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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some non-UConn notes from today

While most of the coverage in tomorrow's edition of the Register predictably focuses on UConn, I did make my way around to some other coaches and players at Big East media day.

I spoke to St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico regarding incoming freshman Keylantra Langley, a former star at Lauralton Hall and asked Providence coach Phil Seymore about former Hopkins star Lauren "Lady" Okafor.

"Keylantra Langley was one of the best players in the country last year and she is trying to battle Nadirah McKenith who I believe is one of the best point guards in the country so it is a great matchup every day," Barnes Arico said. "I think Keylantra is learning a lot every day."

Now here's what Seymore had to say about Okafor.

"She is learning," Seymore said. "She is a great student of the game and I have some high hopes for her. She is making a transition to the college game and she is doing well, I think she is going to be a really good basketball player in the Big East.
"She has a pretty good IQ, I think she is going to turn into a pretty good scorer. I think she is going to be a good defender. I think potential is the word I use for her because she has all the physical tools. She has the length, she has the ability to run the floor, it is just taking it to another level. She can run up and down the court better than any of the big people I have ever had but she has to do it on a consistent basis. We are very happy to have her and we are counting on her this year."

Barnes Arico provided a glowing tribute to UConn coach Geno Auriemma as she was one of the Big East coaches I asked about the fact that UConn can lose Tina Charles, Kalana Greene and Caroline Doty (to a knee injury) and still get picked to win the Big East by the other 15 conference coaches.

"The thing about him and I promise you I appreciate it more every single year is the ability to be consistent and to be as good as he is every year," Barnes Arico said. "It is absolutely phenomenal. It blows my mind. A while ago when I first got into the league and we started to do well, he said it is easy to get there but hard to stay there and I said 'I am not even paying attention to you because all I want to do is get there. I'll worry about staying there if I get there.'

"He believes that every time he walks on the court, he is going to win that game. He has those kids so confident. They go into every game regardless of who is (playing), they go in believing they'll win that game. That's a credit to him and what's he been able to accomplish. He is truly unbelievable. I am amazed by what he has done and I don't think people realize unless you really look at it. I remember a couple years ago, they had a 'down' year and people got on him. I said 'are you guys serious right now, look at what he's accomplished.' And boom, he got it back. It's a credit to him. He is the best."

I also spoke to Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw regarding to her selection to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I got a call out of the blue because I didn't know that they were doing the selection at that time and had no idea I was even nominated," McGraw said. "We were at summer camp on my way to dinner and I was speechless. I had no idea it was coming and I was overcome with emotion. My husband was with me at the dining hall, I ran over to meet him and gave him a big hug and saidf 'you won't believe what happened.'

"Most times in coaching you don't appreciate where you are until you look back on it. Even with the (2001 national) championship, sometimes I look back and it is hard to remember. You think of all the things you went through during the season and you wish you could relive it knowing that you are going to win it at the end and enjoy it a little more."

Finally, I interviewed DePaul coach Doug Bruno about his experience as Auriemma's assistant coach on the U.S. team which won the gold medal at the recent FIBA World Championships. He spoke rather glowingly of Auriemma, one of his closest friends in the coaching profession.

"He does a great job of getting players to be accountable and get them to like it," Bruno said. "Not only was I impressed with the talent level but just how good of people they were. having the UConn culture, it is something he is sensitive to not wanting to talk about but the UConn influence, every one of those players deserved to be on the team and made the team because they were talented enough to make it. Just having that willingness to share innately, see the big picture of what basketball is about, that is what is really, really great about it."

Bruno also said that Deirdre Naughton, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, has not been cleared to return to practice.

"You can't assume she is going to be where she was when she left off and that is what we don't know," Bruno said. "She is going to get cleared but it is just a matter of when. How much seasoning is she going to have? We were hoping she is going to be cleared by now to get her feet wet in preseason and in the non-conference schedule so she is really ready to rock and roll by January, February Big East season. I still hope that is the way it is going to work out but the longer that she is not out there, it's less chance that she has to work out the kinks of the non-conference schedule."

Back on UConn, here are videos of Maya Moore's speech at Big East media day and Auriemma talking about the challenges his 2010-11 team faces.

I will leave you with the news that I have created a twitter account @nhrjimfuller where I will be posting updates on both UConn women's basketball and Yale football, my other major feat at the Register.


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