasn't revealed her choice even to the local media. I'll provide any updates if and when they are available although getting reports or even a call or e-mail back from the Ogwumike has been a struggle to say the least.

Stanford, where her sister Nneka is a sophomore, UConn and Notre Dame are the three schools at the top of her list.


Bria Hartley signing set for Thursday

Just spoke to some people at North Babylon High School and while UConn recruit Bria Hartley is expected to sign and fax her letter of intent on Wednesday, there will be a press conference at the school Thursday at noon where she will do a mock signing for the assembled media's benefit. This is hardly a new phenomenon, that was how it was done when I went to Delaware for Elena Delle Donne's letter of intent signing (see, I do mention Delle Donne's name in this blog on occasion).

Assuming all goes as planned, UConn should have the letters from Stefanie Dolson, Lauren Engeln, Hartley and Michala Johnson by the time UConn's practice ends on Thursday. UConn coach Geno Auriemma will be able to comment on those four players once he has their letters of intent so look for that in this blog on Thursday and in Friday's edition of the Register. Unless Samarie Walker does the same thing and signs the letter before her actual ceremony, there probably won't be any comments on Walker since she told the Cincinnati Enquirer that she is planning to sign on Friday. If that happens, rest assured Auriemma will be asked about Samarie after Saturday's game.

Here's an update: Engeln will sign the letter at home tomorrow, surrounded by family and a couple of friends, according to her high school coach Jim Martin.

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Live chat replay

Thanks to everybody for joining me on the chat.

Johnson to sign tomorrow

As promised, here's the deal with Michala Johnson.

She will have a ceremony at Montini Catholic High in Lombard, Ill. at 9 a.m. on Wednesday so the Huskies will have a mininum of three letters of intent in their hands on the first day of the early signing period since Stefanie Dolson and Lauren Engeln are also expected to sign and fax the letters on Wednesday according to Dolson's high school coach Judy Mottola and Engeln's AAU coach Russ Davis. Samarie Walker will sign her letter on Friday. I'll still awaiting word on when Bria Hartley will sign.

Speaking of Johnson, she will play her first game since tearing her ACL a week from today when Montini opens its season against Marist. Montini coach Jason Nichols said he will ease Johnson back into the fray gradually, playing her about 16-20 minutes a game early on. Nichols has been extremely impressed with what he has seen from his star player in the preseason.

'Michala has looked great," Nichols said in an e-mail to the Register. "Sometimes when you get an ACL tear kids have a tendency to be gun shy when hitting a move, rotating over to help and take charge, rebounding or any aspect of their game. This is simply not the case with Michala. She didn't rush to get back on the floor and worked her tail off during the rehab. She has simply been our best player in practice(which she should be) and is the same Michala that I knew a year ago. She's the first kid down the floor in transition beating every guard down the floor. Her face (up) game has improved mightily. She looks confident. She is very explosive and will
only get better as we get into game action. The biggest difference is the 19
pounds of muscle she added in 10 months to her frame. She has filled out. I
tease her and tell her she used to look like that skinny 6-4 kid over there.
That is her sister who is a freshmen! I love what I see."

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Signing on the dotted line

The details of the letter of intent signing plans of the five high school seniors who have committed to UConn are being a little clearer.

I reported earlier on this blog that Stefanie Dolson will have a ceremony in the library at Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, N.Y. on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

After tonight's exhibition game between UConn and Vanguard University, I asked Vanguard coach Russ Davis who also happens to be the AAU coach of UConn commit Lauren Engeln of Engeln's plans. He said his busy schedule has prevented him to getting back to Lauren's mom but the last he heard was that there was something planned for Engeln to sign on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.

There is a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer about Samarie Walker's plans to sign on Friday.

When I get the details of the plans of Bria Hartley and Michala Johnson, I will pass it on. The intentions of Chiney Ogwumike, the only uncommitted high school senior still on UConn's recruiting radar, is still not known. If she follows her older sister Nneka's lead, she will announce during the eight-day early signing period.

Just a reminder that the first of my periodic live chats will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. You can log in at

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Vanguard reflections

Don't expect any news on junior guard Lorin Dixon's strained left hamstring for a couple of days.

Dixon was not made available to the media despite a request to bring her into the post-game press conference but UConn coach Geno Auriemma addressed Dixon's situation after the game.

"I am assuming that things like that last more than just two or three days so I don't know if she is going to play Saturday or not, if she is not practicing, she is not playing," Auriemma said. "Caroline was used to starting before her season ended last year, maybe that's what we will do. Come Wednesday's and Thursday's practice, we'll throw people out there and see what happens. if it something real serious, it is going to take a long time but we probably won't know anything for the next couple of days."

Vanguard coach Russ Davis, who played against both No. 2 Stanford and No. 1 UConn in a brutal preseason schedule, proclaimed UConn as the better team.

"I think the difference between them right now is their intensity level is the highest intensity level we have seen so far and we have seen pretty good intensity levels," Davis said. "You see (Kaili) McLaren diving (after the ball) up 30 and Maya's playing like it's a Final Four game, she doesn't care. That is how they play, that is why they are who they are. You can tell they are proud of what the jersey says in front. They have great players and that is great coaching to get them to play at that level, that is what Geno does best.

"Stanford's pretty dang big, they can go big across the floor but so can UConn but they don't have any Maya Moore's over there, somebody who can take the game over at any moment. Their people who do that are in the post. If you are asking me who is better, UConn is better. It is a higher level, they are two great teams. I don't know who else is out there but it is hard for me to imagine there are two better teams in the country."

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Dixon strains hamstring

UConn junior guard Lorin Dixon strained her left hamstring while being fouled on a fast break just 4:18 into the exhibition game against Vanguard University. She has been ruled out for the game and her status for Saturday's season opener against Northeastern will be reevaulated later this week.

UConn leads 53-35 at the break behind 17 points from Maya Moore, 12 from Tiffany Hayes, nine from Tina Charles and eight from Caroline Doty.

Perhaps the biggest stunner is that the undersized Vanguard team is only being outrebounded 23-21 in the first half.

Live chat tomorrow

I will have my first live chat of the season tomorrow beginning at 11 a.m. Anybody interested in asking questions can log into the chat at It is scheduled to last an hour but the duration could be adjusted depending on the number of questions as we won't sign out if questions are still coming in.

We will have periodic chats during the season and I expect that the frequency of future chats will depend somewhat on the response we get during tomorrow's chat.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Changing times?

Never underestimate the importance of an owner committed to women's sports.

Although it is just opinion on my part, I truly believe that the three-time WNBA champion Detroit Shock would still be playing games in the state Michigan if owner Bill Davidson had not passed away in March.

Closer to home, the Stratford Brakettes future has been one big question mark since the death of David Carpenter who stepped in when the amateur softball powerhouse was left without a sponsor and seemed on the verge of folding.

Now with the murder of Spartak Moscow Region owner Shabtai von Kalmanovic, one has to wonder if the days of the WNBA's best and brightest stars heading overseas to earn lucrative salaries could come to an end.

Former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird have made more than a pretty penny in helping Spartak to three straight EuroLeague titles.

Earlier this week I asked UConn coach Geno Auriemma of his reaction to the murder.

"I was shocked as anybody else but probably not as much as the players whose lives and livlihood in so many ways depends on that," Auriemma said. "I hope it (doesn't change things), I am sure it will. It is going to have a huge impact on the whole international basketball scene, he's the one who really pushed those salaries to the level they are at I don't know what it going to come of that and I am sure the players are worried, they are anxious about their futures."

While Bird is not with the team yet, Taurasi is and scored 27 points in the season opener. I asked Auriemma how fortunate it was that none of the players were with him when the assailants opened fire on the vehicle von Kalmanovic was in.

"I am sure they had plenty of opportunities to do what they did, I don't know they wanted to get anybody else involved. He was a generous guy and he did do a lot for those kids, I just can't imagine that happening in this country. That was shocking for me."

In other news, I heard back from Minisink Valley coach Judy Mottola earlier today who said that Stefanie Dolson will sign her letter of intent at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the school library. I also received a call back from Bria Hartley's dad saying details are still being worked out but Bria will likely sign her letter in a press conference setting at North Babylon High School.

Finally, to answer the question somebody posted on an earlier blog entry about whether anybody will redshirt next season, here are my thoughts. I am more focused on the upcoming season which is still more than a week away from starting. Personally, I don't see that having seven guards would lead the coaches to intentionally sit a player out. One of them will likely take over for Kalana Greene which means that Tiffany Hayes, Caroline Doty, Lorin Dixon, Kelly Faris, Hartley, Lauren Engeln and Samarie Walker could all see time with all but Dixon options to play small forward as well. Of the concerns for the 2010-11 season, I would think an overabundance of guards would pale in comparison with some serious issues in the post. The only returning post player is Heather Buck who still has a lot of work to do to work her way into the regular rotation. It's just my opinion, but I don't feel as if any of the UConn commitments are what I would consider to be developmental players. What I mean by that is I think all five will come ready to play. UConn had the luxury of using a non-medical redshirt season when Jessica Moore was a freshman, she had Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams, Kelly Schumacher (all future first-round WNBA picks) ahead of her. That will not be the case even if UConn gets a commitment from Chiney Ogwumike.

As to the predictable follow-up question, I do not have any updates on Ogwumike. I have reached out to all the appropriate parties (high school coaches, AAU coaches, etc.) and haven't heard back. I won't be surprised if she waits until early signing week to make her decision and do not buy into the theory that the delay helps UConn and hurts Stanford. People sometimes read too much into the tea leaves. When she is ready to commit, she will commit. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I believe it's better to get it done right rather than get it done first and I think Chiney is wise to take her time and go through the process the way it is meant to be done.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Memorable debut

When I saw Kelly Faris play one game in high school when I was out in Indiana covering UConn's game at Purdue and watching her in action at USA Basketball junior national team trials in Colorado Springs the last two summer, I was always impressed with her basketball IQ.

Seeing her first game at UConn - even if it was an exhibition game against Division II Saint Rose - left me with the same impression.

Whether it was the crafty manner in which she beat the clock for a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the first half, her decision to reverse the ball on one possession leading to a wide-open jumper for one of her teammates, her tipping a 50-50 ball into the lane because she would not be able to catch it or her anticipation on telegraphed passes by Saint Rose, Faris looked like a daughter of a coach - which she is during an 85-44 win Thursday night.

Her final numbers (14 points, 2 rebounds, four assists and three steals) only begins to tell the story of her first college game.

"She gets involved in a lot of stuff, makes a lot of stuff happen, does a little bit of everything," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She is taking it a little bit to heart when I said I don't think you should be passing up shots.' She is being much more aggressive. I think she is a really good offensive player and because she is such a good passer, she can be effective every time she touches it, not just when she shoots it."

Returning All-Americans Maya Moore and Tina Charles gave performances you would expect out of national player of the year candidates. Moore had 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals, two blocks and no turnovers while Charles had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

If there was a downside to the preseason opener, it was the 19 ineffective minutes played by Lorin Dixon. If Dixon was looking to make a statement about being UConn's starting point guard, she didn't accomplish that. But look for Dixon to improve on her performance Monday when the Huskies face Vanguard University at the XL Center.

Charles mentioned that Renee Montgomery left her a voice mail saying "welcome to Minnesota" after the Minnesota Lynx won the WNBA draft lottery. Montgomery was a first-round pick of Minnesota in last year's draft.

Maya Moore admitted to being honored at hearing that Sacramento point guard Ticha Penicheiro put on her twitter account that not only was her hoping the Monarchs would get the No. 1 overall pick but "is Maya Moore a senior?"

"To have somebody I grew up watching, it makes me feel good," Moore said. "It makes me blessed to be here at a great school, get the exposure and training and have great teammates. It just gets me excited to be playing and makes the constructive criticism Coach (Geno Auriemma) gives me a little easier to take."

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Lynx, Sun lottery winners

The Minnesota Lynx earned the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft lottery followed by Sacramento, the team with the highest probability of earning the top pick. The Connecticut Sun leapfrogged Minnesota to get the third overall pick.

The top overall pick was actually the property of the New York Liberty but was traded away in a deal which brought Sidney Spencer to New York.

Now the question is whether Minnesota takes Jayne Appel or Tina Charles with the top overall pick. Whoever the Lynx selects, a potential lineup of Renee Montgomery, Seimone Augustus, Candice Wiggins, Nicky Anosike, Charde Houston and two of the top four picks is downright scary.

The question is what Sacramento does at No. 2. It would seem that Appel or Charles would be the natural pick but let's not forget that Sacramento used a first-round pick on Courtney Paris last season. A scorer like Monica Wright would fit nicely with the Monarchs although I would take either Appel or Charles if it were me.

As for the Sun, pick between Appel, Charles and Wright isn't such a bad consolation prize although other players (Danielle McCray of Kansas comes to mind so does Middle Tennessee's Alysha Clark who dropped 38 on LSU and 28 on Tennessee last season) could play their way into contention for the No. 3 overall pick.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Looking ahead to Saint Rose

After three weeks of practicing, UConn shifts into game mode when Division II Saint Rose visits Gampel Pavilion tomorrow night for a 7:30 p.m. exhibition game.

The expected starting lineup for UConn is Lorin Dixon and Tiffany Hayes at guard, Kalana Greene and Maya Moore at forward and Tina Charles at center.

Dixon will get the first shot at point guard for the graduated Renee Montgomery with Caroline Doty coming off the bench.

"She (Dixon) has earned it over a period of time," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "She has done it in a lot of areas, she has improved a lot mentally and physically."

Auriemma approach for the exhibitions hasn't changed over the years.

"Just to be pretty good at the stuff we worked at," Auriemma said. "You say that all the time about exhibition games, there is no mystery to it. You are only going to be so good, you are only going to be able to do so many things well so for me those things have to be the things we practiced for three weeks. There are certain things that we have worked on every single day so I want to make sure we are good at those things. We are going to pass the ball well, we catch the ball, we get good shots, we do a better good job defensively and rebounding the ball. To me, those are the things, the only things can show you, there are some combinations that can't be out there together. It will be important to me in the first two games getting the right people out there with the other right people and then get back in the game mode. It's been a while since Caroline (Doty) played in a game, Kelly (Faris) has never played in a college game, (Heather) Buck's never played in a college game. A couple of our big guys have never played without Renee so you go into the game and kind of see what you see."

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Exhibition games to be streamed live

The exhibition games against Saint Rose on Thursday and Vanguard on Monday will be streamed live on In order to get the live streams, you will have to sign up for Huskyvision. The link above will take you to the UConn site so you can register.

UConn unanimous pick again

Again, not sure if this really qualifies as news, but figured I would pass the fact that UConn received all 31 first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll.

The top three (UConn, Stanford and Ohio State) is the same in both polls while North Carolina and Duke are 5th and 6th respectively in both rankings. The No. 4 spot, however, is where there is a difference of opinion. The writers have Notre Dame in that spot while Baylor is No. 4 in the balloting of the coaches.

Here's a breakdown of how the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls shook out.
1. Connecticut 1. Connecticut
2. Stanford 2. Stanford
3. Ohio State 3. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame 4. Baylor
5. North Carolina 5. North Carolina
6. Duke 6. Duke
7. Baylor 7. Notre Dame
8. Tennessee 8. Oklahoma
9. LSU 9. Tennessee
10. Michigan State 10. Michigan State
11. Xavier 11. Arizona State
12. Texas 12. Florida State
13. Oklahoma 13. California
14. Virginia 14. Texas
15. Florida State 15. Xavier
16. Arizona State 16. Texas A&M
17. DePaul 17. LSU
18. California 18. Virginia
19. Georgia Tech 19. Louisville
20. Kansas 20. Vanderbilt
21. Georgia 21. Maryland
22. Vanderbilt 22. Pittsburgh
23. Louisville 23. Purdue
24. Middle Tennessee 24. Iowa State
25. Rutgers 25. DePaul

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Moore, Charles preseason All-Americans

It should come as little shock that UConn's Maya Moore and Tina Charles were selected to the preseason Associated Press All-American team.

Moore, the reigning consensus national player, was an unanimous pick after a brilliant sophomore season when she averaged 19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks.

Charles, the most outstanding player in the 2009 Final Four, averaged 16.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a junior.

Moore and Charles were joined on the first team by Stanford's Jayne Appel, Monica Wright of Virginia and Jantel Lavender of Ohio State.

This is the first time two teammates were preseason AP All-Americans since UConn's Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph were so honored in 2000. Considering that neither Abrosimova nor Ralph were able to finish the season because of foot and knee injuries respectively, I am sure the UConn faithful is hoping this is one bit of history that is not repeated.

For the sake of full disclosure, this is my first year as a voter in the AP poll and my picks were Moore, Charles, Appel, Wright and LSU's Allison Hightower.

UConn plays its first exhibition game on Thursday against the College of Saint Rose. The game will start at 7:35 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.

Speaking of Charles and Appel, the winner of Thursday's WNBA draft lottery will get the chance to pick between the two gifted post players.

The Sacramento Monarchs have a 42 percent chance of getting the top pick. Minnesota, which owns both its pick and New York's lottery selection, have 42.8 percent of picking first while Connecticut and Chicago each have a 7.6 percent opportunity of securing the top pick.

Here's the portion of the release which mentions how the lottery will be conducted.

WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will conduct the Draft Lottery in New York City. The lottery will establish the first five picks of the draft. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round as well as the second and third round is determined by inverse order of the teams' respective regular-season records.

Fourteen balls numbered 1-14 will be placed in a lottery machine and mixed. Four balls will then be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that four-ball combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The four balls will then be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated to determine the second and third picks.

There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. One thousand of those combinations will be assigned to the five non-playoff teams based on their order of finish in the 2009 regular season. The remaining combination will be unassigned. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls will be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated until an assigned combination is drawn.

Following are the number of chances for teams in the WNBA Draft Lottery:
Team Record Chances (out of 1,000)
1. Sacramento 12-22 420
2. Minnesota (from New York) 13-21 261
3. Minnesota 14-20 167
4. Connecticut 16-18 76
5. Chicago 16-18 76

Following is the remaining order for the first round as determined by overall records from 2009:

Team Record
6. San Antonio 15-19
7. Washington 16-18
8. Tulsa 18-16
9. Los Angeles 18-16
10. Atlanta 18-16
11. Seattle 20-14
12. Indiana 22-12
13. Los Angeles (from Phoenix) 23-11

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Hillhouse duo drawing interest

I spoke with Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart for another story tentatively scheduled to run this weekend when I asked her about the Academics' junior guard Andreana Thomas and sophomore wing Bria Holmes.

She told me that Boston College is one of the schools which has offered Thomas. Quinnipiac, Northeastern, Boston University, UMass and Providence are among the other schools showing serious interest in the speedy point guard. I have it on good authority that Dayton has expressed some interest in Thomas as well. What's the connection there? Well, Hawley-Stewart's head coach when she was at Providence was Jim Jabir, who just happens to be starting his seventh season as Dayton's head coach.

A recruiting source confirmed that Holmes is on UConn's recruiting radar. So is Rutgers as Hawley-Stewart took Holmes on an unofficial visit to the Rutgers campus recently.

"She loved it there," Hawley-Stewart said. "She wants to be a kid who stays in Connecticut, keeps the pride here in Connecticut. She would love to go to UConn. We are going to be able to go out there now that volleyball season is over and visit more schools."

Hawley-Stewart, who I covered when she was a star at West Haven High School, has an ideal background to advise Thomas and Holmes since she landed a scholarship at Providence and played for the Friars for four years. So what tips she is giving her players?

"Be very humble and do a lot of research, take the visits now while you can, while you are young," Hawley-Stewart said. "It is nice to have the limelight and spotlight on you and know that the big schools are recruiting you but there are other schools out there besides the big schools that are a great opportunity. Weigh your options. Do you want to play right away? Do you want to sit the bench? How many guards do they have? How many forwards do they have? What are they looking for? A lot of schools are going to recruit you, a lot of schools are going to send you letters but where are you on their list? Let's be realistic in these situations where a (recruiting) letter is a letter, where are you on the list. I would say to make sure you are contacting schools that you want to go to if they are not contacting you."

I have to say as advice goes, it's pretty hard to top those words of wisdom.