Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

20-20 vision for Walker

UConn signee Samarie Walker had perhaps the best game of her senior season with 22 points and 20 rebounds as her Chaminade Julienne avenged an earlier loss and snapped rival Alter's 17-game winning streak with a 50-42 win on Friday.

Also, Walker's future teammate Lauren Engeln returned after missing the last two games with a sprained knee and had 14 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes to lead her Laguna Hills (Calif.) team to a 57-44 win over University.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Odoy, Wyckoff to be honored by ACC

Former Masuk High star Ann Odoy and Brooke Wyckoff, a former member of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, are members of the sixth annual class of ACC Women’s Basketball Legends. Each ACC school has a player honored. Former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza, who still ranks among Virginia's top 10 in points, rebounds, steals and blocks, was not on the list as Jenny Boucek will be the inductee from Virginia.

Geno/Tina relationship talk

The first time senior center Tina Charles heard chatter that people were using here perceived strained relationship with Geno Auriemma against the UConn Hall of Fame women's basketball coach, she could hardly believe her ears.

Sure, Charles did not like being replaced as a starter by classmate Kaili McLaren in the 2008 NCAA tournament but she was stunned that those outside the program believe there's any friction between her and Auriemma.

"I think it is ridiculous," Charles said. "I know they did that with (UConn incoming freshman) Bria Hartley, they would say that Tina doesn't like it here. I had a talk with Bria Hartley to tell her that I love it here."

Charles knew what she was getting into when she signed with UConn. Her high school coach Bob Mackey, who also coached Sue Bird at New York powerhouse Christ the King, told her as much.

Now as Charles is on the cusp of becoming the sixth UConn player to score 2,000 points, will graduate with honors, is in line to be the No. 1 pick in April's WNBA draft and has a bright future with the U.S. national team, she has no regrets. Neither does Auriemma.

"You'd be surprised how many people use it against us in recruiting about Tina Charles hates (Auriemma), she hates it up there," Auriemma said. "I said 'well, she looks pretty happy for a kid who hates it. They have this impression that I don't like her, it is just the opposite. I wish I didn't like her, I like her a lot. I wish she is the kind of kid you didn't like because 'nobody likes you, play your (butt) off.' But she is such a nice kid, she and Sylvia Fowles are identical. Her, Sylvia Fowles, Rebecca Lobo are the same kind of personalities."

Auriemma didn't name any names but I don't think you have to be at the top of the Yale graduating class to take a look at which AAU program Bria Hartley played for to surmise where some of that stuff came from. Enough said.

Changing gears, I spoke to Mackey on Wednesday as part of my advance focusing on Charles getting ready to join Nykesha Sales, Kerry Bascom, Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi and Kara Wolters as the only 2,000-point scorers in UConn history.

I also talked to him about highly-touted Christ the King junior guard Bria Smith. He said Bria has been to a couple of UConn games including the Dec. 23 one against Stanford and to a UConn practice but she is nowhere near making any sort of decision. He's like her to start considering where she wants to take some unofficial visits but it sounds as if this is one recruitment process which will take some time.

I will leave you with this. I hate anonymous comments, rarely respond to them on my blog. Personally, if you aren't going to leave your name (even if it is a fake one) don't expect a response from me. But I did chuckle at an anonymous comment saying that breaking a record with five games to spare does not constitute "shattering." Well, in my eyes breaking Kerry Bascom's mark for being the quickest UConn player to 2,000 points by five games if that is the way it plays out would go down as shattering the mark in my eyes. If Albert Pujols broke the single-season home-run record in 155 games (which would be the same pace as Moore is on in quest of Bascom's program record) I'd be willing to be it would be viewed as Pujols shattering the record. Since this blog is my opinion, I love forward to Maya Moore doing some shattering in early March.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Doty feeling fine

For any of those worry warts - some of whom have been nice enough to drop me a line over the last couple of days - concerned to hear that UConn sophomore guard Caroline Doty was wearing a walking boot.

Doty was held out of last half of practice the day before Tuesday's game against Rutgers to rest her surgically-repaired knee and then was limited to 15 minutes.

However, after Thursday's practice Doty said the issue was much ado about nothing.

"It's nothing to worry about, I just have to be cautious with it, ice after every practice and every game other than that it feels great," Doty said.

Doty admitted that being held out of practice does occasionally impact the crispness of her play but it's a small price to pay for being full speed come March when she attempts to lead the Huskies to their second straight national title.

"It is definitely tough, you have to know it is good for you and there is a time that you can practice and can play and take advantage of it," Doty said. "That is what you need to be able to do."

I did some research over the last couple of days to compare how long it will take Tina Charles to reach the 2,000-point plateau.

If Charles scores 17 points Saturday against Pittsburgh, she will reach the mark in her 134th game. Kerry Bascom leads the way by requiring just 113 games to hit 2,000 points at UConn followed by Rebecca Lobo (118 games), Nykesha Sales (128), Kara Wolters (129) and Diana Taurasi (135).

For those wondering, if Maya Moore continues her current scoring pace she would hit the 2,000-point mark in UConn's first game of the Big East tournament, her 108th career game shattering Bascom's record pace.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Latest on Michala Johnson

I spoke to UConn recruit Michala Johnson this afternoon just to get a sense at how she is coping with suffered her second season-ending knee injury in as many seasons. I couldn't help but be impressed by her positive attitude.

The biggest news from the conversation is that the second MRI showed that the 6-foot-3 forward out of Montini Catholic in Lombard, Ill. did tear her ACL and suffer some damage to her meniscus as the first MRI indication. Johnson found out the results of the second MRI yesterday and called UConn coach Geno Auriemma to fill him in on the latest. The plan for the surgery has not changed and Michala said she would still have the surgery likely in the second week of February.

Johnson also said she is planning to go to UConn's game at DePaul on Feb. 10 and may be in attendance when UConn ends the regular season with a Mar. 1 game at Notre Dame. The original plan was to make it down for the Jan. 13 game at Marquette as she did last season but her plans changed thanks to the knee injury she suffered the day before. Also, she is intending to be enrolled for the second summer session at UConn which begins on July 15. While she will likely still be recovering and rehabilitating her surgically repaired right knee, she believes she will be ready to roll well before the start of official practice in October.

There will be more on Michala in tomorrow's edition of the Register with much of the focus being her extremely positive and mature approach to suffering torn ACL in each knee in a span of a little more than a year.


A look to the future

With another win in the books and frankly not much more to report about last night's UConn/Rutgers game, I figured it would be a good time to take a look at how UConn's five incoming freshmen are faring this season.

Obviously, Michala Johnson has been in the news recently after suffering a season-ending knee injury for the second season in a row. The 6-foot-3 forward at Montini Catholic of Lombard, Ill. was averaging 18 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks per game despite having her minutes limited by Montini coach Jason Nichols as a precaution after Johnson's return from her first torn ACL. After tearing the ACL in her left knee in the first game of her junior season, Johnson suffered the same injury on her right knee in a Jan. 12 win over Guerin Prep.

Speaking of knee injuries, Laguna Hills (Calif.) senior guard Lauren Engeln missed her second straight game with a sprained knee but could be back as early as Friday when Laguna Hills plays University. In 20 games Engeln is averaging 20.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game.

Stefanie Dolson, a 6-foot-5 center at Minisink Valley in Slate Hill, N.Y., is enjoying "a tremendous season so far" is the way Minisink Valley coach Judy Mottola put it in an e-mail she sent to me in response to my request for Stefanie's updated stats. Dolson is averaging 25.6 points, 17.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2 steals and 6 blocks per contest.

Samarie Walker, a 6-foot-1 wing at Chaminade Julienne in Dayton, Ohio, is averaging 15.5 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. I will say this about Samarie, after watching her battle inside against older players when she was the only high school junior at the U.S. Under-19 national team trials I attended last year, don't be surprised if she plays her way into the mix as an inside player next season. I know all the talk surrounding Tina Charles' replacement centers around Heather Buck, Johnson and Dolson but I would not be the least bit surprised to see Walker make a major impact next season as a versatile player able to score inside. I saw Barbara Turner handle herself pretty well as a 5-10 player so an athletic 6-1 player like Walker is somebody who bears watching in the future.

Last but certainly not least is Bria Hartley, a 5-foot-10 guard at North Babylon (N.Y.) who again made the trip down to watch UConn play last night. Unfortunately I do not have complete stats for Bria. Unlike Laguna Hills and Chaminade Julienne, North Babylon's stats are not available on the internet (or at least I was unable to find them). I have not heard back from North Babylon coach Mike Petre yet but if I do I will pass on her numbers. I can say that in nine games in January she has three 30-point games including consecutive games with 35 and 37 and is averaging 28.3 points per game in the month.

Off the subject, I was screened out and could not see who it was that UConn junior forward Maya Moore nearly landed on when she jumped on the press table during the Rutgers game. The Associated Press photo in today's Register made it as clear as could be as USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan and Renee Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations were seen trying to keep Maya from causing any harm to herself. While they would have done the same for any player, I'm sure the last thing anybody from USA Basketball or the WNBA wants to see is an injury to a player like Moore who seems destined to bring such glory to both organizations.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One and done

Considering the less than welcoming greeting he normally gets when he walks into the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., it might surprise some to hear UConn coach Geno Auriemma express regret at not playing a game at Rutgers this season.

"It will feel weird at the end of the year when you aren't going down there because you are so used to playing in that (arena)," Auriemma said. "You look forward to that and mark that on your calendar every year."

Rutgers and UConn were paired up by the Big East as the intense rivalry thrived by the two annual regular-season meetings. But with Notre Dame back on the way up, the decision was made to change up the home-and-home opponents. Now Notre Dame will play UConn twice while Rutgers faces Syracuse twice.

The UConn and Rutgers rivalry has been occasionally contentious but always fierce.

"It seems like it has been a pretty intense rivalry. It took them a couple of years but once my good friend Linda Miles arrived, that kind of spiced things up a little bit," Auriemma said with a laugh. "I told her that when I saw her at the referee camp, she is an official now."

Auriemma said Miles is a pretty good official who is working her way up the ladder.

Rutgers is unranked, seven losses in the first 19 games will usually do that. But it should be noted that five of the defeats came to teams ranked in the top 25 in one of the two major polls at the time of the game.

"Rutgers is always a physical team, they are always hard to play against because we have played each other twice a year for as long as I have been here," UConn senior guard/forward Kalana Greene said. "We are really familiar with them and they are really familiar with us and it really makes them hard to play. A lot of guys know each other, it is a rivalry that is a lot more personal than other teams. The physicalness of the game is definitely going to be one of the big keys of how we handle that."

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting to the point

With starting point guard Caroline Doty being held out of the second half of Monday's practice - which happens to be the portion the media was able to sit in on - because the medical staff thought it was be a good idea to give her surgically-repaired knee a break and Lorin Dixon also playing sparingly when I was out there, it was pretty interesting to see what the UConn coaching staff had up its sleeve.

Kelly Faris looked really comfortable at the point, more at ease with the ball than at any other time I have seen her play or practice this season. Kalana Greene also spent some time with the ball in her hands at the top of the key. Tiffany Hayes was the last of the trio to run the offense during the final drill of the day leading me to believe that the staff believes Hayes is better served playing on the wing.

I spoke to Tiffany after practice about a few topics including the reunion with her former AAU teammates April Sykes, Chelsey Lee and Erica Wheeler, who all play for Rutgers as well as the peaks and valleys she has endured shooting the ball as a sophomore. In the last eight games she has scored in double figures three tiimes but scored two of fewer points four times.

"It has been more up and down than I would like but I continue to work on that, work on my shot daily," Hayes said. "I was hitting them today in practice so hopefully that rubs off and I am able to hit them in the game."

Hayes said she has noticed a big difference in the way opposing teams play her this season after her impressive performance in the 2009 NCAA tournament.

"I hear teams all the time when we play them this year say 'shooter, shooter.' Last year I did not hear that once until maybe the (NCAA) tournament," Hayes said. "In the past, I would hear 'you've got No. 3.' This year I hear more of 'shooter, shooter.' I am glad I am getting a lot more respect this year, I just have to step up and knock down the shots."

Just an update that the Feb. 13 St. John's game at Gampel Pavilion, which I reported a while back could very well be a sellout, has not yet sold out. Before that game, Tina Charles will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor. Just a reminder to those interested in such things that the "Senior Night" festivities will be held at the XL Center for the second straight season. Kalana Greene, Charles, Meghan Gardler, Kaili McLaren and Jacquie Fernandes will be honored before the Feb. 27 game against Georgetown.

Not certain if any recruits will be on hand tomorrow night but I feel pretty confident in reporting that Betnijah Laney out of Smyrna (Del.) High will not be in attendance. The 6-foot Laney who is being heavily - and I do mean heavily - recruited by both Rutgers and UConn and her Smyrna team has a home game against Polytech HS.

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Moore honored by Big East

UConn junior forward Maya Moore was named the Big East Player of the Week for the second time this season after averaging 22 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4.5 3-pointers per game in wins over Duke and Villanova.

It's the fifth straight time a player from UConn has won the award as Tina Charles won it the previous three weeks and Moore began the run by earning the honor on Dec. 28.

Moore's big week helped UConn maintain a stranglehold on the top spot in the Associated Press national poll. UConn is the unanimous No. 1 again and its 36th straight week atop the poll equals the longest continuous run at No. 1 set by Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s.

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Lauren Engeln has sprained knee

UConn signee Lauren Engeln, a senior guard at Laguna Hills (Calif.) High School, missed her team's last game with a sprained knee according to Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin.

Laguna Hills defeated San Juan Hills 68-13 without Engeln. Martin said Engeln's status for upcoming games is uncertain. The next game is Tuesday against Corona del Mar.

Engeln is averaging 20.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.8 steals in 20 games for Laguna Hills, which is 18-3.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Roberts gets the call

It's been quite the week for former Mercy High of Middletown star Rachel Roberts.

The freshman guard from Marlborough was proceeding through her first collegiate season, honoring her coach's decision to sit out as a non-medical redshirt and was trying to learn as much as she could during practice so she could get the most out of her season on the sidelines.

Then as the injuries began the mount for Villanova, the Wildcats' coach Harry Perretta told Roberts he wanted to rescind the redshirt season and he wanted her to play. Little did Roberts realize that she would go from not playing to starting almost overnight.

Roberts started against George Washington in her collegiate debut on Thursday and was in the lineup again when Villanova played UConn. Roberts scored six points in each game.

"We were down to eight or nine people," Roberts said after the UConn game. "It was more of like 'we'd like you to play and if you are willing, that would be great. It would help the team.' It's my team so I would do anything for them.

"I didn't think I'd be playing at all. It was a shock and was really nerve wracking but the team is really supportive."

Perretta has a pretty disciplined system where milking the shot clock is the norm and yet Villanova usually can get the shot it wants so it is not unusual for a freshman to be redshirted. However, Perretta said he has never had a situation when he pulled back the redshirt season and inserted that player directly into the starting lineup.

"When Tia (Grant) went down (with a season-ending knee injury, we thought we might try to get through the season with nine and in the Marquette game Heather Scanlon went down," Perretta said. Now we are down to eight and I felt like we needed another player who can shoot, pass and dribble. She was the only one who was redshirting who I felt could do those things. I talked to her and said I wanted to take her out of redshirting. I said 'you are going to play so it is not like we are going to throw you in there for three minutes.' She really helped us beat GW. I have never had to do that before but I think it is benefitting her."

Her teammates have taken notice of Roberts' play. Senior guard Maria Getty, who led Villanova with 11 points against UConn, knows it can't be easy thinking you will not play the entire season one day and be a starter the next.

"Rachel got thrown into a tough situation and nothing we expected she'd have to do this year but she is taking it in stride," Getty said. "Just to think your first Big East game is against UConn but she has done well for us and hopefully she will continue to keep getting better."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma saw Roberts play a couple of times and believes she could do some good things at Villanova.

"It is not easy to be a freshman at Villanova," Auriemma said. "That is why they redshirt so many freshmen because it takes a little bit of time to pick up all that stuff so it must have been a big thrill for her that her first (Big East) game is against Connecticut. I always thought she played with a lot of energy and with a lot of confidence in herself. Offensively, she is perfect for the system, she is going to shoot 3's, she is going to find people that are open, she is a pretty good leader. When I heard she was coming here, I said 'yes, that pretty much makes sense.'"

For starters

For the first time this season, there is a change in the starting lineup for UConn. It had nothing to do with any injuries but a nice move by UConn coach Geno Auriemma starting senior Meghan Gardler, who grew up in nearby Springfield, Pa., over Tiffany Hayes.

Also, former Mercy of Middletown star Rachel Roberts will be starting for Villanova. Roberts was supposed to sit out this season as a non-medical redshirt but with the injuries to four Villanova players including standout Tia Grant, Villanova coach Harry Perretta pulled the redshirt back. Roberts had six points in her collegiate debut against George Washington on Thursday. Roberts also started in that game.

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Select company

I thought it was pretty interesting to compare Caroline Doty's assists, turnovers and steals numbers against those of the prominent former UConn point guards during their sophomore season.

Space prevented the chart from accompanying my story on Doty which ran in today's edition of the Register but if she keeps up her current pace, Doty would hold up quite well statistically against Jen Rizzotti, Sue Bird and Renee Montgomery.

Here's a look at how sophomore point guard Caroline Doty's numbers stack up with Jen Rizzotti, Sue Bird and Renee Montgomery during their sophomore seasons at UConn.

Player Season Assists Turnovers Steals Team record Final Result
Jen Rizzotti 1993-94 150 90 61 30-3 Lost in regional final
Sue Bird 1999-00 160 80 69 36-1 national champions
Renee Montgomery 2006-07 163 95 70 32-4 lost in regional final
Caroline Doty 2009-10 154* 82* 61* 18-0 to be determined
*-Doty's statistics projected over a 39-game season.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Practice makes perfect

I can't tell you how many times people ask me how the UConn players stay focused as they routinely dispatch one team after another with remarkable ease.

I wish I had a video of Thursday's practice to show them because it would make things crystal clear. The Huskies had just won four games including three over top 10 teams in a span of a week and a half but there was no way their Hall of Fame coach was about to let them rest on their laurels.

After beating No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 6 Duke by 24 and 33 points in a three-day stretch, UConn coach Geno Auriemma gave his team two days off. When they returned for practice Thursday, it was time to get to work.

For all of his attributes, it is Auriemma's ability to challenge his team in practice which has always impressed me the most in the eight seasons I have covered his program. Thursday's practice was vintage Auriemma.

He had his team work on half-court offense with a couple of catches. First, Tina Charles would be on the sideline so there would be no security blanket in the post to throw the ball to and Maya Moore would only be in there sporadically. Second, the team could not start the process of getting an open shot until there were less than 15 seconds on the 30-second shot clock. The team struggled big time for the first half hour I watched and just when they started to figure it out, Auriemma would go to work. He would pull out Moore so there would be no Charles or Moore to save the day and when Caroline Doty began making a series of plays leading to easy baskets, she was sent to the sideline. The transformation I saw during the hour I watched practice was pretty remarkable and Auriemma was pleased with how the team dealt with the challenge he presented them.

"I was a little interested in seeing how that would look," Auriemma said. "I have been getting complaints about the games are too one-sided and I thought let me find a lineup here that evens the playing field a little bit. What ends up happening, we are a really good transition team I think, we can get the ball off the glass, steal it and get down the floor and get into our scoring mode as good as anybody, quicker than most. What I want to make sure that we also have is the ability in the half-court set, if we are in foul trouble, that we can execute stuff that I need executed. We can run some time off the clock if we have to.

"One of the dangers of scoring quickly is that is all you want to do now. It is almost like there is a time bomb in the ball that if you don't shoot it within 10 seconds after you get the ball, that the thing is going to blow up on you. I want them to understand that there are times when you may want to pass up a pretty good shot just because we want to and we want time to run off the clock. We are going to get a great shot in about two passes and this group of guards isn't mature enough to understand that yet."

Maybe not but Thursday's practice will go a long way towards Auriemma's message reaching them.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dolson delivers

UConn recruit Stefanie Dolson came one block shy of a triple-double as she had 34 points (one more than the entire Newburgh Free Academy team), 14 rebounds and nine blocks to lead her Minisink Valley of Slate Hill, N.Y. team to a 65-33 win on Thursday.

A couple other notes worth mentioning:
Wisconsin-Green Bay's 65-63 loss to Loyola leaves UConn and Nebraska as the only remaining undefeated teams in Division I women's basketball.

The big news out of Louisville is that senior center Chauntise Wright's eligibility ran out and she will not be able to play another game for the Cardinals. Wright's situation was discussed on the broadcast of the recent game against Notre Dame. The situation and sense of priorities of another Louisville player, however, isn't getting the same amount of attention as it should. Sophomore forward Gwen Rucker showed up late for the Notre Dame game because she had a chemistry class she could not miss. Rucker is not only a two-sport star as she is a member of the Louisville volleyball team but is the epitome of a true student-athlete.

UConn knows a thing about student-athletes. Another reminder came today when senior forward Meghan Gardler sprinted off the court so she could make it to class.

In case you haven't heard, UConn is bypassing its normal mode of transportation and taking the train to Philadelphia. Will be interesting to see what the players have to say about the journey after Saturday's game against Villanova.

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Gampel turns 20

Neither Geno Auriemma nor Chris Dailey minces any words when it comes to the impact of Gampel Pavilion.

If not for the construction of the facility, which opened 20 years ago today, there is no NCAA record 70-game winning streak, no six national championships, no way the UConn program becomes one of the most successful programs not only in women's basketball but in women's collegiate sports.

"If this place doesn't open, nothing that we've done would have been possible," Auriemma said. "Even when it did open, we weren't sure it could happen but I think the fact that we were able to have a growing program and have as nice a building as there is in this part of the world at that time and certainly in the Big East certainly put us over the top."

Since UConn dispatched Providence 81-59 on Jan. 21, 1990, UConn is 266-16 at Gampel Pavilion. Nine of those losses came in the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. Since the beginning of the 1993-94 season, UConn is 210-5 at Gampel. With a win over St. John's on Feb. 13, the Huskies will have a perfect record at the on-campus facility for the 12th time in the last 17 seasons.

"We used the building in recruiting and once we could show them there was a hole and (now) there's a building," said Dailey, UConn's associate head coach. "It was part of the attraction for some of the kids, our in-state kids Kathy Ferrier, Laura Lishness, those guys were hoping to have the opportunity to play in the building and they did.

"I never really think about it (the gaudy record at Gampel) except last year our scorekeeper after 20 years retired and I put together a little momento for him and I asked somebody to give me what our record was here, when I saw that I thought 'wow.'"

Before Gampel Pavilion opened, UConn played its home games at dank, dreary Greer Fieldhouse. It didn't stop stars like Kerry Bascom, Wendy Davis or Leigh Curl from playing at UConn, but certainly the combination of a state of the art facility combined with a program on the way up combined for a perfect storm which led to three perfect seasons with a shot at a fourth this season.

The memories from opening night 20 years ago stays with Auriemma and Dailey to this day.

"We have the picture of the opening tap but I haven't thought about it," Dailey said. "I don't really think about it. I remember our kids being amazed that people are in the building watching them stretch and they asked 'why are they here.' I said 'they are watching us.' The timing of this building played a big role, the attention, aside from the fact that we had a good team, I think a lot of people came to see the building and they found out we were pretty good and that was the start of everything. It was a big part of everything. It was a big part of the excitement on campus, we were going to have a new facility and we were just starting to get good. This was an important part of the timing of what our program has been able to do."

Auriemma jokes that UConn officially intentionally didn't show him Greer Field House when he came to interview for the job in the mid 1980s because he may never have agreed to leave his job as an assistant at Virginia had he known where he would be playing his home games.

Auriemma is rather nostalgic looking back at the first game he coached at Gampel.

"I remember not knowing anything of what to expect, whether anybody's going to come in and not come in," Auriemma said. "The lights were so bright, much bright than it used to be in the Fieldhouse. Everybody just stood around the concourse, nobody came down to the seats. You opened the doors, walked in and said 'what is going on down there and watch the whole game from the concourse.' We were the dry run for the men, the men played St. John's on that Saturday."

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Berube sets mark

Former UConn star Carla Berube, a member of the 1994-95 national championship team, became the all-time winningest coach at Tufts with her 138th victory on Saturday when Tufts defeated Middlebury 62-56.

For those interested in seeing Berube in person, Tufts plays at Wesleyan on Jan. 29 beginning at 6 p.m.

Mosqueda-Lewis, Mater Dei returning to Springfield

According to a story in today's Springfield (Mass.) Republican, the California powerhouse Mater Dei has signed up to compete in the 2011 Hoophall Classic. Mater Dei's best player happens to be Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the only high school junior currently committed to UConn.

It was while Mater Dei was in New England for the 2009 Hoophall Classic that Mosqueda-Lewis took an unofficial visit to watch UConn practice.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Johnson has torn ACL

UConn signee Michala Johnson's high school career came to an end when she was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on Monday.

Johnson is scheduled to have surgery in the second week of February according to Montini Catholic girls' basketball coach Jason Nichols. Assuming the surgery goes well, she figures to be on track to be ready for the start of her freshman season at UConn.

Johnson averaged 18.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in 19 games the Chicago area powerhouse before suffering the injury on a spin move early in Tuesday's win over Guerin Prep. Johnson tore the ACL in her left knee in the season opener of her junior season and missed the rest of the 2008-09 season.

"Michala tore her ACL and there's some slight damage done to the meniscus," Nichols said. "She is in great spirits. She will have surgery the second week of February and will be as good as new in the fall at UConn."


Big East shows Charles some love, again

Senior center Tina Charles has been named the Big East Player of the Week for the third week in a row after averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds in wins over Marquette and Notre Dame.

Charles is the first player to win the award three weeks in a row since Louisville's Angel McCoughtry earned the prestigious honor the final three times it was awarded last season. Doing a little research, you have to go back to Nykesha Sales in 1998 to find a player from UConn to win the conference's player of the week honor but that came during a time when the Big East tended to award more than one player per week. Sales shared the honor twice in the three-week span. Rebecca Lobo also shared the honor once during the run of four straight weeks earning the award in 1994. No UConn player has been the sole recipient of the Big East Player of the Week award three straight times since the honors first started being awarded in 1982.

Charles, who did not receive a POW honor in her first three seasons, has been so honored four times this season. With one more nod from the Big East, she will join some select company as only six players have received the award at least five times in the same season. UConn is well represented on the list with Nykesha Sales winning it seven times in the 1997-98 season, Lobo getting it six times in 1993-94 and Diana Taurasi winning it five times in the 2002-03 campaign.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shooting blanks

Perhaps the most enduring image of last year's much-anticipated game is that I can't imagine a top five team could have a weaker offensive effort than Notre Dame did in the first 10 minutes.

The only points the Fighting Irish scored during that stretch came with help from UConn.
Exhibit A: Caroline Doty dribbed into a double team and none of her teammates came back into the backcourt to give her an outlet giving Ashley Barlow an easy steal and layup
Exhibit B: Tiffany Hayes misses a layup allowing ND to get out in transition. Barlow hit a mid-range jumper. Had Hayes scored, there's no way the Fighting Irish would have gotten the same offensive look.
Exhibit C: Nobody blocks out Erica Williamson on a missed layup by Brittany Mallory allowing for an easy putback for Williamson.

You'd have to think Notre Dame will be a little more effective offensively when the teams meet again on Mar. 1 in South Bend.

A part of the game which flew under the radar was that it leaves UConn with one more game at Gampel Pavilion this season. That will come against St. John's on Feb. 13, a game when Tina Charles will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor.

Although the Huskies have four regular-season games remaining at the XL Center and as many as three games in the Big East tournament, UConn coach Geno Auriemma lamented the fact that there won't be a chance to have more on-campus games.

"We were talking about it the other day when we were at Marquette," Auriemma said. "We have (13) games left and (eight) of them are on the road but that is kind of the way it fell. I hope we can do something about it next year. You hate not to have any games at home in February, one game in February at Gampel, in this environment maybe the best environment in women's college basketball. One game in February when it is the most important time of the year."

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

GameDay a hit

I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I walked into Gampel Pavilion shortly after 9 this morning. I had a sense that there was going to be a pretty decent crowd for the first ESPN GameDay broadcast to promote a women's basketball game.

UConn officials estimated that about 3,000 people were inside Gampel for the morning broadcast. But it was more about the quality than quantity of fans. UConn is still officially on the break between semesters with classes not starting until Tuesday but a large, raucous crowd of UConn students were in the house.

"Before I came out, I had a chance to stand in one of the tunnels and see the reaction to what was up on the screen, the whole event," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Twenty five years ago when I took the job at Connecticut, there are more people working for ESPN today than were at our games. Just to see this happening, you can't fathom it, you can't imagine it that is has come to that. It is kind of mind-boggling, it really is."

Auriemma not only allowed his players to sit in the stands - actually stand in the stands would be more appropriate - with their fellow students to take in the event but he actually encouraged them to do so. They didn't exactly need too much help in the encouragement department.

"I had no idea how many people were going to show up but I was walking through the hallway, looking through the window and I was shocked to see how many people there were, the band's here, it's been crazy."

Predictably, the biggest positive response came whenever Auriemma or one of his players were showed on the big screen televisions and the largest chorus of boos were delivered when Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt was shown to the two screens.

It was a day that left many of have fought the fight to make women's sports more appealing to mainstream viewers bursting with pride.

When you walk in here, you want to say we arrived but you don't want to let that turn into entitlement," said Beth Bass, the chief executive officer of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. "Just because UConn can have this kind of atmosphere doesn't mean that we have made it in the sport but it is certainly a tribute to where we are going and what Geno, UConn and all those guys have done here. It is phenomenal. The other thing that really touched me is that he allowed his athletes to be here. They are student-athletes and they got this whole experience here and I thought they should enjoy it. I thought that was special."

There will be another hour-long show before tonight's UConn/Notre Dame women's basketball game. The GameDay show will begin at 8 with the showdown between No. 1 UConn and No. 3 Notre Dame tipping a few minutes after 9.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

A banner season for Charles

UConn senior center Tina Charles will join the UConn greats where a banner with her No. 31 is unveiled as part of the Huskies of Honor program before the Feb. 13 game against St. John's, which is also the last game of the season at Gampel Pavilion.

Charles will join her former teammate Renee Montgomery to become the only active player to be so honored.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma believes that Charles has earned the chance for this prestigious honor.

"Tina is a great kid, the kind of kid you want on your team, a great teammate, a super human being who I always thought always needed a little bit of a kick in the butt every day in practice to reach her potential and hopefully she understands," Auriemma said. "Whether it was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do, she is going to get exactly what she came to Connecticut for and she is going to down in history as maybe the leading scorer and leading rebounder and who knows (what else)."

Charles and fellow seniors Kalana Greene, Kaili McLaren, Meghan Gardler and Jacquie Fernandes will be honored on "Senior Night" before the Feb. 27 game against Georgetown at the XL Center.

From the what's in a name department, I discovered two summers ago when I was out to the USA Basketball junior national team trials that Notre Dame freshman guard Skylar Diggins' mother's maiden name is Renee Montgomery. When I spoke to Skylar and her mom when UConn was still looking at Diggins, I thought that was a tid bit that might be of interest to the UConn faithful.

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More on Michala

The timetable for UConn commit Michala Johnson's return to the court likely won't be known until her next meeting with her doctor on Monday at 10 a.m.

Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward out of Chicago-area powerhouse Montini Catholic, injured her right knee during a spin move in Tuesday's game against Guerin Prep.

Johnson tore the ACL in her left knee in the season opener as a junior but the early word is that the latest injury is likely to her meniscus.


Baylor series finalized

The home-and-home series with Baylor has been finalized. UConn will host Baylor next season while the Huskies will travel to Waco, Texas to meet Baylor during the 2011-12 season. More details will follow on the dates of the games.

Speaking of Baylor, a story on the Bears' 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner will appear on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" show Sunday at 9 a.m.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Michala Johnson update

I just heard back from Montini Catholic girls' basketball coach Jason Nichols and the doctor who examined UConn signee Michala Johnson's injured right knee believes it is not a torn ACL but is more likely a meniscus injury. Nichols said the 6-foot-3 Johnson will have an MRI tonight and obviously more will be known after the results of the tests are back.

It should be noted that it is not the same knee Johnson hurt last season in the season opener, an injury which cost her the rest of the season.

I'll share what Jason sent to me in an e-mail.

"Her doctor says he doesn't believe it is the ACL. He thinks it's the meniscus. He thinks it is a sprain but the MRI will reveal what it is. A tear and she is out 6 weeks and season is lost. A scope and it is 4 weeks and (she'll be) back by the second week of playoffs. A (sprain) will be 2 weeks. "


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Johnson hurts knee

UConn commit Michala Johnson suffered a knee injury on Tuesday and will have tests done on Thursday to check on the severity of the injury according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Johnson suffered a season-ending knee in the first game of her junior season.


Two Huskies on Wooden list

UConn junior forward Maya Moore and senior center Tina Charles were among 21 players named as midseason candidates for the Wooden Award.

Moore, who won the award last season, leads UConn with a scoring average of 19 points per game, is second in rebounding (7.1) and has team-best totals of 25 3-pointers and 35 steals heading into tonight's game against Marquette.

Charles is second on the team in scoring (17.6 points per game) while leading the way in rebounding (8.5) and blocks (24 in 15 games).

There are 21 candidates instead of 20 because of a tie in the voting.

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Dolson comes up big

UConn signee Stefanie Dolson had 25 points (on 10 of 15 shooting) and 22 rebounds to lead her Minisink Valley team to a 57-50 win over previously undefeated Kingston on Tuesday night.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trade winds

It was pretty evident that Mike Thibault wrestled with trading Lindsay Whalen even if it was the only way the Connecticut Sun were going to move up to the No. 1 spot to get Tina Charles.

His apprehension is understandable. Whalen is as tough a competitor as you will ever meet, a true gamer who played through injuries that would have sidelined many of her peers and somebody not afraid to take and make the big shot down the stretch.

She will be missed in the locker room, by the fans and by the media. That being said, I think adding Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles will make them a better team than if they kept Whalen and whoever they would have drafted with the second overall pick.

Thibault appeared to be a bit defensive at times in his remarks at the press conference. He addressed the UConn issue and also chatter that the trade was made so the Sun would lose enough to have a shot at drafting Maya Moore next season which obviously burns him up that anybody would think the team would intentionally lose games. I personally thought those remarks were unnecessary since the people who cover the team know that he is not wired that way. As competitive as Whalen is, Thibault would be able to match her in that department. Here are his comments regarding having UConn players:

"It always comes up, the subject of UConn players. Should we have more, should we have less. I don't think about it on a daily basis, I think we are aware of it because we play in a state where there is great college basketball but the fact of the matter is that as a coach, you are supposed to pick the best players out there to help your team win, you are supposed to pick them in the draft, you are supposed to trade for them to get the best players. I don't care if they are from Mars. But the one clear thing to me is that UConn's had the best players, that's not debatable. So the idea that we are getting the UConn players per se is ludicruos. Does it help? Yes. But that's not why you do a trade, you try to become the best team. They've won championships because they'd had great players, it is that simple and that is how you win on our league, you get great players who understand how to play together, be a great team, share the basketball. That is what we are trying to do."

That being said, I think Montgomery and Charles help the Sun regardless of which school they attended or attend. Montgomery will have some turnover issues but she can score and will be asked to do more of it in Connecticut than if she remained in Minnesota. Charles, to me, is head and shoulders ahead of anybody else in this draft.

More help could be on the way. Thibault said the Sun can go after at least one high-priced free agent. I found one comment pretty interesting today. When the subject of Montgomery being given No. 21 because No. 20 was not available, there was a comment that she can't have No. 20 because two others have worn it and they have been in the league longer. OK, Tan White wears No. 20 but the only other new addition to the team is DeMya Walker, who has been given No. 22. Then looking at the WNBA rosters, the only free agent who wore No. 20 is Kara Lawson. Add that with Thibault's comment that "if we can get her a co-pilot which we are hoping to do in the next week or two, it will be perfect" makes it seem like landing Lawson will be a priority when the free agent period begins with teams able to speak to free agents as of Friday.

Montgomery was absolute giddy at being back in Connecticut and especially the possibility to playing with Charles again.

"So many things were running through my mind. The first people I called were my snook (mom) and diddy (dad) and you would have thought we won the lottery. They were like 'no way, are you serious?'"

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Spreading her wings

On a day when senior center Tina Charles found out she was the first UConn player to be named the Big East Player of the Week in consecutive weeks since Diana Taurasi in January of 2003, the subject went a little deeper than any individual accolades.

Charles spoke not only of her two-credit internship at the Bergin Correctional Institute which will begin later this month but of an emotional trip to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford on Monday morning.

Charles admitted that if she wasn't in position for a career as a professional basketball player wasn't in her future, she would like to be a probation officer. The internship will give her a chance to see if that is something up her alley.

"I am definitely looking forward to (following around) the parole officer, shadowing him and (see) what prisoners go through," Charles said. "I did orientation (at the facility). It was different, it was surprising because a lot of them knew who I was and they wanted to have extra protection with me because it is open, it is not restricted. A lot of them were saying hi to me and things like that."

This morning from about 9-11:30 a.m., Charles and her teammates visited patients at the hospital which is something that always tugs are her heartstrings because some of the patients are struggling for their lives.

"It shows that we are blessed, being healthy and being able to play this sport and not to take anything for granted," Charles said. "Just the children seeing our faces and the young adults, it just made their day. We brought them our game day posters and they were really interacting with us and it really made the families happy.

"It is really difficult, I am the most emotional person on the team, we watch a movie and I start crying so I had tears in my eyes just giving out toys around Christmas time (during the team's visit to a local Salvation Army) but it's hard but just the fact that we are able to put a smile on somebody's face by signing an autograph or anything little by that ...

UConn redshirt freshman Heather Buck missed practice because of the sprained left ankle she suffered in Saturday's win over North Carolina and her status for Wednesday's game against Marquette is up in the air.

"She didn't practice (Monday) and not sure she is going to practice tomorrow," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We'll see. If she doesn't do either, she'll be limited for Wednesday. It is nothing serious, it is just a sprained ankle."

A recruiting source said that UConn did not offer a scholarship offer to highly-touted Bolingbrook (Ill.) High junior guard Ariel Massengale, who was in attendance at Saturday's UConn/North Carolina game.

The source said nothing is imminent with Massengale, who figures to take her time during the process although it figures to be yet another recruiting battle between UConn and Tennessee for Massengale's services.

UConn has offered scholarships to juniors Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (the only member of the current high school junior class to commit to the Huskies), Bentijah Laney and Bonnie Samuelson.

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Charles honored again

UConn senior center Tina Charles has been named the Big East Player of the Week for the second straight time after averaging 18.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and shooting 71.4 percent from the floor in wins over South Florida, Cincinnati and North Carolina. It is her third honor of the season.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Milestone for Hartley

UConn signee Bria Hartley scored her 1,500th career point in a 69-47 win over Moore Catholic of Staten Island. Hartley had 35 points, giving her 1,512 in her career, to go with seven rebounds, five assists and seven steals.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Wall of Fame campaign

Considering that North Carolina senior center Jessica Breland, who has been fighting cancer since being diagnosed in May, will be joining the seventh-ranked Tar Heels (even if she won't be playing) for today's nationally-televised game against UConn, I thought it would be a good time to mention a new project the people at Geno's Cancer Team have come up with.

Here's the info courtesy of a release I received from Angela Santacroce, the chairperson of the project.

UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemma and Geno’s Cancer Team Wall of Fame Chairperson Angela Santacroce are asking the public to “Be A Winner" and join our Wall of Fame Team for our first annual Wall of Fame Campaign.

During a time frame of your choosing, we will send you a supply of cards to be purchased by friends, customers, co-workers and the community for $1.00. Have the person fill out the card with the name of a loved one who has, or is battling cancer, and then display the signed cards at a location of your choosing. Not only is this a lovely way to honor those people, but your display will also enable our organization to raise awareness and much-needed funds to fight cancer. All proceeds will be donated to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. 100% of donations go directly to cancer research.

To order Wall of Fame cards or for more information, please contact Angela Santacroce at: Or you can go to our website at and download our registration form that can be faxed to 860-523-0507.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Hayes good to go

After a crisp two-hour practice at Gampel Pavilion Friday afternoon, UConn sophomore guard Tiffany Hayes proclaimed herself good to go for tomorrow's game against North Carolina.

Hayes sprained her left ankle 2:30 into Thursday's win over Cincinnati. The vision of her being helped off the court and the considerable swelling of the ankle after the game made Hayes' status for the Carolina game a bit iffy.

But Hayes was able to practice without restriction.

"No question at all, I am playing," Hayes told reporters from the Register, Connecticut Post, Waterbury Republican-American and Manchester Journal Inquirer after practice.

Hayes admits that she has had a history of sprained ankle but the pain she felt after stepping on the foot of a Cincinnati player was pretty intense.

"It was at the top but I don't think it was one of the worst ones I had," Hayes said. "I was pretty relieved. I pretty much knew once I was able to walk around after the game but it was nothing serious. It was a lot of pain that I was able to walk. I just had to suck it up and go through practice with it."

While he didn't get into the specifics, UConn coach Geno Auriemma is going under the assumption that the North Carolina series is an ongoing deal since both he and North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell enjoy the Connecticut/UNC games.

Assuming that the previously reported home and home series with Baylor materializes, Auriemma said he doesn't expect any more ranked teams to be added to next year's schedule.

Currently nine of the teams in the Associated Press top 25 poll are slated to play UConn next season including Notre Dame, which will face the Huskies twice in the regular season. The 2010-11 schedule features Big East rivals Notre Dame and West Virginia as well as non-conference opponents Stanford, Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech to give UConn a minimum of six games against current top 10 teams and 10 games against top 25 teams in the regular season.

There is a chance of another three-game tournament like the WBCA Classic but the details are still being worked out. With so many big hitters already on the schedule, look for a field resembling this year's event which included Clemson, Hofstra and Richmond.

Also, a trip to Europe is not being ruled out in the future but it will not happen this summer.

A recruiting source confirmed that Kiah Stokes is hoping to make an unofficial visit to catch a UConn game either later this month or in February.

Stokes is a 6-foot-3 forward/center who is a junior at Linn Mar High School in Marion, Iowa. Stokes, the daughter of former NBA player Greg Stokes, set an Iowa sophomore record with 160 blocked shots. Stokes was a member of the U.S. Under-16 national team and averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.

UConn's talent scouts are obviously on the same page with those responsible for selecting the U-16 national team which won the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Of the nine members of the high school Class of 2011, UConn has been involved in the recruitment of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (the first member of the Class of 2011 to commit to UConn), Ariel Massengale (who is coming to UConn for an unofficial visit on Saturday), Betnijah Laney, who has made a couple of trips to see UConn play, and Elizabeth Williams, who UConn is actively recruiting.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Scare for Hayes

When Caroline Doty saw her teammate, roommate and close friend Tiffany Hayes laying underneath the basket in obvious pain, she thought the worst.

It was the game immediately preceding last season's North Carolina game, Doty suffered a season-ending knee injury. Fortunately for Hayes and the Huskies, Hayes' injury isn't nearly as serious.

She sprained her left ankle just 2:30 into the game and did not play again but Hayes' teammates as well as head coach Geno Auriemma believes Hayes may practice today.

"It broke my heart," Doty said. "You don't want to hear anybody (crying). You are living with somebody for almost two years now, she has a special place in my heart. Just to see her go down and yelp like that, your heart sinks especially underneath the basket with what happened last year. I don't want her to experience anything I did last year. Thank God she's OK. She just landed on it weird and she'll be fine. She was walking around and she'll be fine. She'll practice tomorrow."

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Conference call central

It was a 2 for the price of 1 day in terms of conference calls.

It started with the Big East call where Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was the most popular coach, getting asked a half dozen questions ranging from the ESPN GameDay extravaganza next Saturday to the impact of dynamic freshman Skylar Diggins and return to the court of Devereaux Peters.

As the first Big East call normally is, a popular line of questioning is "can anybody beat UConn." The answers were close enough in content to lead one to believe that the coaches were reading off cue cards. "The other team has to play a perfect game and UConn can't play well yada, yada, yada."

Also, Providence coach Phil Seymore had high praise for freshman guard Symone Roberts, a former New Britain star who had five steals in the Friars' win over Villanova Wednesday. (A side note: for all those freaking about UConn only averaging about 9,000 fans per game, the announced attendance at the Villanova/Providence game was 223).

Up next was a call with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell. The biggest news is that Jessica Breland, who is missing the season as she battles cancer, began practicing with the team last week and will be making the trip to Connecticut. In fact, she will head out to meet with the officials as one of North Carolina's captains.

Also, Chay Shegog played in last night's win over Georgia Tech after being sidelined with a concussion but highly-touted freshman Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who was briefly on UConn's recruiting radar, is iffy to play because of a dislocated shoulder. She actually has issues with both shoulders.

Sylvia, as she annually does, gave a shootout to UConn's fans.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Profile in courage

In the November 14th season opener against Northeastern, one of the 8,232 people in attendance at Gampel Pavilion was Nicholas LaTorraca, a 14-year-old Cheshire High freshman.

He was supposed to sit a couple rows behind the UConn bench but wheelchair bound because of cancer, he opted to sit behind one of the baskets with his father and a family friend. I heard of Nicholas' appearance at the game and through our mutual friend, a wonderful woman named Ann, I started the process of trying to tell his story.

When I interviewed Nicholas and his parents last month, I wondered when he would be able to walk again. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would occur less than two weeks after the story appeared in the Register.

But that is exactly what happened as he took his first steps in months. The play by play of the occasion was provided in an online journal his mother uses to update family, friends and well wishers of Nicholas' progress.

I know that usually when UConn fans think of high school freshmen, they probably focus on the recruiting efforts of the next Maya Moore or Tina Charles by UConn's coaching staff but I would suggest those people obsessed with such matters take a few minutes to browse through some of these journal entries. It will provide a sense of what is truly important.

Catching up

For some reason, this year's Cincinnati/UConn game is creating more of a buzz than the last couple of meetings. I'm not sure but it could have something to do with the fact that former UConn player and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott and not J. Kelley Hall is calling the shots.

Elliott is set to dine with Geno Auriemma and his wife Kathy tonight and figures to receive a warm welcome from the UConn faithful for her 16 seasons either as a player or coach at UConn.

"I know they are going to welcome her, it is probably going to be a standing ovation when she comes in and rightfully so," UConn senior forward Kaili McLaren said. "She has been here for half of her life so her coming here and coaching here, it is just going to be crazy."

Speaking of McLaren, she is expecting to play after missing the last game with an injured ankle.

Auriemma - Geno and not Kathy - was mic'd up at practice because there was a crew from ESPN on hand to get some shots of UConn's practice as well as film a promo which will run on the ESPN stations leading up to the first ESPN GameDay women's basketball broadcast on Jan. 16 when Notre Dame plays at UConn. The game is nearing a sellout but is not completely sold out yet. That could happen as soon as tomorrow. Saturday's North Carolina game is a sell out while tickets are going fast for the Feb. 13 game against St. John's.

A recruiting source indicated that Auriemma was out watching Christ the King's Bria Smith play recently. Also, highly-touted junior guard Ariel Massengale out of Bolingbrook, Ill., is expected to be in attendance at Saturday's UConn/North Carolina game.

Finally, UConn signed a contract for a home and home series with Baylor beginning next season with a game at either Gampel Pavilion or the XL Center with UConn playing at Baylor in the 2011-12 season. UConn officials refused to comment on the series because Baylor has yet to return a signed contract. It should happen and a national-television audience will be treated to a showdown of two of the nation's best players in UConn forward Maya Moore and Baylor's 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner. Just imagine if it ends up being the first game of the season and if you happen to be incoming freshmen Stefanie Dolson, Michala Johnson and Samarie Walker or Heather Buck, who will be the only returning true post player, drawing the assignment of slowing down the dynamic Griner.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Running with the Bulls

It seemed a bit odd watching South Florida, normally one of the nation's highest scoring teams, contest to milk the shot clock. Shortening the game was the only way South Florida coach Jose Fernandez thought he could play with the Huskies. Considering how young the Bulls are in the backcourt, it's easy to understand his decision.

I made it a point of asking Fernandez if it is difficult watching a local kid like Tiffany Hayes go off for 22 points against his team. He spoke in glowing terms about Hayes, a player he recruited.

"We recruited Tiffany for a long time," Fernandez said. "I have seen her play since middle school but it is tough to turn down the best team in the country and the playing time she was going to get, the opportunity to win national championships."

I asked Fernandez what he remembered about Hayes, especially the first couple of times he saw her play.

"She played hard, she made plays, she is athletic and played with poise. She is not scared to take the big shot. Not only that, look at what she did lat year as a freshmen when there were some injuries and the amount of time that she played, she's not scared to take big shots and make them."

A few notes from the game:
Maya Moore passed Shea Ralph for the No. 10 spot on UConn's career scoring list and greeting the accomplishment with an indifferent shrug which is no surprise to those who know her.

Kaili McLaren turned an ankle in Sunday's practice and did not play. She spent part of the first half having UConn training Rosemary Ragle working on the ankle leading to the thought that she might get into the game in the second half. She did not.

Caroline Doty was iffy to play because of the flu but toughed it out and played 14 minutes.

Now it is time for the hype to begin for Thursday's game against Cincinnati which will feature the return of former star forward and long-time assistant coach Jamelle Elliott to Gampel Pavilion - this time on the opposing squad.

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Charles honored by Big East

UConn senior center Tina Charles was named the Big East Player of the Week after averaging 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in wins over Florida State and Seton Hall.

It's the second POW honor for Charles this season and second week in a row a player from UConn was so honored as junior forward Maya Moore was last week's winner.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

FM for the Huskies

Since the UConn football team's bowl game against South Carolina is being carried by the UConn Radio Network beginning Saturday at 1 p.m., something had to give. The result is WTIC-96.5 FM will be broadcasting Saturday's UConn/Seton Hall women's game.

There are a lot of numbers which could be thrown around for tomorrow's Big East opener including the fact that a win would be the 800th in UConn history but one that just blows me away is this nugget (uncovered before last season's game against Seton Hall by Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer): Although UConn's Geno Auriemma and Seton Hall's Phyllis Mangina started their coaching careers in the same season, Auriemma has won more games (707) in the last 25 seasons than Mangina has coached (703). Ponder that for a little bit and it is truly incredible. Of course Auriemma's success in the head to head matchups may have a little to do with it since he is 42-2 against Seton Hall since becoming the Huskies' head coach in 1985.