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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

UConn's Hayes, Rutgers' Sykes to square off again

There will be no trash-talking texts being exchange between former AAU teammates Tiffany Hayes and April Sykes as they prepare to lead their teams That is simply not the kind of friendship the two seniors have forged over the years.

The two will likely exchange a quick nod and perhaps even a quick hug before tonight's Big East quarterfinal between Hayes' UConn squad and Sykes' Rutgers team and then their team's respective leading scorers will square off for perhaps the final time.

If that is the case, they will have plenty of memories of that magical summer before the start of their college careers when they were stars of a powerhouse Essence AAU squad which won the Nike National title and also included the Rutgers' duo of Chelsey Lee (who is out for the season with a shoulder injury) and Erica Wheeler as well as Oklahoma's Whitney Hand.

"It was something you can't describe," Sykes said. "I don't even think you see it in AAU basketball today, we had a bond - Tiffany Whitney Hand, Chelsey Lee and myself, we were like the Dream Team with the Lakers back in the day with Magic (Johnson). We had a different focus from our other teammates because we carried ourselves as college players already and we were top 20 (rated players( in the country and we carried it into every game. We didn't lose a game that summer, we were the No. 1 team and it was great playing with those guys. We (Sykes and Hayes) were interchangeable and it carried over to college, I play the point sometimes and she played the point. We just had fun learning and winning games. In our free time we are goofy, all of us are friends, we enjoy each other and make each other laugh. It is something that I loved and miss but at the same time you have to grow up and come to college. The experience with those guys in the summer time was like no other."

This will be the sixth that Hayes and Sykes will meet up in their college careers. Both have aspirations of playing professionally so perhaps they will meet up again either overseas or in the WNBA. If that does happen they will continue their mutual admiration society as there is a tremendous amount of respect.

"As friends we try not to talk about it," Sykes said. "We call each other and talk about other teams and say 'good luck and kick butt.' But when we do play against each other, we don't talk about us 'oh, I am going to get buckets on or outscore you.' We don't have that kind of friendship. We are just two goofy kids and are like 'good luck, hope you play well and lose.' We stay goofy, silly things like that. Most of the time me and Tiffany are playing against each other so that is always challenging and funny. Her mom is always at the game (saying) 'they are always calling fouls on each other.' It is fun, I enjoy seeing her do well. We will text each other after games and we have a lot coming up after our college careers so it is great for us being together coming from that AAU program."

Rutgers rallied past Marquette on Friday night in an ugly game so I asked Sykes what the Scarlet Knights would need to do better against UConn.

"Everything," Sykes said with a laugh. "We have to start the game off (better). We got our jitters out of the way. I have to make shots, we have play to the best of our ability and play defense because those guys can execute like no other team in the country, they are fast and can get easy buckets. They can go up 10-1 or 10-0 in a heartbeat. It is about us playing our game and keeping them (out of their) flow."

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