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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

High praise for Breanna Stewart

I headed over to a forum featuring UConn coach Geno Auriemma, former UConn star and current Hartford women's basketball coach Jen Rizzotti and Trinity College men;s squash coach Paul Assaiante at the University of Hartford.

While I caught just the tail end of the hour-long event and listened to Auriemma's take on the state of college athletics and it was thought provoking to say the least, the purpose of my trip was to speak to Auriemma and Rizzotti about UConn signee Breanna Stewart since I will be heading to Springfield tomorrow to watch Stewart play in the HoopHall Classic.

I'm going to save some of the stuff for the story on her which will run in Saturday's edition of the Register, here are some of the highlights.

"I don't know if a high school game is going to do her justice because she rises to the occasion based on the competition," said Rizzotti, who coached Stewart on the U.S. U-19 squad over the summer. "The bigger game we played, the better she was. She is really, really competitive. She is far from her limit in terms of her potential. She has a lot of room to improve, she has the intangible things that you can't coach. You can't teach somebody to be competitive, hard working or willing to learn. You can teach them how to dribble and how to have a better jump shot, the things he will be able to do with her in basketball because she brings so much more to the table."

Stewart is the latest UConn commit to play in the HoopHall Classic and she will likely receive a similar reception from UConn fans that Tina Charles, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Elena Delle Donne (when she was still headed to play for the Huskies).

"Her being up her at a lot of games, I think she is pretty familiar with what it is all about. I think she will see another side of it," Auriemma said. "She will probably go up there and say 'I can't believe people from Massachusetts and people drive from Connecticut up to Massachusetts to watch me play. Then again, she is such a humble kid, so down to earth that she signed her letter of intent on the hood of a car so I don't think she is one of these kids who goes for all the fanfare."

Other item to come out of the interviews was that Bria Hartley will head to the wake for her AAU coach Robert "Apache" Paschall tomorrow.

"After we practice tomorrow, her dad is going to pick her up, they are going to go down and then they
are going to come down after the service and meet us down there (in Philadelphia) tomorrow night."

It was also the first chance I had to speak to Rizzotti since word came out that UConn/Hartford will resume their regular-season series beginning next season with a game at Hartford's Chase Arena.

"The series itself now that it's been played, it's been done it is not new anymore but the chance for our kids to have UConn in the building is awesome," Rizzotti said. "We have played them, other teams have had chances to have them in their building and we've never had that. I think it will be fun for our kids. We have just one senior so it will be good to have them back, our juniors, and it will be fun for their senior year and experience that excitement. It is always good to play the No. 1 team in the country and to be able to do that in your own gym makes it that much better."
Finally I leave you with an entry in the "it's a small world" department. Before heading up to Hartford, I attended the press conference announcing Tony Reno as Yale's new football coach. Big deal, you say. Well, when I spoke to Tony last week trying to get a sense of how seriously he was being considered for the Yale opening he told me that he went to high school with former UConn star Carla Berube. I never made the connection back when he was an assistant coach. He asked me if Chris Dailey still coaches at UConn and I told him that she did. He said he still remembers when Chris came to Oxford (Mass.) High to recruit Berube and what a big deal that was. Reno is 37 so that visit took place at least 20 years ago so next time you wonder why UConn is such a major player in recruiting, it doesn't hurt that their coaches can leave a lasting impression like Chris Dailey did two decades ago.

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