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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, October 14, 2011

First Night is at Gampel tonight

For UConn basketball fans, tonight must be something close to a national holiday.

When fans come to games during the season, they are kept at arms' length from the players and coaches. But the whole idea behind First Night (other than to have a showcase to impress recruits) is that it allows fans to see a different side of the players. It all starts on Fairfield Way outside of Gampel Pavilion with a Fan Fest. Doors to Gampel open at 6 and there will be an autograph session with the players from both teams. The "basketball" portion of the evening will begin at 7 and include dunk and 3-point contests although there will be more fun than games. Admission is free.

"The kids get a big kick out of it, being out here and doing their thing," UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said. "(They) enjoy being out on the floor for the first time with actual people in the stands. I think it is for the kids but how the kids handle it, that makes it for the fans. If they kids come out and go ‘I can’t believe we’ve got to do this’ then the fans don’t get a chance to enjoy it. But if the kids come out, have a great time and enjoy it and embrace the whole night then I think the fans have a great experience. I hope 10,000 of them actually show up."

Auriemma was asked about bringing back a scrimmage to the event so fans could actually see the basketball players well, actually play basketball.

"I think the scrimmaging days are over," Auriemma said. "They have something planned but I don’t know what. I try not to get caught up in that stuff. I just kind of show up and they point me in the right direction. You guys know this, in this program I am the Queen of England. I just come in and give them (a smile and a wave), elbow/wrist, elbow/wrist, elbow/wrist."
Auriemma admitted it was a hectic summer for him traveling out of the country multiple times as he continues to do double duty as not only the UConn but also the U.S. national team coach.

"Three times over the Europe and one time over to South America, all the recruiting that has been involved over the summer it has been a lot but I am kind of used to it by now," Auriemma said.

Speaking of recruits, UConn commit Morgan Tuck out of Bolingbrook (Ill.) High will be in attendance as well as 2012 recruiting target Xylina McDaniel, a star at Spring Valley (S.C.) High and 2013 recruiting target Taya Reimer out of Hamilton Southeastern High in Fishers, Ind. Also, my colleague David Borges (wo covers the UConn men's squad for the Register) is reporting that UConn men's commit Omar Calhoun will be there tonight so it's likely that his sister Sierra, a highly-touted sophomore at Christ the King, will also be in attendance. It will be a far cry from last year when current UConn freshmen Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Kiah Stokes and Brianna Banks along with their future UConn teammates Tuck and Moriah Jefferson were in attendance along with Hillhouse's Bria Holmes (who recently committed to West Virginia) and Class of 2013 prospect Diamond DeShields (who almost gave UConn's compliance officers a heart attack when she raced out of the stands and attempted to win one of the contests).

For those who can't make it to Storrs, you can check out the event on Bear in mind there are some restrictions (I know I can't get ESPN3 through my provider). ESPNU's whiparound coverage will include updates from UConn by Doris Burke and Mark Brown.

For anybody hoping that Diana Taurasi was going to be among those former UConn stars making an appearance at First Night, sorry but she is kind of busy.

Taurasi made her debut with Galatasay on Thursday and what a debut it was. Taurasi was 7 of 7 from 3-point range en route to 31 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in an 83-66 win over Vici Aistes.

Taurasi's former UConn teammate Asjha Jones is also off and running as she had 19 points and six rebounds in her first game with Rivas Ecopolis.

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