Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hartley honored by Big East

UConn guard Bria Hartley was named the Big East Freshman of the Week for the second straight time as she averaged 14 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5 assists as UConn defeated Howard, Lehigh and LSU to win the World Vision Challenge.


TCU set to join Big East

Texas Christian will be joining the Big East Conference in all sports beginning in the 2012-13 season.

This should strengthen the Big East in women's basketball since TCU was ranked in both major polls last week. However, the Horns Frogs figure to drop out of the top 25 with losses to West Virginia, Iowa State and Virginia last week.

If this is the final addition to the Big East (not including Big East founding member Villanova which has been invited to join the conference for football), my assumption is that will end the practice of each conference team playing one team twice in women's basketball. After years of having a home and home series with Rutgers, UConn is in the second year of facing Notre Dame twice during the regular season.

"I had heard about the possibility of this happening a little while ago so I wasn’t that surprised. I was surprised that it happened this quickly though. From a football and basketball standpoint I think it makes great sense. I don’t know enough about the men’s side but I obviously know how good the football program is and know the women’s basketball team has consistently been a top-25 program. I think it adds a lot to our conference.

"From a women’s basketball standpoint it’s made our league, which is arguably the toughest league in the country, even tougher. We are bringing in another NCAA tournament caliber team to our conference. That’s another tough road game and I think it strengthens and expands the top of our league. Maybe, now that we are going down to Texas every other a year, a Texas kid thinks ‘hey, maybe I’d like to play in the Big East.’ The college athletics world is changing and this is another example."


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Moore joins select company

The 1000-rebound club at UConn now stands at four as Maya Moore grabbed her 1,000th rebound with 12:19 left in the first half in Sunday's 81-51 win over LSU. She joins Tina Charles, Rebecca Lobo and Jamelle Elliott as Huskies with 1,000 rebounds.

"It is something that ever since being here as a freshman, he (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) has always challenged me to be a better rebounder," Moore said. "I have really embraced that and we really need that. It is something our team needs. It is something that wins championships. It is so crucial. It is the competitor in me as well. If I have the ability to do it, I want to go out and get it."

Moore's highlight-variety reverse layup off a Stefanie Dolson pass drew quite a bit of interest in the post-game press conference.

"It's one of those things," Moore said. "You make cuts. You mess up, you get it right, you struggle and then you get to the game and you get it right. It's all of that. All the practice, all of the drills and repetition comes together in a play that was kind of an unsuspecting way coming from Stefanie at the high post. That was great. The crowd cheered. The bench, everyone on the court was going crazy. That's what you see. But it's not just a great play, it's everything that went into that play coming about. I loved it. And the fact that it was a physical game and we were making a statement added to that."

Dolson admitted she wasn't confident that Moore was going to be able to catch to ball, never mind actually provide the stunning finish.

"Honestly, when I passed it I thought she was going to miss it because it was a bullet," Dolson said. "But when she caught that it was just such excitement. Like she said, everything that we practice goes into that play. It was one of those great feelings to know that everything works out that we work on. When she made that layup I was going crazy. It was great. I was just excited to be part of that play."

Auriemma has seem Moore make a myriad of spectacular offensive plays with many of her best ones coming in practice but even he continues to be amazed at what magic Moore is capable of on the offensive end of the floor.

"I don't know how she made it," Auriemma said of the layup. "I really don't. She just has an incredible sense and not very many people have that. That's what makes her such a special player. She can do things that most people can't image doing. She's had some incredible things happen to her since she's been here, and today was pretty good. Today was probably what Maya wants every day to be like."

Stefanie Dolson

On Maya Moore's reverse layup:

Dolson back as a starter

Freshman Stefanie Dolson, who was benched for the first half in Saturday's win over Lehigh, is back as the starting center for UConn.

The center of attention will be senior Maya Moore who needs three rebounds to become the fourth UConn player with 1,000. She also needs two points to join Tina Charles as the only Huskies with 2,300 career points.

With UConn and LSU both 2-0 this weekend, this game will be for the World Vision Challenge title

Geno/Kay Yow mural update

I just checked the bid for the mural of UConn coach Geno Auriemma and the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow done by UConn student Phillip Morgan and there's been one bid in so far for $499. Here's a link to the bid being run on e-bay


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maya Moore providing inside muscle

With starting center Stefanie Dolson annoying UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, first for grabbing just two rebounds against a small Howard team and then have a less than inspired effort in Saturday's practice, Auriemma went to a small lineup for the Saturday night game against Lehigh.

Samarie Walker, a 6-foot-1 freshman, and 6-foot Moore started down low. UConn posted Moore up as often as possible to take advantage of the matchup since nobody on Lehigh could guard Moore that close to the basket.

"I think I have a little more of a warrior mindset when I am out there, I have to hold it down in the middle," said Moore, who had 29 points and had UConn's first eight points. "It is something I have to be prepared to do when Coach (Auriemma) puts us out there with a small lineup. We will have a mismatch on one end but on the other end we will have a mismatch offensively."

Auriemma didn't pull any punches when addressing the decision to sit Dolson for the entire first half while giving Walker her first start.

"Samarie's been working at a real high level in practice," Auriemma said. "I thought defensively she'd be a little better to help us because most of their big guys are perimeter guys so I thought Samarie would be better to do that. Stefanie played how many minutes the other night, 15? So we don't want to wear her out. Those two rebounds (against Howard) took a lot out of her so we want to save her for the stretch run. She came to practice today and she was really beaten up. I didn't realize the toll it was taking."

Dolson wasn't the only person on the receiving end of Auriemma's stinging sarcasm.

When Tennessee and Louisville played, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was quoted as saying she'd have no problem continuing to play Louisville in the regular season.

"He's really, really good and he's going to keep winning and he's going to keep getting players," Summitt said of Louisville coach Jeff Walz. "I think he does things the right way and that's why I would consider us trying to keep the series going."

It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to pick up on the subtle dig at Summitt's decision to cancel the UConn series because she took offense to UConn's recruiting tactics.

With LSU coach Van Chancellor having said he'd consider restarting the series the Lady Tigers used to have with UConn, Auriemma replied as only he could.

"We are not playing any SEC schools except them (this season)," Auriemma said. "I could see us getting that series back with Van, he does things the right way."

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Chancellor on UConn

LSU's Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor was the star of the show at Gampel Pavilion in between games at the World Vision Challenge on Saturday.

Chancellor, who coached Houston to four WNBA titles and later was the coach of the U.S. gold-medal winning team at the 2004 Olympics, will face the Huskies on Sunday at 4:30 in the final game in the three-day tournament.

It didn't take much prodding from the assembled media for Chancellor to heap a flood of compliments on the UConn program.

"They do a great job of putting the right people in the right position, they can shoot the ball really well," Chancellor said. "I've said it for a year and a half, they have great defense. I'll tell you what is remarkable - to be undefeated. I have coached forever and I have never been close to being undefeated. To win two national championships and to be undefeated at the same time, it is incredible.

"The hardest thing to do when I was at Houston was not to 3-peat but to 2-peat. Geno has done a great job of not allowing complacency to set in. It is amazing what they have done of letting them shoot when they ought to shoot and not shoot when you are not supposed to shoot. They do a great job of shot selection."

UConn freshman Samarie Walker will start ahead of classmate Stefanie Dolson against Lehigh. Freshman Bria Hartley, sophomore Kelly Faris, junior Tiffany Hayes and senior Maya Moore join her in starting lineup.

UConn senior Maya Moore needs eight rebounds to join Tina Charles, Rebecca Lobo and Jamelle Elliott in the 1,000 rebound club at UConn. One blocked shot will move her into sole possession of fifth place and with five 3-pointers she would pass Renee Montgomery and move into the No. 4 spot on UConn's career charts.

If Lehigh coach Sue Trojan wonders how much time has passed since she last played UConn, seeing her 13-year-old son David on the bench certainly did the trick.

Before the game Trojan recalled that when Lehigh played UConn in the first rounnd of the 1997 NCAA tournament, she was six months pregnant with David. Now he is sitting on the Lehigh bench.

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LSU remains undefeated in World Vision Challenge

LaSondra Barrett had 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting and Adrienne Webb added 16 points as LSU defeated Howard 69-39 on day two of the World Vision Challenge at Gampel Pavilion.

Twelve different players scored for LSU, which wrap up play in the tournament against UConn on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Assuming UConn defeats Lehigh in today's second game, the LSU/UConn game will decide the World Vision Challenge title.

Saadia Doyle had 21 points and seven rebounds for Howard.

LSU leads Howard 44-12 at halftime

Adrienne Webb has 16 points and LaSondra Barrett 15 points as LSU leads Howard 44-12 at halftime. Barring a second-half meltdown and a stunning upset by Lehigh in the second game, tomorrow's LSU/UConn game will be for the World Vision Challenge title.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dolson, Buck provide inside muscle

Without a dominant post player like Baylor's Brittney Griner blocking their path or a team like Georgia Tech with multiple players in the 6-4/6-5 range to make things difficult, UConn post players Stefanie Dolson and Heather Buck each recorded career highs in points in Friday's 86-25 win over Howard.

Dolson was a different player after spending a stretch on the bench watching Buck make an impact and when she came back into the game in the first half, she was unstoppable on the low blocks. Dolson made her final five shots and finished with 13 points in 15 minutes. Buck scored six straight points after making an early appearance and ended up with eight points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.

"Once you go in and get a couple of buckets, a couple rebounds your confidence builds," Dolson said. "The team started playing a lot better together, it was a lot more fluid and things started working out better.

On the bench, we stay focused on the game and bring the mindset of what Heather did out there just lets us refocus and improve on what she did. It definitely feels good. I am definitely somebody who overthinks things. When you have a game like this, it definitely helps your confidence. It will carry onto other games this weekend and other games in the future."

Although she spends as much if not more time on the perimeter than she does inside, Maya Moore considers herself a post player and she wants to see more consistent production from the group of post players rather than having the Huskies rely on their perimeter game.

"We have to have an inside presence and right now we are still proving that inside presence," Moore said. "I don't think it is where it needs to be yet but I have confidence it can improve. It is up to us as post players to come out every night and make sure our presence is felt and when we demand the ball, the guards will give it to us."

Following the game, the winning streak was a popular topic in the post-game press conference. UConn's 82nd straight win is now the longest for an NCAA women's team, regardless of division as Division III Washington University in St. Louis won 81 straight games from 1998-2001.

"It is a part of who we are and we can't do anything about that, the attention and all the hype around this program we are going to get a part of that," Moore said. "But this team has to stay so focused to know we chart our progress and our excitement by how much we improve and our specific team goals with what we have right now. Of course it is awesome to know that and to take pride in that but it is even more important that as every game builds to make sure we keep things in perspective."

Howard narrowly missed making its way into the UConn record book for the wrong reasons. The 25 points just missed cracking the top five for the fewest points by a Connecticut opponent and the nine points in the second half also narrowly missed making in the top five.

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UConn/Howard on tap

For the third straight game, UConn will start freshmen Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson, sophomore Kelly Faris, junior Tiffany Hayes and senior Maya Moore.

Senior Maya Moore needs six 3-pointers to move by former teammate Renee Montgomery and into fourth place on UConn's career list while two blocks will allow her to move by Peggy Walsh and into fifth on the Huskies' career charts. Moore enters the game with 249 3-pointers and 161 blocked shots.

Clarifying the winning streak deal, UConn has won 58 straight regular-season home games but its overall home winning streak is 41 since the loss to Rutgers in the 2007 Big East tournament was at the XL Center in Hartford, considered to be one of UConn's home courts.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dolson looks to fight through

Stefanie Dolson never considered herself to be a "soft" player but that is exactly the word she used when I interviewed her on Wednesday for a story which will be running in tomorrow's edition of the Register.

Dolson is a pretty interesting kid. She is brutally honest especially when it comes to her own play and is extremely hard on herself. She's been up against it a bit since her second collegiate game was against Baylor and its 6-foot-8 shot-blocking phenom Brittney Griner. Her third game came against a relentless Georgia Tech team with some size up front. Still, a perfectionist like Dolson is expecting more out of herself than what she delivered in those two games.

"In high school, I was the biggest one on the floor all the time," Dolson said. "It was easy for me to get the ball, get a layup and then coming here in college it is so different. I have to expect the contact, make shots and go through the contact and be more aggressive than i was in high school. That has always been my toughest thing, I am used to fading away from the basket and fading away from fouls and contact. Basketball is a contact sport, I have to learn how to fight through that, go through people instead of letting them hit me.

"Hitting them first instead of letting them hit me which has been my biggest downfall so far is I am too soft coaches said. I didn't think of myself as a soft player until I got here and I realized how much harder you have to go. In high school I wasn't soft but I wasn't soft because of the level of talent I was playing against. Now, because everybody else is at a different level, I have to get to that different level too."

Here's video from a portion of that interview with Dolson as well as Geno Auriemma's take on the challenges post players face as freshmen

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving tradition, UConn style

Except those years when UConn is on the road during Thanksgiving week, it has become something of a tradition for UConn women's basketball team to enjoy a holiday feast at the house of Huskies' women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

This year will be no different as the players and their families who are coming in for the three-day World Vision Classic will be heading over the the Auriemma household for dinner prepared by Auriemma's mother and wife.

"They are a fun group to have over," Auriemma said. "I know Kathy (Auriemma's wife) enjoys it. It is a huge crowd but that is what Thanksgiving is supposed to be all about. It is an easy day away from basketball, away from (home). If you can't be home, what's the next best place to be."

Before the sit down, there will be some work to be done as UConn will hold a Thanksgiving morning practice to get ready for three games in three days.

"My family is going to be up and that is exciting as well," freshman forward Samarie Walker said. "It is almost going to be like AAU playing all those games in three days."

Wednesday's practice was attended by the team from Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Howard is up first for the Huskies in the World Vision Classic as the Bison face UConn at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Gampel Pavilion.

Saadia Doyle is averaging 21.4 points per game but the rest of the Howard team is combining for just 32.2 points per game. The Bison are shooting just 35 percent fromt he floor and had committed 78 turnovers against 48 assists while opening up with a 2-3 record.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

UConn No. 1, Stanford now No. 2 in coaches' poll

Unlike the Associated Press poll when Baylor remained No. 2 after its loss to No. 1 UConn, the Lady Bears dropped to third behind UConn and Stanford. The only other change in the top 10 is Kentucky moving up to ninth and Oklahoma slipping to 10th. Michigan State dropped out of the top 25 while Wisconsin-Green Bay moved in and checks in at No. 23.

Here is the poll:
Rank School (record) Points Preseason rank First place votes
1 Connecticut (3-0) 775 1 31
2 Stanford (3-0) 720 3 0
3 Baylor (4-1) 714 2 0
4 Tennessee (4-0) 686 4 0
5 Xavier (2-0) 638 5 0
6 Duke (4-0) 626 6 0
7 Ohio State (4-0) 565 7 0
8 Texas A&M (3-0) 553 8 0
9 Kentucky (3-0) 522 10 0
10 Oklahoma (3-0) 501 9 0
11 West Virginia (3-0) 454 11 0
12 Georgetown (3-0) 419 13 0
13 UCLA (4-0) 394 15 0
14 Florida State (4-0) 381 14 0
15 North Carolina (4-0) 321 16 0
16 Notre Dame (2-2) 265 12 0
17 Iowa State (3-0) 256 17 0
18 Georgia (3-0) 234 18 0
19 Texas (3-0) 225 19 0
20 Nebraska (4-0) 138 21 0
21 Iowa (5-0) 131 24 0
22 Vanderbilt (2-1) 110 20 0
23 Wisconsin-Green Bay (3-0) 100 not ranked 0
24 St. John's (4-1) 94 23 0
25 TCU (3-0) 82 25 0

Dropped out: No. 22 Michigan State (3-1).

Others receiving votes: Michigan State 69; Maryland 22; Purdue 21; Oklahoma State 14; DePaul 12; Northwestern 7; Gonzaga 6; Wake Forest 5; California 3; Louisville 3;
Arkansas-Little Rock 2; Boston College 2; Kansas State 2; Mississippi State 2; Tulane 1.

The USA TODAY/ESPN Board of Coaches is made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions. All are members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. The board for the 2010-11 season: Courtney Banghart, Princeton; Frank Bennett, Lipscomb; Rae Blair, Texas-San Antonio; Matt Bollant, Wisconsin-Green Bay; Nikki Caldwell, UCLA; Matt Corkery, American; Leslie Crane, Western Illinois; Tonya Edwards, Alcorn State; Bill Fennelly, Iowa State; Jose Fernandez, South Florida; Jim Flanery, Creighton; Nell Fortner, Auburn; Susan Robinson Fruchtl, St. Francis (Pa.); LeDawn Gibson, Florida A&M; Tom Hodges, Morehead State; Jim Jabir, Dayton; Joe Mathews, Towson; Lynn Milligan, Rider; Kelly Packard, Ball State, Raegan Pebley, Utah State; Mike Petersen, Wake Forest; Rick Pietri, South Alabama; Gordy Presnell, Boise State; Rick Reeves, Gardner-Webb; Phil Stern, Maryland-Baltimore County; Paul Thomas, Saint Mary's; Sharon Versyp, Purdue; Jaime White, Northern Colorado; Joi Williams, Central Florida; Nancy Wilson, College of Charleston; Jody Wynn, Long Beach State.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moore, Hartley honored by Big East

UConn swept the first Big East individual awards as senior Maya Moore was named the player of the week after averaging 27 points and 7 rebounds in wins over Holy Cross, Baylor and Georgia Tech. Bria Hartley averaged 14 points per game as she was named the conference's freshman of the week.

Baylor starting guard Shanay Washington tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and will miss the rest of the season. Washington averaged 5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 13.6 minutes in the Lady Bears' first five games. The only good news is that Washington is able to recapture the season of eligibility because she only player in five games.

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UConn/Baylor remain 1, 2 in AP poll

There were few changes at the top of the Associated Press poll as UConn, Baylor and Stanford continued to hold down the top three spots. UConn received 39 of the 40 first-place votes once again. This time it is Duke rather than Baylor which picked up the other first-place vote.

My intention was to provide a preview of the profile on Geno Auriemma airing on HBO's Real Sports tomorrow night but for some reason my DVD player chose not to cooperate when I put in the DVD, which was FedExed over today. I can say that the show will air for the first time Tuesday at 10 p.m. on HBO and will be rebroadcast six more times between Wednesday at 3:25 a.m. and Tuesday (Nov. 30) at 7 p.m. Auriemma's wife Kathy and former star guard Sue Bird were interviewed for the piece.

Here's how HBO is promoting the segment on Auriemma

Coach Geno. In 1985, Italian-born Geno Auriemma took the reins as head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, which had previously posted just one winning season. Today, UConn is a national powerhouse and breeding ground for future WNBA stars. While sometimes viewed as brash and demanding, Auriemma’s seven NCAA women’s basketball championships are evidence of the accomplishments. Entering a new season marked by the usual high expectations and constant media scrutiny, the 56-year-old coach owned a 78-game winning streak that has continued to grow. Auriemma has an all-time-best .858 winning percentage as head coach and the Huskies are just one title short of the Lady Vols of Tennessee and their legendary head coach Pat Summit. In this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated collaboration, correspondent Frank Deford goes one-on-one with the top women’s head basketball coach in America today.

In a one-on-one with Frank Deford, Auriemma says, “My goal in life is to find some little scar on you, like a little something, and I just want to pick at it till it bleeds a little bit, and then I want to put some salt in there, and rub some vinegar in it, and then have some fun with it.”

Former University of Connecticut standout and current WNBA star Sue Bird added, “It's definitely more of a mental kill. He finds ways to push your buttons. And he will push them until you wanna walk outta the gym.”

The mural of Auriemma and late North Carolina State women's basketball coach Kay Yow which was painted by UConn student Phillip Morgan is now up for bid on e-bay with the proceeds going to Geno's Cancer Team.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moore ready for homecoming

I'm sure it is going to be a special day in Maya Moore's life tomorrow as Moore, one of the greatest high school athletes in Georgia history, will play her first game in the Peach State as a collegiate player. Here is a link to the story I wrote on Maya which will run in tomorrow's edition of the Register


Thursday, November 18, 2010

More air time for Geno

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma may not care about the Huskies' 80-game winning streak, eight shy of the NCAA Division I basketball - men's or women's - currently held by the 1970s UCLA men's program but the national media certainly does.

UConn was featured in a segment on ESPN's Outside the Lines, talk of the UConn/Baylor game made it onto ESPN's Pardon the Interruption and on Tuesday HBO, Auriemma and former UConn All-American guard Sue Bird will be among those interviewed in an episode of "Real Sports."

Apparently the hype surrounding former UConn signee Elena Delle Donne was subsided. Delle Donne left UConn after two days of summer school in 2008. She is now a sophomore at Delaware which will play at Yale on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Word I am hearing is that there have been limited amount of advance tickets bought for the game even though UConn will not be playing until the following night at Georgia Tech. Perhaps there will be a large walk up or maybe people in this state have finally moved on and realized that everything has worked out for the best. Delle Donne is thriving at Delaware while UConn is 80-0 even without the former No. 1 high school player in the country.

People interested in coming to the game can just walk up the night of the game or visit to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are of the general admission variety and available for $5. Consider this a warning, parking around Payne Whitney Gym is extremely limited.

At the recent Night of Hope event run by the Collegiate Initiative portion of Geno's Cancer Team, a mural of Geno Auriemma and the late Kay Yow garnered plenty of attention. There is a plan to put the mural painted by UConn student up on e-bay to raise money for the V Foundation. You can check in the coming days to see when the bidding for the item will begin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuck commits to UConn

Morgan Tuck, a 6-foot-2 junior forward at Bolingbrook (Ill.) High, became the first member of the high school Class of 2012 according to her high school coach Tony Smith.

As a sophomore Tuck averaged 18.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. She enters her junior season with 1,032 points and 513 rebounds. She was also a member of the U.S. Under-17 national team which won the gold medal at the FIBA Under-17 World Championships. Among her teammates where UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart, one of the juniors at the top of the Huskies' recruiting wish list. Tuck averaged 7.4 and 5 rebounds as the U.S. went 8-0. Both Tuck and Stewart sat behind the UConn bench during Tuesday's 65-64 win over Baylor.

"Her main goal is to go to where she can compete for a national title every year," Smith said. "Morgan likes to win and she like to be pushed. She thinks Coach Geno (Auriemma) will be able to push her.

"UConn is getting a kid do whatever it takes to win. She can play inside and outside. She competes every day and works hard at everything. She is a winner."

When I was down in the Washington, D.C. area in early July, I headed over to the U-17 training camp and Morgan was one of the players I spoke with. Here's what she had to say when I asked her about what she was looking for in a school.

"It is about when I feel a place where I feel like I am at home so when I find that, that's when I will (commit)," Tuck said. "Distance, it is kind of like a give and take. I want to be close to home but I want to see what it's like to live somewhere different. 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."

Bolingbrook opens the season by playing in the Turkey Jamm in Memphis, Tenn. The first game is against Memphis Central on Nov. 26 and then faces Hillsborough on Nov. 27. They will also play in the prestigious Tournament of Championships in Arizona from Dec. 18-22 and then head to Cincinnati for a two-day tournament on Dec. 29-30. Here is the schedule for the Lady Raiders
When I was down in Oakton, Va., I did get a little bit of video of Morgan Tuck. In this video, Tuck makes a sweet pass to Stewart for a back-door layup in between interviews from Stewart and Jordan Adams.

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Overnight ratings

Tuesday's UConn/Baylor game drew a 10.9 overnight rating in the Hartford Region, the best for a UConn women's game since a Jan. 19, 2009 game against North Carolina.

The game could also go down as the turning point in the young careers of UConn freshmen Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Samarie Walker as well as sophomore Heather Buck for different reasons.

Dolson was clearly out of her element against the 6-8 Griner, hardly a shocking turn of events considering it was her second career collegiate game. She short armed some shots, traveled once because she was indecisive and picked up five fouls in 12 minutes. The way the game was called did not help Dolson but she has stated that she is very hard on herself when she makes a mistake and I expect her miscues from the Baylor game will only help her be more prepared the next time she squares off with Griner. It should be noted that Dolson had one more rebound in 12 minutes (eight) as Griner did in 40.

Walker had four points, seven rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes. But her true contribution can't be measured by any number in a box score. Walker played physical with Griner, a player seven inches taller. She also delivered the line of the night in the post-game press conference.

"I have never even seen a 6-8 female in person," Walker said. "I was like 'oh my goodness, she really is big.' When I was out there, I completely forgot about the height difference and I treated her as if she was the same height. I didn't think about that she was 6-8 and I am 6-1. It was a new experience, it was different but it was exciting to be given the opportunity to guard her."

Hartley frustrated UConn coach Geno Auriemma for the first 30 minutes she was on the court but she made up for it with a scintillating final four minutes. Hartley hit one 3-pointer to tie the game and had another to break a tie. She also had a steal and a crucial offensive rebound and putback off a Maya Moore miss. Former UConn All-American point guard Sue Bird was in the stands and one shot on the ESPN2 coverage showed Bird nodding her head in approval. It was actually when Lorin Dixon set up Walker for a layup but it could just as easily been a result of a late charge by Hartley which could be called Sue Birdesque.

Buck started the season opener against Holy Cross but had Dolson and Walker not fouled out, she might not have played a second against Baylor. When Dolson picked up two fouls, Auriemma didn't even glance Buck's way. Only when Dolson and Walker were whistled for their fifth fouls 2:09 apart in the second half did Auriemma call on Buck.

Playing the final 7:24, Buck had one rebound and committed one foul. But she held firm against Griner and even drew an offensive foul on Griner and forced a miss by Melissa Jones.

In a practice leading up to Tuesday's game, Auriemma told Buck it was put up or shut up time.

"I said 'Heather, as long as you are on the court, we are playing 5 on 4. You've been here three years and we are still playing 5 on 4," Auriemma said. "By the end of today, we are either playing 5 on 5 with you on the court, you are going to start paying us back for your scholarship or you are going to leave and never come back. I think it helped because when she went in, she actually had a little bit of umph to it. Maybe those were an important seven minutes for her because if those guys hadn't fouled out, I might not have put her in."

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Let's go to the replay

At first glance I thought Tuesday's UConn/Baylor game was one of most poorly officiated big games I can remember watching. Having taped the ESPN2 broadcast, it was actually more inconsistently called than it appeared live. Unfortunately, the recording stopped after 2 hours meaning I missed the two plays I wanted to see again - UConn's shot-clock violation and whether Odyssey Sims got her shot off before the final buzzer. I replayed the final seconds on ESPN3 but the quality was pretty poor.

As far as I can tell, Melissa Jones had possession of the ball with about five seconds to play which is 1 1/2 seconds after the shot clock should have expired. Obviously that leads to speculation whether Baylor should have been awarded possession of the ball rather than having to scramble up the floor for Sims' heave which was ruled to be after the final buzzer. Barb Jacobs, the Big East's Assistant Commissioner of Women's Basketball Officiating released a statement after the game which said "if the other team has the ball as the horn is going off, then it is a possession, there is no shot-clock violation."

With Baylor coach Kim Mulkey having blown her final timeout on the preceding inbounds pass, I'm not sure Baylor would have been significantly more organized but perhaps the Lady Bears would have been able to throw the ball over midcourt rather than Sims squandering valuble seconds dribbling the ball up the court. At worst, I would have thought the officials could have viewed that sequence on the video monitor to make sure they got it right.

Even before that final sequence, I found 19 calls that looked to be questionable at best which is an extraordinarily high number, probably three times the amount of calls I usually take exception to when I tape a game and play it back. It should be said that I am allowed only the one angle courtesy of the ESPN broadcast so some of the calls on the other side of the floor like Tiffany Hayes' reach-in foul were inconclusive and I can far from being a trained official but I am entitled to my opinion.

The most noteworthy calls or no calls are:

Stefanie Dolson's fifth foul when she and Griner were jostling for position. It was the first time I remember a foul being called before the ball was entered into the post and that is not the time for an out of the clear blue call.

The offensive foul Griner was whistled for late in the game was absolutely horrible. If they called that all game long, Griner would have fouled out before the first television timeout.

Samarie Walker's foul while blocking Kimetria Hayden's driving layup. Considering how much body contact the officials let go when Griner was blocking shots, they should have been consistent and not called it on Walker.

Hayden clearly getting fouled by Maya Moore on a drive to the basket. UConn ended up getting possession after the ball went out of bounds.

An atrocious tripping foul called on Hayes on Hayden's drive to the hoop resulting in her hitting the bottom of the basket with a layup.

To be fair, two calls I questioned looked to be correct. Moore assumed she was going to get her shot blocked and did go up and come back down with the ball late in the game resulting in a traveling and rightfully so.

Walker's illegal screen was exactly that. You can see her moving forward and initiating the contact.

All that being said, this is not an easy game to officiate because of the physical nature of both teams and if the teams meet in the NCAA tournament, I hope a better officiating crew gets assigned the game because other than Dee Kantner, the other two officials were over their heads.

All that being said, that was a fun game to cover and something tells me these teams may see each other again. If that is the case, two things will need to happen. First, Dolson and Walker will need to stay on the court and Baylor's perimeter players will need to act like they want to shoot the ball. Sims was the only one willing to take and make jumpers allowing UConn to cheat and make life difficult for Griner with players like Kelly Faris, Tiffany Hayes and Maya Moore clogging the passing lanes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Huskies win a thriller

Down by eight points with 6:51 to go, the top-ranked UConn women's basketball were on the verge of tasting defeat for the first time since the 2008 Final Four.

UConn didn't have Tina Charles and Kalana Greene, both now playing professionally. It didn't have injured junior guard Caroline Doty. It didn't have freshmen post players Stefanie Dolson and Samarie Walker, who both fouled out earlier in second half. Seemingly the Huskies didn't have an answer for Baylor's 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner or enough experienced players to dig out of the hole.

Then came a remarkable reversal of fortune. Maya Moore (30 points, seven rebounds, six assists) righted the Huskies course with a three-point play. Freshman Bria Hartley, who had one point in the first 36 minutes, had eight crucial points down the stretch as the Huskies won 65-64 to extend their NCAA Division I women's basketball record winning streak to 80 games.

"It was such a great scenario the way it played out," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "When we got up 15, we looked, acted and carried ourselves on the court
like we are Connecticut and this is what we do to people every night. Then they realized that you din't happen to do this to anybody, you just happen to be on the team with the guys who have done it and now we are going to have to find out how to
do it. I am not sure they thought they could do it.

"I was really anxious just like anybody else to see how we do the rest of way. They did exactly what we hoped they would do, they grew up a little bit. When we go to Georgia Tech on Sunday, our freshmen are not going to be freshmen any more. It took Bria Hartley 37 minutes and then she had eight of the biggest points of her life - up to this point. If I could have written a scenario, I don't think I could have written it better for all the things that you wanted to come out of the game so you could help your team move on. We played great, we played lousy. We made great plays, dumb plays. We dominated defensively at time, struggled at times, got every shot we wanted at times, couldn't get a shot at times. It is the second game of the year and there is a lot of pressure on these guys."

The two national player of the year candidates had their ups and downs. Moore was electrifying in staking UConn to a 15-point lead and then promptly disappeared as Baylor came storming back. Baylor's Griner had six quick points as the Lady Bears jumped out to an early 8-3 lead and then went almost 22 minutes before scoring again thanks to the physical defense of UConn's Samarie Walker and the collapsing defense by the Huskies who were aided by the fact that other than Odyssey Sims, none of Griner teammates were eager to take and make a perimeter jumper.

"Compliment Connecticut, they were down eight and we couldn't put them away," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.

"It was a heck of a ball game today. It wasn't pretty, neither one of us are polished right now. Neither one of us were at our best."

Mulkey did not comment directly on the play when it appeared as if Baylor should have been awarded possession of the ball out of bounds after Maya Moore's shot with time running down on the 30-second shot clock didn't hit the rim. Instead, Baylor had to scramble up the court and Odyssey Sims' desperation 35 footer came after the final buzzer. Mulkey asked the media in attendance what the rule was but did not directly criticize the officials. Looking at the replay, Melissa Jones had possession of the ball with about 5 seconds to go which is well after the shot clock expired.

Barb Jacobs, the Big East Assistant Commissioner for Women's Basketball Officating released a statement saying "if the other team has the ball as the horn is going off, then it is a possession, there is no shot-clock violation."

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UConn/Baylor pre-game thoughts

UConn will be starting Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes, Kelly Faris, Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley.

Baylor will be starting Kimetria Hayden, Melissa Jones, Shanay Washington, Brooklyn Pope and Brittney Griner.

While Dolson figures to get first dibs at checking the 6-8 Griner, it shouldn't shock me in the least if Kelly Faris - even if she is giving up nine inches in height - figures into the equation since Faris is heady enough to make Griner's life difficult without getting into early foul trouble.

The officials are Dee Kantner, Eric Brewton and Maj Forsberg.

Highly-touted high school juniors Morgan Tuck from Bolingbrook, Ill. and Breanna Stewart from North Syracuse, N.Y. sat in the row behind the UConn bench.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Intriguing matchups on tap

With all due respect to Holy Cross, I didn't find myself captivated but who was guarding who during Sunday's season opener. Actually, there were times when it appeared absolutely nobody was guarding UConn junior Tiffany Hayes.

But when the ball gets thrown up for tomorrow night's UConn/Baylor game, it will be an entirely different story.

More than a few inquiries have been made about which UConn player will be guarding Baylor's 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner since Tina Charles is now playing professionally but it will be equally noteworthy to see who Baylor puts on Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes.

My guess is that Stefanie Dolson gets the first shot at Griner even though Dolson did not start against Holy Cross.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma made it clear that he is not about to risk putting Moore on Griner and run the chance of having to sit Moore because of foul issues.

"You are kind of in a tough situation because she has the ability of whoever guarding her in foul trouble," Auriemma said. "What does that do to our chances to score if somebody's got two quick fouls early on? We've got to be careful we don't make this 'we are going to take four or five guys, guard Brittney Griner and let everybody else take whatever shot they want whenever they want.' We did that in the LSU game in Fresno and it backfired on us (when LSU dominated UConn in an Elite Eight game in the 2007 NCAA tournament). I am going to watch the game, scout games out, try to have plans A, B and C and hope that we don't have to use plans B and C. I have a feeling that might not be enough. Usually in games like that, there is just no easy answer to question that she poses."

Scouting Baylor is the responsibility of associate head coach Chris Dailey and it will be interesting to see what Dailey comes up with.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey isn't expecting just one player to check Griner.

"I can tell you this, whatever their focus is, it's always (putting) two players on her," Mulkey said. "Now is it two players on her to stop her? Is it two players to allow somebody else to get more shots than you would prefer taking shots? I can't answer that, those coaches and those staffs would have to answer that. I just know that as I watch Brittney Griner play, whether it is a zone we are playing against or a man (to man defense), she is never going to be in a situation by herself one on one with anybody."

As for dealing with Moore as well as Hayes, who had 32 points against Holy Cross, the other four probable Baylor starters all are in the 6-foot range but whether a Shanay Washington, Brooklyn Pope, Kimetria Hayden or Melissa Jones can keep Moore from getting her shots remains to be seen.

"It starts with Maya Moore," Mulkey said. "It starts with the best player in the country in Maya. It starts with a program that, they are good, they are great, they are what everybody wants to be. They are undefeated, they are national champions, their winning streak, the list is endless of the things that Connecticut brings to the floor. I said it last year and I said it as a player, the streak is not going to last forever. Geno would agree with that and I agreed with it as a player but it sure is fun being a part of it. They have beaten everybody, they have taken everybody's best shot and I can't think of anything but positive praise for what that program has done."

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gibbons on UConn aura

Holy Cross has squared off with some of the best UConn teams during Bill Gibbons' tenure with the Crusaders but never did Holy Cross get run off the court any more emphatically than during UConn's 117-37 win over Sunday.

Gibbons was asked about how this UConn team compares to some of the other Connecticut squads.

"When you know how to win and that jersey is about winning, I think that is infectious and contagious and I think teams, until somebody beats them, are going to think what's going to happen and the UConn guys are going to think 'we are going to find a way to win,'" Gibbons said. "They have the best player in the country in Maya Moore. Yeah, they lost a lot on paper but that aura and mystique. I think he (UConn coach Geno Auriemma) is going to play on that and I think his guys are going to play on that. They are certainly not as talented as last year but I think that aura and that mystique is going to help them."

The UConn mystique will be tested when No. 2 Baylor comes to town for Tuesday's 6 p.m. game at the XL Center. There are about 3,300 tickets remaining for the game. Geno Auriemma was asked about Baylor and the 79-game winning streak, which is in jeapordy against Baylor and there will be plenty on what he had to say tomorrow and Tuesday.

Speaking of the win streaks, I found it curious that Wayland Baptist's 131-game streak in the 1950s - even though it happened before the NCAA began to govern the sport of women's college basketball - gets almost no mention. I was able to track down one of Wayland Baptist's players during the streak and the story on the Wayland Baptist streak will appear in Monday's edition of the Register.

UConn rolls past Holy Cross

Led by Tiffany Hayes' 30 first-half points and a 30-0 second half run, UConn opened the 2010-11 season with a 115-37 victory over Holy Cross.

Hayes finished with 32 points, Maya Moore had 21 as she moved by Kerry Bascom and Nykesha Sales and into second place on UConn's career scoring list, Bria Hartley had 18 points, Kelly Faris had 15 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three blocks while Samarie Walker had 12 points.

Some pre-game thoughts

The 2009-10 national championship banner, currently covered up above Section 210, will be unveiled at 2:06 p.m.

A major surprise in the starting lineup with Heather Buck getting the start at center ahead of freshman Stefanie Dolson. Ironically, Holy Cross was a major player in the recruitment of Buck when she was at Stonington High. Had she not gone to UConn, it's likely she would have enrolled at Holy Cross. Lorin Dixon gets the start at point guard meaning there will be no freshmen in UConn's starting lineup.

With 2,168 career points, UConn senior Maya Moore needs 11 points to move into second place on UConn's career scoring list.

Moore and injured junior guard Caroline Doty met with the officials and Holy Cross captains.

Holy Cross, hit hard by graduation, opened the season with a 74-71 loss to Yale.

Amy Lepley led the Crusaders with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

For those interested in such things, I will be tweeting live @nhrjimfuller

Friday, November 12, 2010

A month of revelation

UConn coach Geno Auriemma's opinion of his top-ranked team has been all over the place. He has seen his freshman look like the next big thing and look completely lost - all in a matter of seconds. He has seen ebbs and flows from some of the returning players which will occasionally make his giddy and other times he is left to shake his head in contempt.

Some of the early tests including Tuesday's game against Baylor will go a long way towards allowing Auriemma to figure out where his team is headed.

"By the start of finals, by December 12,in a month we will know what kind of team that we have," Auriemma said after Tuesday's practice.

Auriemma has yet to set a starting lineup. You can pencil in Maya Moore, Tiffany Hayes and Kelly Faris into the starting five. Stefanie Dolson started both exhibition games at center but her performance in the practice before the Indiana (Pa.) preseason finale had him considering starting Samarie Walker in place of Dolson. He started senior Lorin Dixon at point guard against Franklin Pierce and then went with freshman Bria Hartley against IUP. I'd expect Dolson to start but what happens at point guard is anybody's guess.

"We went back and forth," Auriemma said. "Part of me wants to (start Hartley), part of me doesn't want to. I just think it is always good to bring a really good offensive player of the bench, it is what we have done especially with a good freshman. It has worked really well in the past, I just have to see where everything is. We want to because the game starts off and we have a lot of offense, right now we are going to be scrambling around to find offense. Whther she does or she doesn't (start), it's not going to be long before she is in the game, that is for sure."

Auriemma had words of praise for Dolson, big-time words of praise.

"I think she's going to be one of those four-year, huge-impact players, there's no doubt in my mind," Auriemma said.

Don't expect to see freshman Michala Johnson for much more time than she was out there in the two preseason games. The issue is that her surgically-repaired knees kept her out of the conditioning program for so long that she has a lot of work to do to get to the point physically where the UConn staff will throw her out there for extended stretches.

"That is going to be a long time," Auriemma said of the time frame for Johnson to get significant minutes.

I asked Auriemma if it was more of a case of her knees giving her problems or a lack of conditioning setting her back.

"A little bit of both, you can't separate the two," Auriemma said. "She hasn't played and she is so weak from not having played and not being able to work out."

Speaking of weak, Auriemma was growing annoyed at seeing his players not only hit the deck a little too often but stay down too long when they were on the floor. So he instituted a three-second rule. Any player who crashes to the floor and stays down for more than three seconds comes out of practice immediately.

"We have a team that falls down more than anybody," Auriemma said. "There are guys in the NHL who go 40 miles an hour on skates who don't fall down as much as these guys. Now we have the new rule, three seconds. If you hit the floor and you don't come up in three, you are coming out. Three, two, one, you are out. We had to, we are looking like Champions' League soccer league. The trainer will come out, carry them over and get some ice and then they come out and say 'I am ready to go Coach.' Dead serious. If you stay down, that means you are hurt. You can't stay down there for five minutes and say 'I am all right Coach.'"

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A conference call to remember

I've been on more conference calls than I care to count during my time in the newspaper business. Normally they are little more the coach speak and offer little benefit other than perhaps a cure for insomnia.

However, when the principals are UConn's Geno Auriemma and Kim Mulkey, his coaching counterpart at Baylor, it is a different story. Auriemma is well known as one of the best quotes in all of sports but he may have a rival in Mulkey. There will be more from what she had to say about UConn as we get closer to Tuesday's game but among the highlights were:

Every team is trying to be UConn, an undefeated season, defending national champions, that is what they are all striving for.

As a former star guard, she loves Geno's philosophy that guards win titles but you need a presence inside to win it all.

"No one player is bigger than the program" was one of her responses to how her team is coping with the sudden departure of starting point guard Kelli Griffin and while her freshman point guard (Odyssey Sims) and UConn's rookie floor leader (Bria Hartley) may be special talents, there's no substitute for experience.

Auriemma said that games like the one against Baylor is "a game we play because it is what Connecticut does."

He laughed when asked whether his game plan for Baylor has needed to be altered since he heard about Griffin quitting and said "I don't have a game plan." UConn does open against Holy Cross on Sunday before playing Baylor.

He also said that the Baylor coaches figure to be more tired than the players since the UConn game will be Baylor's fourth game in five days.

Auriemma said that Brittney Griner did have a chance to come to the U.S. training camp and wasn't able to make it work out and that if it is something she wants to do, he doesn't see any reason why the selection committee (which he is not a part of) wouldn't have her on the player pool list heading into the 2012 Olympics.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Let's go to the video

Here are some videos I put together. First was one was of the three recruits as I combined an interview and practice video of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis I took a few months back at a U.S. Under-17 national team practice in Oakton, Va. I combined them with video of Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes clearly enjoying themselves during the First Night festivities last month. Brianna Banks is also in that video but obscured by the other recruits. I also sent in videos of interviews with Bria Hartley and Samarie Walker as well as some of Geno Auriemma's post-game thoughts.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Nervous" freshmen make an impact

Both freshman guard Bria Hartley and freshman forward Samarie Walker admitted that they were nervous before Wednesday's exhibition game against Indiana (Pa.).

They sure didn't play like it.

Hartley, who got the start at point guard ahead of senior Lorin Dixon, had 18 points and seven assists. Walker, who UConn coach Geno Auriemma contemplated starting as well, had 22 points (on 9 of 10 shooting) and 15 rebounds in 18 minutes.

"I think when I first got out there, I was really nervous playing in such a big arena but I think after my first basket or rebound, whatever came first, I calmed down and just played within the team," Walker said.

Hartley calmed down after she drained a 3-pointer just nine seconds in the game and while Auriemma said the move who more of an experimental one to see how players handle different roles, it's hard to believe that Hartley will be coming off the bench again any time soon.

Auriemma said senior Maya Moore, who made all seven of her shots, and finished with 15 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals had an impressive effort as she displayed some versatility in her game rather than just trying to score every time she touched the ball.

"I thought Maya played her best game I have seen her play in a long time without necessarily having to score a lot of points, making a lot of other things happen at both ends of the floor which is what we are going to need from her some nights," Auriemma said.

Auriemma also busted the chops of freshman Lauren Engeln, who took seven shots in 16 minutes by comparing her to former Detroit Pistons guard Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson and saying she will set a UConn freshman record for fewest assists. Since Johnson's NBA run with the Pistons teams of the 80s was a little bit before their time, he told them to google "Vinnie The Microwave" since they had not heard of the prolific shooter who averaged more than 12 points per game in seven straight seasons despite starting only about 20 percent of the games during that stretch.

Auriemma admitted that he has seen encouraging signs from his team in the recent days.

"I am actually starting to get excited about this team, first time since I met them," Auriemma said. "This afternoon at practice or yesterday, I forget when it was, but I just started to see some things. I said 'you know what, I think there are a group of guys out here who when I put them out here and they are in the right frame of mind, we have a chance.' Then as soon as you sub you go 'you know what, I hate this team.'"

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Geno's take on recruiting class

Having received letters of intents from high school seniors Brianna Banks, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes, UConn coach Geno Auriemma was able to talk about his recruiting class for the first time in an official capacity.

"We are getting kids who are used to winning," Auriemma said. "They are really ready for something like this. We are very fortunate, we got three kids who I think are going to fill the exact things that we need. We need another great athlete like Brianna Banks, we need another scorer like Kaleena Lewis, we need another long body like Kiah Stokes so we are getting exactly what we need coming in for next season. If we get five more of them, it will offset Maya's graduation so we still have some work to."

UConn freshmen impressive again

Samarie Walker came off the bench to finish with game highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds while fellow freshmen Bria Hartley (18 points, seven assists) and Stefanie Dolson (11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals) also scored in double figures as UConn wrapped up its preseason schedule with a 100-41 win over Division II Indiana (Pa.) at the XL Center on Wednesday night.

Maya Moore hit all seven of her shots and finished with 15 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals while Tiffany Hayes also was in double figures with 12 points.

Pre-game ramblings

For those concerned about such things, juniors Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty were the Huskies who came out to shake hands with the officials.

Freshman Bria Hartley and not senior Lorin Dixon is listed as the starter on the scoreboard. Stefanie Dolson, Kelly Faris, Hayes and Maya Moore are listed as starters for the second straight game.

Alex Vega, Brianna Johnson, Eryn Withers, Lacey Claar and Sarah Pastorek are the listed starters for Indiana (Pa.).

All three letters are in

UConn has sent out a release with bios of the three members of next year's freshman class meaning that Brianna Banks, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes have not only signed but faxed over the letters.

Here's the info courtesy of the release

STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has received three national letters of intent during the early signing period as announced by head coach Geno Auriemma on Wednesday, November 10. Brianna Banks, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes have signed NLI’s and will join the program for the 2011-12 season.
Brianna Banks | Guard | 5-9 | Newnan, Ga.
Honored as a First Team All-Metro selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following the 2009-10 season … Honored as the 2010 Coweta County Player of the Year by the Times-Herald … Averaged 16.5 points per game during her junior campaign.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis | Forward | 6-0 | Anaheim, Calif.
Averaged 22.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and was honored as California’s Gatorade Player of the Year following her sophomore season at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. … shot 58 percent from the floor, including 52 percent from long-range, en route to leading Mater Dei High School to a No. 1 national ranking and a 32-1 record … A member of Team USA’s U16 Team, which won the FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Mosqueda-Lewis led the team in scoring at 14 points per game … Honored as a 2010 USA Today All-USA First Team pick and made the Third Team in 2009 … Selected to the Parade All-America First Team in both 2009 and 2010 … Averaged 15.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game during her freshman year at Mater Dei.
Kiah Stokes | Center | 6-3 | Marion, Iowa
Iowa’s 2010 Gatorade State Player of the year … Enters the 2010-11 season having compiled 1,079 points, 867 rebounds and 374 blocks … Averaged 19.9 points, 13.5 rebounds and 5.8 blocks per game en route to helping Linn-Mar High School post a 26-0 record and take home an Iowa 4A State Title … Shot 65 percent from the field in 2009-10 … A 2010 Parade All-America Fourth Team selection … Selected to the Iowa Newspaper Association All-State First Team in 2009 and 2010 … Averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game to help the US post a 5-0 record and gold medal at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mexico City … Named to the 2010 United State Women’s Youth Olympic Games Team.

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Stokes' volleyball career comes to an end

UConn commit Kiah Stokes had 10 kills and was 12 for 12 serving but her Linn-Mar volleyball team lost to Iowa City West 26-24, 25-23, 25-14 in the quarterfinals of the Iowa 4A tournament on Wednesday. Stokes also had nine digs and one solo block as Linn-Mar made things pretty interesting in the first two games against the favored Iowa City West squad.

Linn-Mar ends the season with an 18-19 record while Iowa City West improves to 36-7. Stokes was headed back to Linn-Mar to take part in a ceremony at the school where she will sign her national letter of intent.

There are some nice photos of Stokes' future UConn teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis at an event when she was one of 14 Mater Dei HS athletes to sign letters of intent

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Brianna Banks photo on signing day

Brianna Banks became the first of the trio to go from UConn commit to UConn signee when she placed her signature on a national letter of intent this morning at Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Ga. Here's a photo of Brianna (in case the UConn shirt isn't a giveaway, she's in the front row to the far right) with the other Fayette County athletes who signed NLIs this morning. Thanks to the Fayette County HS website for putting the photo up.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis also signed this morning while Kiah Stokes is supposed to sign after she returns from her match in the Iowa state volleyball tournament.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Looking ahead to second exhibition

Considering that Division II Indiana (Pa.) likely won't have a player taller than 5-11, don't expect UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma to do cartwheels if post players Stefanie Dolson and Heather Buck top the nine points and 16 rebounds they combined for in the first preseason game against Franklin Pierce.

"Nothing," Auriemma said after Tuesday's practice. "The practices are what we use to gauge where we are and where our progress is. Tomorrow is just about playing at the (XL) Center before we go back down there on Tuesday (against Baylor). Other than that, you are not going to be able to take a lot from whatever happens good or bad. I look at it if they play well, great I am happy for them. If they don't play well ... If it is the young guys, if they play well I will be thrilled. if they don't, are they nervous, are they anxious?

"Sometimes when you play a small team like that and you have to defend people in areas where you might not have to defend them during the year. The more things that you see that don't make sense, the more you can see stuff, the better."

The 7 p.m. game at the XL Center will bring an end to the preseason as UConn opens the regular season by hosting Holy Cross on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion before playing Baylor on Tuesday at the XL Center.

Speaking of the Baylor game, highly-touted Class of 2012 post Breanna Stewart from North Syracuse, N.Y. is expected to be in attendance and there's a chance that '12 forward Morgan Tuck from Bolingbrook, Ill., a teammate of Stewart's on the U.S. Under-17 national team, could also come in to watch the game.

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Hayes, Moore named to Naismith "watch" list

UConn junior guard Tiffany Hayes and senior forward Maya Moore were among 50 players named as preseason candidates for the Naismith Trophy, the premier individual honor in women's college basketball. Here's the complete list

The Naismith Trophy will be awarded on April 4 at the NCAA
Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

In late February, the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors will compile a mid-season team of the top 30 players in the nation. Then in March, the Naismith Trophy voting academy will vote to narrow the list to the four finalists.

Name School Position Class
Danielle Adams Texas A&M Forward/Center Senior
Kachine Alexander Iowa Guard Senior
LaSondra Barrett LSU Forward Junior
Angie Bjorklund Tennessee Guard/Forward Senior
Kelsey Bolte Iowa State Guard Senior
Jessica Breland North Carolina Forward Senior
Kelley Cain Tennessee Center Junior
Cetera DeGraffenreid North Carolina Guard Senior
Elena Delle Donne Delaware Forward/Guard Sophomore
Skylar Diggins Notre Dame Guard Sophomore
Jasmine Dixon UCLA Forward Junior
Victoria Dunlap Kentucky Forward Senior
Dawn Evans James Madison Guard Senior
Casey Garrison Missouri State Guard Junior
Brittney Griner Baylor Power Forward Sophomore
Keisha Hampton DePaul Forward Junior
Amber Harris Xavier Forward Senior
Tiffany Hayes Connecticut Guard Junior
Ify Ibekwe Arizona Forward Senior
Amy Jaeschke Northwestern Center Senior
Shenise Johnson Miami (Florida) Guard Junior
Melissa Jones Baylor Guard Senior
Jantel Lavender Ohio State Center Senior
Italee Lucas North Carolina Guard Senior
A’dia Mathies Kentucky Guard Sophomore
Sarah Miles West Virginia Guard Senior
Alex Montgomery Georgia Tech Guard/Forward Senior
Maya Moore Connecticut Forward Senior
Nnemkadi Ogwumike Stanford Forward Junior
Kayla Pedersen Stanford Forward Senior
Ta’Shia Phillips Xavier Center Senior
Jeanette Pohlen Stanford Guard Senior
Samantha Prahalis Ohio State Guard Junior
Lauren Prochaska Ohio State Guard Junior
Chastity Reed Arkansas – Little Rock Forward Senior
Monique Reid Louisville Forward Junior
Jence Rhoads Vanderbilt Guard Senior
Danielle Robinson Oklahoma Guard Senior
Ta’Shauna Rodgers Georgetown Guard Sophomore
Shenneika Smith St. John’s Guard Sophomore
Brittany Spears Colorado Forward Senior
Da’Shena Stevens St. John’s Forward Junior
Shekinna Stricklen Tennessee Guard/Forward Junior
Helena Sverrisdottir TCU Guard/Forward Senior
Carolyn Swords Boston College Center Senior
Louella Tomlinson St. Mary’s Forward Senior
Jasmine Thomas Duke Guard Senior
Courtney Vandersloot Gonzaga Guard Senior
Courtney Ward Florida State Guard Senior
Riquna Williams Miami (Florida) Guard Junior

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Banks signing info; European update

It appears as if all three UConn commits will be signing on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.

Brianna Banks, a 5-foot-9 guard from Newnan, Ga., will be signing her letter of intent at 8 a.m. at a ceremony at Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Ga.

Banks, who transferred to Fayette County from Northgate High, will be signing alongside three of her new teammates as Kyra King is headed to Brewton Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga., Taybreanna Crouch is headed to Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga. and Elem Ibiam will be playing collegiately at the University of South Carolina.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-0 guard/forward from Anaheim, Calif., will be signing her letter of intent in a ceremony at Mater Dei High at 10:45 a.m. Kiah Stokes, a 6-foot-3 forward/center from Marion, Iowa, is expected to sign in a ceremony at Linn-Mar HS after Stokes returns from playing in the first round of the state tournament with the Linn-Mar volleyball program. Linn-Mar will face Iowa City West in the 4A quarterfinals in Cedar Rapids at noon (1 p.m. Eastern time) so it looks like the signing fesitivities would take place in the early afternoon.

With UConn's second and final exhibition game a couple days from now, I figured it would be a good time to update how former Huskies are doing with their European teams. I've attempted to find all the former UConn players overseas but it's possible I've missed some and welcome any additions as I plan on providing periodic updates.

Tina Charles (Nadezhda, Russia): Averaging 18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals
Kalana Greene (Gorzow, Poland): Averaging 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block.
Charde Houston (Good Angels Kosice, Slovakia): Averaging 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks. Had 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists in 76-57 loss to USO Mondeville on Wednesday.
Kaili McLaren (Apollon Ptolemaidos, Greece): Averaging 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal per game. Had 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals in 71-68 loss to Panathinaikos Athens on Wednesday.
Renee Montgomery (Maccabi Ashdod, Israel): Averaging 20 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3.3 steals and 2.7 turnovers a game. In her last game, Montgomery had 32 points, four assists and six steals in 76-68 win over Elitzur Holon on Nov. 1.
Diana Taurasi (Fenerbahce, Turkey): Averaging 29 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals. In 109-92 win over Gospic Croatia on Wednesday, she had 34 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals and was named the EuroLeague Player of the Week.
Barbara Turner (Pankup Ted Kayseri Kolejspor, Turkey): Averaging 12 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks

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Mosqueda-Lewis to sign with UConn Wednesday

UConn commit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, considered by some recruiting insiders to be the top prospect in the current high school senior class, is set to sign her national letter of intent at a ceremony at Mater Dei High at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Here's the info I got back from Mater Dei girls' basketball coach Kevin Kiernan regarding the ceremony at the Santa Ana, Calif. school.

"Mater Dei has a ceremony on Wednesday morning at 7:45 (Pacific time) for all the
athletes signing a letter of intent. We have it in the gym in front of all the teams and family. The kids have a cap from the school, the coaches say a few words, they sign and then pictures. It is very nice. Kaleena will sign Wednesday."

I previously reported that Kiah Stokes is expected to sign on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, as well. I'm still waiting word to see when Brianna Banks will sign her letter.

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Not sure how I missed this ...

Since the early signing period begins on Wednesday, I reached out to Northgate High School girls' basketball coach Matt Trucks to see if the school had any plans of holding a ceremony for UConn commit Brianna Banks to sign her national letter of intent. His prompt response caught me off guard as he wrote "Brianna Banks no longer attends school here at Northgate."

You would have thought I would have picked up on this earlier but she is now attending Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Ga. There's no link on the Fayette County HS website for the girls' basketball schedule but according to the schedule I found on Max Preps, Fayette County opens its season on Wednesday (the same day that the early signing period kicks off) with a game in Atlanta against Westlake. Banks will face her former school on Jan. 11 when Fayette County plays at Northgate.

Also, it looks like Kiah Stokes will be signing her letter of intent Wednesday afternoon at a ceremony at Linn-Mar High School. Kiah's father said it is a Linn-Mar tradition to have all the Division I athletes sign their letters at the same ceremony. Obviously, the time of the ceremony figures to be determined by when the Linn-Mar volleyball team returns from its opening match in the Iowa state tournament.

I meant to post this the other night but CPTV has gotten clearance for the Jan. 12 game against St. John's at Madison Square Garden leaving the games at Cincinnati and Rutgers on Jan. 26 and 29 as the only ones yet to be finalized according to the schedule on the CPTV site.

For those hoping for a more competitive game on Wednesday against Indiana (Pa.) in the exhibition finale than what UConn got against Franklin Pierce, it does not look promising.

The Crimson Hawks lost to James Madison 76-58 and American 73-47 and have been outrebounded 81-51 in the two games. They don't start a player standing taller than 5-11 and the only 6-footer on the roster is freshman Taylour Alston, who has not played in either exhibition game so I'd expect UConn's post players could make a splash in the 7 p.m. contest at the XL Center.

IUP, located about an hour or so outside of Pittsburgh, has used the same starting five in both preseason games: freshman guard Alex Vega, sophomore forwards Brianna Johnson and Sarah Pastorek, junior forward Amber Dubyak and senior guard Lacey Claar.

Reserve senior guard Eryn Withers has averaged a team-high 11 points in the two preseason games followed by Pastorek (9 PPG) and Johnson (8 PPG).

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

UConn impressive in preseason opener

It was pretty much a perfect storm for UConn in its preseason opener.

Returning starters Tiffany Hayes (25 points) and Maya Moore (24 points, 7 assists, 4 steals) played like the All-Americans they are expected to play. Fellow starters Lorin Dixon (11 points, four assists), Kelly Faris (11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals) and Stefanie Dolson (five points, eight rebounds, two blocks) all contributed.

Freshmen Bria Hartley (14 points, 6 assists) and Samarie Walker (11 points, nine rebounds) continued a streak of UConn players hitting double digits in scoring in the first preseason game to six games.

Ironically, Kelly Faris (against St. Rose in 2009), Caroline Doty (against Stonehill in 2008) and Moore (against the U.S. team in 2007) also had 14 in their first UConn exhibition.

Heather Buck also had a solid game with four points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes.

"We have to get contributions from everybody," Moore said. "It is a new year, the old teams the old history is gone. This is what we have, everybody's going to come in and bring something. We can't just depend on the reputation of the program."

Franklin Pierce played in the 2009 Division II national championship game and also reached the Final Four in 2010 but with the graduation of two-time Division II national player of the year Johannah Leedham and injuries/illness potentially costing the Ravens top returning players Cynthia Gaudet and Tori Ahrens for the season, Franklin Pierce did not put up as much of a fight as it would have in the last couple of years.

"We were 18-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country (in Division II) at the time," Hancock said of when he was contacted by UConn to play the Huskies in the preseason. "The last three years we have been really strong, we've won our conference, we've been to the Elite Eight. It is a new composition but I was excited. I wished we had played them last year or the year before, we might have been able to put up a few more points. It would have nice to see the national player (of the year) Johannah Leedham go up against Maya and Tina (Charles).

Hancock said he was uncertain whether Leedham, currently playing with former UConn star Kalana Greene in Poland with Gorzow, would be freed up from her commitments with the Great Britain national team to play for the Connecticut Sun in the upcoming WNBA season.

"She can play," Hancock said. "If she played here, she'd put 20 up every night against everybody. I am not sure if her national coach is going to let her get away from the FIBA games this summer, come and try out."

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UConn leads 55-18 at halftime

Tiffany Hayes had 15 points, Maya Moore had nine points, five assists and two steals and Kelly Faris chipped in with nine points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals as UConn leads Franklin Pierce 55-18 at halftime of its exhibition opener.

Freshmen Samarie Walker (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Bria Hartley (six points, three assists) were extremely impressive while Lorin Dixon had nine points and Stefanie Dolson didn't score but had five rebounds and two blocks.

Tiffany Johnson had a pair of 3-pointers and led the Ravens with six first-half points.

Stokes commits to UConn

UConn's incoming recruiting class added some much needed size when 6-foot-3 Kiah Stokes of Marion, Iowa committed to the Huskies at a press conference at Linn-Mar High on Thursday afternoon.

"For me where I fit in most,," said Stokes, who chose UConn over Georgia, Iowa, Maryland and Tennessee.

Stokes set an Iowa sophomore record with 160 blocked shots during the 2008-09 season. She owns Linn-Mar records with 218 rebounds in a season and single-game marks with 22 rebounds and 16 blocks. Stokes averaged 19.9 points, 13.5 rebounds and 5.8 blocks as a junior when she led Linn-Mar to a 26-0 record and the Iowa 4A title. She had two triple-doubles as a sophomore and enters her senior season with 1,079 points, 867 rebounds and 374 blocks.

Stokes was a member of the U.S. Under-16 national team in 2009 along with her future UConn teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis when she averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game as the U.S. won the gold medal at the 2009 FIBA Americas U-16 championship. While she did not make the U-17 team which won the 2010 FIBA U-17 World Championship, she was the leading scorer and rebound on the United States squad which won the bronze medal in the Youth Olympic Games 3-on-3 basketball event in August.

Stokes is the daughter of former Iowa men's basketball star Greg Stokes, who was born in New Haven but moved out to the midwest shortly after birth. His father and Kiah's grandfather still lives in New Haven.

UConn, which brought in 6-foot-5 Stefanie Dolson, 6-2 Michala Johnson and 6-1 Samarie Walker in an attempt to replace graduated post players Tina Charles and Kaili McLaren, is still very much in the running for highly-touted high school junior post prospect Breanna Stewart.

The Connecticut coaching staff has been dealing with circumstances out of their control in the pursuit of inside players in the last few years. Kelsey Bone, claiming members of the Connecticut media was badgering her, eliminated UConn from her list. She played at South Carolina as a freshman in the past season before transferring to Texas A&M. The Huskies brought in the 6-4 Elena Delle Donne and 6-5 Jessica McCormack transferred in from Washington but both left before playing a game at UConn. The Huskies made a strong push for 6-foot-3 Chiney Ogwumike last year before she opted to join her sister Nneka at Stanford. Geography considerations hurt the Huskies in their pursuit of Bonnie Samuelson, Ally Malott, Sara Hammond and Elizabeth Williams.

With the commitments of Mosqueda-Lewis, Brianna Banks and Stokes, UConn will have four available scholarships for next year.


Let the games begin

I have to admit this is not my favorite time of the year. No, not basketball season but the time when fans go into full hyperventilation mode anticipating the commitments of a player they likely have never seen play. I've never understood why there is more attention paid to prospects who may or not may land at UConn over those who have led the UConn program to dizzying heights of success.

I've heard all sorts of rumors regarding Kiah Stokes and most border on the absurd especially she is going to commit to Iowa because she is holding a press conference in Iowa. Well, she's from Iowa, she goes to high school in Iowa and is one of the more well publicized high school female athletes from Iowa so why wouldn't she have a press conference. She's hardly the first to make her announcement that way. I would expect that if Hillhouse's Bria Holmes holds a press conference to announce her college decision a year from now, we will be in attendance regardless of what school she is picking. As for UConn fans getting worked up about the location of the ceremony, all I can say is that if she moves it to Sara Hammond's high school, I believe she may commit to Louisville but other than that, they are trying to read the tea leaves when there is nothing to read from them.

Personally, I find it refreshing the way the Stokes family has handled it. They have not turned it into a daily soap opera and today they will divulge the news when there is news to divulge. The Stokes have handled the recruiting process with plenty of grace and dignity and should be commended for not falling for the trap of turning it into a circus which can happen in this "post the story first on the internet" age we live in.

I don't believe for a minute that she is waiting for Elizabeth Williams to pick between Duke or Tennessee before making her announcement. I haven't really been following Williams' recruitment since she dropped UConn from the equation but something tells me that if she has an announcement planned for this afternoon, she either knows what Williams is planning to do or simply does not care.

Finally, the belief that UConn has a recruiting problem if they don't land Stokes is laughable. If they land Breanna Stewart next year, UConn would have secured a commitment from a player ranked No. 1 in at least one recruiting service five times in a six-year span. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is a big-time talent and Brianna Banks may also be an impact player. Things didn't work out so badly the last time UConn secured a two-player class as Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon have been members of two national-championship teams. All that being said, it would not surprise me in the least if Stokes commits to UConn. I've said many times that recruiting should be viewed in two year increments because every kid UConn missed out on this year merely opened the door for them to get a larger class next year. I understand that "fan" is short for "fanatic" and it's a very small percentage of supporters who go overboard but I feel fairly confident in saying that the UConn women's basketball team does not have a recruitment problem.

For those interested in following the decision live, it will be reported as it happens at the IowaPrepSports site

Thankfully this afternoon, the recruiting part of my job (at least for the high school seniors) will be done and I can focus on what I prefer to concentrate on and that is reporting on the nation's top-ranked women's basketball team.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Franklin Pierce ranked 14th

The WBCA Coaches' Division II poll came out and Franklin Pierce, which will face UConn on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion in the exhibition opener for both teams, is ranked 14th. Here's a link to the poll

Speaking of the UConn/Franklin Pierce game, here's some video of UConn freshman guard Bria Hartley looking ahead to the contest


Moore a Lowe's Senior Class candidate

UConn senior forward Maya Moore is one of 30 candidates for the women's basketball Lowe's Senior Class Award. The field of 30 will be cut to 10 during the season with the winner announced during the Final Four in Indianapolis, Ind.

Here's the official release:

OVERLAND PARK, KS – Sixty NCAA men’s and women’s student-athletes who excel both on and off the court were selected as candidates today for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award in basketball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. The complete list of candidates follows this release.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

The 2011 men’s candidate class includes three CoSIDA Academic All-Americans from a year ago, nine student-athletes on the preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award, 16 players with grade point averages of 3.0 and above and eight from teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 25. The 2011 women’s candidate class includes five players who were CoSIDA Academic All-Americans last year, 22 student-athletes with grade point averages of 3.0 or better, four players who participated in the 2010 Women’s Final Four and 15 players on the preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award. Lowe’s, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the men’s basketball Senior CLASS Award® winner at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Houston and the women’s basketball Senior CLASS Award winner at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis.

The candidate class will be narrowed to 10 men’s and 10 women’s finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.

“The young men and women who have been selected as candidates for the basketball award are shining examples of student-athletes who exercise time management every day, juggling class work and community service with practice and games,” said Tom Lamb, Lowe’s senior vice president of marketing. “The ability to balance things that are important to them will be a skill they will use throughout their lives.”

Here's the list of women's candidates
Name Position School
Kachine Alexander Guard Iowa
Erin Anthony Forward Army
Angie Bjorklund Guard/Forward Tennessee
Jessica Breland Forward North Carolina
Victoria Dunlap Forward Kentucky
Dawn Evans Guard James Madison
Amber Harris Forward Xavier
Ify Ibekwe Forward Arizona
Amy Jaeschke Center Northwestern
Alyssa Karel Guard Wisconsin
Michelle Kirk Forward American
Jantel Lavender Center Ohio State
Maya Moore Forward Connecticut
Kayla Pedersen Forward Stanford
Ta’Shia Phillips Center Xavier
Julie Piper Forward Eastern Washington
Jeanette Pohlen Guard Stanford
Lauren Prochaska Guard/Forward Bowling Green
Erica Prosser Guard Lehigh
Sam Quigley Guard DePaul
Liz Repella Guard West Virginia
Jence Rhoads Guard Vanderbilt
Danielle Robinson Guard Oklahoma
Jaleesa Ross Guard Fresno State
Sam Schuett Forward Creighton
Brittney Smith Forward Dartmouth
Helena Sverrisdottir Guard/Forward TCU
Kayla Tetschlag Guard/Forward Green Bay
Jasmine Thomas Guard Duke
Courtney Vandersloot Guard Gonzaga


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Poll comparison

With the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll coming out earlier today, it's one of the few times that writers and coaches can agree on something as the top four teams (Connecticut, Baylor, Stanford and Tennessee) are identical. The only difference of opinions among the top 10 came when Xavier and Duke were flip-flopped at No. 5/6 with the writers putting Xavier at No. 5 and the coaches favoring Duke and the No. 9/10 slot as the Associated Press poll had Kentucky ninth and Oklahoma 10th with the ESPN/USA Today putting Oklahoma ninth and Kentucky 10th.

Geno on the freshmen

Geno Auriemma admitted that he has no sense of what he will see from his two-time defending national champions when UConn hosts Franklin Pierce, a team which has played in the last three Division II Elite Eights, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.

He is pretty certain that Maya Moore, who Auriemma said "watching her practice these last three weeks, she's even better than she was the first three years."

Tiffany Hayes and Kelly Faris are still trying to grow into expanded roles, Lorin Dixon is listed as the starting point guard which would allow UConn to bring much heralded freshman Bria Hartley off the bench. Stefanie Dolson seems like a lock to be the starting center.

Here's his breakdown on the five freshmen

Stefanie Dolson: "I think if we were starting a game tomorrow, Stefanie would start and we would go from there and see how that worked out. The things she was good at she has gotten a little better at. I've always knew she was a pretty good passer, she is pretty good finishing around the basket. She has a pretty good feel for the game and those things, how many minutes she can play on any given night, I think that remains to be seen."

Lauren Engeln: "Probably has made some progress."

Bria Hartley: "Bria is still Bria, she's really, really, really good and then she is a typical freshman or high school senior that's kind of what we are getting right now. Hopefully she will get more and more consistent."

Michala Johnson: "I think she still has a ways to go to get her strength back. There's been days when she looks like she is able to really contribute a little bit and days when she is really struggling. She hasn't played in two years almost so I don't think you can expect somebody to come in here and be ready to go. You've got to play her a little bit so you get a feel of what it's like to play. That's something we are counting on for sure. She's not out, she is not injured, she's not on injured reserve. She is on the team, she is playing, she is practicing but how much she can be effective playing, I have no idea."

Samarie Walker: "Samarie's gotten better, she shows flashes of being a good rebounder, really a good finisher around the basket."

One noteworthy thing about UConn's practice on Tuesday is that it was the first time in the first three weeks that UConn brought in officials to give practice a game feel.

"You just want try to simulate something that looks like a game before you actually go on Thursday night," Auriemma said. "You try to get them here a couple of times before you play, get the kids used to understanding that it is a foul that they are going to call fouls. It is all part of getting ready for games, the whole game mode thing. That's all it is."

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Minnesota wins draft lottery

Minnesota won the draft lottery and the right to take UConn's Maya Moore with the first pick of April's WNBA draft. The Lynx will also get the No. 4 pick as a result of the trade it made when the Connecticut Sun acquired the rights to Kelsey Griffin in a draft day trade. Tulsa and Chicago got the No. 2 and 3 picks.

While you'd have to assume Minnesota will take Moore or at least require a king's ransom to trade the No. 1 pick, it's not a farfetched idea that 6-foot-8 Aussie Liz Cambage could fall to Minnesota at No. 4. Tulsa obviously needs immediate help and can they take a chance on a kid who could be getting pressure to stay in Australia to be more available to train with the national team. Chicago has Sylvia Fowles so what would be the point of taking Cambage?

Moore an unanimous All-American

It should hardly come as a shock that UConn senior forward Maya Moore was a unanimous pick as a preseason Associated Press All-American.

Moore, who is joined on the preseason All-American team by Baylor's Brittney Griner, Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike, Ohio State's Jantel Lavender and Danielle Robinson of Oklahoma, joins former Duke guard Alana Beard as the only player to be unanimously voted to the AP preseason team twice.

"I wasn't even aware (of it)," Moore said after Tuesday's practice. "I don't really pay attention to that kind of stuff. Obviously it is an honor to be respected and looked (upon) in that way in the basketball world but it is just not something I am thinking about a whole lot."

Speaking of Moore, here's a video of her hitting a 3-pointer at practice


Monday, November 01, 2010

Report: Stokes decision coming soon

According to the website run by the Iowa City Press-Citizen and Des Moines Register, UConn recruiting target Kiah Stokes could announce her college decision by either Wednesday or Thursday.

UConn joins Georgia, Iowa, Maryland and Tennessee as the five finalists for the 6-foot-3 forward/center from Marion, Iowa.


Volleyball still on Stokes' mind

The last time I checked in with Greg Stokes, the father of UConn recruiting target, he said that his daughter's focus was on attempting to lead her Linn-Mar High volleyball team to the Iowa state tournament.

Kiah moved Linn-Mar within a game of the state tournament as she had 30 kills in a 25-14, 23-25, 27-29, 25-21, 15-11 victory over Clinton in the Class 4A Region 7 semifinal on Thursday. On Tuesday, Stokes and Linn-Mar can punch a ticket to the states with a win over Bettendorf.

I'm not sure if a win tomorrow will extend Stokes' time frame for making her decision but the sense I'm getting it that UConn is very much in the mix for the 6-foot-3 forward/center from Marion, Iowa. If the decision don't come by this weekend, I'd expect it to come at some point during the early signing period which runs from Nov. 10-17.

Staying on the topic of recruiting, here's some info on the schedules of the two players committed to UConn.

On Nov. 16, Brianna Banks will lead Northgate High of Newnan, Ga. against city rival Newnan. Here's the Northgate schedule

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' senior season at defending national champion Mater Dei will kick off on Dec. 1 when the Santa Ana, Calif. school plays at JSerra. Here is the 2010-11 Mater Dei schedule

UConn fans who want to see Mosqueda-Lewis in action can make the drive to Springfield, Mass. on Jan. 14 when Mater Dei faces New York powerhouse Murry Bergtraum at 6 p.m. It will be the third of five games at Springfield College on the 14th. The first two games are showdowns between Massachusetts girls' teams while four Massachusetts boys' squads will meet in the final two games of the day.

Jordan Adams, one of the top prospects in the high school Class of 2012, is also a star for Mater Dei as is senior forward and USC commit Alexys Vaioletama while Murry Bertraum will be led by senior guard Monae Abrams and junior guard Shequana Harris

The final three days of the four-day event features 20 boys' games featuring some of the nation's top programs including Oak Hill, Hargrave, Dematha, St. Anthony's. Connecticut will be well represented as East Hartford plays West Springfield (Mass.) on Saturday at 11 a.m. followed by a Hillhouse/New London game at 12:30. On Sunday at 12:30 St. Thomas More squares off with Hargrave. Here's the complete game schedule

Taking a quick look at the top players on ESPN's boys'/men's basketball recruiting database, the players expected to play in Springfield are with college commitments in parenthesis:
No. 2 Michael Gilchrist 6-7 F St. Patrick HS, N.J. (Kentucky)
No. 3 Anthony Davis 6-10 F Perspectives Charter School, Ill. (Kentucky)
No. 4 Quincy Miller 6-9 F Westchester County Day School, N.C. (Baylor)
No. 8 Myck Kabongo 6-2 G Findlay Prep, Nev. (undecided)
No. 10 LeBryan Nash 6-7 F Lincoln, Tex. (Oklahoma State)
No. 14 P.J. Hairston 6-6 G Hargrave, Va. (North Carolina)
No. 17 Ben McLemore 6-5 F Oak Hill, Va. (undecided)
No. 18 Michael Carter-Williams 6-5 G St. Andrews, R.I. (Syracuse)
No. 19 Rakeem Christmas 6-9 C Academy of New Church, Pa. (Syracuse)
No. 21 Nick Johnson 6-3 G Findlay Prep, Nev. (Arizona)

Here's some ticket info

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