Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Former UConn point guard named to radio announcing team

Deb (Baer) Fiske, a guard on UConn’s first Final Four squad and former head coach at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, has been hired to provide color commentary for UConn women’s basketball games for WTIC-1080 and the UConn-IMG Sports Network.

Fiske replaces Kara Wolters who accepted a studio analyst job at SNY for UConn’s games.

Fiske played in 125 games for the Huskies from 1988-92 and averaged 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. When she graduated her 413 assists ranked fourth in program history and her 275 steals was a Connecticut record.

Fiske was an assistant basketball coach at Saint Joseph from 1993-98 before being promoted to the head coaching job, a position she held from 1998-2002. She was also the Blue Jays’ women’s tennis coach from 1993-2000 leading Saint Joseph to a pair of GNAC titles. She is currently an associate athletic director, senior women's administrator and director of recreation and intramurals at Saint Joseph.

"I wasvery shocked (and asked) are you sure you had the right person," Fiske said on WTIC's SportsTalk Wednesday night. "They wanted somebody in Geno Auriemma's basketball family. Once I got over initial shock, I thought it would be fun to get back in mix of UConn women's basketball."

WTIC’s coverage of UConn women’s basketball will begin with Friday’s exhibition game against Indiana (Pa.).

Warde Manuel excited for start of basketball season

Warde Manuel believes he got a taste of what UConn basketball is all about after he was hired to be the new director of athletics. Now he is ready to be along for the ride as basketball kicks into high gear when the men's basketball team hosts American International in its preseason opener tomorrow night followed by the women's hoops team playing Indiana (Pa.) in its first exhibition game on Friday night.

"I got here at the end of the season, at least with my announcement and I was back and forth before I officially started so I got to see the excitement in the arena at Gampel and the XL (Center) for both the men and the women," Manuel said. "For me, I am looking forward to having our fans go out, support Kevin (Ollie) in his new role and support a phenomenal set of student-athletes, the backcourt on our men’s side and with Geno (Auriemma) and the women and the number of returners we had plus the No. 1 recruiting class in the country it is going to be really exciting. I am looking forward to seeing the teams perform and I hope our fans continue to support us like we have in the past in both sports. We are going to do some things to make it more exciting in the arena and really engage our fan base in a different way. We want them to come out, see the excitement and be a part of it and help cheer on our success."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hartley cleared to return to practice

UConn junior guard Bria Hartley was cleared today to get back to basketball drills after missing the last couple of weeks of practice with a sprained left ankle according to a statement from UConn athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle.

Hartley did some functional drills on the side and her participation in Wednesday's practice will be determined by how she feels.

Hartley's status for Friday's exhibition game against Indiana (Pa.) will be determined by how she feels and how much she is able to practice in the next couple of days.

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UConn second in national coaches poll

The USA Today Sports/ESPN preseason poll came out today and the results are nearly identical to the Associated Press poll.

Baylor was the unanimous No. 1 team followed by UConn, Duke, Stanford and Maryland. The same 11 teams top  both polls. The only changes are that Kentucky and Notre Dame flip flop at the No. 6/7 spots and the story is the same for Georgia and Delaware at the No. 10/11 spots.

Here is the complete poll

Rank     School (2011-12 record)        Points                     rank                   votes
1.           Baylor (40-0)                          775                           1                        31
2.           Connecticut (33-5)                  736                           4                          0
3.           Duke (27-6)                            674                           6                          0
4.           Stanford (35-2)                       669                           3                          0
5.           Maryland (31-5)                     656                           5                          0
6.           Notre Dame (35-4)                 617                           2                          0
7.           Kentucky (28-7)                     599                           8                          0
8.           Penn State (26-7)                    521                           9                          0
9.           Louisville (23-10)                   460                           16                        0
10.         Delaware (31-2)                      411                           14                        0
11.         Georgia (22-9)                        409                           20                        0
12.         Texas A&M (24-11)               361                           12                        0
13.         St. John‘s (24-10)                   315                           15                        0
14.         Oklahoma (21-13)                  308                           not ranked            0
15.         California (25-10)                   294                           not ranked            0
16.         Tennessee (27-9)                    284                           7                          0
17.         Vanderbilt (23-10)                  241                           not ranked            0
18.         Purdue (25-9)                         240                           18                        0
19.         Nebraska (24-9)                      203                           not ranked            0
20.         Georgia Tech (26-9)               198                           10                        0
21.         Ohio State (25-7)                    185                           22                        0
22.         West Virginia (24-10)             182                           not ranked            0
23.         Miami ( Fla. ) (26-6)                   95                           11                        0
24.         Oklahoma State (22-12)            94                           not ranked            0
25. (tie) Kansas (21-13)                         89                           25                        0
25. (tie) Wisconsin-Green Bay (31-2)    89                           13                        0

Others receiving votes (with 2011-12 record): DePaul (23-11) 68; South Carolina (25-10) 49; Gonzaga (28-6) 43; Georgetown (23-9) 38; Iowa State (18-13) 33; Rutgers (22-10) 33; Middle Tennessee (26-7) 28; Texas (18-14) 20; LSU (23-11) 11; UCLA (14-16) 11; Michigan (20-12) 7; Virginia (25-11) 7; St. Bonaventure (31-4) 6; Arkansas (24-9) 4; Iowa (19-12) 4; San Diego State (25-7) 3; Brigham Young (26-7) 2; Syracuse (22-15) 2; Marist (26-8) 1.

The USA TODAY Sports/ESPN Board of Coaches is made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions. All are members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. The board for the 2012-13 season: Joan Bonvicini, Seattle; Joanne Boyle, Virginia; Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, Texas Southern; Matt Corkery, American; June Daugherty, Washington State; Kathy Delaney-Smith, Harvard; Brooks Donald-Williams, McNeese State; Jose Fernandez, South Florida; Ronny Fisher, Presbyterian; Beckie Francis, Oakland (Mich.); Stephanie Glance, Illinois State; Sue Guevara, Central Michigan; Bonnie Henrickson, Kansas; Rick Insell, Middle Tennessee; Jim Jabir, Dayton; Karen Kemp, East Tennessee State; Krista Kilburn-Stevesky, Hofstra; Andy Landers, Georgia; Kevin McMillan, Tennessee-Martin; Suzy Merchant, Michigan State; Faith Mimnaugh, Cal Poly; Sherri Murrell, Portland State; John Olenowski, Manhattan; Kathy Olivier, UNLV; Jennifer Rizzotti, Hartford; Eric Simpson, Loyola (Ill.); David Six, Hampton; Charlotte Smith, Elon; Ed Swanson, Sacred Heart; Paul Thomas, Saint Mary’s; Joi Williams, Central Florida.

Griner leads Associated Press preseason All-American team

Baylor senior center Brittney Griner joined former UConn star Maya Moore and former Duke standout Alana Beard as the only players to be two-time unanimous picks to the Associated Press' preseason women's Division I All-American team.

Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Delaware's Elena Delle Donne were also unanimous picks. Maryland's Alyssa Thomas, Sranford's Chiney Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims of Baylor complete the six-member squad.

UConn junior All-American guard Bria Hartley and sophomore guard/forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were among 11 other players to receive votes.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

HoopHall Classic schedule announced

The schedule for the HoopHall Classic was announced today.

Although there won't be a game involving a future UConn women's player, top prospect Mercedes Russell (who is expected to announce tomorrow whether she is committing to Louisville or Tennessee) will lead her Springfield (Oregon) High squad against Braintree (Mass.) on at 6 p.m. on Jan. 18.

The boys' basketball field is incredible as usual and is highlighted by Jabari Parker and Chicago powerhouse Simeon as well as appearances by several other well-known  high school powerhouse programs.

Here is the official release

SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the high school teams today for the 2013 Spalding Hoophall Classic. Springfield College will host the games at Blake Arena from January 17-21 during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The nation’s premier event will once again showcase the top high school basketball teams from across the country. This year’s elite matchups including Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA) vs. Simeon High School (Chicago, IL), Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, TX) vs. Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, CA), New Hampton School (New Hampton, NH) vs. Huntington Prep (Huntington, WV) and Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL) vs. Findlay College Prep (Henderson, NV).

Other legendary programs scheduled to participate include St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, NJ), Montrose Christian (Rockville, MD), DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, MD) and St. Anthony High School (Jersey City, NJ), coached by Hall of Famer Bob Hurley, Sr.
The 2013 Spalding Hoophall Classic continues its tradition of talented players by featuring several ESPNU’s Top 100 in the class of 2013, including top 10 stars Andrew Wiggins (Huntington Prep/Huntington, WV), Jabari Parker (Simeon High School/Chicago, IL), Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy/Plano, TX), Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty High School/San Jose, CA), Noah Vonleh (New Hampton School/New Hampton, NH) and Kasey Hill (Montverde Academy/Montverde, FL) as well as 2014 standouts Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young High School/Chicago, IL) and Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy/Montverde, FL).  The event also includes the nation’s No. 1 girl’s player, Mercedes Russell from Springfield (Oregon) High School.

“We are excited once again to be hosting the nation’s best high school basketball event, with a lineup of players and teams that will bring fans, media and basketball enthusiasts from around the country to Springfield College,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Last year’s games were highlighted by Shabazz Muhammed (UCLA), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Brandon Ashley (Arizona), Kyle Anderson (UCLA) and Anthony Bennett (UNLV). Spalding Hoophall Classic alumni made their mark in this year’s 2012 NBA draft including No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats), Austin Rivers (New Orleans Hornets) and Tony Wroten Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies).

“Spalding is proud to partner with the Basketball Hall of Fame to support the Hoophall Classic, both of which epitomize the elite level of basketball that our brand strives for, “ said Gary Barfield, EVP of Russell Brands, LLC.

In addition to the game, Spalding also sponsors the Spalding Skills Challenge which features three events including the Spalding Half-Court Hustle, Spalding 3-Point Shootout and the Spalding Slam Dunk Contest at Blake Arena on Sunday, January 20th.  An associated youth tournament, the Junior Hoophall Classic, will return this year with details located at

Tickets will be on sale starting November 1st. For more information, please visit the official web site,  

The radio color commentator for UConn women's games should be announced in the next day or two.

Kara Wolters held that position in recent years but she left to become a studio announcer for SNY during UConn women's games.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

UConn picked second in AP poll

There were few surprises at the top of the first Associated Press poll of the season as defending national champion Baylor will start the season at No. 1 and UConn comes in at No. 2.

The Huskies return four starters and eight of the top nine scorers from last year's team which won the Big East tournament title and advanced to the Final Four. UConn also brought in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

"I think it's great to be picked at the top of the polls," UConn coach Geno Auriemma. "That's something I think every kid that comes here takes for granted. I'm happy we are (ranked second). I'm happy for our kids and proud of our program."

UConn kicks off its exhibition schedule Friday against Division II Indiana (Pa.)

Received word about 90 minutes ago that the planned press conference Geno Auriemma was supposed to be a part of in conjunction with UConn's school of business due to the impending storm. There's no new date for the press conference at the current time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Geno Auriemma advocating rule changes for good of game

Geno Auriemma’s comments about advocating some changes in women’s basketball rules highlighted by lowering the rim from its current height of 10 feet certainly have drawn more attention than even a walking sound bit like Auriemma could have imagined.

Auriemma addressed the issue again on Thursday with the stipulation that it will be the final time he addresses the subject until the season is over.

“I am not advocating any changes because I want the University of Connecticut to have any advantage because what we are doing is not great,” Auriemma said. “I am not talking about me or my team. (Of) 109 Division I men's teams shot 45 percent or better. You know how many women's teams? 11. But according to a lot of the experts, our game is fine; don't worry about it.

“It is OK because our game is pure. It is pure, there is no dunking which I never said there was going to be dunking. It's not the men's game for people who went crazy about why can't we make it the men's game. I never said we should make it the men's game. All I said is I would like a scenario where the women could have the same success around the rim as the men have. Is that a lot to ask?”

Auriemma has received feedback insinuating that he is merely looking to change the rule to better serve his team. Auriemma said that is simply not the case.“If you don't change anything, it doesn't bother me one bit,” Auriemma said. “We are going win our 30 games every year and go to the Final Four every year so I am abdicating any changes because I want the University of Connecticut to have an advantage or what I think we aren't doing is not great. I am not talking about me and our team.

“I can't make it happen. There are a lot of us who want to make the 10-second rule happen and you don’t see it happening do you. The things that I think are not about making Connecticut women's basketball better. I never think about (rule changes) that can make rules changes better. How can you make it better? The changes I am thinking about is 10 years from now what is going to make the game of women's basketball better or will we just stay the same. So, I will just shut up and will wait to see what other suggestions what everybody else has that they haven't had the last 10 years that are going to grow our game.

"We are in the entertainment industry; that is what people don't understand. I am able to speak to it because we do sell tickets here at $24 a ticket so we are in the entertaining industry. People want to come and be entertained with the way that we play. Is it too much to ask that they come and see a team make more shots than they miss? It is not about our team, we make 47 percent from the field in a bad year. I am trying to help those teams who can only get 200 fans to watch them play every night. The suggestions I have are the same ones everybody else has - shorten the time clock, have a (10 second) time line all these things. If we don't figure out a way to enhance the game, I think we are going to get stuck. I don't want to see us get stuck. We have worked too hard to get to where we are to get stuck.”

"If I remember correctly, they widened the lane because of Wilt Chamberlain an all the purists said 'oh my God, what are you doing.' Imagine the lane now if it was the way it was. Remember the world came to an end when we add the 3-point goal. Imagine basketball now without the 3-point line. It is things like that. Or we are admitting we are inferior. I hate to say it, we are already playing with a small ball so aren't we already admitting it is not the same as men's basketball. We don't have a 10-second line, aren't you already saying it is not like men's basketball. If it makes the game more appealing to watch, how is that demeaning?"


Hartley continues to work her way back

Standing on the sideline with a boot protecting her sprained left ankle was clearly not what Bria Hartley had in mind with UConn’s preseason opener a mere eight days away.When UConn’s All-American junior guard returned to campus with a sore ankle after helping the United States team win the FIBA 3x3 World Championships, she figured a little extra rest would ease any discomfort she was experiencing.

Before long she expressed her concerns to the UConn medical staff that her ankle wasn’t feeling right. First, they had her miss a week of practice and that time as a reluctant spectator has turned to two weeks. Now UConn coach Geno Auriemma put Hartley’s chances at playing in the Nov. 2 preseason game against Indiana (Pa.) as 50-50 when he met with the media following Thursday’s practice.

Now Hartley is hoping to be back at practice on Tuesday. Only time will tell if that is merely wishful thinking on her part.

Hartley originally thought her ankle would be healed sufficiently for her to be back practicing on Monday. However, after testing out the ankle during a session on the treadmill on Sunday, it was evident that simply was not the case.

Hartley had a cortisone shot on Tuesday and is optimistic with the progress her tender ankle is making.
“It is still a little bit better now,” Hartley said. “Hopefully it is all right. The doctor said it was healing well.”

Auriemma said that Hartley wasn’t exactly “forthcoming” with the extent of the pain she was in. Hartley, however, said she has been in contact with the UConn medical staff from the time she returned to campus.
“I was out there playing and I hurt it worse,” said Hartley, who took part in UConn’s first official practice on Oct. 13 but has not practiced since. “I came back too soon.

“I think it just kind of happened. The pain wasn't too bad when I was playing on it and then it just started to get worse. I mentioned it and said there was pain but I didn’t think it was enough to where I couldn't play. I sprained my ankle plenty of times and sometimes you have to be able to tough it out.”

Perhaps the only benefit of Hartley being sidelined is that it has allowed sophomore Brianna Banks and freshman Moriah Jefferson to see more time with the starting unit.

“It is definitely tough without Bria out there, her experience, her talent and her leadership,” Dolson said. “The guards have definitely stepped up. Caroline (Doty) and Kelly (Faris) are doing a great job of leading the other girls. Moriah and Bri have done a good job of growing and maturing these past couple of (weeks) because they know Bria is not there so they have to run the show.”

Hartley is understandably antsy to get back out on the basketball court but she knows she needs to take it slow when she is back doing drills.

"I know sometimes I can get out of control if I get too excited," Hartley said. "I have to make sure  I am under control, poised and going to listen to what Coach is saying, It is different to sitting on the sideline listening to what is going on and actually being out there. I know there is going to be a good amount of stuff that I missed.

"I love playing so it is kind of tough. At the same time I get excited when (her teammates) make a play and I try to help the freshmen and sophomores get better."

Recee' Caldwell, a highly-touted junior guard out of San Antonio, Tex., was not at UConn's practice on Thursday but she is expected to be in attendance when the Huskies practice on Friday.

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UConn scores high in Graduation Percentage Rate

UConn announced that its women's basketball program had a score of 92 in the Graduation Percentage Rate, which is six points above the national average.

Here is the complete release from UConn

STORRS, Conn. (October 25, 2012 ) -- Fourteen of the University of Connecticut’s 19 athletic program have graduation rates at or above the national average in their sports while five Husky teams had a perfect 100 as the NCAA released its Graduation Success Rate for all member institutions on Thursday.

 The UConn rowing, field hockey, lacrosse, softball and women’s tennis programs all had perfect 100 GSR scores. Rowing was eight points above the national average, while field hockey was six points above, lacrosse three points above, softball 11 points above and women’s tennis seven points above.

 Other UConn teams that rated above the national average were: baseball (80 GSR, 6 points above national average), women’s basketball (92 GSR, six points above national average), women’s cross country and track and field (88 GSR, two points above national average), football (69 GSR, one point above national average), men’s ice hockey (85 GSR, five points above nation average), women’s ice hockey (94 GSR, three points above national average), men’s soccer (92 GSR, 15 points above national average), women’s soccer (92 GSR, two points above national average) and men’s swimming and diving (86 GSR, even with national average).

"I want to congratulate the student-athletes on all our teams for their outstanding success in the classroom," said UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel. "The commitment of our Husky student-athletes to excellence in both academics and athletics is a source of pride to our entire University. I want to thank the coaching staffs of all our sports and the staff of the Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletics for all their efforts in supporting the academic success of student-athletes ."

The UConn men’s basketball team had a GSR of 11 percent. The UConn men’s basketball team has shown progress in its academic record with a 978 Academic Progress Rate score (out of 1000) for the 2010-11 – a season in which it won the NCAA Championship.  A similar score is expected for the 2011-12 academic year when it is announced in June 2013.

"I want to be clear that everyone at UConn is and will always be committed to academic excellence for all of our student-athletes and in particular our men's basketball players," said Manuel, a past member of the NCAA's Academic Cabinet and Academic Eligibility and Compliance Committee. "The University and its Division of Athletics has implemented changes that are designed to positively impact the academic performance of our men's basketball student-athletes. We have evidence that those changes have been successful with our 2010-11 APR score our anticipated 2011-12 APR score. 

“While we are disappointed with any low score in a measurement of academic success, the UConn men’s basketball team should not be defined academically by the policies governing the support of our student-athletes seven to ten years ago. Significant changes have been made in the last two years in that support and I am confident that the men’s basketball team will continue to produce the academic results that we expect from all UConn student-athletes.”

The average rates above are based upon scores from all NCAA FBS schools. The GSR data show the percentage of student-athletes earning a degree within six years of entering college. The NCAA developed the GSR to account for student-athletes not tracked by the federal graduation rate. The 2012    GSR numbers are based on entering classes from 2002 to 2005. UConn has a total of 24 sports, but the number is based on 19 sports because cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams are counted as one sport and UConn does not offer first-year financial aid in the sport of golf.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

UConn tickets now on sale

UConn announced that single-game tickets are now on sale.

Follow this link to purchase tickets.

UConn kicks the season off with its first preseason game on Nov . 2 against Indiana (Pa.). The regular-season opener is Nov. 11 against College of Charleston.

Temple, coached by former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza and headed to the Big East next season, was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic-10.

Dayton received seven of the 16 first-place votes to earn the top spot. Richmond, Charlotte, Duquesne and Temple round out the top five. Defending champion St. Bonaventure came in at No. 7 despite receiving three first-place votes.

Here is the predicted order of finish

TEAM (1st-place votes)       POINTS            11-12 RECORD (FINISH)
1. Dayton (7)                            239                      23-7/12-2 (3rd)
2. Richmond (1)                       207                      23-9/9-5 (T4th)
3. Charlotte (1)                        206                      16-14/8-6 (6th)
4. Duquesne (3)                       204                     20-12/7-7 (T7th)
5. Temple (1)                           201                     23-10/13-1 (2nd)
6. Saint Joseph's                      195                     22-11/9-5 (T4th)
7. St. Bonaventure (3)             172                       31-4/14-0 (1st)
8. George Washington            139                   11-18/4-10 (T10th)
9. La Salle                                114                     14-17/7-7 (T7th)
10. Xavier                                 111                       8-20/5-9 (9th)
11. Fordham                             96                    12-18/3-11 (T12th)
12. Butler                                  80                     13-17/9-9 Horizon
13. VCU                                     71                       19-15/9-9 CAA)
14. Saint Louis                          64                    11-20/4-10 (T10th)
15. Massachusetts                    56                     8-21/3-11 (T12th)
16. Rhode Island                       21                      1-28/0-14 (14th)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

No movement between Pac-12 Network and DirecTV

No news is bad news for DirecTV subscribers in Connecticut who are holding out hope that the Pac-12 Network can be added to the DirecTV channel lineup in time to watch the Dec. 31 UConn/Oregon game.

I received an email from the folks at the Pac-12 Conference with quotes from yesterday's media day and the subject of the negotiations between the Pac-12 Network (which will not relinquish rights to SNY to provide regional coverage of the game) and DirecTV came up in Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's session with the media.

Here is what Scott had to say.

“It’s obviously a big deal since they reach so many sports fans across the country," Scott said. "There are no signs at the moment that they’re going to take it. It’s very frustrating to us, but I guess I can’t say, honestly, completely unexpected. No sports networks tend to launch with every distributor taking them from the get-go. When we decided to do this, we did a lot of due diligence with the Big 10 Network and their experience getting launched, with NBA TV, NFL Network, and everybody’s certainly watching now as the Lakers try to launch their own network. It doesn’t seem in this world that anyone ever launches with everyone, but we were fortunate to launch with a commitment from many of these cable operators from day one. We struck a deal with Time Warner, Comcast, Cox and Lighthouse in a year. It was on that basis that we were able to launch. Since then, Gary and the team have signed agreements with over 45 cable operators now, and DISH. That’s obviously a big deal, because now, obviously our fans all over the country, wherever they are, at least have an option along with cable.

"The way these deals work is we offer them a certain price per subscriber, and they’ve been offered the same price that DISH and the cable providers have been offered and that the cable operators pay. Right now, they’re simply not willing to pay that.  There are a few others as well that we’re still working on, but we’ve got a lot of confidence in the product. The caliber of football games that we have is really extraordinary. As an example, this upcoming weekend, we’ve got three of the top-20 teams in the country that are going to be on our Network, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State, and you’ll see that when basketball season comes up, in both men’s and women’s basketball. We’ve got a lot of quality. We’ve got a lot of first picks and second picks. I certainly believe that over time, DirecTV will listen to their customers who have been hammering them. It’s frustrating that it’s not now, and we’re just encouraging our fans, if they feel they need it sooner than later, they’re going to explore other options, because it doesn’t appear that it’s going to happen any time soon.”

Jannah Tucker, who was on UConn's recruiting radar before she committed to Tennessee, made the surprising move of changing her mind and reopening her commitment.

One of the tweets I saw listed UConn among the top schools she was considering before committing to Tennessee. When I spoke to her at the junior national team training camp in Kissimmee, Fla. back in May before she committed I asked Ticker if UConn was actively recruiting her and she said "Yeah. I've heard from them."

However, Tucker never visited UConn (although she did sit with good friend and former AAU teammate Breanna Stewart when UConn played at Villanova last season) and it didn't seem like the UConn coaches were moving full speed ahead on the recruitment of Tucker. I don't have any sense of whether UConn will get involved in the pursuit of Tucker.

Personally, she was one of the nicest kids I dealt with during my time at the U-17 and U-18 training camp. From a basketball standpoint, she reminded me of Kelly Faris in terms of versatility. Tucker can rebound, pass, play defense, is willing to set screens, draw charges and was held in such high regard that she was named the captain of the U.S. U-16 team back in 2011. Tucker started all five games for the U.S. at the FIBA Americas U16 Championships. She was the sixth leading scorer, second in 3-pointers, rebounds, assists and minutes played and was third in steals for the U.S. team which went 5-0 in the tournament.

This past summer she was a member of the U.S. 18 team which won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury during the tournament which will sideline her for her senior season at New Town (Md.) High School. Tucker's teammates on the U-18 squad were current UConn freshmen Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck. Tucker's father told veteran Tennessee women's basketball beat writer Dan Fleser of the Knoxville News Sentinel that "Morgan (Tuck) has taken (Jannah) under her wing. That was huge, talking to Morgan about what to expect."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his staff have forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know but I can spot a player who fits the style of player and personality that the UConn coaches seem to prefer and in my opinion Tucker is a textbook example of a "Connecticut type of player" or as DePaul coach Doug Bruno likes to refer to it Tucker has that "UConn ilk."

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out since it is highly unusual for a top 10 player like Tucker to reopen the recruiting process this close to the start of the early signing period.

Fleser spoke with Tucker's dad who said the decommitment was due to "blatantly false" information coming from the outside.

This story keeps getting more bizarre by the minute. Maybe it's me but wouldn't you go to the Tennessee coaching staff to check up on this information rather than just put it out there that you are reopening the recruiting process? Hopefully Jannah ends up at the place she wants to spend the next four years.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Top Texas guard visiting UConn this week

Recee' Caldwell, a 5-foot-8 junior guard from San Antonio, Tex., is expected to arrive at UConn for her unofficial visit on Thursday according to her high school coach.

Caldwell, a member of the 2011 U.S. U-16 squad, is expected to fly out on Thursday. I'm not sure if she will arrive in time to watch UConn's practice on Thursday but she certainly should be able to watch the Huskies practice on Friday.

Caldwell committed to Baylor back in August of 2011 before reopening her recruitment. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey were in Johnson High School in San Antonio to watch Caldwell practice last month according to Johnson head coach Randy Evans.

"I know the head coach and associate head coach was here about a month ago and watched one of our practices," Evans said. "I had a good, long talk with Geno and he seemed very interested."

Caldwell averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 51 3-pointers as a sophomore. She scored in double figures in all but two games last season and had 11 20-point games. Evans said that while Caldwell will start at point guard, she has the versatility to play the off guard.

"The things that kind of stand out are her passion for the game, her coachability," Evans said. "She certainly is an outstanding passer. Her skill level is really high as far as passing the ball. She has real good court vision. She understands the flow of the game offensively. She fits in well with what we are doing. I've got her at the point but she can play the off guard too, she has a good 3-point shot. Everybody has a weakness or two but her weaknesses are pretty hard to find. She is a real student of the game. She is always wanting to do more. She is here early, she comes by all the time. She is constantly trying to improve. She is a better than average free-throw shooter. She is a joy to have around."

Caldwell and fellow UConn recruiting target Jordin Canada were two of the three members of the high school Class of 2014 on the U.S. squad which led the U.S. to the title at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championships. UConn Class of 2013 recruiting target Erica McCall was also a member of that squad.

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Bria Hartley being held out of practice again this week

According to UConn, the Huskies' All-American junior guard Bria Hartley will be held out of practice this week as she continues to recover from a sprained left ankle.

According to a tweet from UConn women's basketball sports information contact Pat McKenna "(the) training staff wants to get her sprained ankle back to 100% before the season starts. Expected to be back at practice next week."

Hartley first hurt her ankle while competing in the FIBA 3x3 World Championship in August. When Hartley had issues with the ankle, she sat out practices last week and Hartley was hopeful she would be back at practice today.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Indiana Fever win WNBA title

Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever finally have that elusive WNBA title.

Catchings' 25 points in Sunday night's win as Indiana closed out the defending champion Minnesota winning the best of five series in four games. Former Connecticut Sun guard Erin Phillips added 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists while Briann January and Shavonte Zellous had 15 points each as the Fever clinched the title with an 87-78 win in game four on Sunday. Catchings finished the series averaging 22.3 points in the four games.

In a nice touch, Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn inserted former Connecticut Sun star Katie Douglas in the game for the final three seconds. Douglas injured her ankle in the final game of the Eastern Conference final against Connecticut and missed the entire championship series before being allowed to be on the court for as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Former Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen led Minnesota with 22 points while former UConn star Maya Moore added 16 points.

With Indiana winning, this is the first time since 2005 that there are no former UConn players on the WNBA championship team and since the league began play in 1997, this is just the sixth time the WNBA champs don't have at least one former Husky on the roster.

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Big East's three new coaches ready for challenge

The record will show that there are a record three new head coaches in the Big East this season but Georgetown’s Keith Brown, Providence Susan Robinson Fruchtl and Joe Tartamella are no strangers to their Big East coaching peers.

Brown spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Georgetown before being promoted to the top spot after Terri Williams-Flournoy left to take over the program at Auburn.

“The transition has been smooth and I think that is what Georgetown kind of envisioned it being and we have been able to do that,” Brown said. “We are very familiar with the university, the athletic director and staff there and the girls who I basically recruited.”

Tartamella can top that with nine years on the staff of Kim Barnes Arico at St. John’s. Likewise, when Barnes Arico left to become the head coach at Michigan, the Red Storm hierarchy stayed in house and hired Tartamella as the new head coach.

“When you go through the process, I don't know if you ever have a feel either way,” Tartamella said. “Kim was extremely supportive in me being able to stay. I knew that was a big positive and I knew that being at the institution the past couple of years has also been a big positive. I always felt like I would be a viable candidate. As the process goes on, sometimes you know and sometimes you really don't know. You do the best you can and you put your best foot forward and you kind of see what the outcome was going to be. In the end, I think Kim was extremely happy for me, our players were happy and obviously I couldn't be happier to have my first head coaching job at a place that allowed me to grow from a GA to a head coach.”

Robinson Fruchtl doesn’t have previous Big East coaching experience but her two stints as an assistant coach at Penn State followed by a successful five-year run as the head coach at St. Francis (Pa.) means she is no stranger to her fellow Big East coaches.
She also has the most work to do. While the Hoyas and Red Storm have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, the Friars have posted losing seasons in 18 of the last 19 seasons and the last time Providence had a winning season in the Big East came during the 1993-94 campaign.

Robinson Fruchtl said her Providence teams will be all about pressure and a fast-paced tempo.

“We have a lot of speed and quickness,” Robinson Fruchtl said. “We don't have a lot of depth right now so we need to stay healthy but we are going to try to use our speed and quickness to get after people defensively. I like to push the tempo offensively.”
It’s likely that the Georgetown and St. John’s teams will look similar even with new coaches at the helm.

“Our style of defense will always be the same, we will pressure the basketball and we will get up and down the floor,” Brown said. “I think offensively we will probably be a little more free flowing. I believe in letting them go a little bit more.”

Leading the offensive charge will be senior Sugar Rodgers who needs 32 3-pointers to become the Big East’s all-time leader in that category and has a chance to finish among the top 10 scorers in the history of the Big East.

“Sometimes it feels like I have one senior and eight freshmen because a lot of the kids who return really just didn't play,” Brown said. “Sugar has been able to be the aunt, the big sister, the mom and kind of get them going in the right direction because she understands the importance and pressure that comes with playing in the Big East. She has had a tremendous impact on and definitely off the court.”

Tartamella can build his team around a trio of returning double-figure scorers in Shenneika Smith, Nadirah McKenith and Eugeneia McPherson. The Red Storm have won more than 20 games in each of the last three seasons, something no other St. John’s women team can lay claim to.

“Our expectations haven't changed,” Tartamella said. “I think we still want to vie for the Big East championship, we have a chance to host a first round (NCAA tournament) game and I think that is something that is exciting for our players. We have experienced players and they have an opportunity to give that leadership and that experience to our freshmen.

“They understand what is at stake, they want to create their own legacy and be able to say that they made the NCAA tournament four straight years. These are the players who have built that program and gotten them to (NCAA tournament). It is an exciting time for us.”

As an assistant coach on some of the best St. John’s teams in program history, Tartamella knows a good thing when he sees it.

“We'll play the same style,” Tartamella said. “The style is not going to change. We are going to be up tempo on both sides of the floor. There may be some differences and some tweaks as we go. I think sometimes too much change is not a good thing. For our players we know it is working. It would be different if I was coming from somewhere else but I have watched us grow. I understand why we were successful and how we were successful and I want to keep it like that. Being able to play that way, I think fans like that style of play, the players like playing that kind of style and we are excited.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Auriemma excited to work clinic with a legend

Geno Auriemma was so fired about about being asked with conduct a clinic in Chicago with legendary former Indiana men's basketball coach Bobby Knight that he posted about it on his official twitter account.

As the festivities at yesterday's Big East women's basketball media days were winding down I asked Auriemma about the excitement level of being able to work and teach alongside Knight in late April.

"I have probably seen him in coach's clinics when he used to do them every year," Auriemma said. "When he was in Indiana and did them every year I'll bet you I saw him 25-30 times. I always got something new out of it, I always got a kick out of it. When I was approached to do it, just the two of us I thought 'man, how does it get any better than that?'

"When I go to these things, even if I am speaking at one of these things I probably take more notes than the guys who are sitting there so I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn a little bit about stuff that I have no idea (about), I want to know more than what I know now I have a feeling that those couple of days in Chicago I am going to learn a lot."


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big East defectors focusing on the present

Big East women's basketball media day rarely changed, at least from my vantage point, year after year.

The UConn table would be the most popular destination for the assembled media while Notre Dame and Rutgers tended to get plenty of attention as well.

Today I found myself making the rounds to the Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. John's and Syracuse tables to track the comings and goings of the ever changing Big East.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse have already negotiated their exits from the Big East and they will be members of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame is probably not far behind.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw's take on the situation the departing schools find themselves is pretty similar to that of Pittsburgh's Agnus Berenato and Quentin Hillsman of Syracuse.

“We are here for the league this year, this is going to be a great season again,” McGraw said. “The league is so strong and there are so many great teams here. I love being in the Big East, it has done great things for our program, we have been in the NCAA tournament every year since we joined the Big East and we’ve had a lot of success.”

Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be leaving the Big East at season’s end. The Orange has a veteran nucleus to build around and was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll.

“Obviously it is a special conference for us,” Hillsman said. “We have all been here and kind of grew up in this conference but more than anything we just want to win. We want to put the best product on the floor and win our games.”

Berenato didn’t pull any punches when stating that scheduling one of the Big East powers as a non-conference opponent is highly unlikely since the Panthers will play an 18-game schedule in the ACC beginning next season.

"I love the Big East," Berenato said. "The people really embraced me when I came to the Big East and I have some nice friends in the Big East. The only thing is I am not going to a slack conference. The ACC is pretty tough and we play 18 (conference games) so you want to have some of these teams as rivals or non-conference (opponents) probably not, I will see them in the NCAA tournament. I love them and I will always be there for them. As coaches I could see (Villanova's) Harry (Perretta) calling me up or me calling Harry up saying 'hey, could you help me out with this?' I have no problem calling up Susan Robinson, I called her up last year when she got in and gave er the lay of the land with a couple of different things in the Big East."

Hillsman was noncommittal on the subject while McGraw said contact has already been made to face UConn in a non-conference series when they leave the Big East.

“We definitely want to and we have already called,” McGraw said. “Depending on when we get out of the league we will be able to pick that up again. I love the rivalry. You want to challenge yourself; you want to play a good team. You want to play a great schedule outside the conference. When we do go to the ACC we would like to keep playing them.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said it was too early to determine the status of a potential non-conference series with the Fighting Irish.

The best stuff from Auriemma on the subject did not get uttered today but was said following Tuesday's practice.

"I think all of that remains to be seen," Auriemma said. "I can see us playing them twice at Giants Stadium and once at their place, I think that will be a big game. Outdoor like the hockey festival. once at Giants Stadium, once at Gillette Stadium and once in South Bend, what is wrong is that?"

One of the results of the changing landscape in the Big East is one fewer game on the first day of the Big East tournament at the XL Center. Big East associate commissioner Danielle Donehew said that there will be just one session on the first day of the tournament since the game between the No. 9/16 seeds has been eliminated since there are only 15 teams in the conference. Now the No. 9 seed doesn't have to play until the second day of the event.

Also, with the addition of Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist and Temple next season the Big East will go to an 18-game schedule in the regular season. If Notre Dame is in the league next season  each team will play one team twice and the other teams once and the repeat opponents will be announced in June. If Notre Dame jumps ship after this season it is likely that the format will be similar to the one utilized this year with each team playing two others twice and facing the rest of the teams once.

UConn junior guard Bria Hartley and Notre Dame senior guard Skylar Diggins were asked to represent the student-athletes and address the crowd. Hartley admitted that she was "nervous, actually very nervous."

Hartley said she should be back at practice on Monday as she took a week off to rest a tender left ankle.

"I'll be back on Monday, just a week to give it extra rest and it should be good. The last couple days of practice it has been a little difficult to be on the sidelines."

Geno Auriemma spoke for nearly an hour and as is pretty standard for him, he addressed a variety of subjects including giving his take on the decision for Trenton, N.J. to lose hosting rights for the 2013 NCAA basketball regional that the Huskies likely would have been sent to because New Jersey recently passed a law allowing betting on college sports.

"This idea that every year people have to be bidding to have it and then they do a lousy job with it anyways and then you can't even get people to bid in certain parts of the country. You just have to identify four spots, go there and let's make it work.

"It is convenient for a lot of people but I have noticed that whenever we have regionals in the big cities, we have them in Philadelphia and other places it doesn't work. There are a lot of (college) sports that don't work in a lot of pro cities. Certainly colleges are fighting for space. Trenton is a good site because it is easy. I don't know how that rule came about, how that happened."

Auriemma was asked if he was open to reviving the non-conference series with Tennessee.

"I think anything is possible, I don't rule out anything down the road who knows."

I'll have more later on the three first-year head coaches in the Big East (Georgetown's Keith Brown, Joe Tartamella of St. John's and Providence's Susan Robinson Fruchtl).

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UConn once again the pick of Big East coaches

With the exception of last year when Notre Dame was the preseason pick to win the Big East regular season title and back in 2005 during the Cappie Pondexter days at Rutgers the trip to New York for the Big East women's basketball media day has not exactly been a suspense-filled excursion.

Year after year UConn is the pick to the win the Big East regular season title and the Huskies make the coaches look pretty good by backing up those lofty predictions.

Well, once again the Huskies are the overwhelming pick to win the regular-season title. Of the 14 other Big East coaches, 12 of them voted UConn first in the preseason poll.

"They are going to be really good and I don't know if anybody is going to be able to challenge them this year," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. "Notre Dame lost a lot of players, Louisville maybe has a chance but they (UConn) could go undefeated this year because I think the other teams are good but I don't know if they are at that level right now."

Notre Dame, which is the defending Big East regular-season champion, was picked to finish second and received the other three first-place votes.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, whose Fighting Irish have eliminated the Huskies in the last two Final Fours, believes UConn is the class of the Big East this season.

"They will definitely challenge for No. 1 in the country," McGraw said. "It is going to be great when they play Baylor, I am anxious to see that one. I think they have great talent and great experience coming back. Bria Hartley is one of the best players in the conference and in the country. I think she is a really good leader for them."

Hartley and her teammates are motivated by the fact that Notre Dame won the regular season title and beat the Huskies twice along the way.

"If you look at the negatives from last year and you turn them into positives, use it from motivation and just learn from them," Hartley said.

Speaking of Hartley, she said she should return to practice on Monday after missing time with a sprained ankle. Freshman guard Moriah Jefferson returned to practice after missing Tuesday's practice with a strained groin.

UConn preseason favorite in the Big East

Order has been restored in the world of Big East women’s basketball or at least in the balloting of the Big East coaches.
A year after UConn was not the preseason pick to win the conference title for just the second time since 1994; the Huskies were the overwhelming choice to win yet another Big East title.

UConn was also the only team with three players named to the preseason All-Big East team as juniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley were joined by sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis on the squad while Breanna Stewart was named the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year.

With eight of the top nine scorers returning and Stewart headlining what was considered to be the nation’s top recruiting class, the Huskies have one of their deepest teams in several years.

The Big East coaches took note as 12 of the 15 first-place votes with the other three (including the one from UConn’s Geno Auriemma) went to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame, which backed up the honor of being picked to finish first in the Big East a year ago by winning the regular-season title, lost some key players off the team which reached the last two national championship games including first-round WNBA picks Devereaux Peters and Natalie Novosel but was still picked second.

The Fighting Irish did have the preseason Big East Player of the Year in senior guard Skylar Diggins.
UConn is accustomed to being in the favorite role and seem to be embracing the lofty expectations.

“The expectations here are the same regardless so if everyone expected to go to the Final Four and contend for a national championship without Maya Moore, isn't the expectation this year to go undefeated and win every game by 100 so I might as well say 'yeah, that is what we are going to do,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taking a stab at Big East preseason ballot

I have no say in how the Big East preseason poll will look when it is released tomorrow morning but that has never stopped me from taking a shot at how I think the poll could look.

I don't recall a year when I found the process as difficult at this year especially in the middle of the league.

Here we go
1. UConn: Eight of the nine returning scorers joined by nation's top recruiting class makes this a no brainer.
2. Louisville: The return of Monique Reid makes an already deep team all the more imposing
3. Notre Dame: Player of the Year Skylar Diggins returns along with Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa but the defending regular season champions lost some key pieces.
4. St. John's: Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is now at Michigan and Da'Shena Stevens is also gone but Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith lead a talented group of returnees.
5. Georgetown: Assistant coach Keith Brown takes over the reigns and has high-scoring Sugar Rodgers back to lead the way.
6. DePaul: Anna Martin is one of the top guards in the nation and the majority of the squad is also back.
7. Syracuse: With eight of the top nine scorers back and one of the nation's top recruiting classes could make the Orange's final Big East season a memorable one.
8. Rutgers: The return of Chelsey Lee, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and Monique Oliver gives the Scarlet Knights a dynamic frontcourt combination.
9. Villanova: The top six scorers return from a team that reached the third round of the WNIT so a run at an NCAA tournament berth seems likely.
10. South Florida: The Bulls need to replace Jasmine Wynne but have the rest of the team back. If Andrea Smith returns to her pre-injury form, USF could soar up the standings.
11. Marquette: The Golden Eagles return all five starters including leading scorer Katherine Plouffe so it won't be a shock if they improve significantly on a 4-12 conference record.
12. Cincinnati: Former UConn assistant coach and player Jamelle Elliott led the Bearcats to their first postseason win in a decade but will need to replace a pair of graduated starters.
13. Seton Hall: Leading scorer Jasmine Crew is one of two starters the Pirates lost to graduation.
14. Pittsburgh: Coming off a winless season in Big East play, Pittsburgh's youngsters gained valuable experience and figure to end their Big East losing streak.
15. Providence: Susan Robinson Fruchtl, one of three new coaches in the Big East, has her work cut out for her with the Friars.

Kayla Alexander, Syracuse
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Stefanie Dolson, UConn
Bria Hartley, UConn
Nadirah McKenith, St. John's
Anna Martin, DePaul
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn
Monique Reid, Louisville
Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville
Shenneika Smith, St. John's


Breanna Stewart, UConn

Tina Charles a first team All-WNBA pick

The Connecticut Sun's Tina Charles was the top vote getter and leads the WNBA's first team while her former UConn teammate Maya Moore was a second-team selection.

Joining Charles on the five-member first team are Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks, Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx, the New York Liberty's Cappie Pondexter and Tamika Catchings of Indiana.

Charles, who earned first team honors for the second year in a row, won her third WNBA rebounding title in  as many years in the league pulling down 10.5 per game and set a a Connecticut single-season scoring record, averaging 18 points. In the process, Charles guided the Sun to the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 25-9 record.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lack of size no longer a concern at UConn

Today was the first time we were allowed to watch the 2012-13 UConn squad go through a practice this season under the watchful eye of head coach Geno Auriemma and it was something to behold.

Even with All-American guard Bria Hartley held out of the practice with a sprained ankle and freshman guard Moriah Jefferson sidelined with a strained groin, the performance of the Huskies in the 5 on 5 halfcourt offense was rather impressive.

By my unofficial tally, the first 10 times they ran the offense against a team of male practice players the Huskies starting unit scored eight times. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had a pair of jumpers including a 3-pointer, freshmen Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart scored twice each, Stefanie Dolson hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line and Brianna Banks had a 3-pointer.

What caught my eye was the different lineups Auriemma was able to put out there and especially the size UConn had out on the court. At one point UConn had the 6-5 Dolson, 6-4 Stewart, 6-2 Tuck and 6-0 Mosqueda-Lewis out there together. Kelly Faris, who stands 5-11, battled valiantly as UConn's starting power forward in the past but with the addition of Stewart and Tuck and improvement of the 6-3 Kiah Stokes, Faris figures to play more on the perimeter which is her more natural spot.

“I think this year will be a little different,” Faris said. “We have a few more posts coming off the bench and I probably won't have to play as much inside as I did last year but it will depend on our opponent, what offense we are running. We are good enough to have people who can play in the post or play (on the wing). Look at Breanna Stewart, she can play any position on the court and I think that is going to be a really big advantage for us this year.”

Auriemma, whose short bench in the last couple of year limited his options when the offense wasn’t clicking, seems as if he will be able to mix and match the lineup based on the opponent and which of his player or players have the hot hand.

“I think for any coach if you don't have any options it is very difficult,” Auriemma said. “We have more ways to win games than we did last year so from a coaching standpoint that is a good feeling.

“Having Kelly out there, having Kaleena in different spots, moving those other big guys out away from the basket and all those things are really good. It gives you a lot more options. That is one of the good things that comes from adding two players Breanna and Morgan that can play multiple positions. It does allow you to move people around, no question. We can put a combination out there that is difficult for a particular matchup that we are trying to create. It has been a while maybe since Tina (Charles) and Maya (Moore) when we've had an ability to have a center and another big kid. Maybe this year we might have an ability to have a center and another kid who could play center. In that respect it gives us a different look from what we've had the last few years.”

UConn playing it safe with injured guards

Not wanting minor aches and pains to turn into something worse led to UConn holding out guards Bria Hartley and Moriah Jefferson at Tuesday's practice.

Hartley, a junior All-American, first hurt her left ankle while helping the U.S. win the gold medal at the FIBA 3x3 World Championships in late August and when the pain did not subside, the decision was to shut down Hartley for another a week to give her ankle time to rest.

"The last game we played that night (on Aug. 25), I hurt it late in the (quarterfinal) game," Hartley said. "I came out right away and I played the next day and it was OK. It hurt a little bit but I had it taped. When I came back here, it was all bruised. I went to see Rosemary (Ragle, UConn's athletic trainer) and showed it to her. It seemed to be getting better at first. I still played on it and after a couple of weeks it started bothering me more. I talked to Rosemary again, I got it in a boot and got an MRI. There's nothing torn, there's just a lot of swelling and stuff and irritation of the ligament. I just sat out for a week or so just to give it some rest. I think the main thing is I didn't rest it and that was the main thing."

Hartley admitted that missing even one practice is tough for her to deal with.

"I am always the type of person that I always want to be doing something," Hartley said, "I am a really active person so sitting there is practice I just want to jump into a drill or something but I am still here and I know when my teammates are here working hard and we are down players it is hard. These drills all the running we have to do is really tiring. I am doing the best I can to encourage them and stay involved at practice."

Jefferson, part of the highly-touted freshman class, suffered a pulled groin muscle earlier this week and sat out Tuesday's practice. While Hartley could miss a couple more practices, Jefferson figures to be good to go at the Huskies' next practice.

"It's early in the season so I don't have a problem sitting out before I do something that is really serious," Jefferson said.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was asked for his take on the fact that work constructing the new basketball practice facility can begin now that UConn has received $24 million in donations for the $32 million project.

"I haven't heard yet what the date is that they are starting the actual date of the project but from a player's standpoint I think it gives us a lot more flexibility," Auriemma said. "It gives us an opportunity to practice at times that are convenient to us and not when they are convenient for the building. We get the chance to maximize whatever talents our players have basketball wise, academically as far as anything else it is just the wave of the future, that is the way everybody is going. I think it will be a great addition for us because we need to space, a place where we can practice that works for us and their players, kids that come late to practice because we have to practice at a certain time."

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TV time for UConn commit

According to a tweet from MSG Varsity, UConn commit Saniya Chong and her high school coach Dan Ricci are scheduled to be in the studio tomorrow at 7 p.m. on MSG Varsity's High School Sports Desk.

Speaking of Chong, she had 11 kills yesterday to lead the Ossining (N.Y.) volleyball team to a 3-0 win over Rye Neck on Monday (just two days after she committed to UConn). Chong had 11 kills, two digs and two assists as Ossining improved to 11-4.

Chong has 211 of her team's 477 kills and also has 19 aces, 27 blocks and 83 digs

Duke, Maryland picked 1-2 in ACC

Duke and Maryland, two of the three Atlantic Coast Conference teams UConn will play during the regular season, were selected to finish first and second in the ACC's preseason poll which was announced on Tuesday.

Wake Forest, which will play UConn at the Paradise Jam, was picked to finish ninth among 12 teams.

There were actually two polls. The first one is from a "Blue Ribbon panel" which seems like it is a fancy way of saying a panel of media voters and Duke received 29 first-place votes with Maryland picking up the other 18 No. 1 votes. Maryland's Alyssa Thomas was also the preseason player of the year in the Blue Ribbon panel voting.

As for the coaches' poll, Duke picked up nine of the 12 first-place votes with Maryland receiving the other three. There was a three-way tie for ACC preseason player of the year balloting from the ACC coaches as Thomas shared the honor with the Duke duo of Chelsea Gray and Elizabeth Williams.

Here are all the details

Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason Poll (first place votes in parentheses) 
Duke (29)
Maryland (18)
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Florida State
NC State
Wake Forest
Virginia Tech
Boston College

Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason All-ACC Team  
Alyssa Thomas  - Maryland
Elizabeth Williams - Duke
Chelsea Gray - Duke
Tyaunna Marshall - Georgia Tech
Natasha Howard - Florida State
Tianna Hawkins - Maryland
Laurin Mincy - Maryland
Ataira Franklin - Virginia
Marissa Kastanek  - NC State
Stefanie Yderstrom  - Miami

Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason Player of the Year
Alyssa Thomas - Maryland

Blue Ribbon Panel Newcomer Watch List 
Alexis Jones – Duke
Malina Howard –  Maryland
Jonquel Jones – Clemson
Xylina McDaniel – North Carolina
Uju Ugoka – Virginia Tech

Preseason Coaches ACC Poll (first place votes in parentheses)
1. Duke (9)
2. Maryland (3)
3. Georgia Tech
4. North Carolina
5. Miami
6.   Florida State
6.   Virginia
8.   NC State
9.   Wake Forest
10. Clemson
11. Virginia Tech
12.  Boston College

Preseason Coaches All-ACC Team 
Alyssa Thomas -  Maryland
Elizabeth Williams - Duke
Chelsea Gray  - Duke
Tyaunna Marshall - Georgia Tech
Natasha Howard - Florida State
Tianna Hawkins - Maryland
Laurin Mincy - Maryland
Ataira Franklin - Virginia
Marissa Kastanek - NC State
Stefanie Yderstrom - Miami

Preseason Coaches Players of the Year (3-way tie)
Alyssa Thomas - Maryland
Elizabeth Williams - Duke
Chelsea Gray - Duke

Preseason Coaches Newcomer Watch List 
Alexis Jones – Duke
Malina Howard – Maryland
Jonquel Jones – Clemson
Xylina McDaniel – North Carolina
Uju Ugoka – Virginia Tech

Construction on new basketball facility to start shortly

UConn announced that 75 percent of the necessary funds for the new basketball practice facility, built on the Memorial Stadium site next to Gampel Pavilion, can begin now at the university has hit the 75 percent mark in necessary donations for the project.

Here is a rendering of what the new basketball facility is expected to look like when it is completed in a couple of years.

Here is the official release

STORRS, Conn. (October 16, 2012) -- Donors to the University of Connecticut have made it possible to begin construction of a major new basketball facility on the campus, adjacent to Gampel Pavilion.

The University of Connecticut Foundation announced on Tuesday that it has donations and pledges in hand for 75 percent of the construction cost of the UConn Basketball Development Center–$24 million of the $32 million needed–and will obtain financing for the project so construction can begin as soon as possible. Completion is expected to take about 24 months.

 "UConn is fortunate to have many strong supporters across the nation, who have dedicated themselves to the academic advancement of the university, the research ambitions of our faculty and students, as well as athletics,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “As we continue to build and renovate so many facilities on our multiple campuses, an outstanding new home is needed for our championship men’s and women’s basketball programs.”

 Most recently, alumnus Mark Shenkman and his wife, Rosalind, committed $2 million to the facility. Mr. Shenkman is the chair of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors and previously made a $2.5 million gift to name the athletic training and student recreational facility that bears his name on the Storrs campus.

 “Rosalind and I feel very blessed to be able to make this gift to the University of Connecticut. This gift represents an investment in the future of UConn basketball,” said Shenkman. “After recently visiting the practice facilities at other institutions, I realized the importance that a practice facility can have in conveying the strength of a program. The completion of this basketball practice facility will certainly perpetuate UConn’s preeminent position as one of America’s college basketball capitals.”

"The success of our men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes, in both the classroom and on the court, will be greatly enhanced by the UConn Basketball Development Center,” said UConn Director of Athletics Warde Manuel. “I want to thank Mark and Rosalind Shenkman and all of our benefactors whose generosity are allowing us to begin construction of this project. We will continue to fund raise to obtain the entire cost of the project.”

The UConn Basketball Development Center is one of the projects supported through the ambitious Our University. Our Moment. fundraising campaign launched publicly in September 2009 by the UConn Foundation.  So far, $348.8 million of the $600 million campaign goal has been raised.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Decision on McCall still weeks away

It looks like we will have to wait until Nov. 10 to see if UConn's incoming freshman class is a class of one or two.

UConn received its first oral commitment from the Class of 2013 when Ossining (N.Y.) senior guard Saniya Chong committed to UConn while she was on her official visit.

Erica McCall, a 6-foot-3 forward from Bakersfield, Calif., also took an official visit to UConn over the weekend. She was in the stands for the First Night festivities on Friday as well as the first official practice the next morning.

However, anybody who is expecting a quick commitment from McCall will be disappointed.

I exchanged emails with McCall's father Greg, who is also the head coach at Cal State Bakersfield and he said the plan is for his daughter to make her decision known on Nov. 10.

Erica McCall is scheduled to visit UCLA this weekend along with former UConn recruiting target Linnae Harper and Stanford also figures to be a major player in the recruitment of McCall.

When the NCAA announced the 2013 regional sites it seemed almost like a foregone conclusion that the Huskies would land in Trenton, N.J.

However, the NCAA announced today that because New Jersey recently passed a state law allowing wagering on college and pro sports in New Jersey that they are pulling five NCAA tournaments previously awarded to cities in New Jersey including the 2013 regional in Trenton.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saniya Chong commits to UConn

Saniya Chong, a 5-foot-9 senior guard at Ossining (N.Y.) High School, committed to UConn on Saturday morning while she was on her official visit

Chong is currently on her official visit to UConn. She was in the stands a Gampel Pavilion last night and is currently at the Huskies' first official practice of the season and she is the first player from the Class of 2013 to commit to UConn.

"The players are amazing," Chong said. "I thought I connected with the players here and I thought it was the perfect fit.

"You always want that connection with the players but you also need that connection on the court. I like the speed they play at, the intensity they have."

Chong averaged 33.3 points, 5.2 rebounds,  9.7 assists and 5 steals per game as a junior. She had four 40-point games as a junior and twice scored 55 points and had four triple-doubles.

Chong previously visited Louisville and Ohio State with UConn being her last scheduled official visit.

"She went through the whole process," Ossining coach Dan Ricci said. She visited all three schools but she really loved UConn from the beginning but she really wanted to go through the process and make sure it was right for her. She found out last night and told her mom and me that it was the place for her.

"Besides the basketball aspect, it is the camaraderie with the girls and how they all got along. She always liked the coaches from the beginning ad once she got to know the girls this weekend she decided (to commit) I think with the coaching staff here and players here she can get better and better."

Ossining opens the season on Dec. 7 against Archbishop Molloy and hosts Christ the King on Dec. 4.

Erica McCall is also on an official visit but since it is just her second official campus visit, I'd be surprised if a commitment is coming from her this weekend.

Here is Ossining's 2012-13 schedule courtesy of Dan Ricci. The matchups in the Nike Tournament of Championship in December should be announced as we get closer to the event


Fri 12/ 7 Archbishop Molloy Home 4:30 PM
Fri 12/14 Newburgh Free Home 4:45 PM
Mon. 12/17 Horace Greeley- * Away 6:15 PM
Thur. 12/20 TBA Arizona TBA
Fri. 12/21 TBA Arizona TBA
Sat. 12/22 TBA Arizona TBA
Thu . 12/27 St Anthony’s County Center TBA
Fri. 12/28 LI Lutheran/Irvington County Center TBA
Sat. 1/4 Christ the King Home 12:30 PM
Fri. 1/11 Harrison - * Away 7:00 PM
Mon. 1/14 Ardsley Home 4:30 PM
Wed. 1/16 Alexander Hamilton - * Away 4:30 PM
Fri. 1/18 Norland Florida Bishop Ford 7:00 PM
Sun. 1/27 St John Vianney NJ Holmdel NJ 3:30 PM
Wed. 1/30 Rye - * Home 4:30 PM  
Sat. 2/2 Spring Ford PA Home 12:00 PM                                
Wed. 2/6 Blind Brook- * Home 4:30 PM
Fri.     2/8 Irvington Home 4:30 PM
*- Indicates League Game

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Geno excited for start of season

We just finished up with an interview with Geno Auriemma and he is clearly raring to roll up his sleeves and get rolling tomorrow morning when the Huskies will have their first official practice.

"I think every season has something that goes with the first day that is kind of a big deal," Auriemma said. "On some teams coaches can kind of sense that they are really anxious to get started and there is a real good feeling coming out of preseason. Not every preseason is the same. Some a pretty good, some are OK and some are great and some are not good at all. This year the coaches and players are really anxious to get started.

"Going in I feel pretty good. I think we have the makings of a really good team."

Auriemma also said he will take a wait and see approach before setting standards of what he expects out of highly-touted freshman Breanna Stewart.

Stewart was introduced to the crowd at Friday's First Night event and had a chance to make a major splash as she was entered in the dunking contest. However, she missed her three dunks and her fourth attempt (off an set up by Stefanie Dolson) missed as time expired and she did not make the final.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis won the 3-point shooting contest with a score of 20. The women swept the top three spots as Caroline Doty finished with 16 and Morgan Tuck 14. Omar Calhoun, the winner of the dunking contest, was the top men's 3-point finisher with a score of 13.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Humbling end to special season for Connecticut Sun

The fact that the Tamika Catchings led Indiana Fever squad ended the Connecticut Sun's hopes for that elusive first WNBA title is hardly the greatest shock in the world but the way the season came screeching to a half was certainly hard to comprehend.

Catchings certainly did her part with 22 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots but she had plenty of help.

I doubt there are too many folks out there who thought Indiana's quartet of Erin Phillips, Briann January, Jeanette Pohlen and Shavonte Zellous would end up outscoring Asjha Jones, Allison Hightower, Renee Montgomery and Kara Lawson but that is exactly what happened. Making matters worse they were 21 of 34 from the field as the alternated hitting wide open jumpers and driving unopposed to the basket.

“If you had told me that this game was going to play like this I would have thought it was crazy,” Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “They had 77 (points) with five minutes to go in the game, that is not the history of us playing them.”

If the Sun did not end the game on a 15-3 run they would have suffered their most lopsided playoff loss since the franchise relocated to Connecticut in 2003.

The memories of a 25-win regular season and trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the MVP season of Tina Charles, career-best seasons enjoyed by Kara Lawson and Allison Hightower seem little more than footnotes after the way the season came crashing to a halt.

“It is a shame that all the good stuff that we did will be defined by this,” Thibault said. “Unfortunately it is the nature of the game that you are judged by your last game usually. All the good stuff we did it will be hard to remember for a while.”