Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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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