Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 years of dominance

With the next game taking place in 2010, UConn coach Geno Auriemma took the time to reflect on arguably the most most dominant decade in the history of women's college basketball.

The decade of dominance goes deeper than the five national titles, seven Final Fours and combined 15 Big East titles.

UConn posted two undefeated seasons, a third undefeated regular season and finished the 2000s with a record of 341-28 (a winning percentage of 92.4). The Huskies also had 10 players taken in the first round of the WNBA draft in the decade while four former Huskies (Kara Wolters, Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi) won Olympic gold medals and Svetlana Abrosimova captured a bronze medal in the Olympics. Auriemma also earned a gold medal as an Olympic assistant in 2000 and was appointed the U.S. coach for the 2012 Olympics.

"I have had people talk to me about it," Auriemma said. "As I think back, I can't believe it's been 10 years already since that game in Philadelphia. It's really amazing that much time has passed already and when I am forced to think about what has happened in those 10 years, I still don't believe it. I know we won five national championships and it is like those people who go fishing and say 'you should have seen the one who got away and I still think about the ones that got away.

"We went to seven Final Fours and we lost in two Final Eight games and you think 'how do we let that happen?' We lost in the national semifinals and I still look at that and say 'how did we let that happen?' It's a remarkable 10 years.

"I just did the CPTV show today and when we honored the 2000 team at the Stanford game, they were showing some highlights and I remember me saying that after the game
that I really wanted to win that one to prove to ourselves and everybody else that we weren't just one of those teams who wins a national championship and disappears
from the scene. So for us to win that was really huge. I don't know what we are trying to prove now?"

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dolson named MVP

UConn signee Stefanie Dolson was named the most valuable player of the James I. O'Neill Tournament after scoring 23 points in the championship game, a 55-31 win over the host school on Wednesday.

Dolson, a 6-foot-5 senior center for Minisink Valley of Slate Hill, N.Y., had 26 points in Monday's first-round game as Minisink Valley defeated Red Hook 53-30.

Not only are the undefeated Huskies the unanimous No. 1 team in both major national polls but are currently the top choice for the story of the year on a poll on the Register's web site.

UConn has received 39 percent of the vote (rather fitting since the Huskies finished 39-0 on won every game by at least 10 points) among the seven UConn or New Haven area based stories. The murder of UConn football player Jasper Howard is second with 30 percent while the Yale hockey team winning the ECAC title and earning an NCAA bid, the Yale football team's unsuccessful fake punt on a 4th and 22 leading to the game-winning score for Harvard and the return of football at the University of New Haven are tied with 5 percent of the vote.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting healthy

One of more noteworthy aspects of last night's win a Florida State was that Lorin Dixon is back in the rotation.

The junior, slated to be UConn's starting point guard, missed the first nine games after straining her left hamstring in in Nov. 9 exhibition game against Vanguard University.

Dixon played less than a minute in a win over second-ranked Stanford, getting the quick hook after giving up an uncontested 3-pointer and the fact that UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he didn't like Dixon's body language.

Dixon gave Auriemma no such reasons to sit her on Monday. Along with Kelly Faris, Dixon was the first reserve to get into the game as she entered 6:03 into the game. She needed just 44 seconds to assist on a Tina Charles basket. Dixon had two assists and two rebounds in 11 minutes.

Speaking of returning to the court, Notre Dame got some good news over the holidays as Devereaux Peters, an athletic 6-foot-2 junior forward, made her season debut. Peters suffered season-ending knee injuries in each of the last two seasons.

Peters, who underwent three knee surgeries in a span of 13 months, adds some size and athleticism to Notre Dame's front court. Peters had two points, two rebounds, one steal and two blocks in nine minutes in Tuesday's 85-52 win over Central Florida.

Third-ranked Notre Dame plays at UConn on Jan. 16 and the team will meet again on Mar. 1 in South Bend, Ind.

Back on the subject of UConn, Connecticut signee Lauren Engeln is closing in on a milestone as she is 21 rebounds shy of 1,000 in her career. What's most impressive is that the 5-foot-11 guard could hit the mark in just 100 games. She will play in career game No. 99 tonight against Mira Costa. By my math, Engeln has 1,703 points, 979 rebounds, 223 assists and 277 steals in 98 career games at Laguna Hills (Calif.) High. This season she is averaging 19.8 points and 12.5 rebounds for 10-2 Laguna Hills.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Moore honored by Big East

UConn junior forward Maya Moore was named the Big East Player of the Week after she had 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocked shots in an 80-68 win over Stanford on Wednesday.

Also, Spartak Moscow Region officially announced the signing of former UConn star Sue Bird for the rest of the EuroLeague season. It's not exactly that big of news as Bird made it clear that she planned on joining the three-time defending EuroLeague women champions early in 2010.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

KJ Welcomed Back

Kennitra Johnson's first reaction was shock as she received an invitation to return to UConn for a ceremony inducting the 1999-2000 UConn women's basketball team into the Huskies of Honor.

Johnson was the only freshman on the team which would only lose once and win the Huskies' second national title. She averaged 7.2 points, 2.5 assists and 2 steals a game but she opted to transfer at the end of her sophomore season and figured she would never set foot in Connecticut again.

It warmed her heart when she found out she was being welcomed back and was at the XL Center for the UConn/Stanford game and took part in the halftime ceremony honoring the 1999-2000 squad.

"I felt honored that they invited me," Johnson said before UConn's 80-68 victory. "I didn't know with me leaving and stuff ... But this school and this (program) once you are a part of it, you are always going to be a part of it that is the beauty of it. For them to invite me back, it was awesome. I was a little nervous because it had been like 10 years since I had been back up here so to walk in, to walk into Coach (Geno Auriemma's) house and see all the players I was overwhelmed. It was a good feeling.

"They were one of the best times of my life. I can't really say anything bad about the experience when I was here. Even up until the moment when I decided I had to leave, it was still a struggle because I didn't want to leave. It was just one of those things where I had to figure out what is best for me and my family. I keep up with them, I still watch them. They are still my favorite team. I can't say anything bad about UConn."

Like so many of the members of the 1999-2000 squad, Johnson is still involved in the sport. She is a teacher and assistant coach at her old high school New Albany (Ind.) High.

"It was one of those things were an opportunity came, it was the right fit," Johnson said.

As for playing, Johnson admits she only takes the court sparingly these days.

"I play a little bit but I don't play organized (ball)," Johnson said. "No, I can't say that I do (miss playing). I love the game of basketball and I enjoy watching it but I'm 29 now, I know it doesn't sound old but in basketball years it is pretty old."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

UConn-Stanford: A look back

A few thoughts about UConn's 80-68 win over previously undefeated Stanford.

First, you can't help but be impressed by UConn outrebounding a bigger Stanford team by 14.

Second, when UConn had it going in transition, there's not a heck of a lot you can do. The second-half runs, whether you want to count the 17-3 one of perhaps the 30-6 outburst was classic UConn with playing flying up and down the floor, filling the lanes and scoring at will. It's still early but I can't see any teams running with UConn. The Huskies are just too athletic and skilled at too many different positions.

Third, Kelly Faris lived up to her advanced billing as a cool customer. Sophomores Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty seemed to get caught up in the big game atmosphere - Tiffany for the first half and Caroline for the entire game but Faris was rock solid. It isn't often that a freshman can settle a team down but Faris managed to do that when she came into the game in the first half. Her defense was a major reason why UConn ran by Stanford in the second half. It was a good thing that Faris came to play because seniors Kaili McLaren and Meghan Gardler were non factors.

Finally, I was most disappointing in Stanford senior Jayne Appel's lack of a sense of urgency. When things were getting away from the Cardinal, I never got the feeling that Appel was ready to take charge. I know she is still coming back from offseason knee surgery but I don't think it is too much to ask a senior All-American to exert her will on a game when things are going poorly and she just did not do that.

A couple of footnotes:
UConn junior guard Lorin Dixon made her season debut after missing the first nine games with a strained left hamstring. She came into the game with 4:51 to play but only played 51 seconds.

I got the chance to interview Stacy Hansmeyer, Paige Sauer and Kennitra Johnson, who were among the players on hand from the 1999-2000 team which was inducted into the Huskies of Honor. I wish we had more time to speak to more of them.

The Jan. 9 North Carolina game is now a sellout and the Jan. 16 game against Notre Dame is fast approaching a sellout.

I'm in my first year as a voter on the Associated Press poll and I am going on the record as saying I will not be dropping Stanford out of the No. 2 spot when I submit my ballot on Sunday night.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Michala Johnson doing fine

There was a game report mentioning that an injury forced UConn signee Michala Johnson to miss a recent game with her Montini Catholic of Lombard, Ill. squad. Considering that she missed the rest of her junior season after a serious knee injury suffered in the season opener, I e-mailed Montini Catholic coach Jason Nichols to find out what the deal was with Michala.

Turns out it was some bad information. Here's what Jason Nichols had to say:
"No Injury. She didn't play because we played 3 games in 20 hours and I felt
it was in the best interest of the kid.

She played 24 minutes tonight and had 18 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks.
We beat Peoria Richwoods the defending Class 3A state champs 50-33."


Dixon to make debut

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said he expects junior guard Lorin Dixon to play in Wednesday's game against Stanford.

Dixon, who was slated to be the Huskies' starting point guard, missed the first nine games with a strained left hamstring. In the portion of practice the media was allowed to sit in on, Dixon practiced in full-court, fast-break drills against no defense.

“She’s practiced yesterday and today and she’s going to give it shot," Auriemma said. "We’ll see where it goes."

The last time UConn was involved in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in the regular season, Caroline Doty could only watch as she suffered a season-ending knee injury knee injury just two days before UConn traveled to North Carolina.

Doty is eager to play a significantly more hands' on role tomorrow.

"I have never played in a game like this before, only watched it last year," Doty said. "To be a part of it is something special and I am looking forward to it."

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More on tickets

There are still about 1,000 tickets available meaning a sellout is looking a tad bit iffy. Those last-minute shoppers can still take advantage of the buy one ticket, get one for free promotion by logging onto, clicking promotions and type in "HUSKIES."

Scouts from the Connecticut Sun, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm have requested credentials.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some broadcasting notes

ESPN has announced that the announcing team for Wednesday's UConn/Stanford game has changed. While Rebecca Lobo will do sideline reporting as previously planned, Dave O'Brien (play by play) and Doris Burke (color) will replace Beth Mowins and Carolyn Peck.

Also, UConn sophomore guard Caroline Doty is scheduled to be a guest on "The Back Page" show with Jason Page on ESPN Radio 1410 on Tuesday. The show runs from 3-7 p.m. Also, on the show's website there is a poll for the best coach in Connecticut in the 2000s. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma was the early leader and the Huskies' men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun is another of the candidates.


Breaking down UConn/Stanford

Now comes the fun part.

After watching their team dismantle overmatched teams like Northeastern, Hofstra and most recently Iona, the UConn faithful finally get to see their Huskies get tested when second-ranked Stanford faces No. 1 Connecticut on Wednesday at the XL Center.

When I went to the Nov. 19 Yale/Arizona State game to write about the close friendship between Yale coach Chris Gobrecht and Charli Turner Thorne, her Arizona State counterpart, I took the opportunity to ask Charli about the UConn/Stanford matchup.

Considering that her Arizona State team played UConn in the 2009 NCAA tournament, is in the Pac-10 with Stanford and that she coached UConn's Tina Charles, Maya Moore (who missed the actual tournament but went through training camp) and Tiffany Hayes and Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen and Kayla Pedersen as the head coach of the U.S. team which won the World University Games, I thought she would be a good person to provide a scouting report.

Bear in mind that it was mid-November when I spoke to her and much has changed but here is what she had to say

"UConn without Renee Montgomery, I think that is kind of the question mark. That leadership is hard to replace, that is another great perimeter shooter, that creator and how she run the show. I think depending on how they develop (a point guard) ... UConn's got Tina but Stanford's got Jayne Appel, Nneka (Ogwumike), Kayla, Joslyn Tinkle. I don't know if Geno is going to use his bench more, Stanford might have a little edge on depth and UConn might have a little more star power. That is going to be a great game."

Ironically, when Stanford beat Tennessee the Cardinal only played seven players and Tinkle only played seven minutes. I would consider Lorin Dixon iffy to go but still expect the Huskies to go eight deep with Kelly Faris, Meghan Gardler and Kaili McLaren coming off the bench for the Huskies.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stanford ticket update

There are about 1,500 tickets remaining for Wednesday's game between No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Stanford at the XL Center. UConn is continuing its 2 for 1 ticket deal. Fans can purchase a ticket (with a maximum of eight tickets bought) and get an additional seat for free.

Fans can take part in the package by logging onto, click on the "promotions" link and type in "Huskies."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hartley honored

While she will be playing basketball next season at UConn, Bria Hartley's exploits on the soccer field at North Babylon (N.Y.) High continues to earn her recognition.

She was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of American All-Region II squad. Hartley was named to the team as a forward even though she spent the first half of her senior season playing in goal before moving back to her more natural forward position.


EuroLeague All-Star voting begins

While the WNBA opted to be All-Star game free in the upcoming season, there is still a mid-season event for former UConn stars and members of the Connecticut Sun to take part in.

Voting for the EuroLeague Women All-Star Game 2010, which will be held on Mar. 9 in in Gdynia, Poland, began today.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi figures to be one of the leading vote-getters for the "Rest of the World" squad once again while the Connecticut Sun's Sandrine Gruda and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota are among the top candidates to earn starting spots for Europe.

Fan balloting runs until Jan. 31. The UConn players on the ballot are Svetlana Abrosimova, Charde Houston, Asjha Jones and Renee Montgomery while Jones' Connecticut Sun teammates Lindsay Whalen, Amber Holt and Erin Phillips as well as Alba Torrens, a third-round pick of Connecticut's in April's WNBA draft. Fans will get to pick the starting lineups for both teams while the league will vote on the reserves.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

More ticket talk

The North Carolina and Notre Dame games, which will be played on Jan. 9 and 16th respectively at Gampel Pavilion, are closing in on being sell outs.

There are fewer than 200 tickets left for the North Carolina game and fewer than 500 tickets remaining for the Notre Dame game. The Notre Dame will also be the first women's college basketball game being featured on ESPN College Gameday.

The ESPN GameDay morning show is scheduled to run from 10-11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16 at Gampel Pavilion, with doors opening at 7:30 a.m.

Scheduled to appear as hosts for the live morning show from Storrs are Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Doris Burke.

The event will include contests, prizes, giveaways and entertainment for fans of all ages. The first 750 fans in attendance will receive a free t-shirt.

Admission and parking (in the South Garage adjacent to Gampel Pavilion) to this historic first-time event for women’s basketball will be free to all fans.

Fans can purchase tickets by logging on at or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

The 2010 WNBA season will kick off on May 15 with five games including the Connecticut Sun hosting Chicago at 3:30 p.m.

The Sun will also be featured in three of the 18 nationally-televised games. The July 20 game against New York is the only televised game played at Mohegan Sun Arena. Connecticut's games at San Antonio on July 5 and at Seattle on Aug. 5 will also be broadcast on ESPN2.

UConn fans may want to circle May 27 on their calendars as the Sun will welcome Minnesota into Mohegan Sun Arena. Not only will the Lynx have former Huskies Renee Montgomery and Charde Houston, but Minnesota figures to take Tina Charles with the No. 1 overall pick in April's WNBA draft.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stanford ticket update

According to UConn there are about 2,000 tickets remaining for the Dec. 23 game between No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Stanford at the XL Center in Hartford.

Here is the complete release

Less Than 2,000 Tickets Remain For Showdown Between No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Stanford

Buy 1, Get 1 Free Ticket Offer for Fans Available; Ceremony to honor 2000 National Championship Team also planned

STORRS, Conn. (December 16, 2009) - Less than 2,000 tickets remain for a showdown of the nation’s top two women’s basketball teams on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at the XL Center in Hartford, as No. 1 Connecticut (8-0) hosts No. 2 Stanford (7-0) in a 5:30 p.m. (ET) tip, that will televised live to a national audience on ESPN2.

As part of a special holiday ticket promotion, fans still have the opportunity to “Buy 1, Get 1 Free”. For each ticket purchased (up to a maximum of 8), fans will receive an additional ticket at no charge.

Orders can be placed by going to and clicking on the "Buy Tickets" link in the Ticket Center. Fans can then click the "Promotions" link and then type in promo code HUSKIES. Limited promotional tickets remain, so fans are encouraged to act quickly.

The game will also feature a halftime ceremony that will honor the 10-year anniversary of UConn’s 2000 NCAA National Championship Team and see the squad inducted as “Huskies of Honor”.

The 2000 edition of the Huskies finished 36-1 en route to capturing the program’s second national title with a 71-52 win over Tennessee in Philadelphia.

Members of the 2000 NCAA National Championship squad scheduled to attend include: Svetlana Abrosimova Sue Bird, Marci Czel, Stacy Hansmeyer, Kennitra Johnson, Asjha Jones, Shea Ralph, Christine Rigby, Kelly Schumacher, Paige Sauer and Keirsten Walters.

Connecticut and Stanford have squared off a total of three times in the past two seasons, including meeting in each of the past two NCAA Final Fours. The Huskies defeated the Cardinal 83-64 in the 2009 NCAA National Semifinals in St. Louis, in the most recent matchup between the programs.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

WNBA dispersal draft set

A draft of the players for the defunct Sacramento Monarchs will be held on Dec. 14 with the Connecticut Sun getting to pick third. Unfortunately, Nicole Powell and Rebekkah Brunson figure to be headed to New York and Minnesota leaving the Sun to pick between DeMya Walker, Courtney Paris and Laura Harper.

What this does mean is that the Sun will move up and get the No. 2 overall pick. Originally slated to pick third, Connecticut was in a position of hoping that either UConn's Tina Charles or Jayne Appel of Stanford would drop to them. With Sacramento, which was slated to pick second, out of the way, the Sun will get to take either Charles or Appel.

New York has the top pick in the dispersal draft followed by Minnesota, which also happens to have the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft.

Another ramification of the Monarchs' demise is that Minnesota will figure to stay in the Western Conference. There was some chatter about Minnesota moving to the Eastern Conference now that the Detroit Shock franchise was being relocated in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My guess is that Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Indiana, New York and Washington will make up the Eastern Conference with Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix, San Antonio, Seattle and Tulsa comprising the Western Conference. That is good news for the Sun as a Minnesota team featuring Seimone Augustus, Candice Wiggins, Nicky Anosike, ex-UConn stars Renee Montgomery and Charde Houston to go with either Powell or Brunson and either Charles or Appel as well as another lottery pick could be downright nasty. If Minnesota stays in the West, that's one less team Connecticut needs to contend with for a playoff spot.

My last thought on this matter is actually a question of whether the Tulsa franchise will look to make a splash with the fan base by trading up in the dispersal draft to get Paris, a four-time All-American at Oklahoma. If they are willing, I would think the Sun wouldn't be afraid to make a deal especially if Powell and Brunson are gone. Tulsa currently holds the No. 7 pick in the dispersal draft. It should be noted that Kara Lawson, Ticha Penicheiro and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba are unrestricted free agents and not eligible to be selected in the dispersal draft.

Right on cue, here are some quotes from Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko from Sun PR guru Bill Tavares (although the final call on who to pick or whether to trade will be made by head coach Mike Thibault, who handles all the team's personnel decision).

"It is unfortunate that the league has lost such a valuable franchise in Sacramento, but the circumstances are understandable and certainly not unprecedented in this economic climate," Sienko said.

"There are some very talented players on the Sacramento roster. However, we need to evaluate what our options might be with regard to whether we use the pick, or to trade it."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hartley honored

UConn signee Bria Hartley was named to the New York Class AA second-team All-State girls' soccer squad.

Hartley began the season playing goal and posted a 5-3-1 record with two shutouts until North Babylon's junior varsity goalkeeper was ready to take over. Hartley had seven goals and seven assists after moving to the midfield in leading North Babylon to the Suffolk Country Class AA semifinals.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Holiday ticket package

There was a time when a game, no matter how talented the opponent, would bring a sellout crowd at UConn's home games. While the Huskies annually rank near the top of the heap in attendance, it is a sign of the times that even UConn needs to come up with packages to try to get more tickets sold.

So UConn has come up with a 2 for 1 ticket deal for the Dec. 20 game against Iona at Gampel Pavilion and the Dec. 23 nationally-televised showdown between UConn and Stanford at the XL Center.

Orders can be placed by going to and clicking on the "Buy Tickets" link in the Ticket Center. Fans can then click the "Promotions" link and enter the promotional code "HUSKIES".

UConn signee had her second 20-point game in as many games for Laguna Hills (Calif.) High.

In Thursday's season opener against Dana Hills, Engeln had 20 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block in a 59-47 win. In Saturday's 64-46 win over Marina, Engeln had 21 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Engeln's future UConn teammate Samarie Walker had 25 points to lead Chaminade Julienne of Dayton, Ohio to a 68-29 win over John Marshall, also of Dayton, in Saturday's season opener.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Charles moves past mentor

There was no announcement when Tina Charles moved by her former position coach Jamelle Elliott and into second place on UConn's career scoring list midway through the first half in Thursday's 84-42 victory over Vermont.

But Charles could be making her own pronouncement when she gives Elliott, in the midst of her first season as the head coach at Cincinnati, a ring.

"I will probably call her and tell her and she will probably be upset," said Charles, who has 1,059 career rebounds. "It is a great feeling (especially since) Coach (Geno Auriemma) is always telling me I can't rebound."

Auriemma has prodded and pushed Charles to be as dominant a defensive rebounder as she was on the offensive end. It should be noted that the rebound moving her by Elliott was a defensive one.

"I've always said that if Tina applied herself and set her mind to it, she could break every record that there is at Connecticut - scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, whatever she wants to do," Auriemma said. "If you lined up Tina and Jamelle, put them together and brought down a man from Mars down here and say 'Ok, who just passed who?' They'd go 'who?' They may have the same (numbers) but there are two entirely different people.

The two biggest hits came when UConn's Caroline Doty's head hit the floor late in the first half and when Vermont guard May Kotsopoulos ran head long into a mid-court pick set by Kaili McLaren.

Auriemma showed Doty little sympathy when she walked off the court with him after getting injured or in the post-game press conference.

"They said she landed right on her head," Auriemma said. "To me that is God's way of telling her 'what the (heck) are you doing driving in there with five people standing in the lane. Maya just just threw you the ball in the middle of the floor. Maya's running the lane, Maya just threw it to you and that is two of our players. Where are the other three?' Well, one was running this lane, one was running that lane and the other was trailing on this side. So rather than catching the ball and saying I just got it from here and let me fire it over here and we get a layup or jump shot, no I think we will go this way and drive it through three people and as God read the play, he said 'I'm going to knock you on your (butt)."

The win was UConn's 46th in a row, tying the 1996-98 Tennessee for the third longest in Division I women's basketball history.

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Recruiting the Geno way

December, January and February tend to be interesting months for those recruiting-obsessed folks among the Huskymaniacs.

Names start circulating, rumors start flying about which player the UConn staff is looking at and the more vocal fans aren't afraid to give advice to UConn coach Geno Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey or anybody else will listen.

I have written this before but it bears repeating, with six national titles, three undefeated seasons, so many individual honors have been bestowed and still being bestowed on UConn players, I think Auriemma, Dailey and the UConn braintrust have a pretty good idea what they are doing when it comes to recruiting. I use the five ex-Huskies playing in the WNBA All-Star game and the larger number of former or current UConn stars in contention to make the 2012 Olympic team as exhibits A and B in the talent judging skills of the UConn staff.

They are rather particular. If they don't like a player regardless of how talented they are, they will pass. This is the time of year when the process begins to kick into gear. It's not really about identifying talent as much as it is identifying the right fit for the program. UConn does not believe in first come, first serve recruiting nor do the Huskies recruit in bulk. What that means is that they identify the players they want and pursue them, stressing quality over quantity. Sometimes that philosophy backfires as some questionable decisions were made between the time Diana Taurasi signed her letter of intent and Renee Montgomery put her name on the dotted line. But more often than not, it works pretty well. How well? By my math, UConn is 540-44 since the beginning of the 1993-94 season that's a 92.5 winning percentage which isn't impressive, it's downright staggering.

For every kid like Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the sweet-shooting wing from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., who decides early that UConn is the perfect place for her, there are others like Delaware scoring sensation Bentijah Laney who prefer to take their time, go through the process and make sure before they make the right decision. It may surprise you to know that the UConn coaches prefer the latter over the former. There's nothing worse than a highly-touted recruit committing to UConn before circumstances or just a change of heart leads to them playing elsewhere.

This much I know about what UConn wants in the upcoming class, high-quality players, high-quality kids and players with a high basketball IQ. Those are the same attributes Auriemma and Dailey went after when they first started working together in 1985 and not much has changed in that regard. Sure, they have a larger pool of candidates to draw on now as evidenced by the fact that the incoming freshman class will include players from California, Illinois and Ohio as well as two players from New York.

Many of the names being mentioned (Elizabeth Williams, Ariel Massengale, Bonnie Samuelson, Laney, Bria Smith) are very much on UConn's recruiting radar. But bear in mind that at this time last year, Sheronne Vails and Orsi Szecsi were being mentioned as kids UConn was pursuing. Vails will come to Connecticut only as a member of the visiting Louisville team. No matter how many times I wrote that Laurin Mincy and Meighann Simmons were not being recruited by the Huskies, those stubborn recruit-niks refused to believe me. I don't just make this stuff up, I don't just repeat second-hand information without confirming it.

I imagine more names will emerge, especially some other potential post players, between now and November, 2010. Ironically, if few names are mentioned, that could be a good sign that UConn is comfortable with their chances of getting the players they are pursuing. When people asked me about Bria Hartley and her chances of coming to UConn, I said that the fact that UConn was not pursuing other top-level point guards was a pretty good indication that UConn felt pretty good about their chances of landing the highly sought after Hartley. Sure enough, Hartley is headed to UConn.

The last thing to remember is that until a player comes to visit UConn, try not to get too wrapped up on any impending commitments. Do not underestimate the importance the UConn staff places in what the current Huskies think of the recruits. I won't name any names but there have been some pretty gifted kids who came in for a visit and before they arrived home, were no longer being recruited by the Huskies. It doesn't take a Yale graduate degree to figure out why that was the case. I can say with certainty that Mosqueda-Lewis, Laney and Samuelson earned the stamp of approval during their visits. They are three super kids who would fit in perfectly at UConn.

My guess is that no commitments will be coming in the near future but I am envisioning another impressive class to go along with the one the Huskies just signed. I would expect a minimum of four players and perhaps a total of five.

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Hartley honored

UConn signee Bria Hartley does not limit her talents to the basketball court as she was named the League III Player of the Year in soccer after leading North Babylon into the Suffolk Class AA semifinals

Hartley began the season playing in goal because her team needed help there. Hartley was 5-3-1 with two shutouts. When she moved back to her more natural midfield position, she tallied seven goals and seven assists and finished her career fourth in school history with 33 goals.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Good news on Breland

Jessica Breland, courageously waging the fiercest battle of her young life, finally broke her silence on her battle with Hogkins Lymphona and it warmed my heart to hear of the North Carolina center's updated condition.

“I’m just grateful to be able to be healthy right now and to walk around,” Breland said. “I can’t wait to get back on the court. I’m feeling pretty good, real good."

Breland said in the story that she will likely redshirt which was the belief all along. The fact that she is even in position to think about a return to the court is wonderful news to hear.

Preparing for Catamounts

Maybe it is wishful thinking on his part after six pretty routine victories, but UConn coach Geno Auriemma believes tomorrow's game against Vermont could be a good one for his team.

"They are an NCAA tournament team, they have a lot of veterans who have played here before, have played well here so I they move the ball around pretty well," Auriemma said. "I think they are an experienced group used to winning and have wins over two ACC schools (Boston College and North Carolina State) and they are a good team to be playing right now."

Vermont is led by seniors Courtnay Pilypaitis (21 points per game) and May Kotsopoulos (20.3), the only Division I teammates to be averaging 20 points per game.

For UConn, junior guard Lorin Dixon's strained hamstring will keep her out of her seventh straight game. The good news is that Dixon took part in shooting free throws off to the side during Wednesday's practice and after practice she was impressive, drilling about 75 percent of her shots from the perimeter (by my unofficial tally).

"She is shooting the basketball, doing some warmups and agility (exercises)," Auriemma said of Dixon. "She'll do nothing (meaning she won't play) tomorrow and then we don't play again until (Dec. 10 against Hartford) so right now the best guest is (Dec.) 10th at the earliest if all goes well."

A couple of milestones to look for:
Tina Charles was 1,050 career rebounds, four behind Jamelle Elliott for the No. 2 spot on UConn's career list. When Meghan Gardler checks into the game, she will become the 54th Husky to play in 100 career games.

Finally, clearing up some recruiting misinformation, highly-touted junior guard Ariel Massengale may end up committing to UConn but I did some checking into this matter and she has not only not visited UConn but has not been offered a scholarship. Now that is normally a formality and ends up occuring usually in that order. There's no question that the UConn coaches like the Bolingbrook (Ill.) guard but until she makes a trip to campus, any timeline for her committing is premature.

My sources indicate that the only junior who have been offered scholarship offers by UConn are Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a wing out of California powerhouse Mater Dei and Betnijah Laney, a wing out of Smyrna (Del.) High. Mosqueda-Lewis has already committed to UConn while word is that Laney will be taking her time in the recruiting process.

UConn is still in the process of identifying its prime prospects in the junior class although landing at least one post player (Elizabeth Williams out of Virginia Beach, Va. appears to be at the top of the list of post players but then again she is considered by many to be the top post player in her class so UConn will not be alone in their pursuit of Williams).

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1999-2000 team to be honored

The 1999-2000 national championship team will be inducted into the "Huskies of Honor" at halftime of the Dec. 23 game against Stanford

The honoring of UConn’s 2000 National Championship team will be the second induction of an entire team (players and coaches) into Connecticut’s “Huskies of Honor” program. The 1994-1995 NCAA National Championship UConn women’s basketball squad was inducted into the “Huskies of Honor” last season.

Following the official ceremony in Hartford to honor the 2000 NCAA National Champions, a four-by-five foot panel will be on permanent display at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, recognizing Connecticut’s run to the 2000 NCAA National Title – the second in the program’s history.

Former UConn forward/center Cassie Kerns is holding a wine tasting opening reception on Dec. 5 from 6-10 p.m. to unveil her "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit of art at the Hartford Design Center at 1429 Park Street, Suite 203.