Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blasts from the past

Upon arriving at Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night, one of the first things I saw was a release announcing that Nykesha Sales will be honored by the Connecticut Sun at the Aug. 15 game against Indiana.

The honor is long overdue and something tells me the process of getting Sales to come into town was not a simple one but I'm glad Nykesha and the Sun have ironed out their differences enough to give Sales her day in the Sun as well as her day at the Sun.

Part two of this entry is a little plug for a story I wrote which is scheduled to run in Sunday's edition of the Register. The focus is on the 30th season of the New Haven Summer League but it just so happened that when I was over at Ralph Walker Rink last week conducting my interviews, former UConn guard Maria Conlon was leading her Plus Two squad to another victory.

After the game was over, I spoke with Conlon, who was a member of the 2002, 2003 and 2004 national championship teams at UConn.

Conlon was joking with the league founder Bill Dixon that she is playing better now than she did in college. When I asked her about that, she said while that it not the case but she is still feeling and playing pretty well.

"I am really good shape right now, I am feeling really good," Conlon said. "I am playing a lot of basketball and it is amazing what you learn when you get older just from watching the sport, coaching and getting older, it affects your game a lot. I feel like I am probably not as good as I was in college but I am right there."

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Jones hits milestone

Lost in the wake of the Connecticut Sun's horrible performance in a 94-62 loss to Atlanta was that Asjha Jones scored the 3,000th point of her career, becoming the 33rd WNBA player to reach that plateau.

Jones, who reached the milestone with a jumper with 8:20 remaining, joins Diana Taurasi, Nykesha Sales, Swin Cash and Sue Bird as former Huskies with 3,000 career points. She accomplished the feat in her 273rd game.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

WNBA playoff schedule

The WNBA announced its postseason schedule. The conference semifinals will run from Aug. 25-30 with the higher seed playing at home in the opening game as well as the third game, if the series goes the distance.

The conference finals are set for Sept. 2-8 with the game home-away-home setup for the higher seed. The WNBA championships series is a best of five affair beginning on Sept. 12.

The schedule is not going to make UConn coach Geno Auriemma very happy, not that he didn't already know it was going to work out this way, since he will begin training camp for the World Championships on Sept. 3. If the playoffs started today and the top two seeds in each conference advanced to the conference finals, among those in the U.S. national team pool who would not be there for the start of camp would include Seattle's Sue Bird and Swin Cash, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree, Tamika Catchings of Indiana and Angel McCoughtry of Atlanta.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Georgia Tech game is ...

being played on Nov. 21 according to a release on the Georgia Tech website. It will serve as the homecoming game for Maya Moore, who grew up and played her high school ball in Georgia.

Also, tickets for the Dec. 19 Maggie Dixon Classic will go on sale on Thursday. The doubleheader at Madison Square Garden features UConn facing Ohio State and Rutgers going up against Texas A&M.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's talk scheduling

I don't expect UConn's schedule to come out until early September but figured I would throw out there what I have to date on who UConn is playing and any dates I have confirmed (with some assistance from other members of the UConn media contingent).

No word on whether UConn has a game on Nov. 20. If not, I would expect more than a few UConn fans to make their way to New Haven to watch as Yale hosts the Elena Delle Donne-led Delaware squad.

Exhibition games
Franklin Pierce (date, site TBA)
Indiana (Pa.) Nov. 10 (site TBA)
Regular season
Nov. 14 Holy Cross
Nov. 16 Baylor (XL Center)
Nov. 26-28 WBCA Classic vs. Howard, Lehigh and LSU (dates of exact matchups have not been announced)
Dec. 5 Sacred Heart
Dec. 19 Ohio State (at Madison Square Garden)
Dec. 28 at Pacific
Dec. 30 at Stanford (that was the date I originally was told months ago and although I have not seen any confirmation on it, that fact that I was told in the winter that the tentative date for the Pacific game was Dec. 28 which is indeed the date of the game, it would make sense that the Stanford game would be on Dec. 30).

The other non-conference games are home dates with Duke, Oklahoma and Florida State and road games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. If the schedule follows the same formula as last year's, the Duke and North Carolina games will be in January and the Big East portion of the schedule will begin in January.

UConn's Big East schedule will consist of home games against Notre Dame, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Syracuse and Villanova and road games versus Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, South Florida and West Virginia.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi was named the WNBA's Western Conference Player of the Week, the 12th time she has earned the award in her seven seasons in the league. Here's the portion of the WNBA release concerning Taurasi's honor.

En route to earning the 12th Player of the Week award of her career, Taurasi led the defending champion Mercury to a pair of road wins in which Phoenix set a WNBA single-game scoring record in back-to-back games. On Thursday at Tulsa, Taurasi scored a game-high 26 points and added five assists in a 123-91 victory. Two days later she scored 11 of her 31 points in the second overtime and tied a league record for most free throws without a miss in a single game (14) as Phoenix defeated Minnesota 127-124 in the highest-scoring game in WNBA history. The sixth-year pro also contributed six rebounds and six assists against the Lynx as Phoenix further solidified its hold on second place in the Western Conference.

The league’s leading scorer (23.8 ppg) thus far in 2010, Taurasi averaged 28.5 ppg during the week, second only to the 29.0 ppg posted by Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus. She also tied for eighth in the league with 5.5 assists per game.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mosqueda-Lewis, Williams lead U.S. to gold

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 15 points, five rebounds and three assists and UConn recruiting target Elizabeth Williams had 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks as the United States won the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women with a 92-62 win over host France.

Former UConn recruiting target Ariel Massengale led the U.S. with 20 points and six assists while Breanna Stewart, very much on UConn's recruiting radar, had eight points and eight rebounds despite being sidelined with first-half foul trouble.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stewart, Williams propel U.S. in U-17 final

UConn recruiting targets Breanna Stewart and Elizabeth Williams each had double-doubles as the U.S. defeated China 97-64 in the semifinals of the FIBA Under-17 Championship for Women on Saturday.

Stewart, a 6-foot-3 rising high school junior forward/center from North Syracuse, N.Y., had 17 points (on 7 of 9 shooting), 11 rebounds, five blocks and two assists while Williams, a 6-3 rising senior forward/center from Virginia Beach, Va., had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.

Former UConn recruiting target Ariel Massengale led the U.S. with 22 points and six assists while UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was one of three United States players with nine points.

China, which made 14 3-pointers in the game, pulled within three points with 2:46 left in the third quarter. Massengale had 11 points and UConn recruiting target Jewell Loyd added seven as the U.S. outscored China 30-10 the rest of the way.

The United States will play the winner host France in Sunday's 11:30 a.m. championship game.

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Time to follow up

During the 2009-10 college season, I referenced the stories of North Carolina's Jessica Breland and Amber Gray of Tennessee whose struggles transcended the sport of basketball.

Recently they have been back in the news for different reasons. The Charlotte Observer ran a story on Breland's return on Friday after she missed last season waging a valiant fight against cancer.

Tennessee announced that Gray, who had a stroke, will not be cleared medically to play basketball

While I'm on the subject of the SEC, I figured I would engage in a little self promotion. In tomorrow's Register, there will be a story on LSU pitcher Rachele Fico, who is spending the summer pitching for the Brakettes. Fico has pitched two consecutvie perfect games and will go for her third straight tonight. I went down to see the Brakettes play on Thursday to do the interview with Fico, a couple of her teammates and manager John Stratton. It kept a personal streak alive of writing at least one story on the team every year since 1991. During that time I have seen some of the sport's greatest players both playing for and against the Brakettes. I'm not sure how much longer the Brakettes, who are still without a sponsor, will continue to field a team but the day when they finally say "enough is enough" will be the end of a glorious era.

For those who want to see Fico in person, the Brakettes will be playing in the national tournament beginning on Thursday at Frank Biondi Field at West Haven High School. For information on the tournament, visit The Brakettes are also entered in the ASA national tournament which is being played in Stratford but the last I heard is that they were one of only two teams entered in the event and if that remains the case, the ASA Women's Major Fast Pitch nationals - once the crown jewel of all softball tournaments - woll be cancelled for the second straight year.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sun injury update

Connecticut Sun trainer Jeremy Norman is certainly earning even bit of his paycheck.

When the season began, he diligently was working with perennial All-Star forward Asjha Jones who underwent surgery in February to clean up the area around her right Achilles tendon. Jones had to miss the first four games but has scored in double figures in three of the last five games.

At Friday's practice, Norman kept a watchful eye on injured guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who is just 15 days removed from surgery on her right knee. Jekabsone-Zogota had the sutures removed from the knee five days ago and on Friday she was undergoing flexibility exercises and had the occasional short sprint up the court which is adjacent to the one her teammates were practicing on.

Norman said Jekabsone-Zogota is on schedule in her recovery from surgery.

"(It's) two weeks after surgery so we have two more weeks to get her up to speed," Norman said. "The first week, we wanted to work on her swelling and range of motion. That is coming along well. She had her sutures removed at 10 days so maybe she will start progressing. It's been two weeks as of (Thursday) so we've had a couple of days of jogging which is good. We'll keep progressing, barring any sort of setbacks and start getting her on the court shooting against someone and gradually progressing that into 4 on 4 and 5 on 5, full contact, full speed (drills). Hopefully it is soon but we have that time frame kind of established of 2-4 weeks so somewhere between there we shall get her back."

Norman is also keeping tabs on Kara Lawson's ailing right knee which forced her to sit out the second half and overtime in Tuesday's loss to New York. Lawson has been held out of the practices leading up to Saturday's game against Los Angeles with the hope that the rest will allow her to play.

"This just happened to be something that was a little more sort than usual but it is not any different than the problem that she came in that we were kind of dealing with all along," Norman said. "If you happen to get sore the day before a game than you are going to be sore the following day. Timing wise it is kind of tough, if we could predict when she is going to get sore, we'd take that day off."

Both Lawson and Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said they will be taking a wait and see approach in terms of her availability for Saturday's game.

"I am hoping (to return Saturday) just because there is a game," Lawson said. "It gets pretty sore and irritated and it is hard on the hard floor to play basketball, cut and do all those types of things. Hopefully, in the past I have given it a couple of days (off) and it has calmed down so I am hopeful that trend will continue and I will be able to play."

If Lawson can't go, Renee Montgomery will start at point guard with rookie Allison Hightower likely to take over Montgomery's role as the reserve point guard. Thibault had lofty praise for Hightower's work at point guard during practice this week.

"She has done a good job," Thibault said. "She is smart, she gets everything. She has never played point (guard) in her life but she is out there learning. It makes her more valuable over the long haul anyways because she gets some experience at what I think is the hardest position in the league."

Elena Delle Donne, the former UConn recruit who lasted just two days on campus in the summer of 2008 before returning home to Delaware, will finally play a game in the state of Connecticut. However, it will not be against UConn at either Gampel Pavilion or the XL Center but versus Yale at Payne Whitney Gymnasium or John J. Lee Amphitheater, if you want to be more specific.

Delle Donne, a rising sophomore at Delaware, and the Blue Hens recently released their non-conference schedule which includes a Nov. 20 game at Yale at 7 p.m. Nov. 20 also happens to be the date of "The Game" between the Yale and Harvard football team. That game is being held in Cambridge, Mass. and will start at noon.

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Mosqueda-Lewis leads U.S. into semifinals

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 16 points (making 3 of 4 shots from both 2-point and 3-point range) to lead four United States players in double figures in Friday's 86-57 win over Spain in the quarterfinals of the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women.

UConn recruiting targets Elizabeth Williams (11 points) and Jewell Loyd (10 points, three assists, three steals) also scored in double figures as did Tennessee commit Cierra Burdick, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds.

The U.S. will face China in Saturday's semifinals in what figures to be the toughest game to date in the tournament for the undefeated U.S. squad.

China advanced to the semifinals with a 68-59 win over Russia.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Langley video on St. John's site

Although it's not UConn related, I thought some of you might be interested in checking out a video of former Lauralton Hall star Keylantra Langley on the St. John's website. Langley is part of what seems to be an impressive incoming freshman class for the Red Storm

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Huge game for Stewart

UConn recruiting target Breanna Stewart, a 6-foot-3 forward/center from North Syracuse, N.Y., continues to show why many recruiting insiders consider her to be the top player in the class of rising high school juniors at the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women.

Stewart had 30 points on 13 of 15 shooting to go with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks as the U.S. finished a perfect run through the preliminary round with a 133-71 win over Japan on Wednesday. Others on UConn's short list of sought after prospects who starred for the U.S. included Elizabeth Williams (16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (14 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks), Morgan Tuck (10 points, seven rebounds) and Betnijah Laney (10 points).

The U.S. won Group A with a 5-0 record and earned a spot in Friday's quarterfinals. The U.S. will face Spain in the quarterfinals and barring the upset of the tournament, would advance to face either China or Russia in Saturday's semifinals.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

UConn targets lead U.S.

UConn recruiting targets Morgan Tuck (11 points), Jewell Loyd (11 points, five rebounds) and Breanna Stewart (10 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks) all scored in double figures as the U.S. defeated Turkey 84-55 on Tuesday to improve to 4-0 in Group A in the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women.

The U.S. used a balanced offense as six players scored between 8-11 points as it clinched the top seed out of Group A for the quarterfinals.

The eight players on UConn's recruiting radar on the U.S. team combined for 63 points, 28 rebounds, 8 steals and 6 blocks against Turkey.

Here's a breakdown of how the players being recruited by UConn fared today and are doing in the tournament.

Jordan Adams 5 points vs. Turkey; averaging 1.8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Betnijah Laney 9 points against Turkey; averaging 7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 18 steals
Jewell Loyd 11 points, five rebounds, two steals against Turkey; averaging 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis 5 points, 6 rebounds vs. Turkey; averaging 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2 steals
Imani Stafford 4 points, 3 rebounds against Turkey; averaging 3.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1 steal
Breanna Stewart 10 points, five rebounds, two steals, two blocks on Tuesday; averaging 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.3 blocks
Morgan Tuck 11 points, three rebounds on Tuesday; averaging 8 points, 4.5 rebounds
Elizabeth Williams 8 points, 4 rebounds vs. Turkey; averaging 13 points and 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks

The U.S. wraps up preliminary round play on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. against Japan. The quarterfinals begin on Friday. The opponent will be determined in large part by Wednesday's Spain/China game. If Spain loses, it would get the No. 4 seed out of Group B and draw the U.S. If Spain wins there will be a three-way tie for second with Spain, China and the loser of the Australia/Belgium each finishing 3-2 and a tiebreaker would be needed to decide the order of finish.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Geno to make New Haven appearance

UConn coach Geno Auriemma is planning to be in attendance at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament on Aug. 25 and will be interviewed by Bruce Barber at 4 p.m. and will sign autographs beginning at 5 p.m.

Auriemma’s appearance was prompted by the partnership between Geno’s Cancer Team, the organization Auriemma and his wife Kathy created to raise money for cancer, and the Pilot Pen.

The tournament will be donating 5 percent of ticket sales from June 1 until the start of the tournament to Geno’s Cancer Team as long as the the promotion code “VF10” is entered when purchasing the tickets online at
There will also be discounted prices for box seats for the Aug. 24 day and night sessions and Thursday’s day session as Tuesday’s tickets will be cut from $70 to $35 and Thursday’s box seat tickets are available for $50 instead of the normal price of $99.

The Pilot Pen begins on Aug. 20 with qualifying and ends on Aug. 28 when the men's and women's singles and doubles champions are crowned at the Connecticut Tennis Center. Caroline Wozniacki, the two-time defending women's champion, leads the list of players entered in the tournament.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hammond gets offer

Sara Hammond, a versatile 6-foot-2 rising senior forward at Rockcastle County High in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, was offered a scholarship by UConn coach Geno Auriemma on Friday.

Jarrad Parmley, Hammond's coach for the Kentucky Premier AAU program, confirmed that Auriemma made the scholarship offer as the team returned from the Battle in the Boro in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

"He called her and said he'd like for her to play (at UConn)," Parmley said. "Obviously, she was pretty excited."

Hammond, a lefty who Parmley said can play both on the perimeter and in the post, had a quadruple-double with 18 points, 17 rebounds, 12 blocks and 10 steals in a Jan. 29 win over Pulaski County. She had an impressive performance at the Deep South Classic in April and has been on UConn's radar in the last couple of months.

"She's very unselfish and what the coaches like the most about her is her consistency," Parmley said. "She can hit the 3-pointer and can put the ball on the floor and go by people. She is a very well-rounded player."

Parmley said that Hammond had been in the process of narrowing down her list of schools with Louisville being the frontrunner with Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky also very much in the mix. He also said that was "before Friday." Notre Dame has also been pursuing her. Parmley said that Hammond's plan as he understood it was to visit her top schools before making a decision but with UConn in the mix, that could - and likely will - change.

"I know she would like to go up to UConn for a visit," Parmley said.

Kentucky Premier is entered in the Girls' Showtime National Championship in Indianapolis from July 23-25 and the FILA National Championships in Suwanee, Georgia from July 28-31 which will give college coaches more chances to evaluate her game. When she returns home, she will likely set up some campus visits.

With just nine players on scholarship following the graduation of Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon in 2011, UConn can take as many as six players in the next recruiting class. The Huskies already have commitments from guards Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. and Brianna Banks out of Northgate High in Newnan, Ga. Besides Hammond, UConn has offered scholarships to post players Elizabeth Williams, currently the leading scorer and rebounder on the U.S. Under-17 national team and a star at Princess Anne HS in Virginia Beach and Kiah Stokes from Linn-Mar High in Marion, Iowa as well as Smyrna (Delaware) High wing Betnijah Laney.

Hammond's recruitment could easily follow that of current UConn rising sophomore Kelly Faris. UConn appeared to get serious about Faris well into the process and there was talk that the Huskies would be too late to get in the mix with Faris. Obviously, as much of the recruiting gossip tends to be, the information was incorrect as Faris committed to the Huskies over teams closer to her Indiana home. While it's too early to determine whether Hammond will become a teammate of Faris' at UConn, it was clear in speaking with Parmley that UConn is in game with Hammond.

I found this video of Hammond on youtube featuring game action and an interview with her courtesy of sports anchor Derek Forrest from WYMT in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Mosqueda-Lewis, U.S. rout Canada

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 21 points, five 3-pointers and four steals to lead five players in double figures as the United States improved to 3-0 in Group A by beating Canada 114-57 Sunday at the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women.

UConn recruiting targets Jewell Loyd (19 points), Morgan Tuck (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists) and Elizabeth Williams (12 points) also scored in double figures as did Bria Smith. Others on UConn's recruiting radar who contributed to the win were Breanna Stewart (eight points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks), Betnijah Laney (eight points), Imani Stafford (four points, 12 rebounds, three steals) and Jordan Adams (two points, four assists).

The U.S. will wrap up play in the preliminary round with games against Turkey Tuesday and Japan on Wednesday with both games set to tip at 11:30 a.m.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Luggage nightmare for the Dream

Atlanta Dream coach Marynell Meadors was playfully apologizing to members of the Connecticut Sun staff for her less than dapper choice of clothing for tonight's game.

The team's luggage was lost on its flight from Indiana to Connecticut. The team has its uniforms but no other clothing.

Speaking of Meadors, I interviewed her before the game about the experience of being an assistant on the U.S. national team coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma.

"It is a tremendous honor to No. 1 represent your country and No. 2, have the opportunity to work with Geno," Meadors said. "All coaches and everybody who is not on the floor watching him perform in practices don't understand the greatness that he has. The knowledge that he has gives that to the players and the players pick up on that. He has a great way about him in getting the best out of each player.

"I know he is running a lot of things he does at UConn but just his knowledge of the game and his perception of what everybody else can do and what they can bring. He is trying to put a puzzle together and so is the committee in selecting all of these players, he just has a knack for putting people in the right spot so that they are successful."

Meadors said that there hasn't been any specific separation of duties assigned to the staff like at UConn where Shea Ralph works with guards, Marissa Moseley coaches the post players.

"We really haven't had time to do all that, we've only had a few practices together," Meadors said. "That is the unfortunate thing for the United States is that we only get together a couple times and back in April when we were together, we maybe had five or six practices but we never did break down into position work, we felt like the team unity would be better if we put them in situations with the offense they've been running. He hasn't really touched on defense yet but I know it is coming."


Williams continues to dominate for U-17 team

The FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women is quickly turning into a showcase for much sought after post players Elizabeth Williams and Breanna Stewart.

Williams, a 6-foot-3 forward/center from Virginia Beach, Va., followed up her double-double in Friday's win over host France by lighting up a talented Russia squad to the tune of 20 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks in an 82-38 win on Saturday. Stewart, a 6-foot-3 forward/center from North Syracuse, N.Y., had 12 points and nine rebounds. The two UConn recruiting targets also combined for 10 of the United States' 27 offensive rebounds.

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had a rough shooting game, missing 10 of her 11 shots but she did lead the U.S. with four steals.

The U.S., the only undefeated team in Group A, will continue pool play with a 9 a.m. game against Canada on Sunday.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Stewart, Williams lead U-17 to win

Four UConn recruiting targets scored in double figures as the United States defeated host France 70-45 in its first game in the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women on Friday at the L'Amphitheatre in Rodez.

Breanna Stewart of North Syracuse, N.Y. had 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks and Elizabeth Williams of Virginia Beach, Va. had 12 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, one of two rising high school seniors who has committed to UConn, had 10 points, five rebounds and two of the U.S. team's five 3-pointers while Betnijah Laney has 10 points and two steals. Former UConn recruiting target Ariel Massengale also had 10 points for the U.S., which outscored France 39-17 in the second half.

The U.S. continues pool play on Saturday with an 11:30 a.m. game against Russia. Russia opened with a 93-68 win over Japan behind Ksenia Tikhonenko's 22 points and 16 rebounds.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TV time

For those interested in such things, I thought I would mention that ESPNU will be televising the United States' opening match against Ghana in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup. There are no UConn players or Connecticut natives on the U.S. squad although Durham's Jillian Mastrioanni, a goalkeeper at Boston College, was in the U-20 player pool. The game is set to start at noon. The U.S./Switzerland match on Saturday at noon will be televised on ESPNU while the U.S./Korea match on July 21 at noon will be carried on ESPN2.

At 9 p.m. ESPN will televise the ESPYs. UConn's Maya Moore and former UConn star Diana Taurasi are up for the Best Female Athlete award along with tennis star Serena Williams and skier Lindsey Vonn.

UConn's 78-game winning streak is up for Best Record-Breaking Performance, UConn is also up for Best Team, Geno Auriemma is nominated in the Best Coach/Manager, Taurasi is in the running for Best WNBA Player, Moore and Tina Charles are in contention for Best Female College Athlete.

Spain's national team just got significantly stronger with the news that Sancho Lyttle of the Atlanta Dream has been granted Spanish citizenship and is already listed on its national team roster.

Here's the story from the website

Connecticut Sun draft pick Alba Torrens, whose rights are still owned by the team, is among those on the 16-player Spanish roster.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taking a look back

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to view USA Basketball's dealings up close and in person. I've made trips to Colorado Springs for junior national team trials dating back to the summer before Maya Moore's freshman season at UConn. But never have I been exposed to so many aspects of USA Basketball than I did from July 5-11.

It began when I took in the Under-17 national team practices at Flint Hill School in Virginia on July 5 and 6. I took advantage of my previously-made plans to talk to UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and the seven other players on UConn's recruiting radar (rising seniors Betnijah Laney and Elizabeth Williams and rising juniors Jordan Adams, Jewell Loyd, Imani Stafford, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck) and wrote three stories off the access I received.

Coming back home, I headed to the U.S. national team practice on Thursday, was at the U.S. vs. WNBA all-star game Saturday and saved the best for last by attending the closed scrimmage between the U.S. and Australia national teams.

As promised in previous entries, I will share my thoughts off the scrimmage.

First, it took about half of one possession to realize that this was a real deal. There were no players in the house because their fans stuffed the ballot box or circumvented the fan balloting system with online voting programs and there was no sense of an all-star setting. This was serious basketball.

"It's who the USA (is) and it is who Australia (is)," Australia coach Carrie Graf said. "Even in a friendly, we are not going to roll over and not have a (go), that's not what we do. The U.S. is world class, they are the standard setter. History says that the U.S. and Australia, certainly in the last 20 years, have had wonderful contests at the international level. Plus, we are the nation who has the most internationals in the WNBA, a lot of our players and coaches have been a part of the WNBA and there is lot of friendship and respect between the players and coaches. There is a real healthy respect between the two nations and I think that benefits both (programs)."

Both teams were shorthanded. For Australia, Lauren Jackson sat out with a concussion while Penny Taylor limited her time because of a knee issue (not as a result of the shot to the head she absorbed courtesy of her former Phoenix Mercury teammate Cappie Pondexter in the Mercury's game against the New York Liberty). Pondexter and Sylvia Fowles had to join up with their WNBA teams for a game on Sunday while a knee issue kept Tamika Catchings out of the scrimmage. Still, each team dressed and played 15 players.

Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree combined for all of the U.S. squad's points in a game-opening 13-7 run. Twice the U.S. led by as many as eight points in the first quarter. Australia, being 10 points from Jenna O'Hea, went on a 23-11 run before the U.S. answered back to take a 43-41 lead at halftime. Midway through the third quarter the U.S. held a five-point lead. From that point on both teams were trying out different combinations as younger players got a chance to showcase their skills.

The bottom line is that Australia's youngsters (in particular O'Hea and the relentless Marianna Tolo) outplayed their U.S. counterparts to lead Australia to an 87-72 win.

Neither head coach was as concerned about the final score as they were the chance to see their unproven players against top-flight competition although having covered seven of UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma's Final Four teams, I'd have to think he was a little irked at how the Australia players outhustled the U.S. players for loose balls and offensive rebounds in the second half.

"We knew that today was going to be where you could really evaluate some players," Auriemma said. "It is not about winning. If you try to win and don't make any evaluations, it's a waste of your effort. Today was about seeing who can play their way into contention for this team, in some cases who is going to play their way up or down. We were able to see some things and the key is where do we go from here."

On the U.S. side, it looked like Candice Dupree and Ebony Hoffman helped themselves the most. Dupree continued to prove she can finish inside as she did in the all-star game the day before. Hoffman, who is not even in the U.S. national team core group, was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal fourth-quarter performance. Here's what Auriemma had to say about Dupree and Hoffman.

"I feel like everybody knows what Candice is going to bring. One thing that was evident today is when you dont have Sylvia and you don't have Candace Parker, you just don't have enough big bodies in there with what we are going to be up against watching these guys play. Our undersized guys whether it is Candice Dupree, Swin Cash or Asjha Jones and those guys are going to have a huge challenge ahead of them to make the team, what position are they going to play, can they handle it, they all have different strengths and weaknesses."

"She (Hoffman) was a pleasant surprise. I hadn't seen her in a long time. I hadn't seen her since I coached her on the junior national team that one summer. She has made tremendous progress, she plays hard, she competes. I was pleasantly surprised by her."

On the other side, the American point guards not named Sue Bird didn't exactly have a day to remember. I've read the report of how well Lindsey Harding played and while her stats were nice (six points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and no turnovers) I have to wonder if I was watching the same scrimmage. She wasn't able to get much going in the half-court sets when she was in the game. The same can be said for Renee Montgomery and Lindsay Whalen. All three tended to penetrate just for the sake of it, throw it out and hope for the best. Other than when Bird was in the game, the half-court offense seemed to work best when Kara Lawson was in the game. I was critical of the decision to put Lawson on the 2008 Olympic squad but I caught a glimpse why she made the team. She has an understated way of making things work with the U.S. squad. There's something to be said for knowing exactly what you are going to get from your backup point guard which is what you get with Lawson. It would not surprise me at all if Lawson finds her way on the squad which heads over to the Czech Republic in September for the FIBA World Championships for that reason and since Harding and Montgomery can be a bit erratic and erratic doesn't cut at against world powers like Australia and Russia.

Auriemma said both on Saturday and Sunday that he wouldn't mind another big guy on the world championship squad since the U.S. figures to be without Candace Parker. If Asjha Jones was healthy, she would be a solid choice but she is still working herself back into top form after missing time following surgery on the region around her Achilles tendon. Unless Hoffman is added to the national team roster (she is currently listed as a national team hopeful) I'm not sure that the U.S. has another big, bruising presence to call upon to go with Fowles and Tina Charles.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd like to see the U.S. add Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike and Jasmine Thomas of Duke to the player pool. Ogwumike has the size and athleticism to help out at power forward while Thomas could be groomed as the U.S. squad's point guard of the future but those are decisions for the committee which selects the U.S. squad. By the way, don't expect the world championship roster to be named until shortly before the team leaves for the Czech Republic.

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For your viewing pleasure

The last of the three stories I wrote off the U.S. U-17 national team practices I attended ran in the Register today. It focuses on the five team members from the Class of 2012 on UConn's recruiting radar. There is also video featuring interviews from Breanna Stewart and Jordan Adams and some action including a sweet connection from Morgan Tuck to Stewart. It also includes the glowing quote about UConn from Morgan Tuck which I included in my quotes of the week blog entry.

Also, videos that ran with my story on Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis have been posted. There is one of an interview I did with her and another with her in action during the first two days of practice at the Flint Hill School.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Quotes of the week

At some point (probably when I shake off the Monday doldrums and listen to my interviews with Geno Auriemma, Australia national team coach Carrie Graf and Carol Callan of USA Basketball) I'll get around to recapping a week's worth of USA Basketball coverage. In the meantime I thought I'd provide people with the most memorable and witty quotes of the week

"I met you mom and your dad, they are so nice. What, where you adopted?"
U.S. and UConn coach Geno Auriemma to Australian star Lauren Jackson before the U.S./Australia scrimmage on Sunday. Jackson responded with a playful jab to Auriemma's stomach.

"I wasn't nervous. I just felt like I took a nap. Thanks for the anesthetic, I went to sleep and when I woke up it (the surgery) was over."
Connecticut Sun coach Anete Jekabsone-Zogota on the recent surgery on her right knee.

"Yeah, blame the (lack of a warmup), that's what I am going with,"
former UConn star Sue Bird on her early exit from the 3-point shooting contest at Saturday's all-star game.

"I didn't get to watch them too much, there isn't CPTV in the South but I remembering going to the Final Four in Atlanta and watching them practice,"
UConn rising senior Maya Moore when I asked her if she idolized Diana Taurasi when she was at UConn.

"D (Diana Taurasi) said she'd give her $100 if she took a 3 so knucklehead took two of them and I yanked her,"
Auriemma on Tina Charles' two attempted and failed 3-pointers in Saturday's all-star game.

"They are taught sharing, they understand the game, they understand that sharing the ball is what makes this game so beautiful. It is just a common understanding that the whole is more important than the individual. That's as succinct as I can say what Connecticut is all about,"
DePaul head coach and U.S. national team assistant coach Doug Bruno when I asked him if players from the 2000-2002 era of UConn women's basketball and the more recent group have similar approaches to basketball.

"When I was in college, I would never have done that so I figured that now that I am out of college, I might as well be nice,"
Angel McCoughtry on what prompted her to send a thank you card to Auriemma after the national team camp in the spring.

"First when the freshmen got here before they experienced our strength and conditioning workouts, they were looking good in pick-up. It's a little tough now that they are coming from the workouts but I can see a good core of what they are. I am excited, I see the potential there,"
Moore on her impressions of the five incoming freshmen at UConn.

"We are pretty cool on and off the court. I guess we are both pretty playful so we can play together and nobody gets mad or anything,"
UConn recruiting target Betnijah Laney on her on-court chemistry with UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

"I am so happy with the decision I made and now I get to recruit people to come over with me. Just how hard I saw that everybody worked and how they were on the same page. They all wanted to same thing. They all had the same goals, they all worked hard. It wasn't like a team, it was like a family. I am huge on family and once I saw that, I said 'boom, that is where I want to be. I want to go to UConn'"
Mosqueda-Lewis, reflecting on her decision to commit to UConn in October.

"They can think that but I haven't decided to go anywhere,"
UConn recruiting target Breanna Stewart on the rumors that she'll commit to UConn once she receives a scholarship offer.

"UConn is a great program, they are undefeated two years (in a row) so I don't know who wouldn't want to go there. They are the best team in the country right now,"
one of the five members of rising high school juniors on UConn's recruiting radar I interviewed on Tuesday at the Flint Hill School (sorry, but you'll have to wait until my story on those five players runs in the paper since that quote and the person who said will be idenitified.

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USA Basketball announces exhibitions

The XL Center will host two exhibition games in September. On Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. the U.S. national team will play Australia and on Sept. 12 at a time yet to be announced, the U.S. will play Spain. Tickets will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Spain and Australia will play at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the University of Hartford.

Tickets will be available online at, through Ticketmaster charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000 and in person at the XL Center box office. Ticket prices range from $10-75.

The U.S. will also hold a training camp beginning Sept. 3 although since the WNBA playoffs will still be going on, the availability of players will be determined by when their WNBA teams are eliminated. No site has been announced for the training camp.

At the risk of a little self promotion, I wanted to mention that my story about UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis ran in today's paper. Look for the accompanying video I did to be put up on the website shortly.

Speaking of videos, I would like to thank those people who checked out the videos I took of UConn recruiting targets Elizabeth Williams and Betnijah Laney. They are the fifth and sixth most viewed viedos even though they have been up less than a week and the videos ahead of them have been on the website for months. That should help my cause when I pitch future trips to catch up with UConn recruits.

A little scheduling update, I checked around a bit to see if I could confirm some dates other than the ones previously reported (Baylor on Nov. 16, Sacred Heart on Dec. 5, Holy Cross on Nov. 14) and I was able to confirm that the game at Pacific will be on Dec. 28 at 10 p.m. It will be part of a two-game California swing with a game at Stanford to follow. It's likely that one of those two games could be for win No. 88 in a row, matching the Division I men's basketball record set by UCLA in the 1970s.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stewart leads U.S. past Spain

UConn recruiting target Breanna Stewart had 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocks as the U.S. defeated Spain 61-50 to finish 2-1 in its three exhibition games in Spain. Using tiebreakers, the U.S. was declared the winner in the round robin event and UConn recruiting target Elizabeth Williams, who had 10 points and seven rebounds, was named the tournament's MVP. UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis also had 10 points as did former UConn recruiting target Ariel Massengale.

The U.S. now heads to France for the FIBA Under-17 World Championship for Women as it opens with host France on Friday.

While we are talking about UConn's recruiting targets, UConn coach Geno Auriemma will leave for Chicago after taking part in tomorrow's press conference announcing a national team training camp in Hartford. He will be in attendance for the final day of the Nike Summer Showcase in Elgin, Ill. before heading to Murfreesboro, Tenn. for the Battle in the Boro.

With most of the players on UConn's recruiting radar (Mosqueda-Lewis, Williams and Betnijah Laney in the Class of 2011 and 2012ers Stewart, Morgan Tuck, Jordan Adams, Imani Stafford and Jewell Loyd in France for the U-17 championships) it will give Auriemma to check out some different players. A recruiting source told me that the Huskies won't be going after post players in the Class of 2011 just for the sake of bringing in a post player. UConn is very much in the mix with Williams and Kiah Stokes and as is their custom, they focus on a select few players with the belief that they will land the type of classes which keeps them a dominant force in collefe womens basketball. Unless somebody else jumps out at them, they would focus on the available post players in the Class of 2012 as the players among the group of rising high school seniors UConn is looking at is led by committed players Mosqueda-Lewis and Brianna Banks and includes Laney, Williams and Stokes.

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Saving the best for last

After sitting through a less than inspiring 40 minutes of basketball at Mohegan Sun on Saturday for the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun" all-star game, it was a pleasure to see some real, competitive basketball on Sunday when the U.S. and Australia national teams had a spirit 40-minute scrimmage following but a series of half-court, 5-on-5 drills.

Australia won 87-72, outscoring the U.S. 46-29 in the second half but both U.S. coach Geno Auriemma and his Australian counterpart Carrie Graf admitted the score was pretty mich meaningless. This was a chance to play some different combinations together to see what happens and was as much about getting a better sense of the potential of those in the player pool than it was trying to win a game.

Australia was playing without Lauren Jackson, sidelined with a concussion and Penny Taylor saw limited time since she also recently took a shot to the head during a WNBA game. Cappie Pondexter and Sylvia Fowles were among the U.S. stalwarts who had to leave to rejoin their WNBA teams and did not play, Tamika Catchings sat out because of a tender right knee and Candace Parker is out after underdoing shoulder surgery.

As for those who did play, Jenna O'Hea, a 23-year-old guard, had a scrimmage-high 20 points, Belinda Snell had 13 points, and 21-year-old Abby Bishop had 11 points. Marianna Tolo, a 21-year-old center, had eight points and nine rebounds while the battle inside between Australia's towering 18-year-old Liz Cambage and Tina Charles would have been worth the price of admission if the public were allowed to buy tickets for the scrimmage.

Diana Taurasi led the U.S. with 11 points and her Phoenix Mercury teammate Candice Dupree, who greatly enhanced her chances of making the U.S. team for the FIBA World Championships over the last couple of days, had 10 points. Ebony Hoffman played significantly better than her four points and three rebounds would indicate. Auriemma has said that without Parker, he'd prefer another big body on the roster for the world championships and if her performance in the fourth quarter is any indication, Hoffman may play her way onto the squad. I'll be writing more about my week of USA Basketball coverage which began with me attending U-17 team practices on Monday and Tuesday before heading to a U.S. national team practice on Thursday, the all-star game on Saturday and finally the U.S./Australia scrimmage on Sunday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stars at the Sun in rearview mirror

Just some observations from the USA Basketball squad's 99-72 win over the WNBA stars in Saturday's all-star game at Mohegan Sun.

First, when Sylvia Fowles gets it going, there's not much anybody can do and she certainly had it going on Saturday. She was a no-brainer pick for MVP of the game with 23 points and eight rebounds.

Second, Katie Douglas gets it going, there's not much anybody can do. Her performance in the 3-pointer shooting contest was extraordinary. She had a score of 24 (out of 30) to run away with things in the preliminary round and followed it up with a 23 in the finals to win the competition.

"It felt good to finally get that one off my back," Douglas said. "I have been competing in those for a few years and not been able to come through."

Former UConn star Sue Bird was eliminated after managing just 10 points.

"That was my plan actually, trying to save the shooting arm," Bird said with a laugh. "You hope they go in but I am not really worried about it."

Renee Montgomery won the skills competition.

Next, it was interesting seeing Maya Moore playing point guard late in the game. She didn't look out of place even though she did not play the point during any of the practices leading up to Saturday's game.

"You put me on the floor and I will do my best to do whatever he wants me to do," Moore said of her UConn and U.S. national team coach Geno Auriemma. "I know what we are running so it is not that foreign. We were running the plays that we always do and I was just trying to make the right decisions to the right people and being strong with the ball. It wasn't a huge shock but it was fun."

Moore had all 12 of her points in the second half as she looked a bit overanxious in the first half. It's understandable since she is a college player taking the court with many of the world's top players.

Now for a few news items coming out of the day.

Auriemma said Baylor's Brittney Griner was invited to take part in the U.S. training camp but declined. He also said he wouldn't mind to have another big kid for the world championships with Candace Parker out of commission because of shoulder surgery.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota was on hand just two days after undergoing surgery on her right knee. I spoke to the second-year Connecticut Sun guard and she was in good spirits.

"That is the hardest when your team in playing and seeing it on TV. You want to play and it is hard to look from the (out)side," Jekabsone-Zogota said. "You can only hope that the time goes fast and I'll be ready soon."

Douglas, who has been rumored as joining Greece's national team for this fall's world championships, said she hasn't received a passport yet and that is holding up the process of her gaining Greek citizenship.

Tina Charles attempted - and missed - two 3-pointers. According to Auriemma, Diana Taurasi was the cause for Charles hoisted up the treys even if neither attempt made it into the final box score.

"D (Taurasi) said she'd give her $100 if she took a 3 so knucklehead took two of them and I yanked her," Auriemma said.

Now for non-Stars at the Sun or WNBA news:

Former WNBA president Val Ackerman, former U.S. Olympian Ruthie Bolton and Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw are among the six players who will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011.

The U.S. Under-17 national team lost to Australia 64-58 in the second of three exhibitions before they start play in th FIBA Under-17 Championship for Women.

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was just 2 of 16 from the floor and finished with seven points and six rebounds. UConn recruiting target Elizabeth Williams led the U.S. with 13 points while Tennessee commit Cierra Burdick had 12 points. Highly-touted 6-foot-3 Australian teen Gretel Tippett with 16 points.

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Montgomery, Douglas are contest winners

Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery, one of six former or current UConn stars on the U.S. squad, won the skills competition while former Connecticut Sun star Katie Douglas was the winner of the 3-point shooting contest in Saturday's all-star festivities at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Montgomery navigated through some cardboard silhouettes of defender, hit a layup at one end of the court, a 3-pointer at the other end and completed two passes in 25 seconds. Douglas had 24 points out of a perfect score of 30 in the preliminaries and 23 in the finals.

The starting lineups for the games are

U.S.: Sue Bird, Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Sylvia Fowles
WNBA: Lindsey Harding, Katie Douglas, Monique Currie, Crystal Langhorne, Michelle Snow

Friday, July 09, 2010

Mosqueda-Lewis stars in exhibition win

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 17 points (on 7 of 10 shooting), three 3-pointers, two rebounds and two steals to lead the U.S. U-17 national team to a 93-47 win over Canada on Friday in the first of three exhibition games in Spain before the squad heads to France for the FIBA U-17 World Championship for Women.

UConn recruiting targets Breanna Stewart (13 points, 5 rebounds, three steals) and Elizabeth Williams (11 points, four rebounds and two blocks) also scored in double figures for the U.S.

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Jekabsone-Zogota surgery update

Connecticut Sun guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in her right knee on Thursday. Here is the release from the team

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (July 9, 2010) – Connecticut Sun guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on her right knee Thursday at Backus Hospital in Norwich.

Jekabsone-Zogota had torn cartilage removed by Sun orthopedic physician Ammar Anbar. Her recovery time is expected to be two to four weeks.

In her second year with the Sun, Jekabsone-Zogota is averaging 9.3 points with 23 made threes. She started the first 14 games of the season before experiencing discomfort in her right knee during the first half of a loss at New York on June 27th. She returned to Connecticut to have the knee examined, and has missed the last four games.


3-point/skills challenge fields announced

First, let's catch up on who's coming and who's staying home for Saturday's all-star game at Mohegan Sun Arena.

San Antonio guard Becky Hammon injured her quadriceps in Thursday's loss to Minnesota and will not be suiting up for the WNBA squad. Her place will be taken by former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen. The other major news is that the game is now being listed as being sold out.

Whalen will be busy tomorrow as she is entered in both the 3-point shooting contest and skills challenge. Angel McCoughtry of Atlanta is also in both events which will start at 2 and are open only to people who have tickets.

Whalen and McCoughtry will be joined by former UConn stars Sue Bird and Swin Cash as well as Katie Douglas and Monique Currie in the 3-point event.

Lindsey Harding, Cappie Pondexter, Iziane Castro Marques and former UConn star Renee Montgomery will join McCoughtry and Whalen in the skills competition.

The game will start shortly after 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN (assuming LeBron James didn't decide to get his hair cut or try a new dish at his favorite restaurant in which case, the game will be preempted and seen on ESPN Classic in a couple of weeks). I believe I mentioned that the game is being carried on ESPN2 and that an error on my part. It is on ESPN.

Hammon joins Seattle's Lauren Jackson and Sancho Lyttle of Atlanta as players named to the WNBA squad who will not be playing. If my math is correct, only nine of the 22 players who took part in the 2009 WNBA All-Star game will be playing in Saturday's event because of injuries (Candace Parker, Alana Beard and Candice Wiggins are all out for the year), a drop in production or because they don't play for the San Antonio Silver Stars whose ballot-box stuffing fans managed to make a mockery of the fan balloting portion of the game.

It's an ironic time for the game since in recent games former teammates Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi had some words after Pondexter committed a hard foul on Penny Taylor. Pondexter was ejected for her actions. Lauren Jackson suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the face from Delisha Milton-Jones. Jackson didn't mince words after the game, calling Milton-Jones a "thug."

In the offseason one former championship squad (Sacramento) folded and another (Detroit) relocated to Tulsa. It appears the word has yet to get out since Tulsa failed to draw at least 4,000 fans in its last two home games. The officiating continues to be mediocre at best and that is probably being kind. Yet, WNBA president Donna Orender is likely polishing her "the league has never been better" speech to unleash in her dealings with the media at tomorrow's game.

Personally I understand she is in the position of promoting the league but in my eyes it's becoming increasing more difficult to take her seriously listening to her unrealistically chipper WNBA mid-season status reports. The fact that the teams who have won eight of the 13 WNBA championships are either out of business or in the case of the Detroit/Tulsa Shock, in a different location, is not good news for the league. Neither is the rule limiting each team to one head and one assistant coach although many teams still use two assistants (with one needing to sit behind the bench). I would think the more coaching that gets done in practice, the better the quality of play would be. It's also not a good sign that Anne Donovan will follow Michael Cooper by becoming an established WNBA coach to take a job as a college head coach. Then there is Diana Taurasi, the league's leading scorer and one of its most well-known stars, hinting that she may have to consider limiting her participation in the WNBA because her body can't take the wear and tear of playing year round. The fact is these are anxious times in the league.

A step in the right direction might be to give another city a shot at the all-star game. A mid-season event is a chance to attract fans and build a fan base. Well, the Sun don't need much help in that department. They are doing just fine in the attendance department. The fact is that Connecticut figures to be hosting every national team training camp or at least play host to exhibition games as long as UConn's Geno Auriemma is the national team coach so why not spread the wealth and give another city a chance to promote the league?

At the risk of piling on, although it may be too late for that, it's amazing to me that the WNBA is promoting and this is a direct quote from one of its releases "Seven former and current University of Connecticut Huskies will take to the court." That prompted an e-mail from me for clarification since I only count six (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.) I was told that U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma is being counted as one of the seven. Oh, really. He is neither a current nor is he a former Husky. He is a head coach and he will not be taking to the court but I assume will be on the sidelines. Auriemma hired Keith Anderson to do video, former UConn managers are helping out at practice, Abby Gordon, the Connecticut Sun's equipment manager, is a former UConn manager so that would bring the number of former or current Huskies in the game into double figures.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Moore likes what she sees

Maya Moore couldn't help but unleash a bit of a chuckle when she thinks about the rude awakening the group of incoming freshmen have been contending with this summer at UConn.

Like she did during the summer before her freshman season with the Huskies, Moore could barely contain her enthusiasm to take part in pick-up games at UConn. That was before the reality set in that playing basketball was only a small part of the indoctrination to being a member of the powerful UConn program.

Coming full circle, Moore remembers how the three healthy incoming freshmen (Stefanie Dolson, Lauren Engeln and Bria Hartley) bounded up and down the court with seemingly endless energy in the first day or two after their arrival. But before long even making their way up and down the court became a bit more challenging after grueling weight training sessions.

"We are just in our summer workout routine with strength and conditioning, lifting, running, playing pick-up (games) almost every night," Moore said before taking part in the first practice of the four-day U.S. senior national team training camp at Connecticut College on Thursday. "We are looking good. First when the freshmen got here before they experienced our strength and conditioning workouts, they were looking good in pick-up. It's a little tough now that they are coming from the workouts but I can see a good core of what they are. I am excited, I see the potential there."

On one of his television shows last season, Geno Auriemma was engaged with bantering with his U.S. senior national team assistant coach Doug Bruno when Auriemma asked Bruno if he could guess which player sent him a thank you note after the conclusion of the U.S. national team training camp in Connecticut in the spring. Without hesitation, Bruno replied "Angel McCoughtry."

Auriemma was pretty stunned to receive the greeting from McCoughtry, who was a fierce rival of UConn's during her time at Louisville and earlier in her career had enough of a sour disposition on the court to draw boos from the UConn faithful during the Big East tournament.

In between conducting interviews for an upcoming ode to all things UConn women's basketball on Thursday, I couldn't help but break from my interviews of past and current UConn greats to ask McCoughtry about sending the note to thanks to Auriemma.

"When I was in college, I would never have done that so I figured that now that I am out of college, I might as well be nice," said McCoughtry with a sly grin as Sylvia Fowles, sitting a couple feet away, burst into laughter. "Just thanks for everything. Sometimes you just have to show your thanks and show your appreciation. It goes a long way."

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A look at uncommitted seniors

The first of my stories off the U.S. Under-17 national team practice sessions at Flint Hill School ran in today's Register. The focus was on Elizabeth Williams and Betnijah Laney, two of the top uncommitted rising high school seniors on UConn's recruiting radar. There is also video of an interview with Williams as well as an interview and action of Laney hitting a jumper. The stories on Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and the players from the Class of 2012 on UConn's recruiting wish list will be running soon.

Speaking of the U-17 team, the first of three tune-ups for the FIBA U-17 World Championship for Women will be Friday when the U.S. faces Canada in Alagon, Spain. Exhibitions against Australia on Saturday and Spain on Sunday will follow before the team heads by bus to France for the tournament.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A peek at the future

The chance to meet up with an old friend brought me to the D.C. area earlier this week and while I was there, I decided to make my way over the Flint Hill School for Monday's evening and Tuesday's morning U.S. Under-17 national team practice.

I'll save most of the good stuff - especially regarding recruiting - for the three stories I wrote on the train ride back from D.C. yesterday but thought I would at least provide a scouting report on what I saw. It should be noted that the majority of the drills were spent focusing on defense and how to best utilize playing off screens so it is probably not the most accurate gauge of the offensive potential of the players I saw but I will proceed anyways. Naturally my attention was focused on the eight players on UConn's recruiting radar so the other four players will not be included in my report.


Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis: The first player from the class of rising high school seniors, Mosqueda-Lewis is as good as advertised offensively. While she seemingly has unlimited range on her jumper, it is her ability to score off the dribble that impressed me to most. There is a video that will go with my story on Kaleena that displays that. The fact that she is willing to take the ball into the lane and can score in so many ways once she is in there makes her more than just a one-dimensional shooter. The only thing more impressive than her array of offensive moves is her personality. She is a fun-loving, mercurial kid. She's similar to Diana Taurasi, another California sensation who did pretty well for herself at UConn but doesn't seem to have as hard an edge to her as Taurasi. Personality wise, I would think she'd fall closer to a Kalana Greene than Taurasi but on the court, I see no reason why she couldn't become the latest in a long line of impact offensive players to suit up for UConn. It should be noted that she was in a group of four players watching a drill and when the drill ended with a basket, she was singled out by U.S. U-17 coach Barbara Nelson for applauding the basket and the other three players needed to do five pushups as punishment. She was also encouraging on her teammates as they were in between wind sprints before Tuesday's practice.

Betnijah Laney: Another player who can create her own shot off the dribble, Laney has a silky smooth offensive game. But she first caught my eye with her defense. On the first day of drills the team was struggling during a defensive drill until Laney had steals on back to back possessions. It was just what her teammates needed to bounce back from a rough start to practice. A recruiting source said that the UConn coaches like Laney as much if not more for her personality as for her game and I can see why. She is clearly a leader on the court as she was one of more vocal players out on the court and like Mosqueda-Lewis, has a persona that draws people to her. It was evident to me that she has developed a close bond with Mosqueda-Lewis. After Laney made one play on Monday, an exuberant Mosqueda-Lewis lept into Laney's arms. That doesn't mean that she'll land at UConn because I've been to USA Basketball trials and practices before and often times the closest bonds can be formed on players on different college teams. However, if my eyes did not deceive me, I could have sworn that the lefty was shooting right-handed during free-throw drills.

Elizabeth Williams: I did not get back on the UConn beat until Tina Charles was starting her freshman year at UConn but if I had seen Charles in action in the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, I have a hunch her skill set would have reminded me quite a bit of Williams. Like many of her teammates, she got off to a slow start when practice began on Monday but on Tuesday, she was a dominant inside force. In one stretch, she blocked a Breanna Stewart shot, made a tough catch in the post and hit a layup and then swatted away a Bria Smith shot in the lane. Williams spent as much time at the high post and while she is pretty much unstoppable in the low blocks, she looks comfortable away from the basket as well.

Jordan Adams/Morgan Tuck:
I grouped them together because I was impressed by many of the same qualities. Tuck was the author of the sweet pass for a backdoor layup to a cutting Stewart (which I was able to capture on video) while both she and Adams are extremely cerebral players. I hate to use the term a "UConn type of player" because it infers that players who don't go to UConn don't know how to think the game and that is simply not the case. But I could see Adams and/or Tuck fitting in quite nicely at any of the elite schools - UConn included. Neither player found their offensive groove when I was there but as I mentioned, it was hard for any of the players not named Mosqueda-Lewis or Laney to get going offensively with the focus on defense.

Breanna Stewart: I absolutely love her game. She's the type of kid who can dominate a game without taking a shot. Although not built exactly the same, I see a lot of Kelsey Griffin in Stewart especially the aggressive way she goes after rebounds. Stewart, like Griffin, also understands how the game is supposed to be played and can score with either her left or right hand inside. Her passing was exquisite especially when she was on the low blocks. I see her as being more of a power forward than a true center at the next level but certainly is not afraid to go inside.

Imani Stafford: Not only is she 6-foot-7 but she has an impressive wingspan. I do think she is not as refined offensively as fellow posts like Williams and Stewart and didn't make as much of an impact defensively as I think she could considering her height and wingspan but I saw flashes of the potential that will earn her plenty of attention from coaches at the big-time programs.

Jewell Loyd: A late addition to the U-17 team, Loyd is a speedy lead guard who at times was playing too fast. I chalked some of that up to the fact that she was added to the team late and is still getting used to her teammates. I've been out to Colorado Springs for national team trials each year from 2006-09 and have found that point guards have a hard time standing out especially on the younger teams. That was definitely that case this week as neither Loyd nor former UConn recruiting target Ariel Massengale seemed to be comfortable. I did see Loyd hit a couple of perimeter jumpers so I can see the potential.

Now a few parting thoughts. First, no commitments will be coming out of this group any time in the near future. Second, there's no truth to the rumor that Tennessee coach Pat Summitt believes UConn gained a recruiting advantage because the nickname of the Flint Hill School is the Huskies and finally, if UConn gets commitments from Williams and Laney to go with Mosqueda-Lewis and guard Brianna Banks, UConn coach Geno Auriemma will have to answer more questions whether his team's dominance is bad for the sport of women's basketball.

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Charles is top rookie - again

Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles has been named the WNBA's Rookie of the Month for June, adding it to the award she received for being the top first-year player in the league in May.

Here's the release from the WNBA:

NEW YORK, July 7, 2010 – The WNBA named the Connecticut Sun’s Tina Charles the Rookie of the Month for games played in June. This is the second consecutive Rookie of the Month award for Charles.

Charles averaged a double-double for the month, leading the league in rebounds (14.0 rpg) and pacing rookies and the Sun in points (15.5 ppg). Charles also averaged a rookie- and team-best 1.5 bpg. A career-high 23-rebound, 19-point performance in a win over the Phoenix Mercury highlighted her play for the month. In 10 games played, Charles posted double digits in both points and rebounds in all but one game, helping the Sun to a 7-3 record for the month.

The first overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft presented by adidas, Charles continues her strong debut as a rookie. She is averaging a double-double with more than 15 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Highlights of Charles’ outstanding month included:
• June 11 vs. Indiana: Career-high six blocks, 12 points, and 12 rebounds in an 86-77 win
• June 18 vs. Los Angeles: Career-high 26 points with 19 rebounds in a 78-75 win
• June 20 vs. Phoenix: Double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds in a 96-94 win
• June 25 vs. Phoenix: Career-high 23 rebounds in 35 minutes in an 82-79 win


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Surgery for Jekabsone-Zogota; Award for Sue Bird

Connecticut Sun guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is scheduled to undergo arthoscopic surgery on her right knee on Thursday and is expected to miss between 2-4 weeks. Here is the release from the team:

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (July 5, 2010) – The Connecticut Sun announced Monday that Anete Jekabsone-Zogota will undergo arthroscopic surgery on her right knee Thursday at Backus Hospital in Norwich.

The surgery to remove debris in the knee will be performed by Dr. Ammar Anbari, the Sun orthopedic physician. Jekabsone-Zogota is expected to be out for the next two to four weeks.

In her second year with the Sun, Jekabsone-Zogota is averaging 9.3 points with 23 made threes. She started the first 14 games of the season before experiencing discomfort in her right knee during the first half of a loss at New York on June 27th. She returned to Connecticut to have the knee examined, and has missed the last two games.

Former UConn star Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm received the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for the month of June for her charity work and specifically her efforts in the Jr. Storm Club.

Here's more on Bird's good work and a little more info on the Jr. Storm Club courtesy of the WNBA release

The Seattle Storm’s Jr. Storm Club is a free youth basketball program in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County that is open to Seattle-area boys and girls in grades K-6. Through clinics and special events, the Club provides aspiring youth basketball players with learning and development opportunities and the chance to spend time with Storm stars both on the court and off in an effort to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle. Bird hosted a clinic in June for more than 150 young members and worked with the group on basketball fundamentals while emphasizing the importance of physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. She also visited with Jr. Storm members during the month, spending one-on-one time with the youngsters and signing autographs.

“I love being a positive role model for boys and girls and showing them that with hard work and dedication, they can achieve anything in life,” Bird said. “It feels great to have my work in the community recognized and I really hope that this award encourages others to lend a helping hand where they can.”

The WNBA Cares Community Assist Award is presented monthly throughout the season to the player who best reflects the league’s passion for making a difference in the community. In recognition of Bird’s charitable efforts, the WNBA is donating $5,000 to the charity of her choice.

Crystal Langhorne of the Washington Mystics, Izaine Castro Marques and Sancho Lyttle, both from the Atlanta Dream, Penny Taylor of Phoenix, Rebekkah Brunson of Minnesota and Indiana's Katie Douglas were named to the squad representing the WNBA in Saturday's all-star game at Mohegan Sun Arena.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Charles, Montgomery, Moore make U.S. squad

Six current or former UConn stars are among the 11 players selected to play on the U.S. squad in "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun" all-star game on July 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore, teammates on UConn's 2008-09 national championship were named to the squad on Thursday while Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi, teammates on UConn's 2001-02 national championship team, earned spots on the U.S. squad along with Tamika Catchings by being members of the U.S. national team pool who finished in the top 10 in the fan balloting.

Candice Dupree, Sylvia Fowles, Angel McCoughtry and Cappie Pondexter complete the 11-player squad which will be coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma. Candace Parker would have been on the squad because she was one of the leading vote getters but she is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Here's a look at the resumes of the five former Huskies and one current UConn player on the squad.
Sue Bird: The top vote-getter in the fan balloting, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist was leading the WNBA in assists (5.7 per game) heading into Thursday night's action.
Swin Cash: One of the feel-good stories of the 2009 season, Cash has shown that her return to WNBA prominence was not a fluke as her 15.2 scoring average is her highest since averaging 16.4 points with Detroit in 2004 as she has helped Seattle to the league's best record.
Tina Charles: Rookie center Tina Charles had already tied Taj McWilliams-Franklin's Connecticut Sun franchise record with 12 double-doubles and is emerging into a candidate for league MVP honors.
Renee Montgomery: The first-round pick by Minnesota in the 2009 WNBA draft, Montgomery was averaging 12.7 points and 3.9 assists heading into Thursday's game against Chicago.
Maya Moore: The only active college player on the squad, the two-time national player of the year is talented enough that Minnesota was willing to trade the rights to this year's No. 3 overall pick Kelsey Griffin in the hopes of improving the chances of drafting the dynamic Moore with the top pick in the 2011 draft. At the U.S. team's spring training camp, she put on daily offensive performances that could only be described as "Michael Jordanesque."
Diana Taurasi: The league's leading scorer (22.9 points per game) is adding 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game for good measure for the defending WNBA champions. However, she left the June 27 game against Washington early with back issues so her status for the game bears watching.

The 11-member WNBA squad will be announced on Tuesday although San Antonio's Becky Hammon, Sophia Young, Michelle Snow and Jayne Appel (yes, San Antonio fans got into the spirit of this fan balloting thing just a little bit), and Seattle's Lauren Jackson are guaranteed spots on the team by finishing among the top 10 in the fan balloting while not being in the U.S. senior national team player pool.

The league coaches will vote for the other six players although using the WNBA efficiency rankings as a guide, I would think the leading candidates for spots would start with Washington's Crystal Langhorne, Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle and Penny Taylor of Phoenix. With Hammon the only point guard on the WNBA team to date, a second point guard figures to be added with former Connecticut Sun star Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota and Phoenix's Temeka Johnson the most likely choices.

If Whalen is named to the WNBA team, it will be an almost surreal situation for her since her joins Seimione Augustus, Shameka Christon, Lindsey Harding, Asjha Jones and Kara Lawson are other players in the national team pool expected to take part in a training camp at Mohegan Sun Arena from July 7-11. There will be a practice open to the public on July 9 at Mohegan Sun Arena beginning at 2:45 p.m. Jayne Appel, Ebony Hoffman and Kia Vaughn will also take part in the camp with the hope of playing their way into the national team player pool. There will be a scrimmage between the U.S. and Australia national teams on July 11 at Mohegan Sun Arena but it will not be open to the public.

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