Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reimer named to U-16 team

UConn recruiting target Taya Reimer, a 6-foot-3 forward from Hamilton Southeastern High in Fishers, Ind., was one of 12 players named to the U-16 national team.

Reimer and the other 11 players survived four sets of cuts as a field of 120 players was pared down to the final 12.

The team will remain in Colorado Springs, Colo. to train before leaving for Mexico to compete in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Mercy sophomore Sadie Edwards, the only Connecticut player at the trials, survived the first two cuts but when the roster went from 53 to 34, she was one of the players who did not make the list.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Edwards cut at U-16 trials

Mercy sophomore guard Sadie Edwards survived the first two cuts as the U.S. Under-16 squad as the field of players was cut from 120 to 53 on Saturday. However, Edwards failed to survive another round of cuts on Sunday as the list of candidates was pared down to 34.

UConn recruiting target Taya Reimer is among the 34 players still in contention to make the 12-member squad which will play in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

The U-16 trials was a bit of an experiment for USA Basketball. Normally, the USA Basketball committee sends out invitations and those who accept head to tryouts. They did that in this case as well but after the initial 35 invitees were announced, players were able to apply for an invite. An additional 86 players were granted tryouts. I thought it would be interesting to see how the breakdown went and how many of those not initially invited made the cut.

As it turned out, 28 of the 34 players were in the initial group of 35 (it became 34 when Diamond DeShields made the cut for the U-19 team). The six who used to new format to open some eyes at the trials were:

Lindsay Allen, a sophomore guard from Bowie, Md.
Lynee Belton, a freshman center from Clinton, Md.
Nia Coffey, a sophomore forward from Minneapolis
Kianna Holland, a sophomore guard from Seneca, S.C.
Lindsey Spann, a sophomore guard from Laurel, Md.
Peyton Whitted, a sophomore forward from Suwanee, Ga.

Other than DeShields, the others on the initial list of invitees who are not among the final 34 are all high school freshmen:
McKenzie Calvert (Byron P. Steele II H.S./Schertz, Texas)
Taryn Griffey (Dr. Phillips H.S./Windermere, Fla.)
Erin Mathias (Fox Chapel Area H.S./Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Kelsey Mitchell (Princeton H.S./Cincinnati, Ohio)
Jaime Nared (Westview H.S./Portland, Ore.)
Chastity Taylor (St. Anthony's H.S./Islandia, N.Y.)


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Edwards, Reimer survive U-16 cuts

Saturday was an anxious one for some of the nation's up and coming players in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the U.S. Under-16 tryouts.

When the day began, there were 120 candidates vying for 12 spots. After two rounds of cuts, there are now only 53 players in contention to play for the U.S. at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship next month.

Among those who survived the cuts were Mercy's Sadie Edwards and UConn recruiting target Taya Reimer.

There will be three more sessions on Sunday before the list of finalists is announced on Monday.


Maya Moore up for BET award

Former UConn star Maya Moore is one of five finalists for the Sportswoman of the Year at the 2011 BET Awards.

Moore is in some select company as the other nominees are Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever, tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and Candice Dupree of the Phoenix Mercury.

The winner will be announced at the BET Awards on June 26 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. It's highly unlikely that Catchings and Moore would be at the ceremony with Catchings' Indiana Fever will meet Moore and the Minnesota Lynx play each other that night in Minnesota.

The exhibition game between the Atlanta Dream and the British national team will be televised live on NBA TV tomorrow beginning at noon. Former Cheshire Academy star Johannah Leedham, a third-round pick of the Connecticut Sun in 2010, is a member of the Great Britain squad.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Condolences coming in for Margo Dydek's family

A week after suffering a heart attack and falling into a coma, former Connecticut Sun center Margo Dydek passed away.

Dydek, the first overall pick in the 1998 WNBA draft, played 11 seasons in the WNBA including the three years with the Sun from 2005-07. I did not cover the Sun very much in her first two years in Connecticut but did some games in the 2007 season. The 7-foot-2 Dydek had a reputation of being one of the nicer people in the WNBA and that reputation was an accurate one based on the dealings I had with her.

Obviously look for reports to be circulating on the passing of Dydek at the tender age of 37 in the coming hours and days. Here is a well-done column by ESPN's Michelle Voepel centering around Sun coach Mike Thibault's thoughtful recollections of Dydek.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fitz, Johnson and Robinson cut by Connecticut Sun

The Connecticut Sun waived rookies Rachele Fitz, Adrienne Johnson and Tahnee Robinson.

Fitz graduated from Marist in 2010 and was signed as an undrafted free agent. Johnson, a former Louisiana Tech star, was taken in the third round by Connecticut in April's draft. Robinson, who starred collegiately at Nevada, was a third-round pick by Phoenix and traded to Connecticut in exchange for the Sun's third-round pick in the 2012 draft.

The moves brings the Connecticut roster to 12, one over the WNBA maximum. Tonight's exhibition game against San Antonio will be a chance for veteran wing Kerri Gardin, second-year guard Allison Hightower and undrafted rookie post Stefanie Murphy to further make a push at earning a roster spot.

Dolson, Hartley named U-19 finalists

UConn rising sophomores Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, Connecticut incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn commits Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and recruiting target Diamond DeShields were among the 15 players named as finalists for the U.S. Under-19 national team on Wednesday. Here is the official release from USA Basketball.

The field of candidates was cut from 32 to 15 after three days of tryouts and it will have to be cut down to a final list of 12 before the team competes in the U-19 World Championship in Chile from July 21-31. UConn incoming freshman Kiah Stokes was among the players who failed to make the cut.

The 15 finalists and coaching staff, led by former UConn star and current Hartford head coach Jen Rizzotti, will reconvene for a training camp from June 1-5 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as part of the ESPN RISE Girls Showcase. The training camp will conclude with a June 5 game against Brazil and it will be televised on ESPNU.

Then on July 11-15, the USA U19 squad will reassemble for training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center before leaving for Chile.

The World University Games list of finalists was also announced on Wednesday. There were no UConn players on the list because the Huskies will be overseas on a European trip at the time of the World University Games.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Maya Moore reacts to her first WNBA game

Thanks to the Minnesota Lynx sending this over, here is Maya Moore's reaction to her first WNBA game. Moore started and had four points, five rebounds and three assists as the Lynx defeated the Indiana Fever 71-66 in an exhibition game on Tuesday.

"Not exactly what I wanted, but I thought we made a little bit of progress from some of the initial jitters, working into the flow of this level, just working those things out. I don't like to necessarily base my performance on points, because like Coach was saying, there's a lot of ways you can impact the game, so that's what I try to do. I try to get some assists, get some rebounds, force some tough shots. Overall, I thought I filled the stat sheet a little bit in certain areas, but I'm definitely not satisfied with where I am. I want to keep getting better and keep getting more consistent and staying out of foul trouble too."

On her impact on the court:
"I'm just myself. Whenever I'm on the court, on the bench, I'm always trying to provide energy, trying to cheer my team on, try to communicate and be aggressive and set the tone. That's something I'll always try to bring and I feel that it brings our team a competitive edge."

On the last time she scored four points in a game:
"I don't remember. I never plan on having four points, so I don't know necessarily what I'm going to do anything differently besides just continue to listen to the coaching staff and keep being aggressive and taking my time as well. As long as I'm getting good looks… sometimes the ball doesn't go in."

For the record, the last time she had four points in a game came in a Jan. 13, 2010 game against Marquette.

Moore was one of three former Huskies to play in the game as Charde Houston had nine points, two rebounds and two assists for Minnesota while Jessica Moore finished with two points and one rebound for Indiana.

The UConn women's basketball program achieved a perfect score of 1,000 in the Academic Progress Rate and had an impressive four-year average of 990.

Here is Geno Auriemma's reaction to the numbers.

"I am extremely proud of my team’s showing in the NCAA’s latest Academic Progress Report. Our coaching staff makes it clear to every incoming freshman that they have a responsibility, not only to strive to win championships, but also to strive for excellence in the classroom. We will continue to stress academics as the top priority with the goal of every student-athlete earning her degree from the University of Connecticut."

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Jimmy V Classic matchup officially announced

One of the worst-kept secrets in women's basketball became official when the Jimmy V Classic matchup between Texas A&M and UConn was announced. The game will be played on Dec. 6 at Gampel Pavilion at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.

UConn is no stranger to the event playing North Carolina State a part of the inaugural event back in 2002 and also played (and lost to) North Carolina in the 2004 and 2005 Jimmy V Classics. When the teams meet, it will be UConn's first Jimmy V Classic game in six years.

During the Final Four I spoke to Texas A&M coach Gary Blair about the prospects of facing UConn and it was something he was rather excited about.

"It will us a stronger team and to experience playing in Storrs, we've never played there," Blair said. "I would enjoy the heck out of it. I think it would make us better in the long run.

"I don't think it would have happened without the platform of the Jimmy V game because television wants two teams that are going to compete later on for the national championship. We went to the Maggie Dixon last year. We were able to play Rutgers and they were able to play Ohio State. I'd love to do those games every year and eventually I'd love to get the Jimmy V game down at our place."

Mercy star invited the U.S. U-16 trials

Meriden's Sadie Edwards, a sophomore guard at Mercy, was the only Connecticut player headed to the U.S. Under-16 national team tryouts.

Edwards joins Kristen Anderson, a sophomore guard from Greene, Maine, as the only other player from New England among the 121 players who will take part in trials.

UConn recruiting targets Diamond DeShields and Taya Reimer are also expected to be at the camp which begins on Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Monday, May 23, 2011

DeShields is taking her time

Diamond DeShields is a fun-loving teen so it fits with her personality that she just laughs every time she hears a new rumor of the school she is said to have committed to.

I spoke with her after Monday's second practice session during the U.S. U-19 trials in Colorado Springs, Colo. just to get a sense of when she might be ready to make her college choice.

"Definitely after my junior year," DeShields said. "I am in no rush. I love the recruiting process. If anything, this is what I wanted. I never thought the day would come when I'd be having requests to call say a Pat Summitt or Geno Auriemma. Everything is so surreal to me and I couldn't ask for a better basketball career and it is only going to get better. I don't think I'll be committing any time soon, I am going to wait it out because I don't want to be one of those people who regret their decision."

That doesn't stop people from spreading rumors about DeShields' college of choice.

"I get a lot of humor out of it just because it is amazing what people will say just to be able to say they were the first to say it," DeShields said. "People have told me I have committed to Baylor, people have told me I committed to Connecticut, people have told me I have verballed to Tennessee. I can't get mad at it because people are going to say what they want. If somebody tells you and you haven't heard the word come out of my mouth, why would you believe it. People want to go on the record as saying 'they found out first.'"

This much is true, there isn't a program in the country who wouldn't love to get a commitment from the 16-year-old sophomore at Norcross (Ga.) High. The 6-foot-1 DeShields has led Norcross to Georgia 5A titles during her freshman and sophomore seasons. She was the youngest player on the 2010 U.S. Under-18 national team and was the team's third-leading scorer.

Coaches and players alike have noticed a new, improved of DeShields who is not only a better player than she was a year ago but a more mature individual.

"Last year I used to hang my head, I used to let things that people say affect me, I used to be really emotional about criticism and I wasn't able to take criticism," DeShields said. "After being with players like Chiney Ogwumike, Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson and all of them, I definitely learned how to be more of a leader and everything people are saying is just to make me better."

Don't mistake maturity for a lack of exuberance, however. I could not end my interview with Diamond without asking her about her visit to UConn in October when she shocked everybody - especially UConn's coaching staff and compliance officers - when she jumped onto the court to take part in the First Night festivities.

"You can ask my high school teammates, my AAU teammates that I love to dance," DeShields said with a laugh. "This guy on the court said 'who can Dougie the best and I'll give you some free Usher tickets.' I love Usher so let me go out and try to win these tickets. Me and Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) were going to go to the Usher concert if I won the tickets. I went out there and I lost. I just love to dance. If a song is going, I'll be in the grocery store dancing, I will be in the school hallway dancing, before the game and even during the games sometimes I'll be dancing. I just love to have fun.

"I just think that every visit I take is an opportunity to get to know me and for me to get to know the coaches. Talking over the phone, it only (allows) you to now somebody to a certain point. I guess their reaction to that is 'this girl like to have fun. She is outgoing, she is energetic.' They kind of got to know a different side to me and I got to know a different side of them."

DeShields is trying to make the best of yet another trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, which has helped in the development of some of the country's best athletes.

"Just being in this facility, not just great basketball players but great athletes," DeShields said. "This is where some of the greatest athletes in the world come to prepare for the Olympic games. That is a dream come true. I used to remember sitting at home wishing that some day I could be a part of USA anything - track, softball or something. Now to be a part of USA Basketball is a dream come true. My dream doesn't stop here, I want to be the best. This is where all the best play. One day I want people to come into this gym and say 'man, Diamond DeShields played here.' I want to be a legend just like all the other players."

The trials will wrap up on Wednesday with 16 finalists being named to the U-19 team. That list will eventually be cut to the final 12. If DeShields makes the cut, it would be an emotional moment for her.

"I honestly think I would cry because I know how hard I worked especially coming from last year," DeShields said. "Even all the awards and all the accolades, it is all happening to me so fast so if this happens, it will be another accolade. I have progressed so fast. I couldn't do it without God, I couldn't do it without my mom, I couldn't do it without my teammates around me, all the support I have with my coaches, everybody back home."

It has been reported that Twinsburg (Ohio) High forward/center Malina Howard was no longer being recruited by UConn. Since she is also at the trials, I thought it would be worth my while to get the info straight from her.

When I asked her if UConn is still recruiting her, she said "I don't believe so."

As for the recruiting process for one of the top players in the high school Class of 2012, a commitment figures to be coming sooner rather than later.

"Hopefully (she'll commit) before my senior year starts so I don't have to worry about it too much during the season," Howard said. "I think I have been going through a lot and I know what I want to get accomplished in college and where I might fit in the best."

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

U-19 training camp starts tomorrow

There will be 34 players, including seven either enrolled at or committed to UConn, headed to Colorado Springs for the U.S. Under-19 national team tryouts.

UConn freshmen Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson will be joined by incoming freshmen Kalana Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes, commits Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck are expected to take part in the tryouts. UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields is also among those who have accepted invitations to the camp.

The tryouts begin with a 6:30 p.m. practice on Sunday, there will be two sessions on Monday and Tuesday before the 16 finalists will be announced on Wednesday.

The finalists will meet up again at a June 1-5 training camp at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as part of the ESPN RISE Girls Showcase. The USA will train for four days before facing the Brazil U19 National Team on June 5. The game will be televised on ESPNU and also shown online at The team will meet up again from July 11-15 in Colorado Springs for its final preparations before leaving for Chile, the site of the U19 World Championships.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

"Felt like we were right back at UConn"

I caught up with Tina Charles after she received the 2011 Role Model of the Year from the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce

Among the topics was another on-court UConn reunion as the Connecticut Sun's starting lineup in Thursday's exhibition game against the Chinese national team were former Huskies Asjha Jones, Kalana Greene, Renee Montgomery and Charles. It was the first time that Greene, Montgomery and Charles were on the court together in a game situation since helping Connecticut win the 2009 national title.

"It felt like we were right back at UConn so the chemistry was there," Charles said.
"It was a lot of fun. We have a lot of work to do but we will be good this season."

I asked Charles which of the newcomers were the most impressive and she immediately mentioned Danielle McCray's name.

During Charles' speech on Friday, she had a pretty funny story regarding being thrown out of practice drills for missing a layup.

"There would be times that I would miss a layup and he’d kick me off the court," Charles said. "There would be times when I would miss a layup and go to the side basket."

Charles was very gracious in stating what the Role Model of the Year Award, which counts UConn products Ray Allen, Caron Butler, Rebecca Lobo, Kevin Ollie and Emeka Okafor among its previous recipients, means to her.

"Every time I receive an accolade, I remember how far I have come, what it means and how blessed I am to be here," Charles said.

Since Charles had to get to practice and Auriemma had a flight to catch so he could make it down to the Big East meetings, time with them after the event was brief.

One topic brought up with Auriemma was the recently-completed national team training camp.

"Some kids kind of solidified what we thought, some players that we hadn’t seen before played their way into consideration and some players didn’t look as good as you thought they were going to look or had looked in the past," Auriemma said.

One name which came up as a player who impressed Auriemma was Chicago Sky rookie guard Courtney Vandersloot. I'm not sure if Vandersloot is going to make the cut for next year's Olympic team but finding a point guard to groom as former UConn star Sue Bird's eventual replacement must be pretty high up on the U.S. program's wish list. Perhaps Vandersloot could be that person.

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Geno recalls turning point in Tina Charles' career

UConn coach Geno Auriemma and former Husky Tina Charles were featured guests at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce member breakfast meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell on Friday as Charles was named the chamber's 2011 Role Model of the Year.

One of the most captivating moments of the morning was listen to Auriemma retell the story of a conversation he had with Charles, a talk that helped Charles raise her level to an entirely different level.

The groundwork for the discussion came at the Final Four during Charles' sophomore season. As teammates Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore were named first-team All-Americans, Auriemma couldn't resist the temptation to use the moment as a sense of motivation. Charles vowed that the following year she would be the one getting the All-American award.

The following season Auriemma summoned Charles to his office and pointed out that her statistics were eerily similar to those of her sophomore year. I'll let Auriemma's words take it from here.

"I said to Tina what makes you think they are going to name you an All-American this year when you are doing exactly the same thing you did last year. Why? Because they feel sorry for you because they think you are a nice kid. If they gave All-Americans to nice kids, everybody would be an All-American. I think from that day on, there was a completely different Tina Charles. She won a national championship, she was a first-team All-American. The following year we won again and she is national player of the year. It was just that time for her to realize that what I think I am doing and what I think is expected of me is two entirely different things.

"This is Tina Charles to a T: I want to be what people expect me to be. I want to be as good a student as my mom wants me to be. I want to be as good a person as my mom wants me to be, I want to be as good a teammate as my teammates want me to be. I want to be as good a player as everybody wants me to be. It wasn’t until that point in time that she said ‘I want to be what I expect myself to be.’ Her own expectations for herself, that year became greater than me mom’s expectations for her, mine or anybody elses. At that point, Tina really became a woman. She became an adult and decided I am going to do what I want to do because it is going to make me feel good.

"I think that is a great lesson. You do things for other people when you are young because you want to impress them, you want them to love you or like you but you get to a certain age when you have to do things where you have to make yourself feel like you have to accomplish things for you. Your parents will still be proud of you, (as will) your teachers, your coaches but Tina Charles became an adult sometime during her junior year."

With the Valley Regional and Portland teams, who won the Class S boys and girls state titles as well as other basketball teams including the Durham Destroyers in attendance, Auriemma turned the story of Charles transformation from standout to superstar as a teaching tool.

"If you are willing to endure failure, coaching, criticism or whatever it is that comes your way, if you are willing to endure all of that and you have this vision of who you want to be then you are going to do it but you are only going to do it if you do it for yourself and not for other people."

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cash to receive honorary degree

Former UConn star Swin Cash is one of four people who will receive honorary degrees from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. on Saturday.

Cash, a native of McKeesport, Pa., will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Here is the release from the college:

WASHINGTON, PA (May 19, 2011)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) will honor four prominent women who have made life-long commitments to science, community service, history, and human rights at its annual Commencement ceremony May 21, bringing to a close a school year that has celebrated 40 years of coeducation at the College.
A professional basketball player, entrepreneur and philanthropist, McKeesport, Pennsylvania, native Swintayla “Swin” Cash will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.
“This degree recognizes all of Swin’s accomplishments, but most importantly her philanthropy. At W&J, we take seriously our commitment to community. Our graduates need to see successful people, like Swin, who have done what they desire to do – become leaders in their fields -- but we honor those who go the extra mile by leading with integrity.”
Cash began her professional athletic career when she was selected by the Detroit Shock as the second overall pick in the 2002 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft. Cash led the Shock to their first WNBA Championship title, played in the 2003 WNBA All-Star Game, and won a gold medal with the U.S. women’s basketball team at the 2004 Olympic Games. In the off-season, she plays basketball on professional teams overseas and provides color commentary as the first active WNBA player to serve as a television sports analyst for ESPN and NBC.
In 2008, Cash was traded to the Seattle Storm, leading them to their second championship and making her only the second player in WNBA history to start for both the Eastern and Western Conference teams. One of only six women to have won an NCAA championship, a WNBA championship and an Olympic gold medal, Cash also took home a gold medal with Team USA at the 2010 FIBA Championship.
Cash donates proceeds from the sale of her clothing line to her charity, Cash for Kids, which provides financial support to youth agencies and schools. An international ambassador for UNICEF, Cash was recognized with the WNBA’s Community Assist Award for her extensive community outreach efforts.
Among numerous other awards and honors, Cash received the Senator John Heinz Annual History Maker’s Award and the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year Award. She also was admitted to the Western Pennsylvania Athletic Association Hall of Fame and was honored by the Women and Girl’s Foundation.
Cash is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, where she played basketball for one of the best college programs in any sport, winning two national championships. Named a first team All-American by Kodak/WBCA and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, president of Merck Vaccines and first female director of the Centers for Disease Control will be the keynote speaker and receive an honorary degree. Other honorary degree recipients will be Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks; and Annette Gordon-Reed; Pulitzer prize-winning author and legal scholar and historian whose investigation into the life of Thomas Jefferson dramatically changed the course of Jeffersonian scholarship.
Commencement will begin at 10 a.m. EST in the courtyard in front of the campus’ Olin Fine Arts Center on Wheeling Street. Approximately 354 students are expected to graduate.
“W&J is honored to recognize the accomplishments of these great women, to give our graduates the opportunity to hear from Dr. Gerberding, who has made such an unquestionable impact in her field,” said W&J President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No decision coming soon for Holmes

For those recruiting news lovers out there, don't be expecting too much coming out of the camp of Hillhouse's Bria Holmes until probably the fall - at the earliest.

I spoke to one of her AAU coaches today who told me that Bria has yet to make the rounds on the college visitation circuit so she is far away from narrowing down her list and most certainly months away from making a decision.

The Connecticut Lady Blazers will be playing in tournaments in Kentucky and Georgia in July. They will also be headed to an event at Rutgers at which time Holmes is expected to have an unofficial visit and meet with Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer.

Holmes will likely get down to the business of coming up with a list of schools and take some visits in September and October. It sounds like she won't be venturing too far for college. I have learned in my time covering recruiting that each kid has a different definition of what constitutes going to college "close to home" but certainly schools like Rutgers and St. John's, who have both shown plenty of interest in Holmes, would seem to fit the geographic profile.

Rutgers has been pushing hard for the 6-foot-1 wing as has West Virginia and they have plenty of company among Big East school. UConn is also in the mix and she was on hand for UConn's First Night festivities in October.

Holmes was an All-State selection as a junior as she led Hillhouse to its third straight Class L title. In the state championship game, she had 27 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.


Jordan Brand signs Maya; McDaniel sets mark

UConn's all-time leading scorer Maya Moore became the first WNBA player signed by the Jordan Brand which should raise her profile to an even higher level.

"As a student of the game, it is a dream come true to align myself with a brand that has a rich history in sports," Moore said in a release. "Like most kids, I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and continue to work relentlessly to reach his iconic status on the court. I’m truly motivated to take my career to the next level as a member of Team Jordan."

Speaking of Moore, the Minnesota Lynx will host a live chat with their players (with Moore likely to be featured prominently) on Monday from 11:30 AM to 2 PM on Zfriday. Go to for more info.

Xylina McDaniel, one of two uncommitted high school juniors on UConn's recruiting radar, broke an 18-year-old South Carolina state record with a winning throw of 44 feet and 8 inches in the shot put, breaking the mark of 44-7 set by Westside's Ayokka Green.

Her performance is among the top 30 in the nation this spring.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Home, sweet home

Monday was either the seventh or eighth time I attended the first day of Connecticut Sun practice and have written stories on countless newcomers from various parts of the country as well as from France and Australia.

However, speaking to former Boston College star Stefanie Murphy was a little different. It was the first time I spoke to a Connecticut Sun hopeful from one of my hometowns.

Murphy grew up in Londonderry, N.H., a town I lived in from ages 2-8. For the record, I should state that my family moved from Londonderry to Hudson 16 years before Murphy was born and I barely recognize the town on the rare occasions I return to New Hampshire. Still, I couldn't resist starting off my interview with Murphy by letting her know off my connection to Londonderry.

It was obvious that Murphy still has strong ties to the southern New Hampshire town which also happens to be the hometown of San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson.

"It is definitely something new; not a lot of people come out of New Hampshire and succeed in college," Murphy said. "Not a lot of people succeed in college, make it here and have this opportunity. There are a lot of people proud of me, I have so many people on my side."

Murphy needed that support last month when she was not among the 36 players taken in the WNBA draft despite being a productive player at Boston College and finishing her college career with 1,722 points, 937 rebounds, 202 assists, 107 steals and 102 blocked shots.

"I was watching it. I was sitting there for 2 1/2 hours waiting for my name to come up," Murphy said. "I was a little taken aback. I had to suck it up. I had class (in advanced advertising) that night so I went to class and I got two calls from the agency that represents me. They were like ‘call me ASAP.’ I said OK and left class right away. It was a very emotional day going from being so sad and upset and then extremely excited that as a free agent I had an opportunity to play so close to home.

"I was kind of down in the middle of (the draft) because I kind of thought there was a chance I wasn’t going to get drafted. You want to say it is OK if you don’t get drafted but at the end of the day, when the draft is over and you didn’t get drafted it doesn’t feel OK. I’ve had a lot of emotional roller coasters and that was probably the biggest day. At the end of the day I was so happy. I wasn’t grumpy any more, they could talk to me and they were excited for me. It was a hard day but it was great at the end."

While undrafted rookie free agents face long odds to make the opening day WNBA roster, Murphy could be walking into a good situation. Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault told the media on Monday that he didn't think Sandrine Gruda would be playing for the team this season. While Connecticut does have reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year in Tina Charles and veteran post players Asjha Jones and DeMya Walker, there could be a spot for another post player especially if the team decides to keep second-year player Kelsey Griffin playing at small forward. If that is the case, her competition for a spot would be a pair of 6 foot rookies (Rachele Fitz and Adrienne Johnson).

"I do think there are a good number of posts and there is a good amount of talent, it is going to challenge me every day to get better," Murphy said. "I think that is what I need whether it is here or anywhere else. It is a great opportunity right now, I am trying to soak it in and try to see if I could keep up with them."

Murphy not only survived her first day at training camp, she prospered. When the team held a scrimmage Monday night, Murphy led the team with 13 points.

The team also held a practice earlier in the day. While understandably nervous, Murphy more than held her own.

"We figured that basketball is still basketball," Murphy said. "You still do layup lines, you still do passing, dribbling drills. You still warm up the same way and it is just the different people you get to play with. I was glad I had the opportunity to play with such big-name people and great people.

"It was kind of like being in the underdog situation because I wasn’t drafted and I am sure not many people know what somebody from Boston College, especially from New Hampshire I feel like I am the only person people have met ever from New Hampshire. It is just a great feeling, it is what athletes do and to be able to do this again is great."

Look back at Connecticut Sun scrimmage

Considering it was the first day of training camp and six of the 15 players in uniform are in their first season with the team, I'm not going to read too much into the scrimmage at Mohegan Sun Arena Monday night.

But I do have some observations from watching the 26-minute scrimmage and drills beforehand.

First, Danielle McCray showed more range on her jumper than I anticipated. She hit a couple of 3-pointers during the scrimmage and always seems to be in attack mode. If she reminds me of a player I covered at UConn, it would probably be Kalana Greene. I'm not sure if that is good or not since Kalana Greene is also on the team and if they end up being the same player, that is only a positive sign if that version of player is a difference maker.

Undrafted rookie Stefanie Murphy (according to my unofficial stats) led all scorers with 13 points. She was automatic finishing around the basket and reminded me of former Stanford star Jayne Appel with her ability to catch the ball in traffic and score with ease. I was surprised she wasn't drafted and while one scrimmage does not secure a spot on the team, it was a promising start for her.

Kelsey Griffin looked really good. She made all the hustle plays (no shock there) but also was very fluid on the perimeter.

Murphy and McCray were the only players in double figures. Renee Montgomery had nine points including a couple of sweet finishes in the lane and had the best pass of the night with a drive and dish to set up a Murphy layup. Tina Charles, Kara Lawson and Griffin had seven points each. Greene ended up with six.

It was a tough night for DeMya Walker. She did have five points but turned her ankle after stepping on Montgomery's foot. She came back into the game but later had a hard spill forcing her out of the scrimmage.

As mentioned in my previous entry, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault wanted to make Sandrine Gruday's status clear to all the reporters so he came over right before the scrimmage started and said "we probably won't have her at all."

Judging by the way he spoke back in the winter when he said the team was preparing as if Gruda wasn't coming back, I got the sense that he felt this was a possibility. She wasn't going to be here for the start of the season because of the European championships and the team has grown accustomed to not having her for the start of the season. It will be interesting to see how this situation impacts the playing rotation. The Sun has been trying to turn Kelsey Griffin into a small forward but with McCray and Greene able to play the small forward, will Griffin get more time at her natural power forward position? Will this open the door for Murphy to make a run at a roster spot?

In my opinion, Charles, Greene, Griffin, Jones, Lawson, McCray, Montgomery, Walker and Tan White will make the opening-night roster. That leaves six players fighting it out for the final two spots. Will Kerri Gardin and Allison Hightower have an edge because of their previous experience with the team? Will the Sun look for another post giving a long look at a player like Murphy or even an undersized post like Rachele Fitz, who showed flashes of good stuff on Monday night? Perhaps third-round picks Tahnee Robinson and Adrienne Johnson will show enough to push for a roster spot.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Trade to Connecticut brings mixed emotions for Greene

The casual observer might think that a former UConn star would be grinning from ear to ear with the news that she was being traded to the Connecticut Sun.

For Kalana Greene, that is only partly true.

She was ecstatic at the prospects of playing in front of many of the same fans who rooted for her during her UConn days and she is extremely close friends with her former UConn and current Connecticut Sun teammates Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery.

But during Monday's media day at Mohegan Sun Arena, Greene admitted that leaving behind her teammates and fans in New York was not easy for her.

"It was bittersweet," said Greene, one of four UConn graduates among the 15 players at the first day of Connecticut Sun training camp. "I miss New York, I love New York but I just felt numb. It was surreal. I didn't think it was going to happen and it happened. I didn't know how to feel. I don't think until I came back to the United States that I thought 'I am going back to Connecticut.' The emotions were pretty weird.

"It is always good to play the sport you love with people you love, people you are familiar with. It is going to be fun but at the end of the day you still have a job to get done, a lot of expectations to live up to."

While Greene was on an emotional roller coaster as she heard the rumors of her being traded to the Sun, Charles and Montgomery were so happy they could barely contain their enthusiasm.

"I got all these tweets 'are you excited, can you believe it?'" Montgomery said. "I was just like 'what is going on?' I knew it was draft day but I didn't know if I should be excited about. TT (Charles) hit me up and said 'yo, K-Bear (Montgomery's nickname for Greene) is coming to our team.' It is hard to explain. Obviously first off I am excited that she is my friend and another one of my closen friends on the team and then player wise, she did a lot against us for New York last. She came in got rebounds, scored, got and ones and was just disruptive. Now she can do it for us."

The biggest news to come out of the first day of training camp was that Thibault said Sandrine Gruda "probably won't be here at all."

The belief was that Gruda would join the team at the end of the European Championships but apparently she is going to follow the lead of fellow European Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and skip the upcoming WNBA season.

There will be more on the scrimmage the Sun played either later tonight or tomorrow.

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Another national honor for Mosqueda-Lewis

UConn incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the national female high school athlete of the year by MaxPreps.

Mosqueda-Lewis was previously named the girls' basketball player of the year by MaxPreps in addition to earning the same honor from Gatorade, USA Today, Naismith and the WBCA.

Next up for the 6-foot wing from Anaheim, Calif. is a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo. for the U.S. Under-19 national team trials which start on Sunday. She joins fellow UConn signee Kiah Stokes, Connecticut rising sophomores Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, UConn commits Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck as well as UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields among the 35 players expected to take part in the four-day training camp.

The Connecticut Sun will begin its training camp today, meeting with the media during the late afternoon before wrapping up a busy day with a scrimmage at Mohegan Sun Arena which is open to season ticket holders.

With the draft-day trade with New York resulting in Kalana Greene being acquired by the Sun, four of the 15 players in camp are UConn graduates as Greene joins her former college teammates Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery as well as Asjha Jones on the squad.

Charles, Montgomery and Jones are among nine returning players headed to training camp (Kelsey Griffin, Kerri Gardin, Allison Hightower, Kara Lawson, DeMya Walker and Tan White are the others). Joining Greene as newcomers to the team are last year's No. 1 pick Danielle McCray, who missed her rookie season with a knee injury, third-round pick Adrienne Johnson, Tahnee Robinson, Rachele Fitz and Stefanie Murphy.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mosqueda-Lewis, Stokes on Parade squad

UConn incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the Parade Magazine Player of the Year and was joined on the magazine's all-american team by fellow UConn signee Kiah Stokes. The all-american team will appear in Sunday's Parade Magazine.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tina Charles to be honored in Middletown

Former UConn star Tina Charles will receive the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce's Role Model of the Year as the chamber's monthly breakfast meeting on May 20 from 7:45-9 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cromwell.

Both Charles, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year, and UConn coach Geno Auriemma are expected to appear at the event.

Previous winners of the award include former UConn men's basketball stars Ray Allen, Caron Butler, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Ollie, former MLB players Jeff Bagwell, Rico Brogna and Ricky Bottalico, former NFL players Chris Hetherington and Joe Andruzzi,
golfer Suzy Whaley, New ngland Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, former UConn and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo and Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino.

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Report: Mosqueda-Lewis is Parade's player of the year

The Parade Magazine's girls' high school All-American team will appear in Sunday's magazine and according to a Tampa Tribune blog entry, UConn signee Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been named the player of the year.

Various reports are circulating mentioning players who made the team including one revealing that UConn incoming freshman Kiah Stokes is one of the 40 players on the team.

Staying on the subject of UConn and recruiting, I spoke with the AAU coach of UConn recruiting target Xylina McDaniel today to get a sense of when a college decision could be coming. Roger Wiley said he and Anne Long, McDaniel's high school coach, are planning to sit down with Xylina and her family in the next week or two to discuss the recruiting process. Wiley made it clear that her decision will be a family decision and her coaches both at the AAU and high school level will serve as advisors and sounding boards.

McDaniel will be busy in July as her South Carolina 76ers team will be playing in the Disney Showcase in Orlando, Fla. from July 8-10, from July 22-25 the 76ers will be taking part in the U.S. Junior Nationals/Nike National Championships and then will head to Louisville for the FILA Juniors from July 27-30. The next event for the team will be the Nike Midwest Showdown in Cincinnati from May 28-30.

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Tina Charles signed by Galatasaray

Former UConn star Tina Charles, who followed up her WNBA Rookie of the Year season with the Connecticut Sun with an impressive showing with Nadezhda during the recently-completed Euroleague season, has been signed by Galatasay.

Charles led the Euroleague with nine double-doubles and an average of 7.7 field goals made per game while ranking in the top five points (19.0), rebounds (12.3), minutes (34.2) and blocked shots (1.2) in her first season in the Euroleague.

One of her teammates for the Istanbul, Turkey squad will be Alba Torrens, who could also be her teammate in the WNBA is the Spanish guard opts to sign with the Connecticut Sun after playing for Spain in the European Championships.

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Friday, May 06, 2011

UConn recruiting up a storm

Recruiting rankings usually aren't worth the paper they are printed on or pass they occupy on a computer screen but it's hard not to be impressed by UConn's ability to have secured commitments from the top two rated players in the Class of 2012 after guard Moriah Jefferson joined Breanna Stewart as early UConn commitments. Earlier in the process, fellow UConn commit Morgan Tuck was being touted as the most talented prospect in this class.

You would probably have to go back to the signing of the Tamika Williams, Swin Cash, Sue Bird, Asjha Jones and Keirsten Walters class to rival the rankings of the class the UConn coaching staff is currently putting together.

As impressive as securing commitments from Jefferson, a 5-7 guard from Glenn Heights, Tex., Stewart, a 6-foot-4 forward from North Syracuse, N.Y. and Morgan Tuck, a 6-2 forward from Bolingbrook, Ill., is for the Huskies - they are not done.

UConn is still very much involved with Xylina McDaniel, a 6-foot-1 forward out of Spring Valley High in Columbia, S.C., is still looking at Hillhouse junior wing Bria Holmes and recently got involved with Peyton Little, a guard out of Wylie High in Abilene, Tex.

It should be noted that Jefferson's THESA squad is slated to play in the tournament hosted by Little's Wylie squad from Dec. 8-10. Something tells me at least one member of the UConn coaching staff will make the trip for that event especially if Little ends up joining Jefferson at UConn.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Moriah Jefferson "can't wait" to get to UConn

When Moriah Jefferson was 5 years old, her parents looked on bemusedly as she was able to dribble a basketball. When she was 11, her dad told her the sky was the limit in her basketball career. Jefferson, considered to be the top guard in the Class of 2012, took a step towards making her dad's prediction come true when she became the third prominent high school junior to commit to UConn.

"I very relieved," Jefferson said of the aftermath of going public with her intention of playing for UConn. I can focus on basketball instead of worrying about colleges."

Jefferson went up to Connecticut twice. The first time she took in the exhibition game between the U.S. and Australia teams in Hartford. Then she headed to Storrs for the "First Night" festivities in mid October along with some of her future UConn teammates.

"They are a hard working team," Jefferson said. "I got really close with all the players there. Breanna (Stewart), Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) we all have a close bond. When I went on my visit the coaching staff was really nice so that kind of attracted me."

Jefferson becomes the first Texas native to commit to UConn. The decision was not a surprise to her mother.

"Once we sat down and talked, I said ‘are they on your list?’" Robin Jefferson said. "She said ‘yes.’ I asked her where and she said ‘high up.’ That is how we left it. Then with a series of events and her praying about it, it became evident what she wanted to do. Bonding with Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Lewis, not talking basketball just talking together and bonding with them, she realized what she wanted to do.

"I am happy for her because Moriah is a child who likes to be pushed. Geno is going to get to her and she is up to the challenge, it is her makeup."

Jefferson joins 6-4 forward Breanna Stewart, the player she is vying with for the honor of being the top-rated player in her class, and 6-2 forward Morgan Tuck as part of what is shaping up as a potentially sensational class.

Jefferson spoke with both Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis on Thursday, one of many phone calls Jefferson made on Thursday.

"They were screaming, they were wildly screaming," Jefferson said with a laugh.

"I am really excited. I can’t wait for it. There are a great group of people who I will be playing with so it will be fun."

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Report: Moriah Jefferson commits to UConn

Moriah Jefferson, who is considered the top guard in the Class of 2012, has committed to UConn according to her AAU coach Daryl Horton.

Jefferson is a 5-foot-7 guard from Glenn Height, Texas who becames the first player from Texas to commit to Connecticut.

Jefferson has visited Connecticut twice, once to take in the U.S. national team's exhibition game against Australia and again to visit campus.

Sources said that UConn coach Geno Auriemma asked her at the time of her campus visit if she was serious about considering UConn since so many reports had her associated closely with Baylor. Jefferson assured the Hall of Fame coach that her interest was sincere.

Back in October, I spoke to Corey Hegwood, one of Jefferson's coaches with the powerful DFW Elite AAU program and here is what he had to say.

"She could become the quickest guard to play in the (women's) game," Hegwood said. "She plays with a lot of energy on offense and defense, she has a great handle and is a lockdown defender. I've had boys AAU coaches say that she could start for a boys AAU team."

Jefferson is home schooled and she led the THESA Raiders to yet another National Home School Championship title, the program's fifth straight and is currently tearing it up on the AAU circuit.

Her commitment gives UConn arguably the top two players in the class in Jefferson and 6-foot-4 forward Breanna Stewart from Syracuse, N.Y. as well as highly-touted forward Morgan Tuck out of Bolingbrook, Ill.

Plenty of UConn connections at U.S. Under-19 trials

UConn's Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, incoming freshmen Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes, UConn commits Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck as well as Connecticut recruiting target Diamond DeShields are among 35 players invited to the U.S. Under-19 team trials.

The trials will be held from May 22-25 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

After the team is selected, the squad will report to the June 1-5 training camp at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as part of the ESPN RISE Girls Showcase. The USA will train for four days before facing the Brazil U19 National Team on June 5. The game will be televised on ESPNU and also shown online at

The team will reassemble on July 11 for additional training sessions in Colorado Springs before leaving for Chile for the U-19 World Championships. The U.S. is in Group B for preliminary round play and will tip-off against Japan on July 21 (12:30 p.m. EDT) before facing Russia and Argentina on July 22 and 23. The second round will be played July 25-27, quarterfinals are slated for July 29, semifinals will be held on July 30 and the finals are scheduled for July 31.

The U.S. team will be coached by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti.

For those who enjoyed the first trick-shot video featuring Caroline Doty, another one was recently posted on youtube

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