Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

UConn recruiting targets win gold

UConn recruiting targets Erica McCall and Brianna Turner teamed with Diamond DeShields and Kaela Davis to capture the gold medal for the United States at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships in Alcobendas, Spain.

The U.S. went 7-1 in the three-day tournament with the only loss coming to China in pool play. They beat Estonia 21-15 in the quarterfinals, topped Australia 21-13 in the semifinals and then won the gold medal with a 21-13 victory over host and defending champion Spain.

Here are quotes from McCall and Turner courtesy of USA Basketball

How did it feel when the gold medal was placed around your neck?
It was great, especially knowing that we worked really hard for it and it was a great experience.

Was it a different feeling from when you won the FIBA U17 World Championship earlier this summer?
It was totally different for me. I feel like I had more responsibility playing three-on-three. It’s a lot more intense. I think that I worked really, really hard for this one, as compared to the U17 where I didn’t get as much playing time as I did on three-on-three. So, it was a little more special for me because of that.

What was the atmosphere like?
It was a crazy atmosphere. The music was always going and people were always cheering. Playing inside was more like five-on-five, but playing outside in the three-on-three was really different. You had to get used to the outside court. There were so many things going on at once, it was a whole different atmosphere.

How did it feel when the gold medal was placed around your neck?
It felt really great, because we worked hard for every game, especially the championship.

What was it like winning a second world championship gold medal with three of your teammates from the USA U17 World Championship Team?
It was pretty unbelievable. I didn’t expect this to be happening again. It was really fun.

What was the atmosphere like there, especially playing outside?
It was pretty good. I thought it would be hard because of the wind and the heat and stuff. They had a few bugs in the beginning. But, as the day went on it got cooler. It was really great playing outside.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Motion filed to dismiss lawsuit against Geno Auriemma

USA Basketball has filed a motion to dismiss Kelley Hardwick's lawsuit alleging discrimination and harrassment claims as well as claims of retaliation stemming from what Hardwick said was inappropriate advances made by Geno Auriemma against her.

Part of the case for a dismissal is that Hardwick's lawsuit was filed in New York but none of the events Hardwick claims Auriemma and/or USA Basketball engaged in actually happened in the state of New York.

Here is a link to the motion to dismiss

Special night for former Huskies

Before taking the court in search of their first WNBA playoff victory former UConn stars Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery were summoned to the interview stage inside Mohegan Sun Arena along with Connecticut Sun teammate Kara Lawson.

Charles and Montgomery have known for two days that they were named the winners of the MVP and Sixth  Woman of the Year award but it did not become official until the press conference before last year's playoff opener.

WNBA president Laurel Richie captured the essence of both former UConn stars when she recalled the conversations she had with the two of them when she called to inform them that they were winning the prestigious awards.

"When I called Renee two days ago to let her know about this award and said you have to keep this quiet for 48 hours  she said 'oh my God, I think keeping it quiet for 48 hours is going to be harder than everything I ad to do to win the award in the first place.' So Renee I am congratulating twice both for winning the award and for the incredible fortitude it took to keep it quiet."

That was followed by the highlight of the evening's festivities. Montgomery and Richie were posing for photos when the trophy came apart and crashed onto the stage. Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, sitting in the front row, deadpanned "I'm glad it didn't land on your foot."

Then came the time for Richie to announce that Charles joins 2009 MVP Diana Taurasi as the only UConn product to win the WNBA's top individual award.

"I had to ask her if she was OK because she was crying with such, I don't know if it was relief or excitement but I literally had to say Tina are you still there, are you OK?"

Richie, imitating Charles' blubbering, brought a huge smile to Charles face when she recalled that an emotional Charles said "I am still here."

Charles found out to Tuesday's practice and according to Mike DiMauro of The Day of New London, she threw her arms around Thibault and thanked him countless times.

"Ever since I got drafted by the Connecticut Sun he definitely gave me the confidence to go out and play my best and definitely helped me in that area," Charles said. "I think he makes it comfortable for everybody to come out ad explore your game. He allows us to make mistakes and then correct it. He is a great coach, he communicates with us, he is there for us, he does his best to discipline us. He tells us what he wants for us individually and that is one of the main things you want from coaches is communication. During my career with the Connecticut Sun that is the kind of relationship I want with him and he allows that."

Montgomery, who started 57 of the 68 games she played for the Sun in her first two seasons, was told by Thibault before the season that Lawson would be starting and Montgomery would be coming off the bench. For a player accustomed to starting it was not a move that thrilled her but she finished the regular season averaging 11.6 points per game despite not starting a game.

"I just wanted to do whatever role was given to me," Montgomery said. "At the end of the day this is your job so if your boss tells you to do something you should do it. I wasn't going to help my team or myself just sitting around sulking about not starting. As long as this is helping the team then I am fine with it."

Lawson was recognized as the winner of the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award while Richie also announced that Mohegan Sun Arena would host the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game.

Then came the most important matter for the Sun, securing the franchise's first playoff win since 2008. Connecticut beat New York 65-60 to take the 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal. Ironically, the last Sun playoff victory also came against the Liberty on Sep. 20, 2008. The only holdovers from the teams are Connecticut's Asjha Jones and New York's Essence Carson and Leilani Mitchell.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sun battle to win in playoff opener

In many ways it seemed as if the Connecticut Sun won its 2012 playoff opener twice.

The Sun charged out to a 14-point lead in the first half only to allow New York to rallied to tie the game twice in the third quarter. In danger of dropping the first game in the best of three series to a New York Liberty team which backed its way into the playoffs, the Sun responded with a game-deciding 12-0 run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter.

Veteran guard Tan White started the rally with a perfect pass to Kara Lawson for a transition layup and ended it with a steal and layup.

“Once we got a steal, we got in the open court and got a bucket,” White said. “It seemed like things came easy for us after that and I think we just got back in rhythm after that.

“It was a big one, it was a big win for us. We kind of saw how the playoffs were going to be

White's numbers (six points, four rebounds, two steals) don't jump off the page but she delivered some clutch plays and also had a key role in limiting Cappie Pondexter to 3 of 16 shooting from the field.

"We know she is a big piece of their team," White said. "We know she is a great scorer and you are not going to just shut her out but you just want to make sure that everything that she takes is hard so if me and Ally (Hightower) or whoever (guards her) just makes it tough on her to keep her from doing what she wants to do. I think we did a good job of that tonight."

The Liberty made a run in the second quarter to get back into the game. Back to back 3-pointers by Nicole Powell cut a 12-point lead in half and by halftime the Sun's lead was just seven.

New York opened the third quarter with seven straight points to tie the game.

"We knew they were going to come out strong in the second half," Asjha Jones said. "We were ready for it but we couldn't get anything going on offense so to get something easy in transition was real good for us. Tan did a great job tonight."

Tina Charles is named WNBA MVP

Former UConn star and current Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles has been named the most valuable player in the WNBA.Charles scored in double figures in 30 of 33 games during the regular season including a season-high of 30 points in a June 3 game against Washington with 18 double doubles.

Charles set a franchise record by averaging 18 points per game and won the rebounding title for the third time in as many seasons and led the league in double-doubles.
She became the first WNBA players with three 20-point, 20-rebound games when she had 23 points and 22 rebounds in a game against Atlanta on June 17.

Charles, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft, is the WNBA’s career leader with an average of 11.1 rebounds per game.

Charles joins 2009 winner Diana Taurasi as the only UConn graduates to win the WNBA’s top individual honor.

The announcement was made before the Sun hosted the New York Liberty in the opening game in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena. It was also announced that Kara Lawson was named the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner, Renee Montgomery was named the winner of the Sixth Woman of the Year and Mohegan Sun Arena will host the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game.

Charles was quick to credit her teammates for the special which resulted in her winning the WNBA’s top individual award.

“They are why I am here and able to receive this award,” Charles said. “They have propelled me to this position.”

FIBA 3x3 U1-8 championships begin tomorrow

UConn recruiting targets Erica McCall and Brianna Turner join Diamond DeShields and Kaela Davis as members of the United States team playing in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship for Women beginning tomorrow in Spain.

The U.S. opens against against Hong Kong at 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. here in Connecticut) and also play Lithuania and Poland on Friday before wrapping up pool play against Taiwan and China on Saturday.

The tournament wraps up Sunday with quarterfinals, semifinals and then the gold-medal game at 6:15 p.m. in Spain (12:15 p.m. here on the East Coast).

Speaking of Turner, her dad alerted me to a highlight video of her that you might be interested in looking at.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Phoenix Mercury won the WNBA Draft lottery followed by the Chicago Sky and Tulsa Shock. The Washington Mystics, who had a 44.2 percent chance of winning the lottery, ended up with the fourth overall pick.

Brittney Griner of Baylor, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins are top prospects in the WNBA draft. Sugar Rodgers of Georgetown is among the players who could land in Washington.

The Connecticut Sun will pick 11th in the first round as a result of having the second-best record in the league this season.

Auriemma not worried about small numbers

Commitments of top high school seniors are starting to roll in and yet UConn has yet to receive a pledge from one member of the Class of 2013.

UConn recruited Diamond DeShields and Taya Reimer hard but they opted to commit to North Carolina and Notre Dame respectively. The Huskies are known to be recruiting guards Saniya Chong and Linnae Harper and forward Erica McCall.

If UConn doesn't get any commitments that would leave the Huskies with eight players on the team next season. Certainly it would be a special eight players but it would also put the Huskies in the position of having to close out easy victories with at least two starters on the court which could result in a key player getting hurt at the end of a 50-point victory. That is not something the Huskies want to have to deal with.\

When I sat down with Geno Auriemma yesterday (before he headed out on recruiting trips to Chicago and then Atlanta) I asked him if he'd be more open accepting walk ons next season in order to avoid using starters during garbage time and he said he would be but also that they are still working to get to an ideal 12-player roster. That could mean that he knows of a Jacquie Fernandes type of player or players who could join the team next season either on scholarship or as a non-scholarship player (with 11 players on this year's team there are no such concerns).

Auriemma isn't allowed to comment on an specific recruit until they sign letters of intent but looking at the three members of the Class of 2013 on UConn's recruiting radar it is looking more and more like Harper is the longest of long shots to land at UConn. Although attempts to reach her high school coach have been unsuccessful, I've heard that UCLA and Miami are among the teams she is planning to visit. I'm not even sure if Harper will end up visiting UConn and if that is the case she certainly won't be coming to UConn. 

McCall is interesting because she is a California kid who has been accepted at Stanford but UConn is still going after her hard enough to lead me to believe that they like their chances of getting her. Saniya Chong, a New York guard, would be a natural fit both basketball wise and geographically at UConn but don't discount Louisville or even Ohio State in the pursuit of the Ossining High star. The good news is that McCall and Chong are both expected to be in attendance the weekend of Oct. 12-13 when the Huskies host their First Night on Friday night and their first official practice the next morning (with a possible appearance at the UConn/Temple football game). UConn's track record of closing the deal when recruits come to First Night is pretty impressive.

The good news is that this is not the first rodeo for the UConn coaching staff. They knew pretty much from the time they signed the class of Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson that it would be difficult to follow up with a dynamic class the following year. However, while their rivals have been going hard after top Class of 2013 targets, the UConn coaches have been spending quite a bit of time getting a jump recruiting in the Class of 2014. UConn already has a commitment from Arizona guard Courtney Ekmark and have been out to see Brianna Turner, Recee' Caldwell, A'ja Wilson while Sierra Calhoun and LaJahna Drummer are also in the mix with the Huskies so the feeling is that UConn could end up with a strong class in the Class of 2014 even if the haul from the current recruiting class isn't as large as some people may like.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Geno: "Everything I see has me really excited"

While I was working on some UConn football stories inside Gampel Pavilion on Tuesday, Geno Auriemma emerged after watching a workout so I naturally took the opportunity to sit down with him to get caught up on some things.

I think people will be encouraged by what the Hall of Fame head coach had to say about the work ethic, attitude and karma surrounding the 2012-13 Huskies.

"I really like the fact that they go above and beyond what you ask them to do, it seems like," Auriemma said. "I am watching  their conditioning, I am watching them work and I am looking at it saying 'man, there are years some guys are trying to take a short cut. The seniors can't wait to go work out and the freshmen they are psycho workout guys too so there is really nobody creating a bad karma. This group if you ask them to do 10 reps, they want to 15. If you ask them to show up at 6 o'clock there are there at quarter of. They just have a tremendous group dynamic that I can sense already.

"Kiah (Stokes), Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis), Brianna Banks it was hard for them (as freshmen). Now they come back this year and they look like different people. Brianna Banks is a different person, Kiah Stokes is a different person. There are no issues. The playing part I don't pay too much attention to that, I just look at the workouts and how they interact with Shea, Marisa, CD and each other, what they are doing in the morning and afternoons with Amanda Kimball, our strength and conditioning coach. Right now everything I see has me really excited."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Strong rookie season for Tiffany Hayes

Even though she struggled a little bit down the stretch, former UConn star Tiffany Hayes had one of the most productive rookie seasons in the WNBA.

The second-round pick of the Atlanta Dream finished fourth among first-year players with an efficiency rating of 8.6. She also was fifth in scoring (8.6), second in assists (2.1), fourth in 3-pointers made (21), sixth in steals and 10th in rebounding (3.1) while finishing third in free throws made and attempted.

Hayes scored in double figures in 15 games including a stretch when she had at least 10 points a total of 10 times in 11 games.

Tina Charles honored by WNBA

Former UConn star Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun earned her fourth WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week award of the season. It was also her ninth career honor.

Charles averaged 17 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game as the Sun wrapped up the regular season with wins over Indiana and Atlanta.

Charles won the WNBA rebounding title for the third time in as many seasons and set a franchise record by averaging 18 points per game.

Next up for Charles and the Sun is an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with New York beginning on Thursday with an 8 p.m. game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Pam Ward, Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson calling the action.

On Wednesday the draft lottery will be conducted on the 6 p.m. edition of ESPN's SportsCenter

Washington, which finished with a WNBA worst record of 5-29 this season, has a 44.2 percent chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick. Phoenix (7-27) has a 27.6 percent chance of getting the top overall pick followed by Tulsa (17.8 percent) and Chicago (10.4 percent).

Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame are the top prospects in the 2013 WNBA draft.

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Details on First Night

UConn has announced the schedule for the annual First Night fan fest at Gampel Pavilion on Oct. 12 which is the first time the Huskies' men's and women's 2012-13 basketball teams can be seen by the public.

The FanFest outside Gampel Pavilion begins at 3 p.m. on Fairfield Way
Gampel's doors open at 4 p.m. with fans able to watch the UConn/Cincinnati volleyball match.
The autograph session will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. with the event beginning at 7 p.m.

Admission to the event is free.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Top junior Brianna Turner drawing a crowd

Thought I would pass on some info on UConn recruiting target Brianna Turner, who is at the very top of the Huskies' recruiting wish list in the Class of 2014.

Turner's father passed on a list of the college coaches who have visited or are planning to visit Manvel High School before Turner leaves in the middle of next week to play in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship and it is an impressive list to say the least: Baylor, UConn, LSU, Kentucky, Rutgers, Duke, Texas, A&M, North Carolna, Texas Tech and Houston.

Howard Turner also said they'd like to make it up to Hartford for the Feb. 18 UConn.Baylor game  if their schedules permit that to happen.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Connecticut Sun draw New York in playoffs

Despite the New York Liberty's loss to Tulsa tonight, the Liberty clinched the final WNBA playoff spot.

The Liberty, the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, will play the Connecticut Sun in game one of the best of three Eastern Conference semifinals on Sep. 27 at 8 p.m. in a game being televised on ESPN2. The Liberty will host game 2 on Saturday Sep. 29. If necessary, the teams will meet in a winner take all game 3 on Oct. 1 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

All times up now up on UConn's schedule

Updating my entry from yesterday regarding the game times on UConn schedule, UConn has posted all of its start times. The only changes/additions are that the Jan. 9 Georgetown game will start at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 26 game at Cincinnati starts at 8 p.m. and not 7 p.m. Look for SNY to announce the games it will be televising soon.

Here is a link to the schedule

Also, last night the Connecticut Sun announced its all-time team as part of the celebration of the 10th season of the franchise being in Connecticut.

Four former UConn players (Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery and Nykesha Sales) made the list along with the late Margo Dydek, current WNBA stars on other teams (Katie Douglas, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Lindsay Whalen) as well as current Sun players Kara Lawson and Tan White.

It's hard to argue with the selections although if I were voting I would have given serious consideration to putting Sandrine Gruda on the team.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Auriemma, Dailey have eye on the future

Welcome to the age of twitter where it seems as if ever stop on UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey makes checking up on top prospects in the Class of 2014 is highlighted in 140 characters or less.

Auriemma and Dailey made their way down to see Recee' Caldwell, a 5-8 guard from San Antonio, Tex. a couple days ago and today there were some tweets about the duo stopping at Heathwood Hall Episcopal in South Carolina to check out 6-foot-4 forward A'ja Wilson.

With UConn already having a commitment from Courtney Ekmark and having been linked with Brianna Turner and Sierra Calhoun among others and it seems as if the Huskies could be making a run at a strong class.

I know there are fans wishing that the Huskies could bring in a large group in the Class of 2013 but the reality is that trying to recruit the year after securing commitments from Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck is not an easy task. Recruiting sources have told me that UConn has been focusing much of its attention on the Class of 2014 while their rivals have been butting heads over top Class of 2013 prospects. UConn hasn't completely ignored the current group of recruits as the Huskies are after forward Erica McCall and guards Linnae Harper and Saniya Chong but even if UConn gets only one Class of 2013 commitment in the next couple of months, I would recommend that UConn fans remain patient because the reward could come in a special class the following year.

UConn schedule update

UConn has filled in some times that were listed as "to be announced" when the 2012-13 schedule was released earlier this month.

We now know that the Nov. 11 season opener against the College of Charleston is set for 1:30 p.m. while the games against Colgate on Nov. 28, Penn State on Dec. 6 and Oakland on Dec. 19 are all set to tip at 7 p.m.

Using the times listed on the UConn and Big East site as well as websites of opponents who will be hosting games against UConn it looks like the only game time not known is the Jan. 9 game at Georgetown.

Nov. 2 vs. Indiana (Pa.) 7 p.m.
Nov. 7 vs. Holy Family (XL) 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 vs. Charleston, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Texas A&M 2:30 p.m. ESPN2
Paradise Jam at U.S. Virgin Islands
Nov. 22 Wake Forest, 6 p.m.
Nov. 23 Marist, 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 24 Purdue, 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 28 vs. Colgate (XL), 7 p.m.
Dec. 3 vs. Maryland (XL) 7 p.m. ESPN2
Dec. 6 vs. Penn State, 7 p.m.  
Dec. 19 vs. Oakland (XL), 7 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Hartford, 1 p.m.
Dec. 29 at Stanford, 4 p.m. ESPNU
Dec. 31 at Oregon, 3 p.m.
Jan. 5 vs. Notre Dame, 4 p.m. CBS
Jan. 9 at Georgetown
Jan. 12 at Marquette, 4 p.m.
Jan. 15 Louisville (XL) 9 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Jan. 19 vs. Syracuse, 4 p.m. (XL)
Jan. 21 vs. Duke, 7 p.m. ESPN2
Jan. 26 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 vs. Villanova, 7 p.m. (XL)
Feb. 2 at St. John's, 2 p.m. SNY/Big East TV
Feb. 5 vs. Marquette, 7 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. DePaul, 3:30 p.m. ESPNU
Feb. 12 at Providence, 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Rutgers, 4 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Baylor (XL), 9 p.m. ESPN2
Feb. 23 vs. Seton Hall, 4 p.m.
Feb. 26 vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (XL)
Mar. 2 at South Florida, noon
Mar. 4 at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ESPN2
- home games are at Gampel Pavilion unless noted otherwise.

Hartley continues to add to her game

One of the fringe benefits of being the UConn football beat writer is that I have a chance to catch up with the preseason progress of the women's basketball team as well since I work inside Gampel following the Tuesday football press gatherings.

A couple weeks ago I caught up with Kiah Stokes and then yesterday I had a chance to watch a little bit of the pickup game between the UConn players. I've been wanting to do something on Brianna Banks ever since that June day when UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey raved about Banks' complete transformation on and off the court. Thanks to UConn women's basketball SID Pat McKenna I was able to talk to both Banks and Hartley.

Just to illustrate what a dream it is to deal with Hartley, Pat told her I wanted to talk to her after the pickup game. I was at my computer working on my football stuff and hadn't noticed that the scrimmage was over and Pat had yet to emerge from his office. All of a sudden I saw a shadow next to me and it was Bria who grabbed a seat next to me and was ready for her interview.

When I was out there watching the action I was struck by the number of times Hartley drove to the basket. It is something she has done during her first two years but not with as much regularity as a player like Tiffany Hayes so I asked her if that was a part of her game she has been working on.

"It is one thing I have really been working on, finishing with contact, finishing if I have to double pump in the air and getting to the rim," Hartley said. "Also if I start doing that teams will start stepping in (to help) and
that will open up opportunities for my teammates."

That led to the next question of whether Hartley thought she might be playing off the ball more this season with freshman Moriah Jefferson, sophomore Brianna Banks and senior Caroline Doty all there to run the offense.

"I don't know what Coach (Geno Auriemma) is going to do but whatever position he needs me to play. I am happy playing on the ball, I am happy playing off the ball it doesn't matter."

The fact is that if Hartley is able to play the shooting guard and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis steps in as the starting small forward that will give the Huskies a pair of dynamic scoring options on the wing.

One thing I saw during the scrimmage was Hartley playing on a team with Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson and that almost seemed unfair to have those three players on the court together especially as I watched a slimmed down Dolson beat all the other players down the court on successive possessions and then saw Stewart deftly set up Dolson for a layup with a sweet pass across the lane. No disrespect to Kelly Faris or even Maya Moore but it will be fun to watch UConn play when the 6-4 Stewart is at the power forward and 6-5 Dolson playing center.

Speaking of Stewart, Hartley has been impressed with the work ethic of the three incoming freshmen who have been more than holding their own during offseason workouts.

"They are working really hard, our workouts are tough," Hartley said. "When you are coming from high school it is a different level. They have been doing well and proving they are able to stay up there and work really hard throughout the workout."

I also asked Hartley about winning the gold medal at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championships where she played with former UConn star Ann Strother, Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame.

"It was very different. I had never really played 3 on 3 other than a lot of times in practice when we break down certain situations in 3 on 3," Hartley said. "It was about going back to the basics, I think it was a lot harder defensively to guard 3 on 3. There were a lot of times when I might get stuck on a big girl where if I was playing 5 on 5 I would front that because I have help behin me but if you are playing 3 on 3 and you front that they will just throw that over the top. It was more challenging defensive even keeping guards in front of you. The game was a quicker pace so when you got down, you had to really dig down to come back because you are playing a short game."

A backcourt of Diggins and Hartley must have been something to behold and Hartley talked about playing alongside the reigning Big East Player of the Year.

"We played well together. I think we got familiar with each other playing, we play each other all through the season so we are familiar with each other. Then playing with her is a little different. It is nice having her on my team."

Hartley didn't have much of a reaction to the news that Notre Dame will be leaving the Big East for the ACC which isn't surprising since the move figures to happen after Hartley graduates from UConn.

"I am focused on what is going on here now," Hartley said. "I know we will be playing them this season and when we play them we are going to prepare for that. I think it is good. Anytime you are playing a team that many times you know it is going to be a rivalry. It's been competitive, you have a lot of people who want to watch that game and anytime we play you kind of never know who is going to win. It is a good thing for the Big East."

Finally here are Hartley's thoughts on the importance of preseason workouts for getting the younger players (and six of the 11 players are underclassmen) ready for the grueling practices run by Auriemma beginning on Oct. 13.

"It is very important for us to come together as a group. We have some freshmen, we are getting to know 
each other. We had some time together in the summer. I think we have been doing a good job so when Coach comes back we know he is going to challenge us every day in practice and whatever he throws at us we have to be able to take it."

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Soul searching has paid dividends for Brianna Banks

When her freshman season came to an end Brianna Banks couldn't help but be overcome by a sense of emptiness and feeling of unfulfilled promise.

Banks' blazing speed was figured to be put to use during her first year at UConn and that was occasionally it was. But on the biggest stages Banks found herself glued to the bench. Banks never got in during UConn's regular-season losses to Baylor and St. John's, did not play in the Big East final against Notre Dame and then as UConn advanced further in the NCAA tournament, the 5-9 guard from Newnan, Ga. found her role being diminished as Banks played a total of five minutes in the regional semifinals and finals against Kentucky and Penn State. Banks first season at UConn ended with her not getting into the game in a Final Four loss to Notre Dame.

Banks knew something had to change and when she finished her school work and headed home to Georgia she knew it was time to look at herself in the mirror. Three weeks back home was enough time for Banks to realize that the way she was going out her business at UConn simply wasn't cutting it especially with three gifted freshmen coming to UConn.

When she returned to campus in early June her teammates and coaches immediately noticed a difference.

"It started gradually changing as the year went on but in the summer when I went home I came back with a completely different mindset," Banks said. "If I wanted to succeed I had to have a completely different mindset."

I asked Banks if it was something UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey or one of the assistant coaches said that made the difference or was it one of her teammates challenging her to practice at a higher level or perhaps it was mother's sage advice which did the trick.

"It was me," Banks said. "I had to figure out some things for myself and once I did that I came back with a completely different mindset. It is a lot easier when you have the mindset of going hard all the time.

"Fatigue was a lot of it. That caused a lot of my problems being tired and not being able to push through my tiredness mentally."

The first time I heard of the new, improved Brianna Banks came in late June when I caught up with Dailey after her round in the celebrity Pro-Am at The Travelers Championship in Cromwell. Dailey was asked which players were impressing her during offseason workouts and she did not hesitate in mentioning Banks' name.

"Brianna Banks is like a different kid," Dailey said. "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. 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."

Banks could play a key role in the upcoming season especially if UConn looks to press and trap with one of its deepest teams in a few years. The ability for speedy guards like Banks and freshman Moriah Jefferson at the front of the press could wreak havoc with opposing teams.

"We are going to be a running team, all day, completely straight running," Banks said. "I am real excited. I am ready for the season to start. I can't wait."

Banks made an interesting comment when I asked her about Jefferson and fellow freshmen Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart.

"They are really good actually," Banks said. "The freshmen last year, my class, we did well but we didn't have as much potential as they do right now."

Feeling that she didn't actually mean that they had more potential but perhaps that they have adapted to the speed of the game and Banks agreed that "they are a lot quicker to adjust."

I also spoke to junior guard Bria Hartley about Banks (and other topics which will be the subject of another entry later this week).

"Brianna went through a lot of tough workouts this summer," Hartley said. "I think she really had to work on pushing herself and working (through) when she was tired. I just think it was the same thing for me my freshman year. I think this year now she understands that. You can tell in workouts she is pushing herself more and more and working to get better.

"I think she has a very quick first step similar to how Tiffany (Hayes) was when she was here. I think she is the type of player who can create because if she is getting into the lane (the opposing team) is going to have to help so it is going to help open up opportunities with our teammates. She can get to the lane and score anytime she wants in my opinion. Every time she puts her mind to it that she wants to go out there play aggressive and not be tentative she is going to score and she is going to make plays for us."

I asked Bria what led to Banks' transformation.

"I think a lot of that year experience," Hartley said. "It helps you out a lot. I think she is more comfortable. She understands more of what she needs to do more on this team and I think it just comes from having one year under her belt."

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3 Huskies on Wade Trophy watch list

UConn junior center Stefanie Dolson, junior guard Bria Hartley and sophomore guard/forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were among 25 players on the Wade Trophy watch list.

Mosqueda-Lewis was UConn's leading scorer as a freshman averaging 15 points per game and had 93 3-pointers. Hartley, who earned All-American honors as a sophomore, averaged 14 points and had 140 assists while Dolson averaged 10.4 points and 6 rebounds per game.

UConn was the only program with three players on the list.

Here is the complete list

Player                                       Institution                Position                     Year

Alex Bentley                              Penn State                  Guard                         Senior

Heather Butler                         UT Martin                   Guard                         Junior

Carolyn Davis                           Kansas                        Forward                     Senior

Elena Delle Donne                   Delaware                    Forward                     Senior

Skylar Diggins                           Notre Dame               Guard                         Senior

Stefanie Dolson                        Connecticut                Center                         Junior

Christina Foggie                       Vanderbilt                  Guard                         Junior

Chassidy Fussell                       Texas                          Guard                         Junior

Angel Goodrich                        Kansas                        Guard                         Senior

Chelsea Gray                             Duke                           Guard                         Junior

Brittney Griner                         Baylor                         Center                         Senior

Bria Hartley                              Connecticut                Guard                         Junior

Tayler Hill                                 Ohio State                   Guard                         Senior

Jordan Hooper                         Nebraska                    Forward                     Junior

Maggie Lucas                            Penn State                  Guard                         Junior

Anna Martin                              DePaul                        Guard                         Senior

A’dia Mathies                            Kentucky                    Guard                         Senior

Lindsey Moore                         Nebraska                    Guard                         Senior

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis       Connecticut                Forward                     Sophomore

Chiney Ogwumike                    Stanford                     Forward                     Junior

Sugar Rodgers                          Georgetown               Guard                         Senior

Shoni Schimmel                        Louisville                    Guard                         Junior

Odyssey Sims                            Baylor                         Guard                         Junior

Alyssa Thomas                         Maryland                    Guard                         Junior

Elizabeth Williams                    Duke                           Center                         Sophomore

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sun clinches Eastern Conference title

Minnesota's win over Indiana tonight was enough for the Connecticut Sun to clinch the WNBA's Eastern Conference title.

With Indiana's loss, the Fever now trails the Sun by two games in the loss column. Indiana has three games remaining while Connecticut has two games left meaning that even if Indiana wins out, the best the Fever can do is tie for the best record in the East.

Taking a look at the tiebreakers it looks like if the teams finished tied that the Sun would win the third tiebreaker to earn the No. 1 seed.

The first tiebreaker is head to head but if Indiana beats Connecticut on Wednesday the season series would finish 2-2. Next would be record against the Eastern Conference. If Connecticut loses to Indiana and Atlanta and Indiana defeats Washington both teams would end up 16-6 against the Eastern Conference. The next tiebreaker is wins against teams with winning records and Connecticut would win that 7-6.

Of course this would become irrelevant if Connecticut beats Indiana on Wednesday or Atlanta on Sunday.

Now that is out of the way what this all means is that Connecticut would face either New York or Chicago in the Eastern Conference semifinals while Indiana will play two-time defending conference champion Atlanta.

The Sun announced that playoff tickets will go on sale on Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, fans can call 1-877-SUN-TIXX or visit Tickets will also be available at the Mohegan Sun Arena Box Office or online at Game dates and opponent will be determined by seeding at the end of the regular season.

UConn picked second by Lindy's

UConn was selected as the No. 2 team in the national preseason poll in Lindy's magazine.

Defending national champion Baylor is the preseason favorite followed by UConn, Duke, Maryland and Stanford. UConn will seven of the other top 10 teams as Big East rivals Louisville and Notre Dame were picked sixth and ninth and Penn State came in at No. 8.

No Huskies were on Lindy's preseason All-American first team although Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were named to the second team.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Statement from Geno Auriemma on Jim Calhoun

Here is a statement UConn released from Geno Auriemma on the retirement of the Huskies' men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun which just became official.

"The great success achieved by the UConn men’s basketball program under Jim Calhoun’s leadership helped propel the University of Connecticut onto the national stage.  His contributions to this University have been positive and will be long lasting.  I want to take this opportunity to wish Jim Calhoun all my best in a long, happy and healthy retirement.

"I have always admired Kevin Ollie as a person and as a player and know that he will make the most of this opportunity.  He has had great success in everything he has done and I am confident this will be no exception."

Yet another White House trip for Maya Moore

Former UConn star Maya Moore has made enough trips to the White House that it wouldn't be a shocker if she had to pay taxes in Washington, D.C.

Well, she will be meeting President Obama again on Tuesday when the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx visit the White House.

Here is the release from the WNBA:

On Tuesday, September 18, the Minnesota Lynx will visit the White House and President Barack Obama in recognition of the team’s 2011 WNBA Championship. The President will honor the team’s memorable 2011 season, as well as the efforts of the Lynx to support health and wellness programs through its WNBA FIT and Breast Health Awareness initiatives. 
The Lynx had a historic 2011 season, setting a franchise record with 27 wins and outscoring opponents by an average of 7.9 points per game, matching the fifth largest single-season point differential in WNBA history. Minnesota went 7-1 in the postseason, including sweeping the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA Finals to win the team’s first championship in franchise history. Lynx guard and Olympian Seimone Augustus was named the 2012 WNBA Finals MVP for her play against Atlanta in the Finals, averaging 24.7 points per game in the series, including scoring a single-game franchise postseason high 36 points in Game 2. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Statement from Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw

Here is a statement from Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw regarding the Fighting Irish's move to the ACC.

"This is an exciting day for Notre Dame women's basketball. The ACC is one of the nation's strongest women's basketball conferences and we're thrilled to be able to add our program to that mix. There are so many talented players, coaches and programs in the ACC and we will be challenged each and every night. I also think our fans, who are the best in college basketball, will be excited to see so many new faces coming in to Purcell Pavilion in the next few years. My hat is off to Jack Swarbrick and Father Jenkins for the hard work they put in to make this move a reality.

"At the same time, we are certainly sad to be leaving behind the many friends and colleagues, as well as the numerous rivalries we have developed in the Big East. Our program has grown exponentially in the past 17 years and the Big East is a major reason for that development."

In terms of the end of the UConn/Notre Dame rivalry which has grown into arguably the best in the world of women's college basketball in the last few years McGraw said "while it is too early to speculate on what our schedule will look like in future seasons, we would eagerly entertain the opportunity to continue our longstanding rivalry with Connecticut on a non-conference basis."

Notre Dame headed to ACC

New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco's job just got significantly more challenging with the news that Notre Dame has agreed to leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The biggest surprise isn't that Notre Dame made the jump to the ACC but the Fighting Irish did it while maintaining its status as an independent in football (although Notre Dame did agree to play five games annually against ACC teams). The feeling was that when Notre Dame joined the ACC in all sports, a team (likely either UConn or Rutgers) would be added. Now that Notre Dame is not joining in football it remains to be seen if there will be a push to add another team to the ACC.

From a women's basketball standpoint, this is a crushing loss for the Big East as the Notre Dame/UConn rivalry has developed into one of the nation's best in recent years. Certainly West Virginia is a quality women's basketball program but I'm not sure that the departures of West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse impacted the world of Big East women's basketball in a significant way. The same can not be said in this case. If UConn does not end up following the Fighting Irish to the ACC, the Huskies will go back to being the unquestioned dominant force in the Big East.

Here is the release from the ACC including the major twist that exit fees for current ACC teams have been tripled to reach $50 million:

GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents has unanimously voted to accept the University of Notre Dame as a new member. The Irish will compete as full members in all conference sponsored sports with the exception of football which will play five games annually against league programs.

"We are committed to keeping the Atlantic Coast Conference a vibrant and competitive league dedicated to ensuring the appropriate balance of academics, athletics and integrity," said the ACC Council of Presidents in a joint statement. "The addition of Notre Dame further strengthens the rich tradition and culture of the ACC as well as allowing for future academic collaboration and we enthusiastically welcome them into the league."

"The ACC was founded on the cornerstones of balancing academics, athletics and integrity," said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford. "Our partnership with Notre Dame only strengthens this long-standing commitment. Notre Dame enhances the league's unique blend of public and private institutions that are international in scope. The collective alumni and fan bases cover the entire country with exceptionally strong roots up and down the Atlantic Coast. This is a terrific milestone in the evolution of the ACC and showcases tremendous solidarity and vision by our Council of Presidents."

"The ACC is composed of some of the most highly respected universities in the country, and we at Notre Dame look forward to joining them," said Notre Dame President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. "With a mix of institutions - many of which are also private, similar to Notre Dame in size, and committed to excellence in research and undergraduate education - the ACC is an exceptionally good fit for us academically, as well as athletically."

"We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us," said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame Vice President and Director of Athletics. "We are able to maintain our historic independence in football, join in the ACC's non-BCS bowl package, and provide a new and extremely competitive home for our other sports."

With the addition of Notre Dame, the ACC's future membership includes 11 institutions ranked among the top 58 in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report survey of "America's Best Colleges", more than any other conference also competing at the highest level athletically.

In addition to extending an invitation to Notre Dame, the Council of Presidents voted to increase the conference exit fees to three times the annual operating budget. Currently this would equate to an exit fee of over $50 million. 

WTIC, UConn agree to extension

WTIC and UConn have agreed to a multi-year extension which allows WTIC-1080 to remain the flagship radio station for UConn's football, men's and women's basketball programs.

Here's the complete release:

HARTFORD, Conn. (September 12, 2012) – WTIC New Talk 1080 and the UConn-IMG Sports Network announced on Wednesday a new multi-year agreement to broadcast University of Connecticut football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball games. These rights also include all pre-game and post-game programming.

WTIC News Talk 1080 has been the radio flagship station of UConn athletics for the past 20 seasons and is the only 50,000-watt AM station in Connecticut. The 2012-13 year marks the first time that the UConn radio rights are held by IMG College, which is the Huskies’ multi-media rights partner.

"WTIC News Talk 1080 is proud to continue our longstanding relationship with the University of Connecticut, along with our new partner UConn IMG Sports Marketing,” said Suzanne McDonald Senior Vice President and Market Manager of WTIC-News Talk 1080.  “We look forward to the continued tradition of serving the 2.5 million listeners who tune in to our broadcasts of the UConn football and men's and women's basketball games."

The veteran broadcast team for UConn football and men’s basketball will once again include Joe D’Ambrosio, who will handle play-by-play for the 21st straight year, and Wayne Norman with color commentary, who has been UConn’s radio analyst for football and basketball since 1981. 

In football, Kevin Nathan will report from the sidelines and Bob Joyce will serve as the pre and post game host.  Joyce will also serve as the play-by-play announcer for women’s basketball.

“We are very pleased that WTIC News Talk 1080 will continue to serve as the flagship station of UConn athletics and look forwards to working with our partners at IMG to build the best radio network possible,” said UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel. “Generations of Husky fans have grown up listening to UConn on WTIC and we are glad that will continue. In addition, we feel that our listeners will enjoy the enhancements that IMG brings to our product.”

"We’re excited to team with WTIC to bring every game to UConn fans across the state of Connecticut,” said Tom Murphy, General Manager, UConn IMG Sports Marketing.  “Our partnership with WTIC will guarantee fans an unmatched connection to the Huskies for the next several years." 

One thing not mentioned in the release is that WTIC no longer controls the live streaming portion of their broadcasts so those people who do not live close enough to get the signals from WTIC or the other stations which carry UConn games will have to pay to hear the games through the all-access program on

Monday, September 10, 2012

Geno to speak in Danbury tonight

Just a reminder that Geno Auriemma will speak at an event hosted by the Danbury and Fairfield County chapters of the UConn Alumni Association. If you decide to go and haven't purchased a ticket yet, I'd strongly consider making sure tickets are still available.

Here's the info:

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma comes to Fairfield County for "An Evening With Geno Auriemma," Monday, Sept. 10 at 6:15 pm at the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury. Hosted by the UConn Alumni Association Danbury and Fairfield County Chapters, the event includes a cocktail hour, seated dinner, and remarks by the Hall of Fame and Olympic gold-medal winning coach, as he shares his experiences and personal stories from 27 years as the Huskies’ head coach. Alumni, fans, and friends are invited.

Proceeds from the event will go toward UConn Alumni Association Danbury and Fairfield County Chapter scholarship funds for current students, and for future chapter programs.

For ticket information and to register, visit

Friday, September 07, 2012

DeWanna Bonner dishes on her sister, a possible future Husky

Before DeWanna Bonner lit up the Connecticut Sun to the tune of 35 points she gave me a couple minutes of her time to talk about her sister Erica McCall, who happens to be one of the top Class of 2013 targets on UConn's recruiting radar.

"She is a great, great player and we play just alike, run the floor, rebound and get after it," Bonner said. "She has developed in a lot of ways and my dad is out there to help her with stuff. She will be doing well (this) year and hopefully the same in college."

Although there is a significant age different between the sister and Bonner has a hectic schedule with her WNBA and overseas playing commitments, she has tried to be there to give her sister advice since she went through this process when she committed to Auburn.

"I try," Bonner said. "We don't talk as much as we should but I try to give her as much advice as I could. She is enjoying it, what teenager wouldn't enjoy this kind of attention and she deserves it. She is taking it all in, taking it day by day."

So what advice would she give McCall during the recruiting process.

"Just make sure it is your decision don't let anybody pressure you. I am definitely not and if that is the case she would be going to Auburn (relax NCAA types, she was laughing and joking when she said that)."

Erica McCall is expected to be at UConn next month for the Huskies' First Night fan fest on Oct. 12 and first official practice the following day.

Taurasi addresses a lost season

With five WNBA scoring titles and a pair of championships during her remarkable run with the Phoenix Mercury, it seems as if everything former UConn star Diana Taurasi touches turns to gold - until this year.

After attempting to play through a painful hip flexor injury and seeing 36 minutes of action in games against Tulsa and Los Angeles in late May, Taurasi did play another game with the Mercury until late August. When Taurasi suited up and played a starring role on the U.S. team's run to the Olympic gold medal, the critics were coming at Taurasi and the Mercury from all angles accusing Taurasi of bailing on her team and the Mercury hierarchy of holding her out so Phoenix would miss the playoffs and have a shot at drafting Brittney Griner or Elena Delle Donne in April's WNBA draft.

If the criticism was bothering Taurasi she did a nice job of hiding it.

"I wasn't sure if it was going to be my last one (Olympics) and I wasn't going to go in there hobbling and on one leg," Taurasi said. "I just wasn't going to do that.

"I could care less what people say, you know that. I have been in this league long enough at if you worry about that stuff you will drive yourself crazy."

Even with tonight's impressive performance on the road against the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun, Phoenix is almost certainly going to be one of the four lottery teams.

Ann Meyers, the vice president of both the Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns, was at Mohegan Sun Arena promoting her book "You Let Some Girl Beat You" and talked about the heat the Mercury has taken from those inside and outside of the league.

"It doesn't bother me," Meyers said. "You just have to let it roll off your back like a duck. I know what's true and I am always going to be along with (head coach) Corey Gaines and (Phoenix Mercury President and COO) Amber Cox concerned about our kids. People are going to say things but they don't always know what goes on behind the scenes, we know what's true our kids are hurt for crying out loud.

"Tamara Poole, our trainer, God bless her, she has just been incredible. She has worked to keep these guys coming back. Our season-ticket holders are frustrated and I know teams throughout the league are frustrated. Nobody feels sorry or thew Phoenix Mercury, we have won two WNBA championships and that is try when it happens to another team. You can't worry about what the others are saying. Does it happen to be that the draft and the kids that are coming out (are special)? Yeah but can you honestly look at our team and say we are honestly tanking it."

Not only has Taurasi missed 20 games but a torn ACL caused Penny Taylor to miss the entire season. Candice Dupree has missed 17 of the last 18 games with a knee injury which required surgery. Former UConn forward Charde Houston missed seven straight games with a knee injury and Nakia Sanford sat out four games with a knee injury of her own. Meyers is quick to defend Taurasi who took additional criticism when she missed the first three games after the Olympic break.

"Diana is the ultimate pro and she is all about her teammates," Meyers said. "You have seen that at Connecticut. Geno worked her hard and she challenged Geno. Their relationship is just magical, it really is. He gets the best out of her and she wants that too. She feeds off Geno. She didn't want to be hurt, nobody wants to be hurt. She is the ultimate team player, she makes everybody else better. Nobody worlks as hard a she does and she worked hard to get in shape.

"A lot of people in Phoenix were frustrated, a lot of people in the league were frustrated with Phoenix saying they are tanking the season. You miss Penny Taylor with an ACL and Diana Taurasi with a hip flexor and she certainly had to be ready for the Olympics and she is playing for us. Sammy Prahalis is hurt, Candice Dupree is out with knee surgery, Charde Houston out with knee surgery, Nakia Sanford was out for four games with a knee, Alexis Hornbuckle has not been completely healthy. In the history of the WNBA in 16 seasons no team has ever had the injuries we have had so for Diana Taurasi to come back and play as hard as she does, how do you fault her?"

Taurasi said she was not kidding when she said during a live television interview after the Olympic gold-medal game that she wants to be a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team although she joked that fellow three-time gold medalist and former UConn star Sue Bird wouldn't shake her hand when she attempted to have her shake on a deal to stick around until 2016.

"I'll be in my prime," Taurasi said of 2016." I have been playing USA Basketball since I was 17 that is a lot of years and going into London I wasn't really sure if I had another one in me."

However, Taurasi said after the gold-medal game that the first thing she thought about was being on the 2016 Olympic squad.

"Playing USA Basketball there is nothing like it I feel good and if things work out I would love to play on the team again," Taurasi said.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

U.S. Olympic team to be honored

The gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic basketball team will be among those being to receive the WNBA's Inspiration Award in a luncheon on Monday in New York.

The luncheon will serve as a tribute to the performance of the U.S. women at the recently-completed Olympics as they won 58 of the 104 gold-medals captured by the U.S. squad.

Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever will be on hand to accept the award for the U.S. women's basketball team while Betsey Armstrong (water polo), Danielle Scott-Arruda (volleyball), Kayla Harrison (judo), Taylor Ritzel (rowing) and Lauren Tamayo are also expected to be on hand at the event.

Also, basketball legend Teresa Edwards will receive the Pioneer Award at the same event.

UConn faces challenging schedule

With three freshmen and three sophomores expected to play key roles in the upcoming season, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma wanted his young team to face some challenges before attempting to become the first women's Division I team to reach six straight NCAA Final Fours.

Auriemma seems to be getting his wish as UConn will face 14 NCAA tournament teams and six more which played in the postseason NIT during the 2012-13 regular season.

While it is never easy to circle just one game on the schedule, certainly the Feb. 18 showdown against defending national champion Baylor could be the most anticipated regular-season game of the season. The Huskies will also play at Stanford on Dec. 29, UConn's first game in Palo Alto since seeing its NCAA Division I basketball record 90-game winning streak snapped at Maples Pavilion in 2010. UConn and Notre Dame will meet twice in the regular season for the fourth consecutive season.

The Huskies will play four of their first five regular-season games outside the state of Connecticut for the first time since the 2002-03 season as UConn follows up the Nov. 11 season and home opener against College of Charleston by playing at 2011 national champion Texas A&M on Nov. 18 and facing Wake Forest, Marist and Purdue at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands from Nov. 22-24.

The Gampel Pavilion portion of the schedule will be highlighted by a Dec. 6 game against Penn State, Final Four rematch with Notre Dame on Jan. 5 and showdown with Duke on Jan. 21.

Baylor, fresh off the first 40-0 season in NCAA Division I women's basketball history, will face Connecticut on Feb. 18 at the XL Center and the Huskies will end the regular season on the road against South Florida on Mar. 2 and at Notre Dame two days later.

There are a couple of new twists to the schedule as UConn will play Marquette home and away for the first time and will play at the University of Hartford, coached by former UConn star Jen Rizzotti, on Dec. 22 after years of playing the Hawks' exclusively at the XL Center.

Date Opponent Time TV
Nov. 2 vs. Indiana (Pa.) 7 p.m.
Nov. 7 vs. Holy Family (XL) 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 vs. Charleston,TBA  
Nov. 18 at Texas A&M 2:30 p.m. ESPN2
Paradise Jam at U.S. Virgin Islands
Nov. 22 Wake Forest, 6 p.m.
Nov. 23 Marist, 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 24 Purdue, 8:15 p.m.
Nov. 28 vs. Colgate (XL),
Dec. 3 vs. Maryland (XL) 7 p.m. ESPN2
Dec. 6 vs. Penn State  
Dec. 19 vs. Oakland (XL)
Dec. 22 at Hartford, 1 p.m.
Dec. 29 at Stanford, 4 p.m. ESPNU
Dec. 31 at Oregon, 3 p.m.
Jan. 5 vs. Notre Dame, 4 p.m. CBS
Jan. 9 at Georgetown
Jan. 12 at Marquette, 4 p.m.
Jan. 15 Louisville (XL) 9 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Jan. 19 vs. Syracuse, 4 p.m. (XL)
Jan. 21 vs. Duke, 7 p.m. ESPN2
Jan. 26 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 vs. Villanova, 7 p.m. (XL)
Feb. 2 at St. John's, 2 p.m. SNY/Big East TV
Feb. 5 vs. Marquette, 7 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. DePaul, 3:30 p.m. ESPNU
Feb. 12 at Providence, 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Rutgers, 4 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Baylor (XL), 9 p.m. ESPN2
Feb. 23 vs. Seton Hall, 4 p.m.
Feb. 26 vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (XL)
Mar. 2 at South Florida, noon
Mar. 4 at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ESPN2
- home games are at Gampel Pavilion unless noted otherwise. Some times and TV information yet to be confirmed or announced

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Kiah Stokes thrilled to be back on court

This has not been the easiest of springs and summers for Kiah Stokes.

First came the surgery to repair a torn tendon in her right ankle followed by an arduous rehab process. Then, when she finally was able to walk without the aid of a protective boot in July none of her UConn teammates were on campus for her to work out with.

Stokes' world has returned to normal  on Tuesday as she took part in her first full-court basketball activity with her teammates since the Final Four loss to Notre Dame.

"It is good to be back," Stokes said. "I love playing with my teammates. When I was up here in the second summer session they weren't here so it was just me working out by myself. It is just good to be back in the team atmosphere again.

"Right now I am good. My legs are a little weaker but that is going to come back pretty fast. My (upper)
body is fine because that was the only thing I could lift for a few months."

Stokes couldn't pinpoint when she first injured her ankle although her mom said she began to complain about discomfort in the ankle after the Duke game. It was following the NCAA tournament game against Kansas State when the pain was the most intense. Still, Stokes thought all she needed was some rest and the ailing ankle would be fine. An MRI showed that surgery would be required.

"I didn't thik I'd have to have surgery. I thought I'd have to rest it for a week and I'd be fine. When they said surgery I was shocked, I didn't expect it."

Not accustomed to being a patient, Stokes admits she was frustrated at the slow pace required to recover from the surgery.

"I was really mad," Stokes said. "I just wanted to keep pushing it further. I felt fine when I walked around without my boot on although I wasn't supposed to. I was in the training room one day and I went to grab a pair of scissors. I didn't have my boot on and one of the trainers got mad and said 'are you supposed to be walking?' I said 'no, but it is just like three feet.' They said 'no, sit down and I will get it.' It was annoying like that and I just couldn't do what I wanted to do even if I felt like I could. In the end they were looking out for my ankle and I respect that but at the time it was annoying and I didn't like it at all."

Stokes, who knows she had an inconsistent freshman season, is determined to be a day in and day out impact player and the memories of the loss to the Fighting Irish serves as motivation.

"Last season did not end the way I wanted it to," Stokes said. "That is always going to be there. I don't want the season to end like that. We want to prove to ourselves, prove to our coaches and our teammates that we are not going to just sit on the bench. We are definitely a part of this team and definitely can make a difference on this team."

With the transfers of Lauren Engeln to Boston College and Michala Johnson to Wisconsin and graduation of Tiffany Hayes, UConn will once again have an 11-player roster. However, unlike a season ago when UConn often relied on seven or eight-player rotations, the feeling is that this year all 11 players could see regular action.

"It is going to be fun," Stokes said. "We have so many different lineups that we can go to . Practices are going to be so competitive which I think will help us so much in the long run if we are all competing very day every minute in practice I think it will help a lot."

Monday, September 03, 2012

Former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt to be honored by USTA

Former Tennesssee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt will receive the Billie Jean King Legacy Award from the United States Tennis Association tomorrow at the U.S. Open.

Wheelchair tennis pioneer and 2012 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Randy Snow and former USTA CEO Lee Hamilton will be honored posthumouslyat tomorrow's fourth annual ICON Awards in New York.