Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Geno's Cancer Team/Pilot Pen Tennis team up

A partnership between Geno's Cancer Team and the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament has been formed with 5 percent of the ticket sales at August's pro tennis tournament in New Haven being donated to the cancer fundraising team founded by UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his wife Kathy.

Those wishing to buy tickets can click the hyperlink above and enter the promotion code VF10 to make sure the 5 percent donation goes to Geno's Cancer Team

Also, the Day and Night Sessions on Aug. 24 will see box seats discounted half price to $35 while two box seats during the Thursday day session can be purchased for $99, a discount of $50.

The Pilot Pen Tennis tournament runs from Aug. 20-28 at the Connecticut Tennis Center on the grounds of Yale University. The tournament usually draws multiple top 10 players on the women's side and two-time defending women's champion Caroline Wozniacki, currently ranked third in the WTA ranks, has already committed to the tournament. Attracting the big names on the men's side is more challenging but the tournament has attracted top 10 players in the past.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Houston looks back

Former UConn star Charde Houston for the first time since the most unbelievable experience of her young life.

Last month Houston was headed home following a successful season playing for ZVVK USK Prague when the Delta flight she was on was diverted to land in Boston because of a suspected terror threat.

Houston shared her thoughts and emotions by posting on her twitter account, letting those who follow her live her trying times along with her.
Houston was back in New England on Thursday, one day short of a one-month anniversary of the flight fiasco she endured.

"It was surreal to me, you don't really expect to go through things like that in life but it happened," Houston said. "I am so happy I was able to come back from that and knowing that Delta Airlines, the FBI and everybody just did a great job making sure everybody's safety was first.

"I am thankful and blessed that I was in a situation where I was able to look at life in a different perspective. You need to do everything like it is your last (time) because you never know, that is the take I have. Always say your prayers and be thankful. You are only required to have faith the size of a mustard seed and of of course I have more but it is just knowing and believing that God is the one who is going to control your destiny so if it is not your time to go, you will not go."

Houston is thriving in her third season with the Lynx. Without the services of injured stars Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins, Houston has been asked to carry much of the offensive load. She scored in double figures in each of the first five games including a team high 16 points in Thursday's loss at Connecticut.

"With Coach (Cheryl) Reeve coming in here, she wanted everybody to be able to play two positions," Houston said. "I have come in here and played the 3 (small forward),
get comfortable with that. It is good to be able to move around and help your team in any way you can. Since Seimone and Candice aren't here, I have been starting and
since Rebekkah (Brunson) is back, I am now coming off the bench. I am excited about that, coming off the bench is harder than starting because of the energy and the
momentum you have to give the team. If they are playing good, you maintain that level of intensity. If it is kind of dropping, it is your job to go in and pick it up."


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whalen ready to return

After six seasons as the Connecticut Sun point guard, Lindsay Whalen will be returning to Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday for the first time as a member of the visiting squad when Minnesota and Connecticut tip things off at 7:30 p.m.

Whalen, the cornerstone in an offseason trade with Minnesota which allowed the Sun to get the No. 1 overall draft pick to select Tina Charles as well as bring Renee Montgomery back to the state where she and Charles helped UConn win the 2009 national title.

"I am looking forward to it, I am going to see a lot of familiar faces," Whalen said in a teleconference following practice on Tuesday. "There are so many great relationships and friendships that I still have and have build in my time in Connecticut. There were some great teams and so many great memories. I am looking forward to it.

"You are trying to win the game, it is a business trip first. It will be great to see the people and hang out a little bit but of course we are going to play the game and that is first and foremost on our mind. It's the only way to go about it as a professional."

Whalen, a star at the University of Minnesota, has been welcomed back home. Tonight she will be throwing out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins' game against the New York Yankees.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Dolson, Hartley, Walker get USA invites

UConn incoming freshmen Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Samarie Walker were among 26 players who will be trying out for the U.S. Under-18 national team next month.

Dolson, a 6-foot-5 center from Port Jervis, N.Y., averaged 23.9 points, 17.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists as a senior at Minisink Valley High in Slate Hill, N.Y.

Hartley, a 5-foot-10 guard from North Babylon, N.Y., averaged 27 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.4 assists as a senior at North Babylon High.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 forward from West Carrollton, Ohio, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds during her senior season at Chaminade Julienne in Dayton, Ohio.

UConn recruiting target Ally Malott is one of eight rising high school seniors to accept an invitation to take part in the training camp, which will be held from June 8 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The 12-member team, which will be coached by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, will take part in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women June 23-27 at the USOTC.

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Time for an update

Here's a little bit of an update of the recruiting status of Kiah Stokes, a highly-touted 6-foot-3 post from Marion, Iowa.

I just spoke to her dad Greg, who is one of the greatest players in the history of the Iowa men's basketball program and he gave me a list of 10 teams in the mix with his daughter.

The list, not in any particular order, is UConn, Tennessee, Iowa, Maryland, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Georgia, Ohio State, Purdue and Oklahoma. No longer in the mix are Iowa State, Duke and Stanford.

With Kiah heading to the U.S. 17-and-under and USA Youth Olympic training camp which runs from June 8-11. Obviously if she makes the U-17 squad which is competing in the FIBA U17 World Championship from July 16-25 in Rodez and Toulouse, France, she'd be a little busy with her USA Basketball responsibilities to focus too much on the recruiting process during much of the two evaluation periods during July. Greg Stokes said it's not out of the question that Kiah takes a couple of unofficial visits this summer but he said it seems likely that she will be taking her official visits in the fall before making her decision. In other words, don't be surprised if Kiah waits until right around November's early signing period for her to make a college decision.

Speaking of USA Basketball, the list of attendees for the U-18 training camp (being held on the same days as the U-17s) should be out in about an hour. I'd expect UConn's incoming freshman class to be represented on the roster of players.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

WNBA All-Star balloting

Balloting for the WNBA All-Star Game "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun" began today at WNBA arena and online balloting will kick off on Wednesday.

Balloting will run through June 21 and the top 10 players will be announced on June 29 during ESPN2's broadcast of the Indiana/Washington game.

The Connecticut Sun are represented by Tina Charles, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, Asjha Jones, Kara Lawson and Renee Montgomery. Former UConn stars Charles, Jones and Montgomery are joined by ex-Huskies Sue Bird (Seattle), Swin Cash (Seattle), Charde Houston (Minnesota) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix).

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comcast SportsNet to air 7 Connecticut Sun games

Comcast SportsNet will televise seven Connecticut Sun games beginning with Friday's game at Atlanta.

Veteran Boston Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman and former UConn star Rebecca Lobo will be the broadcast team.

Here is the schedule of games:

Fri, May 21 @ Atlanta Dream – 7 p.m.
Fri, June 11 vs. Indiana Fever – 7:30 p.m.
Fri, June 25 vs. Phoenix Mercury – 7:30 p.m.
Sun, June 27 @ NY Liberty – 4 p.m.
Sat, July 24 vs. LA Sparks – 7 p.m.
Tue, August 3 @ Minnesota Lynx – 8 p.m.
Tue, August 17 vs. Tulsa Shock – 7:30 p.m.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A meaningful visit

There were obviously illuminating smiles on the members of the national championship UConn women's basketball team when the Huskies were honored by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the East Room of the White House on Monday.

However, the Huskies were in a much more serious mood a couple hours earlier when they visited injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Seeing the soldiers, many of them the same age as the players themselves, made the UConn players and coaches a different perspective on things.

"We definitely don't take freedom for granted," Kalana Greene said. "Those guys on the battlefield, for them to fight for this country there aren't too many guys who would want to do that."

As his players answered questions about the trip to the hospital, UConn coach Geno Auriemma quietly shook his head in approval. When the Huskies travel during the season, he makes every effort to broaden their horizons by taking them to historical landmarks so it should not come as a shock that a trip to the hospital was on the UConn itinerary.

"I am glad that we went over there first before we came over here because I don't know if it would have been appropriate after having a high like this and see what those kids have been through," Auriemma said. "You are struck by how young they are, how they can endure what has happened to them, yet if gave everyone of them a choice of laying in that bed and staying home the rest of your life or get on a plane and go back there, to a man they would choose to go back there and be with their friends and teammates. We talk about team but that is at a whole other level and I think our country is fortunate to have people like that growing up here and putting themselves out there to do stuff like that. I wouldn't wish it on anybody."

The fact that this could be the last time the entire UConn team gets together was not lost on Maya Moore, UConn's dynamic rising junior forward.

"I was just smiling in the last day," Moore said. "It was a celebration and (she was) kind of also feeling really small. Realizing being in the White House you realize how much more goes on when you visit the hospital, you appreciate things a little bit more. What we did during the season was amazing but I think it is cool to be able to appreciate the amazing people like the President and Mrs. Obama, it kind of inspires us to want to continue."

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Special day for a special team

UConn coach Geno Auriemma has made this trip before but everytime he brings the Huskies to the White House for a ceremony honoring yet another national title, it makes to a day to end all days.

Monday was no different. From an emotional trip to visit injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the chance for the team members to chat with President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle and finally the ceremony honoring UConn's achievements, it was a perfect capper to a perfect season.

"Each one is different," Auriemma said. "I have never come down and felt that each time was the same. I think the President and First Lady were incredible with the time that they spent with us before we went out to do the ceremony. It was so real and so genuine. Mrs. Obama spent some time with the players and she probably sees them as her daughters grown up. It was really good. It wasn't just another group of players coming to meet the President. I think this was pretty special."

President Obama reveled in letting the crowd of about 200 members in attendance at the East Room of the White House that UConn has not lost since he took office.

"I think he thinks he is the reason we won because ever since he came into office, we haven't lost," UConn's Kalana Greene said. "He thinks he is a good luck charm."

Rain forced the event to be moved inside to the East Room from the Rose Garden and also prevented UConn players from getting a rematch with the President. Last year Obama won a game of "P-I-G."

President Obama said during his speech that he considered UConn to not only be the best women's basketball teams in the country but one of the top sports teams period. He cited the program's 100 percent graduation rate as well as the off the court events they take part in. Obama admitted that he and his wife often saw highlights of UConn's games on ESPN SportsCenter when they worked out in the morning. It was clear by the way he spoke about the Huskies that he wasn't merely putting on an act of being familiar with team's road to championship glory. He also delighted the UConn players by busting on their Hall of Fame coach.

"When this team came to the White House (in 2009)," Obama said, "I was just pointing out to Maya, we went out back. We shot a little bit, I am not going to say you won but I noticed that there were people who were saying that these Huskies, they have a little too much swagger because they said that they'd be back in 2010. I am not sure if anybody believed them but I believed them listening to them and that confidence was well deserved. This team had an unbelievable run. Last year Coach Geno promised you guys would go 40-0 this year. It's not your fault that he can't do math very well. Coach 'you can't 40 games when you only have 39 games but 39-0 is pretty good."

Auriemma and his players were emotional when they spoke about meeting the injured soldiers and I will write about that in a blog either later tonight or tomorrow.

Slight change of plans

Because of the rainy weather, the UConn women's basketball team's meeting with President Barack Obama has been moved from the Rose Garden to the East Room. No word if the inclement weather will prevent a rematch of the game of "P-I-G" won by the President when the Huskies visited the White House last year.

I'll provide more details - or as many as I can depending on the access I am given - of the ceremony at the White House.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Charles, Griffin shine for Sun

So much for the rookie jitters.

With all due respect to Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who scored a game-high 18 points, you could make an argument that the Connecticut Sun's two best players in Saturday's 74-61 season-opening win over Chicago were rookies Tina Charles and Kelsey Griffin.

Charles, facing Olympian and All-Star Sylvia Fowles, outscored the Chicago center 17-16 and outrebounded her 10-9. Griffin had eight points and 10 rebounds, none more impressive than the offensive rebound in the third quarter when she outfought three Chicago players for an offensive rebound and alertly delivered a pass to teammate Tan White in the left corner. Griffin also drew two offensive fouls on Fowles.

"It is a great example for veterans to see a young post player like that not afraid to take on one of the biggest players and most physical players in the league," Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault said of the two charges drawn by Griffin. "Those
were huge momentum plays at the time that they happened. We had just scored on one of them."

With DeMya Walker limited to nine minutes in the first three quarters and the Sun without post players Asjha Jones (who is recovering from offseason surgery on her left Achilles tendon) and Sandrine Gruda (who is not expected to report until early June), the Sun seemed to be in some trouble.

But Charles and Griffin came up big helping the Sun build up a 29-point lead en route to the victory.

"It was one of our biggest (points of) emphasis about this game," Thibault said. "I thought we've been mediocre rebounding the ball during training camp and we had to be really good today to give ourselves a good chance to win. We had a lot of people get rebounds and it is pretty good."

Charles downplayed the individual matchup between Fowles, a player who dominated Charles in the NCAA tournament when Charles was a freshman.

"I was just playing my game. I wasn't really looking at the whole Tina vs. Fowles, it was the Connecticut Sun vs. Chicago," Charles said. "You get up for every game. I don't think there's ever going to be a team where I can say 'oh this center, I can take the night off.'"

Charles will be heading to Washington when UConn is honored with a ceremony at the White House on Monday.

"I am excited," Charles said. "I get to see President Barack Obama, I am definitely excited about it and I know (so are) my teammates are back at UConn. It definitely will be special."

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Sun going with nine

With Asjha Jones not able to play as she continues to recover from offseason surgery on her injured Achilles tendon and Sandrine Gruda not expected to report until early June, the Connecticut Sun will have nine players in uniform when it opens its season against Chicago Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Salary cap issues forced the Sun to cut both undrafted rookie free agents May Kotsopoulos and Judie Lomax. Connecticut coach Mike Thibault had hoped that he would be able to keep either Kotsopoulos or Lomax until Gruda reported. However, to remain in compliance with the salary cap, he had to cut both of them. If Jones continues to be out of the lineup, Connecticut could petition the WNBA for an additional roster spot until Gruda shows up.

"We could apply to the league because we’re at nine players for a hardship and you can pay them at a per game basis on a minimum salary," Thibault said. "We'll wait until after the weekend and see where we are health wise and see if I want to do that next week."

Thibault seems reluctant to pick up a player off the waiver wire since by the time they learned the Connecticut system, he would have to cut her.

Former Connecticut Sun guard Debbie Black was at practice today and is going to be at tomorrow's game. Always a favorite of the media during her tenure in Connecticut, Black held court with pretty much all the reporters at Friday's practice.

Jones is hoping she will be able to play in the second game of the season and could be aided by the fact that the Sun won't play again until May 21.

"That extra week is great," Jones said. "If it keeps going the way it is now, I think so. I am going for that. I don’t want to put it out there and then if it doesn’t happen, everybody is disappointed but it is good to have your short-term goals and long-term goals. The point is to be there down the road and not to rush back, keep everything in perspective and focus in. I realize I need to be there at the end, I wasn’t there at the end last year."

Jones worked with Connecticut's strength and conditioning coach Joanna Hopkins during practice. At times it looked like she was taking part in an NFL combine, running around a series of cones.

"It is limiting because there are a lot of things I am not capable of doing but I did a lot more running than I did in the past," Jones said. "The Achilles got tired yesterday and there was a lot more cutting, trying to get in for a layup and stuff."

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Familiar names on WNBA waiver wire

I'd have to wonder if you put a team together with players waived by WNBA teams on Thursday, how many games would they win?

Among the prominent names on the waiver wire are former North Carolina stars Erlana Larkins, Latoya Pringle and Ivory Latta, both former first-round picks cut loose by New York, Los Angeles and Tulsa respectively.

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, former UConn standout Ashley Battle was cut by Indiana, former Rutgers post was among three players let go by Los Angeles while former LSU products Erica White (New York) and Quianna Chaney (San Antonio) were also sent packing. LA also waived former Rutgers post Rushidat Junaid, who had a strong preseason for the Sparks.

I know the Sun have serious salary cap issues but of all the names out there right now, Junaid jumps out at me is somebody who can help out the Sun while dealing Connecticut only a minor cap hit. Although it has not shown up on the transaction wire yet, Connecticut cut rookies Judie Lomax and May Kotsopoulos meaning the Sun will likely go into Saturday's season opener against Chicago with nine available players since Asjha Jones is still recovering from offseason surgery and Sandrine Gruda has not reported yet.

White's situation and that of Lisa Willis (cut by Los Angeles) irks me. Willis was waived two days after being picked up by Los Angeles while White was signed by New York on Wednesday and cut on Thursday. What gives? OK, I'll cut LA some slack since the Sparks acquired Kristi Toliver (more on that in a little bit) but why would NY sign a player one day and cut her the next?

Now for the biggest news of the day - Chicago trading Toliver, the third overall pick in last year's draft, for Los Angeles' second-round pick in the 2011 draft. Unless Chicago is going out of its way to increase the chances of earning the No. 1 overall pick (better known as the Maya Moore sweepstakes) I don't know what the heck they are doing. First, they passed on Renee Montgomery and DeWanna Bonner among others to take Toliver third overall and now they trade her away for what figures to be a late second-round pick in next year's draft. I already was scratching my head at the three-way trade which had Chicago trading Candice Dupree to Phoenix and now another of its first round picks is gone.

If my math is correct, four of the top 10 picks in the 2009 draft are no longer with the team which drafted them. Toliver is now in LA, No. 4 overall pick Renee Montgomery was part of the trade which sent Lindsay Whalen to Minnesota and allowed the Sun to take Tina Charles with the first overall pick in this year's draft. Courtney Paris was picked seventh by Sacramento. The Monarchs folded and she was acquired in the dispersal draft by Chicago. The Sky waived Paris on Wednesday. Chante Black, taken with the 10th pick by Connecticut, was part of the deal with Tulsa which netted the Sun the seventh overall pick in this year's draft.

Thibault gets an extension

Mike Thibault, the only coach in the history of the Connecticut Sun, signed a two-year extension through the 2012 season with an option for a third year.

Thibault was hired by the Sun when the Orlando Miracle franchise was relocated to play its games at Mohegan Sun Arena. The third-fastest WNBA coach to 100 wins, Thibault's .601 winning percentage is the most among active WNBA coaches. A two-time WNBA coach of the year, Thibault led the Sun to the WNBA finals in 2004 and 2005. Last season was the only time he failed to guide Connecticut into the playoffs.

"I have enjoyed every part of being here, every part of this job,” Thibault said in a statement. “I look forward to going to work every day. I like my team and I like the direction we are headed. There's a lot that goes in to building a winning organization, and I think we've done a lot of great things to give us a bright future. I’m looking forward to being the coach of this group."

The Sun open the 2010 season with a home game against Chicago on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Now for some addition WNBA news, Thibault said on a live chat he did with The Day of New London newspaper that the team is cutting undrafted rookie free agents May Kotsopoulos and Judie Lomax although there's a chance one of them can be brought back on a temporary basis as long as the Sun can manage it while being in compliance with the league's salary cap.

Former UConn wing Ashley Battle was cut by the Indiana Fever. Battle was made expendable after a couple of solid seasons in New York when the Liberty drafted ex-Huksy Kalana Greene and was picked up by Indiana. Maybe it's just me, but a player like Battle would seem to thrive in an uptempo system like the one new coach Nolan Richardson is running in Tulsa. However, I don't claim to be up to speed on Tulsa's salary-cap situation.

Speaking of Greene, there were some technical difficulties but videos of a post-game interview and her taking part in a question and answer session with youngsters after Tuesday's exhibition game are up on the Register's site.

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Branford basketball event set for Monday

Just wanted to pass on some info about a charity event taking place on Monday since some of the proceeds go to benefit Geno's Cancer Team.

"Branford Plays for the Cure" will be held on May 17 beginning at 6:45 p.m. at Branford High School. with games featuring personalities from WTNH, the Branford police and fire departments and teams of faculty and students from Branford schools.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma has been invited to appear, something he did last year, but with the Huskies being honored at the White House earlier that day, I believe it's rather unlikely he will be back in time to make an appearance.

Donations are $5. for adults and $3. for children. Advance tickets are available at the Branford Community House. Tickets will go on sale at 6 p.m. at the Branford High gym.

Speaking of the White House trip, I believe more complete details about when the ceremony will be held will be coming out later today.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Working overtime

Pretty sure it wasn't the intention of either team, but the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty managed to extend the WNBA preseason schedule all by themselves.

The Tuesday morning game needed three overtimes before the host Liberty emerged with an 89-84 win. Make no mistake, this was an exhibition in name only. The players and coaches pulled out all the stops in this one.

The play of the game was Cappie Pondexter's block of a Kara Lawson layup attempt in the second overtime. If Lawson converts, Connecticut is up four with less than 20 seconds to go. Instead Pondexter blocked the shot, grabbed the ball and fired an outlet pass to Essence Carson for the game-tying basket. Even more impressive was that Pondexter made the play shortly after picking up her fifth foul.

A few observations:
First, at first glance the lines of Pondexter (14 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists) and Montgomery (8 points, four rebounds and three assists) look decent but they were a combined 10 of 40 from the floor. Montgomery had as shaky a game as I have seen from her. Twice she was stripped clean of the ball near midcourt, first by Pondexter and then by Leilani Mitchell. She had chances to win the game at the end of regulation and with time running out in the second overtime and misfired badly.

Second, whoever was keeping offensive rebound stats were not watching the same game I was. The final totals had Connecticut with 19 and New York with 16. I find those numbers hard to believe. NY owned the offensive glass and wish I had a tape of the game to break down the numbers.

Third, Tan White is going to make quite an impact for the Sun this season. She had eight points in rapid succession the last time out and on Tuesday she was phenomenal defensively on Pondexter. The number that jumps out at me is that White played 33:15 with a fair chunk of that time guarding Pondexter and was not called for a foul. It was quite impressive.

I also found it interesting the way the coaches divvied up minutes. In the second quarter the Sun used nine players and the Liberty 11 but in overtime both coaches went mostly with a six-player rotation. Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault did not make a sub in either the first or second overtime and was forced to make a move when Montgomery fouled out in the third overtime. It does not bode well that undrafted rookies May Kotsopoulos and Judie Lomax did not get in the game for the Sun. Kerri Gardin played 7:27 in the second quarter and did not play again.

For New York, Sidney Spencer did not play in the fourth quarter or any of the three overtimes, Ashley Houts did not play after seeing 4:35 of action in the second quarter while Erlana Larkins also saw a decent amount of playing time in the second quarter but never came back in again. While I have no idea what is going through the minds of Thibault and his New York coaching counterpart Ann Donovan, I would not be surprised to see either team scouring the waiver wire. There are going to be some very good players cut in the next couple of days. Erica White was just cut by Atlanta and I think she would be a nice fit as a reserve point guard in New York. Will Connecticut look at grab a wing? It's kind of hard to bring in a player just to be here until Sandrine Gruda reports but Thibault made it clear he will keep his eyes open. Would the recent news that Phoenix cut former Oklahoma stars Nyeshia Stevenson and Ashley Paris pique his interest? Time will tell.

One player not getting cut is former UConn star Kalana Greene. I spoke to the New York Liberty after she shared team scoring honors with 14 points and although there was not room for a story on her in tomorrow's paper, I will be putting together a story on her which should run in the next day or two.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

U-17 invitees

USA Basketball has released the names of the 36 players who have accepted invitations to try out for the U.S. Under-17 national team.

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is predictably on the list as are UConn recruiting targets Elizabeth Williams, Kiah Stokes, Breanna Stewart and Betnijah Laney, who were all members of the inaugural U.S. Under-16 national team in 2009.

Not on the list are guard Brianna Banks, who along with Mosqueda-Lewis, is the only high school junior to orally commit to UConn and Hillhouse sophomore Bria Holmes.

The team trials will take place from June 8-11 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
with the 2010 USA Women’s U17 World Championship and Youth Olympic Games teams will be announced on June 11. The players will remain in Colorado Springs for training through June 15.

The U17 World Championship team will reassemble in Washington, D.C., for training July 5-7 before heading overseas for exhibition games in Spain and then the world championships in France. The USA Women’s Youth Olympic Games Team will reassemble on Aug. 5 and train through Aug. 10 before departing for Singapore.

Look for the invitees to the U-18 national team camp to be announced shortly.

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Coyle hired at Pitt

Former New York Liberty coach Patty Coyle has been hired as an assistant coach at Pittsburgh.

"I’m really looking forward to joining the Pitt staff," Coyle said in a statement.
"I’ve had the utmost respect for what (Pitt head coach) Agnus (Berenato) has done at Pitt and I am looking forward to being a part of it in the years to come.”

Coyle led the Liberty to the playoffs four times in her five seasons and was an assistant coach with the team from 1999-2004, helping the Liberty reach the WNBA final three times. She had an 100-77 record in six seasons as the head coach at Loyola (Md.) College.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Engeln shines in all-star game

UConn incoming freshman Lauren Engeln had 13 points but it wasn't enough as the South squad lost to the North 80-72 in the Senior Girls' OCO/Efusjon All-Star Game at Concordia University in Irvine.

Engeln, a 5-foot-11 guard, averaged 19.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.4 steals as a senior at Laguna Hills (Calif.) High.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Jekabsone-Zogota is in the house

Shortly after the Connecticut Sun's 89-46 win over the Polish National Team, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota arrived at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Jekabsone-Zogota will practice for the first time on Sunday and will play in Tuesday's exhibition finale.

Following the game Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault also hinted that he may look at the waiver wire to add a player to the squad. Earlier in training camp Thibault said he wasn't planning to pick anybody up off waivers but he was singing a different tune on Friday night.

"I have maybe a couple of things to think about," Thibault said. "I kind of told you the other day that I wasn't really looking at other team's (cuts) but I am going to keep an open mind. I think I owe it to myself to look around a little bit. I am not sure I will do anything different. The big difference will be Sandrine (Gruda, expected to report in early June), Anete and Asjha (Jones, who missed her second straight game while recovering from surgery on her left Achilles tendon) and how it goes. It is trying to figure out how the last piece fits with the rest of it."

Rookies Tina Charles and May Kotsopoulos led the Sun with 15 points each while Kara Lawson had 14 points (all in the first quarter) and Tan White had eight points in a span of 51 seconds in the first quarter.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

UConn heads to D.C. on May 17

May 17 is the date when the UConn women's basketball team will receive congratulations from President Barack H. Obama for winning the 2009-10 national title with a ceremony at the White House.

The timing of the celebration will allow UConn's two WNBA rookies Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun and Kalana Greene of the New York Liberty to be there with the rest of the Huskies since there are no WNBA games on May 17.

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Kotsopoulos, Lomax survive first two cuts

With Sha Brooks, who starred collegiately at Florida, being cut on Wednesday and Kaitlin Sowinski (Sacred Heart), Kailey Klein (Cleveland State) and Pauline Love (Southern Mississippi) being let go on Thursday, the fight for a temporary spot on the Connectict Sun is not quite a crowded.

Currently at the WNBA maximum of 11 players, another cut will need to be made before the start of the regular season since Anete Jekabsone-Zogota could report to the team as soon as Sunday. Sandrine Gruda is not expected to join the Sun until the first week of June meaning that the team will be able to keep either guard May Kotsopoulos, who played at Vermont, or former Columbia forward Judie Lomax until Gruda is added to the active roster.

Brooks seemed to be doomed to land on the waiver wire once she suffered a quadriceps injury during training camp. Sowinski would have been a great story had she made it but probably needs to get a little stronger before she makes a serious run at making a WNBA roster. Love is a little bit of a surprising cut. Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault sought her out during Tuesday's exhibition win over Atlanta for some extra instruction during the break in the action. Love and Lomax seemed to be the two most effective undrafted rookies during the exhibition game although cuts like these are made by evaluating all the practices and not just four quarters against an Atlanta team missing many of its top players.

The Sun will host the Polish national team on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and then wrap up its preseason schedule with a game at New York on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Taurasi headed to Turkey

After leading Russian powerhouse Spartak Moscow Region to four straight EuroLeague titles, former UConn star Diana Taurasi will be playing in Turkey next winter.

Spartak did announce for former UConn star Sue Bird and the Connecticut Sun's Anete Jekabsone-Zogota are among the key players coming back while Taurasi, the MVP of the Final Four and leading scorer in the EuroLeague, and Sylvia Fowles will not be with the squad in its quest for a fifth straight title.

Also, I have it on good authority that Geno Auriemma will be making an appearance in Branford on May 17 for a charity basketball event to raise money for cancer research. The event is being organized by former Branford High girls' basketball coach and long-time CIAC girls' basketball state tournament director Dave Maloney, who has been working with Auriemma on various events in a partnership between the CIAC and Geno's Cancer Team. The format is similar to last year's event with team with representatives from WTNH News 8, the Branford Police and fire departments as well as squads of teachers and students at Branford High.

When more details become available, I will pass them on.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Business as usual for Charles

Tina Charles ushered in her professional career with 21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 6 blocks as she led the Connecticut Sun to an 86-79 win over the Atlanta Dream.

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault was quick to point out that Charles didn't do her damage against Atlanta's dynamic frontcourt duo of Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle but on the other hand, UConn's all-time leading scorer and rebounder didn't have All-Star Asjha Jones and rising star Sandrine Gruda on the court to take some of the defensive attention off of her.

Charles' output is the most for a Connecticut Sun player in a preseason game since Nykesha Sales, whose UConn scoring record Charles broke, dropped 30 on Phoenix in 2006.

Charles took her impressive debut in stride.

"I was calm," Charles said. "I was fine, I came into the game like any other game I have been playing my senior year. I have teammates who have confidence in me and respect my game, know what I can do is a good thing and it makes me want to go out and perform my best. I feel like that is what I have been developing my game to be my whole life is to be a go-to player, somebody you can count on, somebody your teammate will have respect for and that is something that Coach (Geno) Auriemma taught me that it is not about the wins, it is about having the respect of your teammates."

Connecticut had four players score in double figures and three are rookies as fellow first-round pick Kelsey Griffin had 11 points and second-round selection Allison Hightower finished with 10. Second-year guard Renee Montgomery, acquired in a trade which netted the Sun the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for Lindsay Whalen and the second overall pick, had 12 points and four assists.

If it wasn't clear before, the roster situation is pretty easy to decipher for the Sun. Charles, Griffin, Hightower and Montgomery will be joined on the opening day roster by Jones, DeMya Walker, Kara Lawson, Kerri Gardin, Tan White and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota. Since Sandrine Gruda won't be reporting until early June, the Sun can keep one of its training camp invitees until Gruda is put on the active roster. If I was guessing, I would say it will come down to Pauline Love and Judie Lomax vying for that spot. Watching Thibault pull aside Love for an extended coaching session late in Tuesday's preseason game would lead me to deduce that Love, who had more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in three seasons at Southern Mississippi, is a frontrunner to make the cut but I thought 2009 second-round pick Lyndra Littles was going to be around longer than she was in the 2009 training camp.

The Sun will have an open practice from 5-7 p.m. at St. Joseph College in West Hartford on Wednesday. Fans can watch the practice for free and there will be an autograph session following practice.

This is a busy week for Charles. She will take the last of her college exams on Wednesday, have another exhibition game on Friday and graduate on Sunday. Charles spoke about what figures to be an emotional day on Sunday as graduation day will be her final official act of what has been a special four years for her at UConn.

"It is going to be really important because my family has (had) my back my whole four years at UConn and they see the basketball aspect but now they get to take in what I have been doing academically," Charles said.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Swanson looks ahead

Among the interest spectators at Monday's Connecticut Sun practice was Sacred Heart coach Ed Swanson who was on hand to watch his former player Kaitlin Sowinski take part in training camp as an undrafted free agent.

With Sacred Heart set to play UConn on Dec. 5, naturally I spent some time with Swanson before doing my interviews with Sun players to get his take on playing the Huskies for the second time (UConn won 82-40 on Dec. 31, 2006).

At least one high-ranking official at Sacred Heart basically asked Swanson
"are you nuts" when news surfaced that the Pioneers was facing UConn. But with a veteran squad capable to win the Northeast Conference title, Swanson believes the time is right to play the Huskies again.

"With a senior-laden backcourt, a couple juniors so I think we have some people who can handle that situation," Swanson said. "It's the best RPI game in the country and it is an experience. Our players want to experience it. They grew up watching UConn and watched it the last two years (when UConn won an NCAA Division I record 78 straight games). It is as much about the experience from the game and helping us grow a little and gain a little bit more exposure for our program.

"They call specific years but I don't think if a team is young ... We have Alicia Apo, Maggie Cosgrove, Mo Reilly will be seniors and Callan Taylor will be a junior, that will help them a little bit and help our program mature at a different pace."

Swanson has positive memories from that 2006 game against UConn.

"If you remember that game, we were up five with five minutes to go in the first half and from that point on, I wish the game could have ended then," Swanson said. "They were a top 10 program and we got something out of it. That was the game where we kind of gained a lot of momentum for the rest of the year.

"We got exactly out of it what we wanted to and hopefully next year we will take that same mindset into the game. They say that everything is great leading up to the game except for the game and I look at it the other way, I'm hoping we get something out of it that we can parlay (into the NEC season)."

Naturally Swanson was fired up to see Sowinski getting a chance to earn a spot on the Sun. While the odds are stacked against her, it was still a special moment for Swanson and his two assistant coaches who were also in attendance.

"It is exciting to see one of our players at this level," Swanson said. "I thought a couple years ago Amanda Pape could have been (in a WNBA camp). She played overseas and didn't have as good of an experience as Caitlin did but it is great to see a kid who came in and as a freshman averaged 3 points and 3 rebounds on our '06 (Northeast Conference championship team) and now is in a WNBA camp."

Now for a few notes from Monday's practice. Tina Charles was not there, she was back at UConn taking a final exam and will graduate on Sunday. Her fellow rookies will be bypassing their graduation ceremonies. Nebraska's graduation is Saturday but Kelsey Griffin is not planning to fly back for the ceremony. LSU's graduation is May 21 but rookie guard Allison Hightower will be in uniform with the Sun for a game at Atlanta that day rather than accepting her degree. Hightower did say that LSU was willing to allow her to walk across the stage during the graduation ceremony in the fall so her family can bask with her in her special moment.

Asjha Jones missed practice again as she recovers from surgery to clean out debris in her left Achilles tendon. She is hoping to be cleared to practice next week. Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault said she would probably need to practice at least twice before he would consider playing her in the May 15 season opener against Chicago.

"I don't want her playing until everybody is comfortable. I want her being comfortable, I want them to be comfortable with it," Thibault said. "If it is the first game, great. If it is the second game, OK, I'll live with that. It is the long haul that is important. The plan is still for her to practice next week, we'll see. I don't want her reinjuring herself because she came back too soon."

Thibault said Anete Jekabsone-Zogota could practice as soon as Sunday which means she could see time in the preseason finale against New York on May 11. Sandrine Gruda is still planning to stay in Europe for a bit and probably won't report until the first week of camp.

Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery, Kerri Gardin, DeMya Walker and Charles is the expected starting lineup for Tuesday's 11 a.m. exhibition game against Atlanta. Guard Sha Brooks, slowed by a quadriceps injury, missed practice on Monday and is questionable for Tuesday's exhibition game.

Although Thibault doesn't have to make a cut until Jekabsone-Zogota reports, he said he may make some moves in the middle of the week. However, it will be a one-way street as a lack of cap space will prevent the Sun from claiming a veteran off waivers without cutting another veteran.

It seems rather clear that Connecticut's roster will consist of Montgomery, Lawson, Jones, Gardin, Walker, Charles, Griffin, Hightower, Tan White, Jekabsone-Zogota and Gruda. One spot is available until Gruda reports meaning one of the six free agent invitees (Sowinski, Brooks, former Columbia star Judie Lomax, ex-Vermont standout May Kotsopoulos, Southern Mississippi product Pauline Love and former Cleveland State star Kailey Klein) appear to be vying for the one roster spot available until Gruda is added to the active roster.

If the Sun is looking to add a candidate for the WNBA's All-interview team to the roster, it would be wise to put in a claim for former Penn State star Tyra Grant, who was cut by Phoenix on Monday.

Grant was the Mercury's second-round pick (No. 24 overall) in April's WNBA draft. During Grant's junior season, Penn State was playing UConn in the Maggie Dixon Classic. With Penn State having a home game against Dayton the same weekend that the Yale volleyball team was playing in the NCAA tournament at Penn State, my bosses sent me down there to cover the volleyball tournament while getting some advance stuff for the upcoming Penn State game. Talking to Grant was a memorable enough experience that when I was in Colorado Springs for the U.S. Basketball training camp, I mentioned to USA Basketball's Jenny Maag that if she was looking for a quotable player to focus on, she should consider interviewing Grant. She took my advice and was not disappointed.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

New-look Sun to meet the public

The early returns from a hectic offseason spent making over the Connecticut Sun will be on display when the team plays its first exhibition game against the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday at 11 a.m. The following day there will be an open practice at St. Joseph College in West Hartford. There will be no admission for fans to watch the 5-7 p.m. practice at the O'Connell Center and an autograph session will follow.

The exhibition game figures to feature some of the talented newcomers brought in since perennial All-Star forward Asjha Jones is expected to be sidelined as she continues to recover from surgery to remove debris from her injured left Achilles tendon while European stars Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Sandrine Gruda aren't expected to be in camp in time for the exhibition game.

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