Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Big night for former Huskies

It was a night to remember for some UConn graduates as six of the nine former Huskies in action scored in double figures in WNBA action Friday night.

Asjha Jones matched her season high with 20 points to go with 11 rebounds and two assists for her second double-double of the season in a 77-64 win over Washington. Tina Charles chipped in with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while Renee Montgomery added 10 points.

Charde Houston had 16 points (12 coming on four 3-pointers), five rebounds and four assists in Phoenix's 84-81 win over Chicago. For the Sky, Swin Cash also had 16 points to go with five rebounds and two assists. Cash's point total was one off of her season high set in the previous game against Indiana.

Tiffany Hayes had the best scoring game of her young WNBA career with 15 points (in just 15 minutes) in Atlanta's 102-92 win over Tulsa.

I thought I'd share a video that was taken of Sandrine Gruda after France secured a berth in the Olympics.

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France joins Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey as teams which have qualified for the Olympics after winning quarterfinals on Friday. The final spot will be determined on Saturday and Sunday. Quarterfinal losers Argentina, Canada, Japan and Korea will play in semifinals on Saturday with the winners moving onto Sunday's game which will determine the final Olympic spot.

I did a little checking and FIBA is planning to announce which qualifiers secure which slots in the Olympic draw. When the draw was announced qualifiers No. 1, 2 and 4 will be in the round robin pool with the U.S., Angola and China while qualifiers No. 3 and 5 in the other pool. It would seem logical that the final team will become qualifier No. 5 meaning that the U.S. will have three of the four quarterfinal winners in their pool.

FIBA said in the Olympic press kit that the draw for the Olympic qualifiers will be conducted after the final game is played. That should happen around 1 p.m. Eastern time since the final game in the qualifying tournament is slated to tip at 11 a.m.

Czech Republic, France, Croatia, Turkey earn Olympic spots

The first portion of the Olympic qualifying tournament ended today with Croatia, Czech Republic, France and Turkey earning spots in the Olympics.

Croatia was up first and won a tough test against Canada 59-56 in the first of four quarterfinals. The Czech Republic raced out to a 17-4 lead after one quarter but had to hold on for a 53-47 win over Japan. Turkey was up next and beat Argentina while France wrapped up the quarterfinals by beating Korea.

Now the four quarterfinal losers get to fight it out for the last remaining spot in the Olympics beginning on Saturday when Japan plays Korea and Canada meets Argentina. The winners will play on Sunday in what is an Olympic play-in game.

Three of the qualifiers will be in Pool A with the U.S., China and Angola with two qualifiers in Pool B at the Olympics with host Great Britain, Australia, Russia and Brazil. I haven't heard yet which teams will be slotted into which spots in the round robin portion of the Olympic tournament.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anderson Cooper 360 not doing piece on Hardwick suit

Just heard back from the people at CNN who informed me that there will not be a segment about Kelley Hardwick's employee discrimination lawsuit against UConn coach Geno Auriemma, USA Basketball and the NBA on Anderson Cooper's show.

Here is the text from the email I received a few minutes ago:

"Just wanted to update you on this and make you know that Anderson Cooper 360 will not be doing a piece on the Hardwick lawsuit."

Yesterday I had received word that they were investigating the matter and word was that it would be featured on last night's show. That obviously did not happen. Nobody from CNN had contacted UConn about the story but I'm uncertain whether they looked into the matter and deemed that it was worthy of devoting a segment on it or simply that the talk of it being featured was simply overstated.


Kara Lawson thriving with Connecticut Sun

Yesterday I headed down to the Mohegan Sun complex because I felt it was time to do a story on the impressive season veteran guard Kara Lawson is having with the Sun.

Space restrictions kept me from getting all the stuff from my 10-minute interview with Lawson into my story.

One part that I found compelling is when Lawson discusses the balancing act of wanting to play basketball and also desiring to start a family with her husband. Somebody as pragmatic as Lawson certainly has gone over the options and said she is not ready just yet to take time away from basketball to have children.

"It is not something we are trying to mix right now, that would present a whole lot of different hurdles to
go over, good hurdles," Lawson said. "With me being healthy for the first time in three years, I am kind of anxious to see how good I can be being healthy, ride it out and see how successful we can be as a group.

"Down the road absolutely we want to have a family, we want to have kids that is down the road and certainly not something that is imminent.

"I love to play still. I don't necessarily think that basketball and having a family is mutually exclusive
but I do think it will probably be towards the end of my career. I am still young, I am still 31. When I
look at different players across the league some have had kids like Candace Parker early but when you look
at Lisa, she had her first at 3, Ruthie (Bolton) did it after she was retired at like 36-37, I know my mom didn't have me until she was 36. I don't feel that pressure that I have to make all these decisions right now but it certainly something that we talk about because it is something you have to plan for but I feel like I
am in the prime of my career."

Another subject I asked her about is how difficult it is to get up each day during the offseason and put the time in at the gym and in the gym since her job as a women's basketball analyst at ESPN keeps her from heading overseas to play during the winter.

"It is a challenge. I try to look at my situation as what are the advantages instead of what are the
disadvantages. To me the advantages are 1)  less wear and tear 2) my mind is fresh and I have a great
passion for the game and I am never burnt out. A lot of players come back from overseas and they are
really burnt out. The other thing it allows me to do is it allows me to hone in and focus on skills that I
want to improve which a lot of times you don't get to do in 5 on 5 settings. It takes a lot of commitment
because I do all the stuff for ESPN in offseason so it is not like I have many hours in the day to be able
to do it but I have to be really disciplined on the road and sometimes colleges and universities I am
covering sometimes their coaches open up the doors to the gym themself and I am able to get my work in."

Lawson also discussed the reaction she has received since she announced that she would be donating money to the Pat Summitt Foundation for every 3-pointer she makes this season.

"Everybody is obviously really supportive," Lawson said. "We have had a lot of different inquiries as far as people who want to contribute as well. I've had people send me money in the mail so hopefully we will get something towards the end of the year that we can publicize. We really weren't doing it to make it a campaign, we were really just doing it to support (Summitt) and have something in conjunction with the season but there has been quite a big response so hopefully people will continue to help. After Olympic break we want to put something together so peole can go somewhere, a website of wherever to contribute.

"We kind of got a taste of it (last year when her husband was training to run in the New York Marathon in honor of Summitt) and got to see how much of an impact she has had on the game and how wide spread her impact was. In particular the support we have gotten from the people here in Connecticut has been phenomenal."


Update on Anderson Cooper's segment on employee discrimination lawsuit

I just wanted to let you know the latest on Kelley Hardwick's employee discrimination lawsuit against Geno Auriemma, USA Basketball and the NBA being featured on a segment on Anderson Cooper's show on CNN.

I believed it was going to air last night but when it didn't I reached out to CNN to find out the air date and hopefully a synopsis of the angle the segment would be taking.

"The segment is still being worked on and airdate has not been determined yet" is the response I received.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Olympic qualifying draw down to final eight

Pool play in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Ankara, Turkey wrapped up today with Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Mozambique and Mali being eliminated.

The top two teams in each of the four pools advance to the quarterfinals. The winners of the quarterfinals will earn Olympic berths with the four quarterfinal losers going into a separate single-elimination draw with the winner claiming the final spot in the Olympics.

Speaking of Mali, I headed down to Connecticut Sun practice so I could do a story on Kara Lawson. I took the chance to ask Sun coach Mike Thibault why Astan Dabo, who was taken by the Sun with the ninth overall pick in April's WNBA draft, did not play for Mali.

Thibault said that when he spoke to Dabo a month ago she said she may not be playing in the tournament. He also said that she is considering heading to the U.S. to work out with some coaches in Houston.

As for the Olympic qualifier, Turkey, Czech Republic, Croatia and France each won their groups while Japan, Argentina, Korea and Canada also advanced to Friday's quarterfinals.

Croatia and Canada will play in the first quarterfinal at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time on Friday. Japan and the Czech Republic are up next followed by the Turkey/Argentina and France/Korea games.

It remains to be seen how the teams will be slotted into the Olympic draw. It seems to be a safe assumption that whoever emerged out of the four quarterfinal losers will be the fifth and final qualifier but I'm not sure if they will use a points scored or allowed tiebreaker or simply a blind draw to determine spots 1-4.

Some familiar names finished among the statistical leaders after group play. Puerto Rico's Jasmine Sepulveda, who played collegiately at South Florida, was the second leading scorer with an average of 22 points. Former Old Dominion star Clarisse Machanguana was the third best scorer (19 points per game) and also third in rebounding (10.5). Canada's Courtney Pilypatis, a former star at Vermont, ranked third in assists at 5.5 per game.

Jessica McCormack, who was briefly at UConn, was not a member of the New Zealand squad which lost to the Czech Republic and Argentina.

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Lawsuit against Auriemma, NBA focus of CNN show

The pending employee discrimination lawsuit filed against Geno Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball will be addressed on the Anderson Cooper show which will air on CNN from 8-9 p.m.

Word I'm hearing is that nobody from UConn was approached by CNN for comment or to be a guest on the show and there is nothing on Cooper's site or twitter feed specifying the focus of the segment. Perhaps it will be a chance for NBA security official Kelley Hardwick and/or her attorney to tell their side of the story but I guess we'll have to tune in to see what comes out of the show.

UPDATE AT 9 P.M.: I sat through the 8-9 p.m. show which I thought was going to include a segment on the lawsuit referenced above but there was nothing on the subject. I have to admit to never having watched any Anderson Cooper show. There is another one of his shows slated to run from 10-11 p.m. but on his official site has no mention of Geno Auriemma or Kelley Hardwick but does mention an interview with the cast of "Sister Wives." I am sure the folks at UConn will have no problem with "Sister Wives" interviews on the show if it means less publicity on the lawsuit Auriemma is facing. I guess there's nothing else to say except "stay tuned."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Abrosimova set to join Seattle

The move has been rumored for a month or two and with Seattle's move of waiving Victoria Dunlap, it looks as if former UConn star Svetlana Abrosimova is returning to the WNBA's Seattle Storm.

I'll keep an eye on the box from the Seattle/Washington game which is starting at 7 p.m. but the target date for Abrosimova's return has been listed as June 26. The timing couldn't be better for UConn fans as Seattle is coming to town for a game against the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Samuelson sisters transfer to Mater Dei

According to a report in the Orange County Register, former UConn recruiting target Karlie Samuelson and her younger sister Katie Lou, who has caught the eye of the UConn coaching staff, have transferred from Edison High to Mater Dei, the alma mater of UConn sophomore wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

"They went through the interviews, the evaluations and everything required to get into Mater Dei,” Kiernan told the Orange County Register. “These are the most solid transfers you could find.”

The Samuelsons have already started practicing at Mater Dei and are expected to play summer basketball with their new teammates at Mater Dei.

Karlie Samuelson is a rising senior wing who picked Stanford over UConn, citing a desire to go to college close to home. Katie Lou, considered by many as the most talented of the three Samuelson sisters, will be a sophomore.

Connecticut Sun draft pick in action today

For those curious about Astan Dabo, the Connecticut Sun's first-round pick in April's WNBA draft, she will be playing for Mali in the Olympic qualifying tournament which began today in Turkey. UPDATED AT 4 P.M. (OK, maybe she won't be in action after all. Mali did play Canada but Dabo did not get into the game won by Canada 89-23).

Dabo and Mali will square off with Canada at 2:15 p.m. Eastern time and it is available on . FYI, it looks like there is a fee charges and subscription needed so you can try as well as on youtube at and see if that works.

Canada's team will feature some familiar names including Notre Dame rising junior Natalie Achonwa.

Mali wraps up preliminary play against France on Wednesday.

UConn and U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma is expected to leave for Turkey later on today so he can scout potential Olympic opponents since three of the United States' five opponents in pool play will come from the Olympic qualifying tournament.

When Maya Moore, UConn's all-time leading scorer, was in Connecticut earlier this month she was uncertain where she would be playing in the winter after Ros Casares folded but said that she had people working on some things.

Well, today on her twitter page Moore announced that she will be playing in Shanxi Xing Rui Flame in China after the end of the WNBA season.

One of her teammates will be 6-8 Australian Liz Cambage, who was taken one spot behind Moore and No. 2 overall in the 2011 WNBA draft.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Leedham named to Olympic squad; Phillips left off

It's hardly a stunning announcement considering that she has led Great Britain in scoring for the last six friendlies but former Cheshire Academy star Johannah Leedham has been officially named to Great Britain's Olympic women's basketball team.

"Being selected in the final 12 as an individual is a very proud moment for me and is something I will cherish forever," Leedham said in a press release announcing the team's selection. "I'm really excited to be in the Olympic Village, I can't quite imagine how great it is going to be at the moment.

"For us as a team it is unbelievable. We have come so far in recent years and achieved what was needed to qualify for London 2012. We are so excited to be at the Olympics, we have worked so hard and all the girls definitely deserve their place. We can't wait to get going."

Leedham is joined by Dominique Allen, Rose Anderson, Kim Butler, Stef Collins, Temi Fagbenle, Chantelle Handy, Julie Page, Natalie Stafford, Azania Stewart, Rachael Vanderwal, Jenaya Wade-Fray

Leedham has emerged as Great Britain's most consistent offensive option during the Olympic tuneup games. She was named the MVP of the International Foundation Tournament played earlier this month in Turkey even though Great Britain lost to Turkey in the tournament.

The news was not as good for former Connecticut Sun guard Erin Phillips who was not named to Australia's Olympic squad.

Phillips played for Australia in the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships but was not among 12 players named to the squad. Unlike Lauren Jackson, Liz Cambage and Jenna O'Hea, Phillips opted to play in the WNBA during the early part of the season. It's uncertain whether that had anything to do with Phillips being left off the squad.

Laura (Summerton) Hodges, who played 44 games with the Connecticut Sun during the 2005 and 2006 seasons and drew three starting assignments during the 2006 season, did make the squad.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another impressive effort for Leedham

Time for another update on former Cheshire Academy star Johannah Leedham who continues to impress in Great Britain's preparation for the Olympics.

Great Britain didn't just upset the Czech Republic but led by Leedham's 19 points and 12 steals, it rolled to an 81-57 victory. It was the sixth straight game that Leedham led Great Britain in scoring.

It's hardly the way that the Czech Republic wanted to play heading into the start of the Olympic qualifying tournament later this week.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brianna Banks receives high praise

After finishing her round at the Travelers Championship Pro-Am and making sure the assembled media know that she recorded four pars, UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey provided an update on how the Huskies have been looking in the offseason.

Dailey raved about the growth of rising sophomore guard Brianna Banks, both on and off the court.

"The kids are good, they are working hard," Dailey said. "Brianna Banks is like a different kid. She is different academically, basketball wise, in the office more. She has probably been in the office more the last few weeks than all of last year. She is just (at) a different comfort level. After having gone through I think she is in a really good place. I don't know how it translates into basketball; it translates into growing up. It is definitely nice to see and that will help with basketball because she will approach things differently and in the right way. It is great to see.

"There are always conversations but you don't know what it means. You can talk until you are blue in the
face but until kids internalize it and make a change and understand it doesn't matter. She seems to have
done that now and hopefully she will continue and send her into the fall."o

Dailey also said "the freshmen are doing well, they have a nice way about them" and Kiah Stokes is planning to stay at UConn for both summer sessions "to give herself a chance to rehab (her injured foot).
"It is going to be a process, she is still in a boot. Her spirits are good."

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Geno fails to finish Pro-Am round

On a brutally hot day UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma stopped playing in the Travelers Championship Pro-Am on the back nine.

Auriemma was taken to the medical tent and treated. Auriemma was seen smiling and laughing while talking with security officials before getting into his car so he could be driven home by his son Michae. Tournament director Nathan Grube refused comment on what Auriemma was treated for. WWE wrestler Booker T, who was in Auriemma's group, thought Auriemma was dealing with dehydration and that Auriemma stopped playing on the 13th hole. An official working with Auriemma's group told one member of the media that it could have been related to a back issue.

Geno talks about support he's been receiving

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma met with the media for about two minutes before he teed off in the Travelers Championship Pro-Am on Wednesday.

Obviously, he was asked for his reaction about the impending employee discrimination lawsuit being filed against him by NBA security official Kelley Hardwick and specifically the support he has been receiving from people in Connecticut.

"(It's) just like I thought they would," Auriemma said. "It is always nice to see. I have done a lot for a lot of people in Connecticut so I am not surprised. It's like my wife said 'those people who didn't like me like me less and those people who like me like me the same' so it is a net loss."

Auriemma said he never considered pulling out of the pro-am to avoid being questioned about the lawsuit which was filed last week in New York.

"This is what I do," Auriemma said. "I am not going to let anything change the way I go about my job, the way I go about my life. I f I was scared of anything I wouldn't be out here but I am not."

Finally, he was asked if the lawsuit would be a distraction in the preparation for the Olympics.

"It better not be and I don't think it will be because we've got  players who have won an Olympic gold medal before and they know how to win one," Auriemma said. "We have six who have never played in the Olympics who really want to win one bad. I talked to Diana (Taurasi) yesterday and I think this team is as focused and as intent on not only winning a gold medal but doing something that has never been done before."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Report: Former UConn recruiting target commits to Tennessee

According to a tweet by Kevin Lynch of the Blue Star Report and the Philadelphia Belles, former UConn recruiting target Jannah Tucker committed to Tennessee.

Tucker is a 6-foot wing from Randallstown, Md. whose name has been associated with UConn in the past but there was never the sense that either UConn was pushing hard for her or that Tucker would become a Husky. The closest she came to visiting UConn was when she sat with Connecticut incoming freshman Breanna Stewart (who was her AAU teammate) at the UConn/Villanova game.

Tucker, a member of U-18 national team, is a good get for Tennessee. She was named captain of the last year's U-16 squad and reminds me a little bit of Kelly Faris with her ability and willingness to contribute in a variety of ways other than just scoring.

Former Cheshire Academy star and 2010 Connecticut Sun third-round pick Johannah Leedham was named the MVP at the International Federation Tournament after averaging 21.7 poinrs in the three games.

Leedham had 29 and 22 points in Great Britain's wins over Korea and Argentina before wrapping up the tournament with 14 points in a 73-54 loss to host Turkey on Sunday.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

UConn to play Marquette, Notre Dame twice next season

The Big East just announced its schedule grid for the upcoming season.

UConn will play a home and home series with Notre Dame for the fourth straight season. With West Virginia leaving for the Big 12, each team will play two teams twice.

In a little bit of a surprise, Marquette was the team chosen to play the Huskies twice in the 2012-13 season.

UConn will host DePaul, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Syracuse and Villanova and will play on the road against Cincinnati, Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's and South Florida.

Unlike past seasons when the Big East announced grids for multiple years, with the expected departures and arrivals of teams this schedule formula is good for only the upcoming season.

Here is a look at who the teams will play twice during the 2012-13 season. The dates and times of the game are expected to be announced around Labor Day.

Cincinnati: Marquette, Rutgers
UConn: Marquette, Notre Dame
DePaul: Louisville, Pittsburgh
Georgetown: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Louisville: DePaul, South Florida
Marquette: Cincinnati, UConn
Notre Dame: UConn, Providence
Pittsburgh: DePaul, Georgetown
Providence: Notre Dame, Villanova
Rutgers: Cincinnati, St. John's
St. John's: Rutgers, St. John's
Seton Hall: St. John's, South Florida
Sout Florida: Louisville, Seton Hall
Syracuse: Georgetown, Villanova
Villanova: Providence, Syracuse

Prestigious honor for Tina Charles

Connecticut Sun center and former UConn star Tina Charles has been named the winner of the WNBA's Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.

Charles will be recognized for earning the honor at tonight's game against the Los Angeles Sparks with WNBA President Laurel Richie on hand to present Charles with the award.

Here is the official release from the WNBA:

NEW YORK, June 13, 2012 –   The 2010 WNBA Rookie of the Year center Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun is the recipient of the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award in recognition of her outstanding work in the community in 2011, the league announced today.  The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the characteristics of a leader in the community and reflects Staley’s leadership, spirit, charitable efforts, and love for the game.  

"Tina Charles is the personification of the WNBA's mission to inspire others both on and off the basketball court," said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. "Tina is not only an outstanding athlete, but a generous giver who funded the full cost of an elementary school in Western Africa. We are so proud of her accomplishments.”

The Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award is presented annually.  Each WNBA team nominated one player and a designated committee selected Charles as the winner.  The WNBA will make a $10,000 donation to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America on behalf of Charles.

"I continue to be impressed by the foresight and generosity of the women of the WNBA,” said WNBA Legend and University of South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley.  “Tina's contribution for a tremendous need in Mali will assure that community has a bright future. I am so proud to be associated with her and community efforts."  

Wanting to make an impact in the world, Charles’ partnered with OmniPeace and buildOn to construct a new school in Mali, a land-locked country in Western Africa.  The elementary school is located in the Sikasso Region of Mali and will be used during the day to give a new generation of underprivileged children a chance of receiving an education and will be used in the evenings for adult literacy classes. In addition, Charles remains actively involved with the organization and continues to help end violence against African women, educate children and continue to fight gender discrimination in Mali.

"I am so honored to receive the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award,” Charles said.  “Because of what it stands for, and also because of the other players who have been recognized with this award, it will always be a highlight of my basketball career.  I have known for a long time that I wanted to give back, and my experience helping to build a school in Mali has inspired me to continue seeking new ways to help those in need.  When my professional basketball career is finished, I hope I will have made as much of an impact off the court as on it.”


Monday, June 11, 2012

More from Geno on discrimination allegations

Thanks to the folks at USA Basketball, here is a denial from UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma about the allegations made by a former NYPD officer who worked security at a 2009 event where Auriemma coached the U.S. national team in a tournament in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

"This claim is beyond false," Auriemma said in a statement. "I will defend myself to the fullest, and I'm confident that the truth will ultimately prevail.  In the meantime, I remain focused on representing the United States this summer and getting our team ready to compete for the gold medal."
The only comment USA Basketball, which is also included in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Kelley Hardwick in a New York court today, was:
"USA Basketball just became aware of this lawsuit today.  As it is our policy not to discuss pending legal matters, we will have no further comment while this case is active."


Report: Geno Auriemma subject of a lawsuit

My intention was to not post anything this week on the blog unless it was substantial news since I am on vacation. Well, a New York Times report that a former New York Police Department undercover officer has filed a lawsuit against UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma as well as the NBA and USA Baskeball alleging he requested Kelley Hardwick be removed from her role as a security officer at the Olympics would fall under the criteria of something "substantial."

For those who didn't read the story, here is what Kelley Hardwick is alleging. First, back in 2009 while Auriemma, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, joined Hardwick and Rachel Shannon, another member of the secuity detail, for drinks at a hotel bar while all three were at a tournament in Ekaterinburg, Russia. When Hardwick and Shannon left the bar, Auriemma joined them on the elevator.

According to the New York Times report Hardwick said:

“He puts his hand on my left arm and goes to kiss me. I grabbed his face and mushed him.”
She yelled at him, she said: “You better check yourself before you get hurt!”

In the story Hardwick said she was willing to dismiss the incident until she received word that Auriemma had requested she be removed from providing security at this summer's Olympics, a role she served in for the last two Olympics.

Hardwick filed a lawsuit in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan alleging that Auriemma successfully lobbied that Hardwick be moved from her position after she pushed Auriemma away in the hotel hallway. The NBA chief counsel, in the story, said that USA Basketball decision to remove Hardwick "had nothing to do with Auriemma."

In the Times story her  lawyer Randolph McLaughlin said “if Geno hadn’t tried to send a message of control by reaching into her company, she would not have filed this.”

Auriemma responded to the allegations with an emailed statement “I was unaware of this lawsuit until hearing about it in media reports today and therefore will have no comment.”  

UConn and Auriemma are not commenting any further.  I sent an email to USA Basketball requesting comment a few minutes ago and if I hear back I will make certain to update this entry.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Leedham leads Great Britain past Canada

Former Cheshire Academy star and 2010 Connecticut Sun third-round pick Johannah Leedham had 15 points, six rebounds and two assists as Great Britain defeated Canada 70-57 in a friendly on Saturday.

Natalie Stafford led Great Britain with 16 points (hitting 7 of 8 from the field) while Harvard rising sophomore Temi Fagbenle.

Kim Smith had a game-high 19 points to lead Canada while Notre Dame rising junior Natalie Achonwa had 15 points, eight rebounds and two assists.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Former UConn star in select company

ESPN the Magazine in conjunction with ESPNW has released a list of 33 female sports figures "who will change the way the game is played."

Making the list under the category of "The Fixer" is former UConn star Dr. Leigh Ann Curl, who became the first woman to be a team orthopedic surgeon in the NFL when she was hired to that position by the Baltimore Ravens.

Curl played at UConn from 1981-85 and when she graduated (with summa cum laude honors) she was UConn's third all-time leading scorer with 1,388 points.

The NCAA released a report on women's basketball attendance stating that it set a record of 11,210,832 which broke the mark of 11,160,293 set during the 2008-09 season.

Tennessee led all Division I teamsin average attendance per home game (14,414) with UConn ranking fourth (9,168).

Monday, June 04, 2012

Florida Gulf Coast completes Paradise Jam field

Florida Gulf Coast, who employs former UConn guard Mel Thomas as its director of basketball operations, is the final team confirmed as taking part in the Paradise Jam.

Florida Gulf Coast, which will be in the Reef Division, will play DePaul in its first game on Nov. 22 at 3:30 p.m. The following day at 3:30 p.m. comes a game against South Carolina and the Eagles will play Hampton at 1:15 p.m. on Nov. 24.

UConn will headline the Island Division bracket and will have games against Wake Forest, Purdue and Marist from Nov. 22-24. The Marist game is scheduled for Nov. 23 at 8:15 p.m. Wake Forest and UConn will play on the 22nd, at 6 p.m. while the Purdue/UConn game will be on Nov. 24 and should be the final game of the tournament, starting at 8:15 p.m.

The winners of the brackets will be determined by results in round-robin play. Teams will not play those squads in the other bracket.

Here's a link to the bracket and UConn has included a link to packages the school is offering for the event

Atlanta Drean signs another UConn grad

A year ago the Atlanta Dream did not have a former UConn player on its roster. But with the signing of Jessica Moore, the two-time defending WNBA Eastern Conference champions have three former Huskies among its 11 players.

Moore played for the Connecticut Sun last season averaging 1.7 points in 6.9 minutes per game.

She joins Ketia Swanier, who was signed in the offseason, and Tiffany Hayes, taken in the second round in April's WNBA draft as UConn grads on the Dream.

Moore takes the roster spot which became available when Courtney Paris was waived.

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Wisconsin offically announces Michala Johnson transfer

There is a story up on the University of Wisconsin website announcing that former UConn forward Michala Johnson is transferring there. This is not exactly new news but figured I would pass it on.

Johnson will sit out next season and have two years of eligibility remaining.


Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey to play in Travelers Pro-Am

Since I am in golf mode, sitting here at one of the Connecticut high school golf tournaments, I figured I would pass on the fact that Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey are among the Travelers Championship Pr-Am participants announced today.

UConn is well represented on the list as Auriemma and Dailey are joined by UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, his associate head coach George Blaney, former assistant coach Tom Moore and former star player Scott Burrell. UConn AD Warde Manuel is also scheduled to take part in the event which will be held on June 20 at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Hectic summer for Breanna Stewart

My features on UConn incoming freshmen Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson have already been published and my piece on Breanna Stewart will be running in tomorrow's edition of the Register.

One interesting part about Stewart is her whirlwind schedule. She has recently been in Colorado Springs for the U-18 team trials and then spent several days in the Orlando area for the U-18 training camp. She flew home to the Syracuse area today but that won't be the last traveling she does this summer.

She said she will be heading to Connecticut for a brief visit on June 5 before returning home for a week. On June 13 she will be back to take some summer classes and will stay in Storrs except for June 22-23 when she goes back home for her high school graduation. She will then go back to UConn until July 6 before heading to Los Angeles a few days later for the ESPYs since she is up for the Gatorade national female athlete of the year award. She will go straight home after that and will remain there until Aug. 3 when she heads back to Colorado Springs for the final training camp for the U-18 team. After nine days at the U.S. Olympic Training Center Stewart and the rest of the U-18 squad will head to Puerto Rico for the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship for Women.

This is the last of the stories and blogs to come from my trip to the U-17 and U-18 training camp. I think it was time well spent as I was able to write profiles on the three incoming freshmen as well as catch up with players down there who are on UConn's recruiting radar.

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Maya Moore not focused on issues with her European team

Anybody who has spent even a few minutes with former UConn star Maya Moore knows she tends to focus on the talk at hand.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Moore has been more concerned with the goings on with her WNBA team than the news that the European team she played for during the winter has folded.

There were some rumors of Moore landing in Galatasaray in Turkey to replace Diana Taurasi (who is headed to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg) but Moore said nothing is official yet.

What is known is that Ros Casares, based in Valencia, Spain will not be defending their EuroLeague title. Financial problems let Ros Casares to release its players and withdraw from the EuroLeague.

"You never want a team to fold but the club had to do what they had to do," Moore said before Friday's game between the Minnestoa Lynx and Connecticut Sun.. "I was just focused on here, I don't try to focus too much on things that are too far away. I have some good people working for me and I will be fine and everybody will.

"I am still working on some things so we'll see."

Staying on the subject of the European season, there have been internet reports mentioning that former UConn star and current Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery will join fellow WNBAers DeWanna Bonner and Kelly Miller as part of a revamped Nadezhda Orenburg (Russia) squad. It's not exactly new news in terms of the Montgomery signing.

"I signed pretty early," Montgomery said. "I was already talking about where I signed towards the end of the overseas season this year. It is a great organization, it is Russia so that always speaks for itself.
You always want to be on a good program that can go far, it is the EuroLeague so it is going to be in a great
league. I want to be on a good team that can win a championship. I haven't won a championship
professionally yet so my goal is to end better (than last season)."

Kalana Greene said she is unsure about which team, if any, she will be playing for in the winter.

Speaking of Greene, she will be reunited with her UConn coach Geno Auriemma to shoot an instructional video for the USOC. There are some regulations that would prevent any of Auriemma's current players from being used and it needed to be somebody familiar with Auriemma and his system.

"When the Godfather asks for a favor, I have to give it to him," Greene said with a laugh. "I can't deny his favor because he might not ask again. He needed some help doing a video and they needed a player who knows his system, it would make it pretty easy he wouldn'r have to teach me anything. This is my international marketing experience.

"He is a good guy and every time I see him, everytime I talk to him I get something from him just to spend time with him. He is a great guy, anything I can ever do to for him I will always do."

Finally a could of items from the interview with Moore.

I asked her for her reaction to Tina Charles' philanthropic side emerging as she is funding a school in Mali.

"Living with her for a couple of years I know she has a big heart. When she sees an injustice, she is one
of those people who wants to fix it. I am glad she is able to and I know she is getting so much joy out of
it particularly of where we have come from and use it the right way. It is just the beginning for her. We
are kind of early on in our careers and we are finally getting to contribute and impact in ways that are
close to our heart. I am sure there is going to be more to come."
Finally, before I head out to the court for the Sun/Lynx game, I asked Moore about what advice she would give to UConn incoming freshman Breanna Stewart who is the most hyped soon to be freshman for the Huskies since Moore's arrival.

"Just stay focused, work as hard as you can and compete. It is really a great atmosphere for competitors.
If she is willing to do the work that the coaches are telling her to do, it is going to be some great
things from that group. I am excited to watch it. It is a really special time in terms of having some
maturity form the younger players that I played with now that they are getting older, they have had some
struggles and ups and downs. They can take that into this season and I think it is a good time for them to
have a good year."

UConn recruiting target Erica McCall keeping family tradition alive

Erica McCall (No. 41) applies defensive pressure along with recent UConn commit Courtney
Ekmark at the U.S. U-17 national team trials. (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)

A quick glance at the bios of the 24 players at the U.S. junior national team training sessions at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex will show no lack of impressive athletic genes.

However, Erica McCall was the only one who can boast of having a current WNBA player in her family tree.

McCall's older sister is DeWanna Bonner of the Phoenix Mercury who was the 12th leading scorer in the WNBA heading into Friday's games. Despite being born eight years to the day after her sister McCall credits Bonner for being a positive role model and helped pave the way for her.

"Some people don't like to follow their sister's footsteps but I love it," McCall said. "I enjoy everything when I watch her play in the WNBA, it is helping me.

"I am happy that is my sister out there. Not a lot of people get to say their sister plays in the WNBA so I very happy and proud of her."

McCall has more of a power game than Bonner, an athletic and wiry forward who had 22 points in Thursday's loss to Atlanta.

"I love the way she can play every position," McCall said, "I am just trying to be like her and be a more versatile player. I watch her as she grows and I try to grow as well."

McCall doesn't have the range on her jumper as her sister but at the U-17 training camp nobody posted up harder and with more regularity that the UConn Class of 2013 recruiting target.

"I just think there is nobody who works harder than Erica McCall," U.S. U-17 head coach Jill Rankin Schneider said. "She has tremendous work habits and athleticism and to me she is so versatile. She can go inside and outside, her perimeter game has improved over last year maybe the 10-12 foot jump shot facing the basket has really improved."

McCall said she was four the first time she recalls seeing her sister play basketball. Before long McCall was hooked.

"I enjoyed watching her and that is how I got to enjoy basketball, my dad got me into basketball."
McCall's dad is Greg McCall who is the head women's basketball coach at Cal State Bakersfield

With her dad being a Division I head coach and her sister a former star at Auburn, McCall has no lack of qualified people in her inner circle to talk to if the process of selecting a college gets to be too much.

"Their advice in picking schools is it is your choice and don't let anybody influence you, it is all my choice," McCall said.

Here is a video I put together with interviews and action of McCall and other players on UConn's radar during the three days I was in Florida for the U-17 and U-18 training camp.

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Rebounding is name of UConn recruiting target's game

One look at Linnae Harper and the description of "rebounder extraordinaire" is certainly not the first thing to come to mind.

Standing 5-7 and with speed to burn it would be easy to assume that the UConn recruiting target does most of her damage away from the basket. However anybody who takes even a couple of minutes watching Harper play will soon figure out she is not afraid to get inside with the big girls.
Harper has averaged double digits in rebounding in each of her three seasons at Chicago high school powerhouse Whitney Young High School. Right on cue, when the U.S. Under-17 played a friendly against their Brazilian counterparts Harper's first two points came when she grabbed not one but two offensive rebounds.

"I think it was one of my strong suits when I started playing basketball," Harper said. "It's just a knack for the ball, seeing where the shooters shoot and rotate. I try to get my feet set and I just go for the ball. I take a lot of pride but I am used to it now and it is one of the things I do when I am on the court."
U-17 head coach Jill Rankin Schneider, who also coached Harper on the U-16 team in 2011, raves about Harper's knack for rebounding.

"Linnae Harper is one of the best rebounding guards I have ever seen and physically her stature is so impressive," Schneider said. "She is so strong on the boards that she is not that little presence at the point guard spot. Last year she did a great job in that role for us and I have already seen her emerge in this role this year.

"Linnae is a very positive kid and I love her. She has a great outlook and wants to get better. She is all about improving herself and she has done everything we have asked her."

Harper's rebounding prowess came in handy at one U.S. event that she will not soon forget.

Harper and fellow U-17 team members Kaela Davis, Rebecca Greenwell and Taya Reimer were selected to play in an international 3 on 3 tournament.

Everything was going according to plan until the injury bug hit the U.S. squad. Reimer was the first to be sidelined and the team pressed forward even though there would be no substitutes. When Greenwell suffered a knee injury the team was faced with a seemingly impossible challenge of having to play 2 on 3 the rest of the way. With Greenwell and Reimer and everybody else in the U.S. travel party there rooting them on they nearly pulled off the impossible. Even though a gallant effort by Davis and Harper fell short in the bronze medal game against Italy, tournament officials were impressed enough to award an honorary bronze medal to the U.S. squad.

"It was a wonderful challenge," Harper said. "Me and Kaela Davis had to fight and battle against Italy and it was a great, great experience. We almost won that game and it was great to be honored with the bronze.
"It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to play those games and have the mindset to play a full game with no subs. That game was wonderful. I will never forget that game, it was one of the most amazing moments in my life."

There were more magical moments to come during her junior year of high school as Harper led her team to an undefeated season including a four-overtime classic state tournament victory over three-time defending state champion Bolingbrook which was led by UConn commit Morgan Tuck.

"I am just living a dream, staying in the moment and cherishing every moment," Harper said. "It is great to have a perfect season and I am proud to have another chance to represent my country so it is just a wonderful experience overall.

"(The Bolingbrook game) it was a great game, four overtimes and one of greatest games I have ever played in since I started playing basketball. It should have been a state finale game but it was going to come pretty soon. We were ready whenever we had to play them and we had to do whatever we had to do."

Check out a video clip of Harper and other UConn recruiting targets shot during the recently completed U.S. junior national team training camp

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Another dynamic effort for Breanna Stewart

UConn incoming freshman Breanna Stewart finished the four-day U-18 national team training camp in style scoring 25 points and adding five rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots as the U.S. U-18 squad defeated Brazil 97-36.

Fellow UConn signee Morgan Tuck, one of the U.S. team captains along with Stewart, finished with 15 points. Moriah Jefferson, the third future UConn player on the U-18 team, did not play because of a hand injury she suffered in a practice on Tuesday. Jefferson's injury is not considered to be serious but the U.S. medical staff wasn't willing to take an unnecessary risk by playing Jefferson in an exhibition game.

Syracuse commit Brittney Sykes finished with 12 points and 11 assists.

"We’ve had six practices, and to be able play that team defense is impressive," U.S. U-18 coach Katie Meier said in the official USA Basketball release. "I thought we shared the ball very, very well. Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck set the tone. They are the captains, and they are just doing a great job."

Before the U-18 teams squared off the U.S. and Brazilian U-17 teams played in a friendly also at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Kissimmee, Fla.

Diamond DeShields led four U.S. players in double figures with 15 points and she added three assists and four steals to lead the U.S. to an 80-38 win. As for the players on UConn's recruiting radar Linnae Harper had seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals, Brianna Turner had four points and four rebounds while Erica McCall had two points, three rebounds and a blocked shot.

After a productive training camp the coaches canceled the final practice set for tomorrow morning as a reward. The team member will do a little sightseeing since they spent four days in the head of Walt Disney World.

I returned home about an hour ago after spending three days at the training camp. Thanks to everybody who checked out this blog. The blog never had more hits than it did on Thursday and Wednesday's page view total was the third most ever. That figures to be of assistance the next time I have a chance to do something like this. Although I am back, there are more stories and/or blogs to come from my time in Florida. Tomorrow I will post blogs about Harper and McCall and I believe my expanded feature on Breanna Stewart will run in Sunday's paper.