Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mosqueda-Lewis is cleared to play

UConn sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has been medically cleared to return to practice and is expected to play in Monday's game against Maryland.

Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a concussion late in Saturday's game against Purdue and was not able to practice before Wednesday's game against Colgate so she was held out of the game.

As of this morning 9,690 tickets have been sold for Monday's UConn/Maryland game.


Maryland can only hope eight is enough

The ACL curse is still alive and well at Maryland.

The football team dealt with a serious of season-ending knee injuries and the women's basketball team has also been afflicted early and often by the dreaded ACL tears,

Standout wing Laurin Mincy is the latest Terrapin to go down with a season-ending knee injury joining reserve post Essence Townsend and starting point guard Brene Moseley as Maryland players who have suffered torn ACLs. With Mincy injured her right knee in a win over Nebraska. the Terrapins are heading into Monday's Jimmy V Classic game against UConn with seven healthy scholarship players and eight total players to call upon.

Maryland coach Brenda Frese admitted that the loss of Mincy, who is the team's best perimeter defender, is a crushing blow but she has confidence in the small group of players she has to work with.

""We are down to eight players but couldn't ask for eight better players in terms of who to coach and eight kids that bring it every single day," Frese said.

"There was actually a day off yesterday so they unfortunately had to find out through their own and in different ways. Obviously everybody is disappointed for her (Mincy) but I know the team will rally behind her and rally with each other, that is the type of character we have in the locker room. I don't expect anybody to coach any less and players to give any less than what we are doing. It just means we have to step up even more and be even more creative with our practices and with seven players and a walk on we have to be smarter with what we are doing."

Maryland does have the dynamic duo of Tianna Hawkins (team-leading totals of 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game) and All-American Alyssa Thomas (13.4 points per game with a team-leading 27 assists, 11 steals).

Frese spoke about her two superstars on a Friday morning conference call.

"You talk about her (Hawkins) progression coming out of high school ranked 125th best player to where she is now as a senior, she leads the country in field goal percentage, she never takes a bad shot and when you talk about her percentage those aren't all layups either. She has extended her range all the way out to the 3-point line. A tremendous inside/outside game, really tough, she is an aggressive rebounder for us and is just having a tremendous (season).

"For Alyssa this could be her greatest season in terms of her display of leadership and what she is going to be asked to carry this team this season. I think you saw it all on display against Nebraska, her having to do so much during that game now she is having to do this throughout every single night throughout the season. She has shown she is more than capable of it, she wants the responsibility and she is going to do everything she can."

Maryland loses star guard

Maryland junior guard Laurin Mincy has suffered a season-ending knee injury according to a release sent out by the school this morning.

It leaves an already thin Maryland team heading into Monday's showdown with UConn with just seven healthy scholarship players.

"First and foremost she was out best defensive stopper on the perimeter," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said on a Friday conference call with the media. "We could match her up with a point guard, we could match her up on a wing so that is going to be difficult to overcome. The fact that she was playing extremely well her last game out. Her ability to shoot the 3 but also slash to the basket makes her very difficult to defend. She was able to help us offset the fact that our point guard going down, she kind of helped with those duties as well. It just puts us much more thinner at those positions."

Mincy was Maryland's fourth-leading scorer with an average of 8.6 points per game, had five of the Terrapins' 21 3-pointers and was second on the team with 19 assists. If there is a silver lining, Mincy should be eligible to recapture the season of eligibility since she only appeared in five games.

Here is the from Maryland release:

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  –  Junior guard Laurin Mincy of the Maryland women's basketball team will miss the rest of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.

Mincy, an All-ACC Honorable Mention honoree last year, suffered the injury early in the second half of No. 10 Maryland's 90-71 win at No. 19 Nebraska Wednesday night.

Mincy tore the ACL in her left knee in high school and missed her senior season at University High School in Newark, N.J. in 2009-10. She was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2010.

 The Terrapins (4-1) and the Huskies (6-0) will play at 7 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford. Monday’s game will be shown live on ESPN2 and can be heard on the Terrapin Sports Radio Network on 1300 AM (Baltimore), 570 AM (DC) and online on

Caldwell picks UCLA

Recee' Caldwell, one of UConn's top Class of 2014 recruiting targets, committed to UCLA on Friday morning.

Caldwell is a 5-foot-8 guard who lives in San Antonio, Tex. but was born in California and is an avid Los Angeles Lakers fan.

In an interview with recruiting analyst Brandon Clay, Caldwell cited her desire to lead a team to the Final Four rather than head to a program which makes regular trips deep into the NCAA tournament.

“UCLA reminds me so much of my club team,” Caldwell told Clay. “I’ve never gone to the the juggernaut but I’ve always tried to make quality teams the juggernaut with my ability.”

Caldwell had committed to Baylor as a sophomore before changing her mind. Her father Ray Caldwell said that UConn, Duke and UCLA were her finalists.

UConn is already involved with another top point guard in the class and a recruiting source said that Geno Auriemma was planning to head out to California to see the Windward School's Jordin Canada play in a game next month. He will most likely be at the Dec. 7 game against Washington Prep. Windward, coached by former Stanford star Vanessa Nygard who played in the WNBA for six seasons, is also one of the teams playing in the prestigious Tournament of Champions tournament next month. UConn will have at least one coach at the event as UConn signee Saniya Chong's Ossining (N.Y.) squad, Class of 2014 UConn commit Courtney Ekmark's St. Mary's team as well as '14 UConn recruiting target Sierra Calhoun's Christ the King team are all taking part in the tournament.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Banks delivers for Huskies

Even before Brianna Banks was summoned off the UConn bench, junior center Stefanie Dolson knew that the Huskies' sophomore guard would be ready to roll or as Dolson put it "Bri is about to ball out tonight."

Dolson's hunch was correct.

Banks entered the game following the first television timeout and 90 seconds later scored her first points on a layup. Just eight seconds later Banks stole the inbounds pass and scored again. Banks would finish with a career-high 20 points and also had three rebounds, five assists, four steals and no turnovers in a team-high 25 minutes.

"It wasn't just today," Banks said following the 101-41 victory. "I felt like I had a good two days of practice so of course it is going to carry over in the game with my confidence level.

"I still feel I think a lot but it is not as much as last year and my teammates have helped me out a lot with that so I feel like I have adjusted to it."

Banks scored in double figures three times during her freshman season. She has already matched that number through the first six games of her sophomore campaign. She is averaging 9.5 points per game and is shooting 64.5 percent from the field including a 53.8 mark from 3-point range.

Banks credited some soul searching during a return home following her freshman season to allowing her to turn the page. Her teammates and coaches noticed a difference almost immediately.

"When you have those people who come off the bench and really give that spark you need to come out fresh and have a lot of energy like she did, it just kind of reenergizes the girls who were in there to begin with," Dolson said. "I knew she was going to have a good game because in our warmups she hit every shot she took and I said 'Bri is about the ball out tonight.' She did, she can out fighting and I am really proud of the way she played."

Now comes the next step of Banks' evolution as she tests herself in back to back games against ranked opponents. It should be noted that Banks was averaging 7.8 points per game through the first four games of her freshman season but she ended up seeing limited action against the top teams.

Look for Banks to see plenty of time Monday against No. 11 Maryland and Thursday when the Huskies play No. 6 Penn State.

"I guess it is a test to what I am really ready for," Banks said. 

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Huskies share the ball in victory

In the 11 seasons I have covered the UConn program I don't recall a game where there were seven players having at least three but no more than five assists but that is what happened in an 101-41 win over Colgate.

Brianna Banks (who had a career-high 20 points) and Kelly Faris led the way with five assists each as the Huskies had 28 assists on 40 baskets.

“We have a lot of unselfish people and I think that is key on making the team effort actually work,” Faris said. “You can talk about team this, team that but if you don't have unselfish people it is not going to work. We have a lot of players who make good decisions with passes and a lot of people can knock shots down. You put all of that together and that is what you get.”

Having a multitude of players piling up the assists is not a one-game deal as there are now eight different players with at least 10 assists this season.

"We spend a lot of time passing the ball and we tend to recruit good passers," Auriemma said. "That is one of the first things we look for when we recruit a kid is if they are a good passer, that kind of piques our interest. 

"I am not surprised. We usually lead the country or close to it every year and that is the way we play and those are the players we recruit they are unselfish and are always looking to make the extra pass - sometimes to a fault."

Auriemma said he should have an idea of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' status for Monday's game against Maryland after the sophomore forward missed tonight's game with a concussion.

"I am sure she will do something tomorrow and Friday and if we can get her to practice by Saturday ...," Auriemma said. "If she doesn't practice Saturday or Sunday then there is no way she is playing Monday. We'll known more (by Friday afternoon, we will have a pretty good idea of where we stand with that."

In Auriemma's mind, the renewal of the non-conference series with Stanford was a no-brainer.

The teams, currently ranked first and second in both national polls, have been playing annually but the contract was up at the end of the season. It was announced that the programs agreed to a two-year contract beginning with a UConn home game on Nov. 10, 2013 in the Huskies' season opener.

"I might ask them if they want to play a home and home every year," Auriemma said. "As long as Stanford wants to play, we will play them. I have a lot of respect for them as a university and obviously their coaching staff. They are great people and the kind of people they recruit are great people so I am thrilled that it was done."

Labels: , , ,

Geno reacts to latest defection from Big East

Following Wednesday's 101-41 win over Colgate, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma made his opinion known on Louisville's decision to leave the Big East en route to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I think I made a comment last week that if you are going to worry about where you are next, I think you are wasting your time," Auriemma said. "I just wanted to be really good at what I was doing and I knew if I was getting good at what I was doing somebody would want me. That is what way I do things now. I just want to be really good this year. I just want to have a good team, I want my players to play well, I want us to reach our goals. I think (UConn president) Susan (Herbst), (UConn director of athletics) Warde (Manuel) and everybody wants the same thing. We just want to be really good where we are. We just want to win every championship we can in whatever league we are in and whatever happens beyond that is completely out of our control as coaches especially and maybe even as an AD and president. A lot of people think you can politic for this stuff, that is not how it works."

Starting five decision not an easy one

Unless they suddenly change the rules and allow UConn's Geno Auriemma to start six players, the Hall of Fame coach will have a decision to make once Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is cleared to return to action.

Auriemma admits that he has six players who he deems starters. When Bria Hartley missed the first two games due to a sprained ankle, he had no problems coming up with a starting five. He opted to bring Hartley off the bench for all three games in the Paradise Jam as a way of easing her back into the rotation. However, Hartley's days coming off the bench are numbered or as Auriemma put it "you don't have to be a rocket scientist (to know) that Bria Hartley is going to start."

"At some point I have to sit down with the coaches and have to make a decision," Auriemma said. "In my mind we have six starters, we have six guys who deserve to be starters. The only thing that would affect any of them would be starting. The minutes are not going to be affected one way or the other."

Kelly Faris, Hartley, Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson are locks to start leaving him to pick between senior guard Caroline Doty and freshman forward Breanna Stewart. Auriemma's track record would make one to lean towards loyalty and start Doty even though Stewart has been spectacular starting in place of Hartley. There is also the risk of Doty's surgically-repaired left knee tightening up if she opens the first and second half on the bench. Of course none of this matters at the current time since a concussion suffered in Saturday's win over Purdue will prevent Mosqueda-Lewis on the bench tonight. With games against Maryland and Penn State coming up next week it will be worth watching to see which way Auriemma goes with his starting five.

The most intriguing sidebar from tonight's game between UConn and Colgate is that UConn president Susan Herbst's brother Jeffrey is Colgate's president. Of course Auriemma brought up that subject as only he could during his time with the media on Tuesday.

"It wasn't until after the fact (he was aware) it was going to be a Herbst vs. Herbst WWE Smackdown with Susan the president here and her brother the president at Colgate. I don't know whether that is going to be the halftime entertainment tomorrow but I have gotten more than a few memos from our fearless leader about what she wants the score to be. It is going to be interesting. You never know, Susan might leave and he might become the next president."

So when will Auriemma be making his way up to Colgate's campus in Hamilton, N.Y.?
"Unless I am going to Canada I don't know I will be going to Hamilton N.Y." Auriemma said. (Or) go to the baseball Hall of Fame maybe taste some of the Finger Lakes wine."

It's been a decade since UConn opened the season playing four of its first five games outside the state of Connecticut. The game at Texas A&M was followed by three games in three games at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Auriemma didn't think it mattered one way or the other the location of the early games.

"I never know what to make out that," Auriemma said. "Sometimes you start out at home and you play 10 games at home or something like that, you win all 10 and the kids feel great, they get a lot of confidence and then you go on the road and you play well. Sometimes you start out on the road and you play well. I think it all has to do with what kind of team you have, what kind of kids you have. I don't think with this team is will matter one way or the other. I think it was good that we were on the road but I don't think it would have mattered if we were at home or on the road, this group would probably have reacted the same."

Caldwell to announce college decision on Friday

UConn will hear one way or the other about where one of its main Class of 2014 recruiting targets will be heading to school by Friday when Recee' Caldwell will be announcing her decision.

According to her father Ray, there won't be any ceremony of hoopla on Friday. Recee' will start letting teams know of her decision Thursday night and it will be announced to the media on Friday.

Ray Caldwell said his daughter wanted to make her decision so she "can just continue to get better."

He said that she has a list of her top three schools but he did not want to go on the record with those schools out of respect to the other schools who have not been notified yet but he did confirm that UConn is among the top three for the 5-foot-8 guard from Johnson High in San Antonio, Tex.

Joining Caldwell on the short list of Class of 2014 prospects at the top of the Huskies' recruiting wish list is Courtney Ekmark out of Phoenix, who is the only high school junior currently committed to the Huskies, Christ the King star Sierra Calhoun, Manvel (Tex.) forward Brianna Turner, Heathwood Hall (S.C.) wing A'ja Wilson and Jordin Canada, a guard out of the Windward School in Los Angeles.

A recruiting source has indicated that UConn coach Geno Auriemma is planning to head out to watch Canada and Turner play the weekend of Dec. 7-9.

Labels: , , , , ,

Louisville's move to ACC is now official

The Atlantic Coast Conference officially announced that it has invited Louisville to join the conference.

UConn was also in contention for the spot in the ACC which became available when Maryland announced it was leaving to join the Big Ten.

UConn released statements from university president Susan Herbst and athletic director Warde Manuel on Louisville's departure.

"I know this may seem like a tough moment for our fans, but we need to focus on the fundamentals of academic success across the university and in our athletic program as well," Herbst said. "We are winners -- we win, we like to win and we will continue to play the best possible opponents.  We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition.  We will keep building our winning record through the lens of a great university, that focuses on academics, not on the fluid and unpredictable nature of conference realignment.  Again, I realize this is a difficult day, but when we focus on research, discovery, and student success, we'll never go wrong."

Now here are Manuel's on the record thoughts.

“Conference realignment is a prominent national issue in collegiate athletics and will continue to be so into the future.  UConn has established a rich history as a very successful academic and athletic institution.  We understand that because of that UConn will continue to be brought up in the discussion regarding potential schools considered in realignment.

“We have and will continue to monitor the situation regarding conference realignment and work to ensure that UConn is in the best position for the continued success of our athletic programs.  We are proud of the success of our coaches and student-athletes and the tradition that has been established of winning conference and national championships.

“We are proud and appreciative of our great Husky fan base. Husky Nation is strong all over the country and the world. UConn has one of the most captive audiences of any school in the country and we have strong penetration in several of the nation’s largest television markets.”

The UConn men’s basketball program has won three national championships since 1999 – the only school to do so in this time period – and one of just seven programs in the history of the game to win three or more titles.

The UConn football team has made incredible strides since it moved to the FBS in 2002. The Huskies have won two Big East championships, played in five bowl games – including four over the past five seasons -- and became the fastest program to rise from FBS inception to an appearance in a BCS game in history.

The excellence of the women’s basketball program is unparalleled to any school in the country as UConn has won seven national championships and appeared in 13 Finals Fours, including five straight.

Olympics sports programs at UConn are successful and have competed in and won NCAA national championship play in a number of them.

UConn will further enhance its athletic program in the 2013-14 academic year as its men’s ice hockey team begins play in Hockey East, the premier league in the country for that sport. Connecticut will become one of just nine institutions nationally to play men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football and men’s ice hockey in a major conference."

Finally, here is a statement from Big East commissioner Mike Aresco.

"We enjoyed having Louisville in the Big East Conference and we wish them well.

"The Big East has anticipated the continuing realignment that is reshaping college athletics and has already made important additions as part of our vision for the future.  We will continue moving forward to fulfill that vision, which includes a strong national football conference and a strong and storied basketball conference.  Big East teams will continue to compete and succeed at the highest level and, as always, will combine athletic and academic excellence.  With schools stretching from coast to coast and in many of the top U.S. media markets, the Big East has become a truly national conference with outstanding young men and women competing across a full range of sports.

"We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference."

Here is the official release from the ACC;

GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents has unanimously voted to accept the University of Louisville as its newest member. The vote followed the submission of Louisville's letter of application.

"With the addition of the University of Louisville, the ACC continues to be well positioned for the future competing at the highest level in all facets of the collegiate experience," said the ACC Council of Presidents in a joint statement. "The ACC continues to be a vibrant conference that remains steadfast in its commitment to balancing academics and athletics."

"The University of Louisville will be a terrific member of the Atlantic Coast Conference," said University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents. "We welcome them as full partners into the ACC."

"With its aggressive approach to excellence in every respect, the University of Louisville will enhance our league's culture and commitment to the cornerstones we were founded on 60 years ago," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. "The University of Louisville is an outstanding addition to the Atlantic Coast Conference and I commend the Council of Presidents for continuing to position our league for the long-term future. If you look at what has been done over the last 15 months, the ACC has only gotten stronger with the additions of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse."


"The University of Louisville is honored to join the ACC, a conference with a long history of excellence in athletics and academics," said Dr. James Ramsey, President, University of Louisville. "The ACC will be a great home for UofL and our commitment to great academics, groundbreaking research and top-notch athletic teams."

"When it became apparent to us that we needed to make a move, the ACC is the perfect fit for us and we are so elated to be joining this prestigious conference," said Tom Jurich, Vice President and Director of Athletics. "Under John Swofford's leadership, the ACC continues to prosper. We sincerely appreciate this opportunity. This will open so many more doors for us both athletically for all of our sports programs, and academically for our university. What I really like about this move is it's terrific for our fans, with the proximity of the institutions and we never have to leave the Eastern time zone. This is a credit to everyone at the University of Louisville and our community, as we have all pulled together to position ourselves for this opportunity. It's amazing what has happened here over the last 15 years. We appreciate so much what the BIG EAST Conference has meant to us."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Geno not thrilled with Tuesday's practice

At times Geno Auriemma would watch the events unfolding before his eyes with stunned silence and other times he merely shook his head in disgust.

When he finally brought an end to Tuesday's practice, he did not hold back. Auriemma admonished the upperclassmen for a lack of focus and accused them of letting the younger players determine how the Huskies were going to practice.

A few minutes later Auriemma chalked up the less than stellar effort as a result of the long road trip as much as anything else.

"It is a long trip, (UConn returned) back to school yesterday so not exactly ideal scenario and the young guys they struggle with that transition," Auriemma said. "A&M, the Virgin Islands, back to school and there is no let up, no break in terms of what they are expected to do. Sometimes they need a little bit of help and that is one of the things I talked to the upperclassmen about. They have to not be just responsible for themselves because they know how to get ready, they know how to take care of themselves because they have been through all of this. Sometimes they forget that there are guys on our team, freshmen and sophomores, who just need to be brought along and need to be constantly reminded. That is pretty much what today was. We got a lot of things done but our concentration wasn't quite where I wanted it to be for long stretches at a time."

The focus during the practice we were able to watch was on a trapping, zone defense and it did not always go well. The only time UConn got to run offense in the final 30 minutes of practice was when they got a stop on defense. One of those times Moriah Jefferson spotted up from the perimeter and knocked down a 3-pointer. Although the shot appeared to be rushed a little and other options were available, Auriemma had no problem with the shot and he actually applauded the decision.

"Look to be a scorer, look to score," Auriemma proclaimed.

Another time as the five Huskies on the floor scrambled to cover the five male practice players he said "you almost did a great job."

It's no wonder that players past and present say that UConn's practices are more challenging than a majority of the games.

Hartley shaking the rust off

Missing nearly all of preseason camp and the first two games was not how UConn All-American guard Bria Hartley planned on starting her junior season.

When Hartley did return to the court last week at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, she was most certainly raring to go.

“I was just happy to be out there and playing,” Hartley said. “Going a month without playing, I have never been out that long. Last time I was out that long I was in the fourth grade.”
A playground incident when Hartley was a fourth grader let to her missing time with her soccer and basketball teams. She considers herself fortunate to have been the picture of health before she injured her left ankle while playing for the U.S. team in the FIBA 3x3 World Championships.

Hartley took part in the Huskies’ first official practice in mid-October but when the ankle was not responding, the UConn medical staff shut her down.

Hartley was able to play 46 minutes in the three Paradise Jam games and is expected to make her first start of the season when the Huskies host Colgate today at the XL Center (7 p.m., SNY).

“It was tough,” Hartley said. “I couldn't imagine how to deal with people who stood out for six months like Caroline (Doty) with her knee (injury). For me, basketball is the No. 1 priority (for) a majority of the time so being out you kind of get down on yourself a little bit. It is hard to sit in practice and watch everybody playing and you are not able to play.”

The UConn coaches picked up that Hartley was a little over zealous when she returned to the court.

“She has never been out that long before and you expect when you come back to be where you were before the injury right away whether it is an ankle, whether it is a knee or any of that and it doesn't happen,” UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph said. “You have to ease into it. Her expectation level is so high that she was getting frustrated, not quitting but just getting down on herself.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he knew Hartley was nearly all the way back when he saw her engaging in a spirited drill with senior wing Kelly Faris.

"The most encouraged I was about practice was one day at practice or one day at a shootaround when we wee getting ready to play (Purdue), she and Kelly were going at it in a really good battle. It was the best I have seen Bria look since Oct. 15 and that is when I thought she is getting there and is really close."

Hartley's teammates are thrilled to have her back in the lineup.

She is alwys very competitive, she is always going to go hard. You could tell obviously it was going to be one of her firest games back. For any player you are going to see that spark in them, you are going to see that excitement

"(She is an) experienced point guard," Faris said. "Sometimes in the past we have lacked that. Although Moriah got a lot of reps and it was good for her to have to go through that, it was good to have Bria back and somebody who has been through it and knows what she is doing."

Not all the injury news is of a positive variety for the Huskies. Sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a concussion in Saturday’s win over Purdue and will not play today after missing the last two days of practice.

“I talked to her (Monday) and it was 'my head hurts,'” Auriemma said. “It is funny because it didn't look like she got hit in the head. She said I don't remember getting hit in the head coach so it wasn't one of those that her head hit the floor or somebody hit her with a direct shot in the head. It was just one of those glancing blows that kind of got her neck going in a bad direction. You would rather err on the side of caution and that is what we were going to do.

“It is funny how this works. If you have 10 or 11 guys who can really play, somebody gets hurt. It is almost like the basketball Gods are saying 'you don't need her.' It is unfortunate because I thought Kaleena up to this point Kaleena was probably our best player.”

Auriemma and the UConn School of Business announced a partnership at a Tuesday morning press conference which will result in the Geno Auriemma Leadership Conference at Mohegan Sun Casino on Apr. 29-30 with speakers from ESPN, Walmart and Nike among other dignitaries.

Auriemma made it clear that he is not in the venture for personal gain and he will not benefit financially from the endeavor but he looks at it as a way to increase the profile of UConn’s School of Business.

“It’s not just a Geno Auriemma, women’s basketball, UConn athletics, UConn School of Business event,’’ Auriemma said. “This really is a community event that I think will galvanize the entire university and will benefit the entire university.

“I think it is important that we get to showcase the people we have because what you are going to get from the textbooks is the same you are going to get at any other school,” Auriemma said. “What I am hoping is that (people realize that) the people we have here are what makes us special.”

Labels: , , ,

Geno: Mosqueda-Lewis won't play tomorrow

Following Tuesday morning's press conference announcing Geno Auriemma's partnership with UConn's School of Business which will result in a two-day leadership conference in late April, he took time to provide an update on sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Mosqueda-Lewis was hit in the side of the head late in Saturday's win over Purdue at the Paradise Jam and is dealing with concussion-like symptoms.

"She didn't practice yesterday and probably won't practice yesterday and definitely won't play tomorrow," Auriemma said. "Beyond that it is all a matter of how she passes the (baseline) test. I talked to her yesterday and it was 'my head hurts.' It is funny because it didn't look like she got hit in the head. She said 'I don't remember getting hit in the head, coach.' It wasn't one of those that her head hit the floor or somebody hit her with a direct shot in the head. It was just one of those glancing blows that kind of got her neck going in a bad direction. You would rather err on the side of caution and that is what we were going to do. It wouldn't matter who we were playing. The procedure especially with all the data out there with concussions now, the procedure is pretty well spelled out about how many steps you can go through before you can play. Unless she came in Monday morning and Rosemary (Ragle) and Doc (Tom Trojian) said it was perfect, work  her in Monday, practice Tuesday, play Wednesday. Since that didn't happen, it wouldn't matter who we were playing."

There was good news coming out of playing three games in three days, especially with junior guard Bria Hartley able to work her way back into the flow after missing nearly all of preseason camp and the first two games of the season with a sprained ankle.

"The most encouraged I was about practice was one day at practice or one day at a shootaround when we were getting ready to play, she and Kelly were going at it in a really good battle. It was the best I have seen Bria look since Oct. 15 and that is when I thought she is getting there and is really close."

Mosqueda-Lewis' injury followed Hartley's month-long absence and had Auriemma just shaking his head.

"It is funny how this works," Auriemma said. "If you have 10 or 11 guys who can really play, somebody gets hurt. It is almost like the basketball Gods are saying 'you don't need her.' It is unfortunate because I thought up to this point Kaleena was probably our best player."

With what happened to Mosqueda-Lewis and only one recruit coming in, I asked Auriemma if he wants to add a couple of non-schlolarship players to the roster next year to keep a starter from being in the game late in lopsided wins.

"With all the practice players, I would rather those other guys get playing time," Auriemma said. "I would rather Moriah Jefferson be in the game for the last five minutes than (walk ons)."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mosqueda-Lewis doubtful for Colgate game

UConn sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is not practicing today due to a concussion she suffered in Saturday's win over Purdue and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday's game against Colgate.

Mosqueda-Lewis is the Huskies' second-leading scorer, averaging 16.2 points per game. She has 14 of UConn's 43 3-pointers, leads the team with 12 steals, is second with 17 assists and third with 28 rebounds in five games.


UConn among Brianna Turner's top five school

UConn made the cut as highly-touted Class of 2014 prospect Brianna Turner of Pearland, Tex. announced her top five schools.

Turmer, a 6-foot-3 junior forward at Manvel (Tex.) High, announced Monday morning that UConn, Stanford, Notre Dame, Baylor and Duke are her top schools.

As a sophomore Turner averaged 20.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 4.7 blocked shots per game to lead Manvel to a 34-3 record. As a freshman she played at Westbury Christian in Houston and averaged 18.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 2.3 blocks per game.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stewart leads UConn to Paradise Jam title

Freshman Breanna Stewart was named the MVP of the Paradise Jam's Island Division after UConn rolled past Wake Forest, Marist and Purdue over the last three days.

Stewart averaged 19 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.3 blocked shots while shooting 66.7 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis also scored in double figures in all three games (although she did leave Saturday's game after suffering blow to the head and her status for Wednesday's game against Colgate is uncertain). Seven different Huskies had double-digit scoring games in the three blowout wins.

One of the greatest benefits from the tournament was that it gave junior guard Bria Hartley a chance to get back in the groove. Hartley missed nearly all of preseason camp and the first two games as she recovered from a sprained left ankle. Hartley averaged 15.3 minutes in the three games and averaged 7 points and 3 assists per game.

Next up for the Huskies is a game against Colgate on Wednesday at the XL Center.

South Carolina won the Reef Division of the tournament with a 3-0 record.

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 23, 2012

Some video of UConn recruiting target Brianna Turner

Figured I would pass on a link to a video highlight package from the McDonald's Invitational Tournament which includes action of UConn recruiting target Brianna Turner (sent by her father Howard). Enjoy.

Howard Turner said that Brianna will release her top five schools through her AAU program first thing Monday morning.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sophs impressive in Paradise Jam opener

While the 20 points scored by freshman Breanna Stewart and season debut of junior All-American guard Bria Hartley might be the top story lines, something else caught my eye in UConn's Paradise Jam opener.

UConn's three sophomores also had solid games. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in a 95-26 win over Wake Forest but seeing her fill up the stat sheet us nothing new. Her classmates, Brianna Banks and Kiah Stokes, continue to make an impact.

Banks had 12 points and a team-high 6 assists while Stokes finished with 4 points, a team-high 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Consistency has not been one of Stokes' calling card in her brief time at UConn so seeing her follow up a strong effort against Texas A&M with another solid effort is encouraging. If Banks and Stokes can consistently provide quality minutes off the bench it will make an already powerful squad downright scary especially on defense as Banks can be a disruptive force at the front of the press while Stokes offers a shot-blocking presence.

Hartley missed nearly all if preseason drills and the first two games with a sprained ankle. Hartley didn't start but had eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

UConn plays Marist tomorrow at 8:15 p.m. before wrapping up play against Purdue on Saturday night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Season-ending loss to Indiana sealed Mike Thibault's fate

I found it almost comical that both Connecticut Sun CEO Mitch Etess and general manager Chris Sienko said the decision not to bring back Mike Thibault as the WNBA franchise's head coach was not simply a reaction to the listless ending to the season. Then Etess said later in a conference call with the media that if the Sun reached the WNBA final that Thibault would probably be back for an 11th season as the Sun's head coach.

This much is clear, after leading the Sun to eight playoff appearances and four Eastern Conference regular season titles, Thibault is no longer the head coach.

His final game, an 87-71 loss to Indiana in the third and deciding game in the Eastern Conference final was one of the worst during his tenure.

The Sun, for all their regular-season success since relocating from Orlando, had developed a reputation as a team unable to win the big one. Playing at home in the winner take all game in the Eastern Conference final, Connecticut seemed primed to return to the WNBA championship series for the third time and have a realistic shot at their first title.

But seeing an Indiana team, which was playing without injured All-Star Katie Douglas for most of the game, holding a 24-point lead over a listless Sun squad midway through the third quarter seemed to the last straw and the only coach in Connecticut Sun history is suddenly unemployed.

“I don't know that I would attribute it to just that game,” Etess said. “I felt like there was something we needed to do to get us to the expectation level of wanting that championship. We've won a lot of games, we have been to the playoffs quite a bit, put a lot of people in the building but we just felt that at the end of the day we needed to get the championship. There was some intangible missing that had us not at that ceiling and we looked at what we could do to bring that change about and we felt like this is what we could do.”

Both Etess and general manager Chris Sienko said that there were no requests for Thibault’s dismissal from the players.
“The players did not call for this,” Etess said. “This is a business decision we are making in an effort to do what we think we need to do to get the championship.”
Assistant coaches Scott Hawk and Bernadette Mattox, who have been with Thibault since the Sun's first game in 2003, were also let go.

Thibault was hired in March of 2003 shortly after it was announced that the Orlando Miracle franchise was relocating to Connecticut. Thibault posted a 206-134 regular-season record and is just five wins of Van Chancellor’s record for most WNBA regular-season coaching victories. Thibault, a veteran NBA scout and assistant coach, led the Sun to eight playoff appearances including two runs to the WNBA finals but the franchise is still looking for its first WNBA title.

The Sun finished 25-9 during the 2012 season, three games better than eventual WNBA champion Indiana but the Sun lost the last two games to Indiana and had to watch as the Fever won their first WNBA title.

“Nobody liked how the last game turned out and nobody could see it coming at least not on my end, and I don’t think our key players could see it coming,” Thibault said. “There wasn’t a lot of conversation before I went on vacation last week I didn’t know really what to say.

“Nobody wants to win a championship more than me, I don’t care who you are talking about: fans, owner, coaches, players. I came here with a passion to do that, and I am disappointed that we didn’t. But there are a lot of good coaches and players out there in all walks of sport that don’t win championships. It is not a birth right.”

Whoever is hired by the Sun will inherit one of the league's most talented teams led by reigning MVP Tina Charles, former Olympic gold medalists Asjha Jones and Kara Lawson and WNBA Sixth Man of the Year Renee Montgomery.

Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko said that he’d like to have a new coach in place before the WNBA free-agent period starts on Feb. 1.

“Our expectations are to really go hard after the holidays and hopefully we have a decision if we can make it happen within the next month or so,” Sienko said.

Labels: , , ,

Stanford No. 1 in coaches' poll as well

Just saw the latest USA Today Sports national coaches' poll and it looks pretty similar to the writers' poll which came out yesterday.

Stanford is the new No. 1 team receiving 17 of the 31 first-place votes followed by UConn (12 No. 1 votes) and previous No. 1 Baylor checks in at No. 3 and picked up the other two first-place ballots.

Big East releases statement on Rutgers' departure

Here is the statement from Big East commissioner Mike Aresco regarding Rutgers' decision to leave the Big East for the Big Ten.

"Although we are disappointed that Rutgers has decided to leave the Big East conference, we wish them well. They have been a valued member of the conference for many years.

"We realize that conference realignment is currently a fact of life in college sports. In the context of this realignment, changes in our membership have been taking place, including important additions. In fact, the Big East has expanded its scope with new members in California, Texas, Florida, Idaho, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. As a result, the Big East has created a unique national football conference that is a factor in the BCS Championship, remains the nation’s strongest basketball conference top to bottom, and is a major force across the full spectrum of men’s and women’s college sports. We remain committed to, and confident in, the continued growth and vitality of the Big East conference."

Rutgers won  back to back Big East regular-season titles during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons and also shared the regular-season title during the 1998-99 season and had nine top three finishes in a span of 11 years at one point.

Rutgers' physical and aggressive style could wreak some havoc in the Big Ten so it will be interesting to see how quickly the Scarlet Knights make a run at a title in their new conference.


Connecticut Sun eyeing WNBA's version of Jon Gruden

Perhaps it's the fact that I have been a fan of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the mid-1980s, but to me what is transpiring with the Connecticut Sun is eerily familiar to what Tampa Bay did a decade ago.

Tony Dungy did a remarkable job taking one of the NFL's laughingstock franchises and turned them into a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl contender. But despite leading Tampa Bay to five straight playoff appearances, he was cut loose after the 2001 season. The Bucs' hierarchy lured Jon Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders (at a hefty price). Gruden, which a team made up primarily of Dungy's players, won the Super Bowl the following season. Nobody will ever know whether Tampa would have won the title under Dungy's watch but certainly the coaching change did seem to pay immediate dividends.

Whoever takes over the Sun has all the pieces in place to emulate what happened with the Buccaneers a decade ago.

Reigning WNBA MVP Tina Charles is in the prime of her career, veterans Asjha Jones and Kara Lawson have proven they have plenty of basketball left to play and Renee Montgomery is another dynamic offensive performer. That's a pretty good nucleus to build upon. The Sun also hold the rights to Spain's Alba Torrens and Great Britain's Jo Leedham (a former Cheshire Academy star) so perhaps one of them could fill the biggest weakness on the Connecticut roster - a scoring small forward.

Personally, I think Thibault did a remarkable job with the Sun. When the franchise was in Orlando, it had a reputation of being an underachieving bunch. When the franchise moved to Connecticut in 2003, Thibault's background was on the CBA and NBA side of things but he quickly turned the Sun into one of the best teams in the WNBA. Thibault led the Sun to eight playoff appearances, four Eastern Conference regular-season titles and back to back trips to the WNBA championship series. However, the Sun gained a reputation of not being able to win the big one. The way the Sun got blown off the court by eventual WNBA champion Indiana in the winner-take-all third game of the Eastern Conference final this year did little to change the notion that the Sun didn't have what it takes to win it all.

Thibault won 206 regular-season games with the Sun, five shy of former Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor's WNBA record and will leave with a legacy as one of the greatest coaches in WNBA history. Thibault's coaching style wasn't for everybody and whether it was his fault or not, the list of stars who left the Sun (Nykesha Sales, Katie Douglas, Lindsay Whalen, Taj McWilliams-Franklin) reads like a who's who. He was unrelenting in challenging every single call made by the officials even the ones that were clearly correct which always made me wonder if it impacted the Sun's ability to get its share of the 50-50 calls and some of his decisions on draft day raised an eyebrow or two but in the end he did some amazing things in his 10 seasons with the Sun.

Whoever is hired is walking into a pretty good deal. The Sun's fan base is one of the best in the WNBA and as I previously mentioned, the returning talent is certainly good enough to make a run at the WNBA title.

The Sun can only hope that the new coach is able to pay dividends as quickly as Jon Gruden did with the Buccaneers back in 2002.

Mike Thilbault fired by Connecticut Sun

Mike Thibault, the only coach in the history of the Connecticut Sun franchise, has been fired by the WNBA team.

Assistant coaches Scott Hawk and Bernadette Mattox, who have been with Thibault since the Sun's first game in 2003, were also let go.

Thibault posted a 206-134 regular-season record and let the Sun to eight playoff appearances including two runs to the WNBA finals but the franchise is still looking for its first WNBA title.

The Sun finished 25-9 during the 2012 season, three games better than eventual WNBA champion Indiana but the Sun had a listless effort in the winner take all game three of the Eastern Conference final at home as Indiana won 87-71 to move onto the championship series.

“The decision to let Mike go was difficult based on our friendship and working relationship,” Connecticut Sun Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko said. “Mike has had much success here in Connecticut over the past ten seasons. However, we felt it was time for a new voice and new direction for our players and our fans as we continue to try to capture that first, elusive title. We wish Mike and his family nothing but success and know our paths will cross again in the future.”

Whoever is hired by the Sun will inherit one of the league's most talented teams led by reigning MVP Tina Charles, former Olympic gold medalists Asjha Jones and Kara Lawson and WNBA Sixth Man of the Year Renee Montgomery.

Here is the complete release

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (November 20, 2012) – The Connecticut Sun announced today it will not be retaining head coach Mike Thibault or his assistant coaches for the 2013 season. 

This is the first coaching change since the franchise relocated to Connecticut at the start of the 2003 season, and a search to replace Thibault is already underway. Assistant coaches Bernadette Mattox and Scott Hawk have also been released as part of this move. 

“The decision to let Mike go was difficult based on our friendship and working relationship,” Connecticut Sun Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko said. “Mike has had much success here in Connecticut over the past ten seasons. However, we felt it was time for a new voice and new direction for our players and our fans as we continue to try to capture that first, elusive title. We wish Mike and his family nothing but success and know our paths will cross again in the future.” 

The only coach in the history of the Connecticut Sun, Thibault guided the team to 206-134 regular-season record and eight playoff appearances in 10 seasons. The Sun reached the WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005, and the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals five times. The 2012 team finished 25-9, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals with a sweep of the New York Liberty before losing to the Indiana Fever in three games. The Sun were eliminated from the playoffs on October 11th at Mohegan Sun Arena, falling 87-71 to the Fever. 

“After much thought and consideration we have decided to make a coaching change with the hopes that this will allow us to achieve our ultimate goal of bringing a WNBA championship to Connecticut,” said team CEO Mitchell Etess. “We have the ultimate respect and appreciation for everything coach Thibault has done here, and he has played a huge part in establishing the Connecticut Sun as the model franchise in the league. However, our ultimate goal is the championship, and this change is made in with an eye to accomplishing just that.”   

The Sun will begin formerly interviewing candidates immediately. However, there is no set timetable to name Thibault's replacement. 

“We are committed to bringing a WNBA championship to our loyal fans, who have given us tremendous support our first 10 seasons,” Sienko added. “We have several candidates in mind who we believe can help us accomplish that goal. Ultimately, we want to find the best fit for our athletes and this organization.” 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Latest conference realignment news caught Geno by surprise

The press conference had come to an end inside Reed Arena on Sunday afternoon when UConn's Geno Auriemma leaned up against the wall and waited for the four Connecticut reporters who made the trip down to College Station, Texas to begin to fire away.

I happened to be the first one to make my way over to him and when I asked him about the rumors that Maryland and Rutgers will be leaving the ACC and Big East for the Big 10 and word that UConn is atop the pecking order to replace Maryland in the ACC, Auriemma admitted that all of this really stunned him.

"Where does this come from, does anybody know?" Auriemma said. "Believe me, I have no idea where all of this comes from and who initiates all of this. I have heard it all but now the last couple of years."

He was later asked more about the possibility that the Huskies could be heading for the ACC and any possible desires the university has to leave the Big East in favor of the ACC,

"I don't think anybody anymore can talk about desires'" Auriemma said. "You can desire a lot of things. You can desire to get invited to a lot of parties in Connecticut but if you don't get invited, you ain't going and if you sit around waiting for an invite you are doing a disservice to your school and which ever league you are in and your opponents. I think everybody knows right now that every school in the country, every league in the country, you go to meetings, you look each other in the eye, you tell each other the truth and you go on from there with the understanding that it could change tomorrow. Where we are right now is where we are going to play. I have no idea what is going on. I thought it had all died down for a while and for this to come out right now, it kind of took me by surprise."

With conferences seemingly going after teams based more on geography and the television markets they could help bring in, I guess the Maryland and Rutgers moves make a little bit of sense. However, just where is Maryland football and/or basketball in the priority list for sports fans in the Washington, D.C. area? Just where does Rutgers football and/or basketball reside in terms of importance in the New York city sports world? I'm not really sure that either Maryland or Rutgers is going to captivate the public enough in either major market to make it worth all of us. At the same time, I guess UConn to the ACC would help in terms of trying to make inroads in the Boston and New York markets but it seems more like a case of the Huskies being the best of who is left to poach from the very unstable Big East.

I saw a tweet that UConn to the ACC could happen as early as tomorrow. I have not been able to confirm that yet but certainly this latest batch of rumors is a little stronger than just idle speculation. The ACC has already released a statement on the departure of Maryland to the Big 10 and could one be far behind from the Big East regarding Rutgers? 

UConn remains No. 2 in AP poll

The belief was that second-ranked UConn would ascend to the No. 1 ranking when the nation writers' poll came out today after previous No. 1 Baylor lost to Stanford. However, when the votes were tabulated it was Stanford which leapfrogged from No. 4 to No. 1.

When the subject of possibly returning to the No. 1 spot in the poll which they have held on so many occasions in the past was raised, the reaction was little more than an indifferent yawn.

After Sunday's game UConn coach Geno Auriemma wasn't about to make a big deal of the Huskies' placement in the national polls especially after the Huskies have just finished their second game of the season.

"Baylor losing, that would be like if we play a really good team like Stanford and we didn't have Bria Hartley and they beat us, that wouldn't necessarily mean we aren't as good a team as they are,"  Auriemma said. "I think they (Baylor) played without Odyssey Sims who is one of the best players in the country so I don't think it is going to mean anything to us one way or the other. I don't think that kind of stuff matters to our team anymore."

UConn senior wing Kelly Faris couldn't have agreed with her coach more.

"Like Coach said it is kind of something that we don't look at," Faris said. "I think those are the type of people they recruit. All that stuff isn't important. We don't even look at that."

Stanford received 21 first-place votes, UConn was picked No. 1 by 17 voters while Baylor received the other No. 1 vote. It is the first time Stanford has been ranked No. 1 in seven years.

UConn's Breanna Stewart was named the Big East's Freshman of the Week  after averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds in wins over College of Charleston and Texas A&M.

Stewart, a 6-foot-4 forward, had 21 points against Charleston (matching the second highest total for a Connecticut player in their first collegiate game since Auriemma has been UConn's coach) and added 11 points and six rebounds against the Aggies.

Labels: , ,

Huskies dazzle in second half in road opener

In so many ways the events that transpired Sunday afternoon at Reed Arena were just what the doctor ordered for the Huskies.

UConn was pushed at times by host Texas A&M and freshmen Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson played like - well, like freshmen in the first half. But when the Huskies stepped onto the court for the second half what transpired was a clinic of crisp, nearly perfect offensive execution.

The Huskies made 12 of their first 15 shots in the second half to turn what was once a competitive game into a runaway.

"That is kind of where this program is usually at," UConn senior guard/forward Kelly Faris said. "We usually don't play that bad in the first half but when we come out for the second half that is our time to shine. We are excited because we know in those first couple of minutes if we punch them and punch them they will back down and if they do we have to keep at it and I was proud of how we came out."

Faris was not the only person who was impressed by the response in the second half.

"We felt that the would be segments of the game where we would struggle a little bit," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That is why you play games like this, that's why you play in places like this. We know it's not going to be easy, it is not supposed to be easy. I think we found out a little bit about our team and how good we are and we want to get better from here. I am happy with the outcome."

Auriemma was also thrilled with the way the Huskies executed late in the first half. Auriemma called a timeout so the Huskies could run a play to get the final points of the half. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis flashed to the elbow and took a pass from Faris before delivering a pass to Dolson on the baseline. Dolson calmly drained a short jumper just before time expired.

"He (Auriemma) drew that one up," Faris said. "The time came a lot faster than we thought so we kind of ran out there. K did a good job of (passing the ball) and Stef did a great job of finishing."

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, who led A&M to the 2011 national championship and will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, knows a talented team when he sees on and he in very impressed with this UConn squad.

"They don't have great speed but they have great heart where they play hard" Blair said, "They don't run fast they run hard all the time so they look like they are quicker than they are. When you watch that it is like watching a Kentucky and Duke on the men's side, it is not all about speed because it is only 94 feet but you have to have the ball skills.

"I don't think he (Auriemma) can afford injuries, he has 10 players and (Bria) Hartley, he just can not afford that major injury this year but his first six or seven are as good as anybody's in the country."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dolson dominates; Hartley close to return

It didn't take long to figure out what UConn's offensive game plan was in Sunday's win over Texas A&M as the Huskies threw the ball into the low post early and often.

Stefanie Dolson made the strategy look like a stroke of genius with 20 first-half points. She ended up matching her career high with 24 points.

“Being a center, people don't think you can be a leader it always has to be a guard but being a center I am kind of seeing everything I can help people know where they have to be,” said Dolson, who was 11 of 15 from the field to net 24 points for the third time in her collegiate career.

“I am there to help my team when they need me and the guards can spread the floor it just makes it easier for me in the paint.”
Dolson admitted that it did seem easy at time to score at will against the Aggies, who are perennially one of the nation’s best defensive squads. She was not alone in that opinion.

“What we wanted to do is stop the layups which we didn't do,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “They didn't miss anything. They share the ball tremendously. When you play as poor of a defensive game, it is easy to make your offense look good.

“Their key to their team is not (Bria) Hartley, not (Kaleena Mosqueda)-Lewis, the key to their team is Dolson. When Dolson goes out and plays like Bill Laimbeer and does her job … She is not going to score 20 something in every ball game but she was All-American tonight and made our kids look like all-district.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he considers Dolson to be "the personality of the team" and he didn't stop there.

“The thing that we tried to fix at yesterday's practice was we are a really good outside shooting team and the danger of that is sometimes you just come down, pass the ball once and start jacking up jump shots,” Auriemma said. “We really made a concerted effort to get the ball in the lane. With her (Dolson’s) footwork and her mobility, where she is right now mentally if we throw it to her something good is going to happen. We are either going to get a bucket, she is going to get fouled, she is going to get an assist, something good is going to happen. We felt if we keep doing that it is going to put their big guys under a lot of pressure.”

UConn junior guard Bria Hartley missed her second straight game with a sprained ankle but has a chance to return to the court when UConn plays in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands beginning Thursday. Auriemma said that Hartley took part in practice on a limited basis in the last couple of days and he will see how she looks on Tuesday and feels after that practice before determining whether she can make her season debut in the Paradise Jam later this week.

Auriemma was also complimentary of the effort by sophomore post Kiah Stokes, who had seven rebounds and three blocked shots in what he considers her best effort since the first day of official practice on Oct. 13.

"Kiah Stokes was great today, golly, there are miracles," Auriemma said. "There are things that Kiah can do that if she does those things every day she has a huge impact on our team. You see how long she is so it is hard to shoot over her. You have a defender who is a little different from Stefanie but a little more experienced than Breanna Stewart. She is long enough that she can get the rebounds that some people can't get to if she puts her mind to it."

Dolson echoed Auriemma's sentiments.

"She was doing well in practice and it showed in tonight's game because  I think she has a different mindset," Dolson said.

This is the end of a home and home series between the schools and Blair said he was approached about playing UConn as part of a doubleheader in New York on Dec. 22, 2013 but declined.

“I want to keep playing but we have to grow up because it is not good for television, 30-point games,” Blair said. “We've had two straight.”

Blair said he will be playing St. John’s at Madison Square Garden that day and the hope is to have UConn play a team yet to be announced as part of the doubleheader.

Labels: , ,

Two top Texas phenoms high on UConn's recruiting wish list

There are no lack of entertainment options when you arrive in Texas where the natives boast that everything is bigger here (including the wait for the elevators in the hotel).

If you are a Connecticut women's basketball beat writer and two of UConn's top recruiting targets in the Class of 2014 happen to be playing in tournaments within a half hour of where you are staying, the itinerary includes seeing them in action. So that is exactly what Rich Elliott of the Connecticut Post, Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer and I did yesterday.

We were able to catch the fourth quarter of the Fort Bend ISD tournament semifinal where Recee' Caldwell led her San Antonio Johnson High School team to an easy victory. After interviewing the effervescent Caldwell and making a quick stop for lunch, we headed to the prestigious McDonald's Invitational Tournament to see Brianna Turner power her Manvel (Tex.) team to victory in the third-place game in the Silver Division.

Not so long ago, the state of Texas seemed to be off limits to those entrusted with keeping the UConn women's basketball program's talent quotient among the best - if not the best - in the nation.

Last year the Huskies swooped into the Dallas area and enticed the nation's top-ranked high school point guard to leave the comfort of the Longhorn state.

Could Moriah Jefferson, the first Texas native to suit up for the Huskies, soon have some company.
It is too early to predict whether Caldwell and Turner will follow Jefferson's lead by heading North but it would hardly be a stunning turn of events to see the two top 10 Class of 2014 recruits signing national letter of intents with UConn a year from now.

UConn is certainly practicing its due diligence. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma was at Turner's game in the McDonald's Invitational Tournament Saturday morning and the UConn coaching staff made their presence known at the Fort Bend ISD Tournament final featuring Caldwell Saturday evening.
Both players have already taken unofficial visits to UConn and each time word is that they returned home even more impressed with everything UConn had to offer than they were before they ventured into New England for one of the first time in their lives.

Caldwell was downright giddy when recalling her initial visit to Storrs, Connecticut late last month.

"It was a really nice visit," Caldwell said after the Fort Bend ISD semifinal win over Hightower. "It wasn't as cold as everybody said it was going to be. It was a really good visit. I talked to Coach Auriemma, I talked to the whole coaching staff, the girls were really cool.

"At official (visits) they can roll out the red carpet for you so you get to see all the great things about it but just an unofficial is just how every day is. I saw practice, I got to see how girls interacted with each other. It was just a regular day; the red carpet wasn't rolled out for me. They didn't have (an itinerary), it was just a regular day.. It was very normal, it was a great practice. I wasn't surprised at the practice, that is what i thought it was going to be but all the girls were chill off the court. I thought it was going to be, you know how UConn is but it was very chill."

Trust me when I tell you that being "very chill" is a very good thing.

Caldwell was beaming from ear to ear when talking about her UConn visit.

Caldwell, however, is not planning to make a commitment before she is 100 percent certain. She made the mistake once when she committed to Baylor only to change her mind and reopen her commitment. Now she is among the prominent names on UConn's wish list for the next recruiting cycle.

Caldwell said she would like to narrow her list to five by the middle of next month before making a decision.
Caldwell has already visited Duke, UCLA, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Christian and nearby Texas-San Antonio as well as UConn. She was also planning to be in attendance at today's UConn/Texas A&M game.

"We are getting closer, we are getting there," Caldwell said. "After my first commitment with Baylor, we are taking it slowly we are not making any mistakes any more. We are kind of there but we are not sure yet, we are open.

"Me and my family have been talking about committing after the high school season so probably mid-December we'll have my list and then we will make our decision after that."
Caldwell said that decommitting from defending national champion Baylor was not as heart wrenching as some might surmise.

"It wasn't that hard," Caldwell said. "I realized I was young, it was my sophomore year and I just came back from Mexico and I thought I already had everything I wanted but you realize, you make mistakes and you move on. In this process you have to be selfish because it is where you are going to be for four years and you have to be in great positions after the one."

Caldwell is a dynamic combo guard with playmaking ability but also tremendous range on her jumper.

So does she prefer playing point guard or being a shooting guard?

"It doesn't matter." Caldwell said. "I think I could score from both positions but I like to pass. I thought my role this game was to get everybody involved."

In this day and age of social media overload, Caldwell is a refreshing throwback. She does not have a Facebook page and only created a Twitter account so coaches can follow her. Caldwell had to hesitate for a moment before recalling her twitter handle.

She is also somebody who quickly mentioned the importance of meeting a big wig from UConn's School of Business during her visit since she intends to be a business major in college.

Turner, who took an unofficial visit to UConn in Match, is another highly-touted prospect who does not appear to be caught up in her own hype.

"I don't like the attention," Turner said after leading her Manvel team to a third-place finish in the McDonald's Silver Bracket. "I would rather stay on the sideline and play my game."

Turner was a member of the U.S. team which won the gold medal at the FIBA U-17 World Championships and returned for her junior season of high school as perhaps the most highly sought after player in her class.
Manvel coach Bryan Harris estimated that between 35-40 Division I programs have come in to check out the multi-faceted 6-foot-3 Turner.

"To be honest with you it has been a circus but I guess it would be better than the alternative," Harris said. "There are a lot of expectations that comes with that and we are trying to fight through those things."
Turner does a little bit of everything for Manvel. She is able to score both inside and out, is a rebounding force, blocks shots at will and even inbounds the ball and helped to bring the ball up the court.

"I just do anything I can to help my team be as successful as we can be whether it is running the floor, posting up, dribbling the ball, getting rebounds," Turner said.

Turner got close to many of the top players in the Class of 2013, many of whom recently made verbal commitments, since they were here teammates on the U.S. U-17 squad. Seeing her teammates and friends make their college decision has made Turner realize how little time there is for her to pick her college.

"That will be me in a year," Turner said. "I will be announcing my verbal (announcement) so I am (thinking) 'oh it is only a year away.' It seems like it was so far but now it is coming up quick. All of my USA team members already have all committed. I just played with these girls two months ago and now they know where they are going for the next four years."

Turner said she isn't likely to commit until after the summer AAU season is over. Turner's father Howard said that his daughter will likely name a top three on Nov. 26.

Brianna Turner is on board with that way of doing business as she said "I am going to take at least three visits."

Harris believes whoever lands Turner will be getting an impact player on the court and a first-class citizen off of it.

"She is the ultimate teammate," Harris said. "I am convinced you are only as good as you make your (teammates), the other four kids and how they respond. Sometimes she feels like she has to take over and she can take over but she makes everybody else around her better. That is what makes her a great teammate, she is very supportive. She is never negative on anything you don't ever see her get frustrated like her coach and some others.

"She is a great kid that does everything. She is a stat producer in everything she does. She is a hard guard, she can play the 1 (point guard) or the 5 (center) and any position. She's a great student, great kid, (has a) great personality, has no enemies and the best thing about her is she has no idea she is that good she is. "

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jefferson eager to play in front of friends and family

Few introductions will be needed when UConn freshman guard Moriah Jefferson steps onto the court tomorrow against Texas A&M.

Four of the Aggies’ seven freshmen were Jefferson’s teammates with the DFW Elite AAU juggernaut while she considers A&M freshman Peyton Little to be her closest friend.It could make for an emotional scene but Jefferson made it clear that when it is time to get serious, she won’t have any issues going to work.

“It will be fun playing against them but at the same time, when we are playing against them we are not friends, we are enemies,” said Jefferson, the first Texas native to play for head coach Geno Auriemma at UConn. “On the court it is business, off the court we are friends.”

With junior All-American guard Bria Hartley out for the second straight game with a sprained left ankle, UConn coach Geno Auriemma could opt to start Jefferson or go with senior Caroline Doty for the second straight game.

Auriemma has seen these return home games be both a blessing and a curse especially for a youngster like Jefferson with one career game under her belt.

“I hope she enjoys it,” Auriemma said. “I have not talked to her about it. I am sure she is excited about it. I am sure she will have a lot of family and friends at the game, sometimes that works both ways, you play great or you can get all anxious but I am happy for her. It is a good opportunity for her.”

With Hartley sidelined and Doty’s perpetual knee injuries limiting her time in practice, Jefferson has found herself running the UConn offense perhaps a little earlier than anybody anticipated. Her teammates have been impressed with the way Jefferson has transitioned to the speed and intensity of the college game.

“She is the smallest player we have on this team but she is one of the hardest working and she plays bigger than she is,” UConn sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She gets in there, she is not afraid to get in there with the trees. She might get banged up a little but she is never going to stop going in there. It is hard to come in here and try to be a point guard. Coach Auriemma, he loves his point guards and he expects a lot out of them. I think she has come in as a freshman with pretty high expectations of herself and I think she is handling it pretty well.

"You can tell by Moriah's personality and just the way she talks out there that she is a natural leader, she is a natural point guard. She wants to take control of things, she wants to know where everybody is supposed to be, she wants to make sure everybody is in the right place. It is kind of nice to have somebody out there who is already born with that leadership mentality.".

At 5-foot-7 Jefferson is the shortest UConn player and the skinniest one as well. Jefferson has heard the naysayers question whether she is big enough to play at the highest level of basketball. She also knows that there are those fully expecting her to get home sick and return to Texas for good.

“Everybody asked me why would I come so far when I have Baylor, A&M and all these good schools in Texas but for me it is just something different,” Jefferson said. “This is where I wanted to go. I came here and I fell in love with it. There were people saying 'oh, you aren't going to make it, you'll be back in a couple of days and even in a couple of months.' All right, we will see. I am still here and I am not going anywhere.
“I get those doubts all the time. (Look at) me, I am small so that is one and then you are going so far away, you are home schooled so you are not going to be used to being away from your family but I don't mind them at all.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tickets going fast for Notre Dame game

UConn announced that fewer than 500 tickets remain for the nationally-televised game against Notre Dame on Jan. 5 at Gampel Pavilion.

Tickets can be reserved by visiting to place their order, or call 1-877-AT-UCONN (1-877-288-2666).

Speaking of tickets, packages for the Big East tournament go on sale Monday.

The tournament will be held from Mar. 8-12 at the XL Center in Hartford and it will be the 10th straight year that Hartford is the host site of the tournament.

To order tickets by phone, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. In addition, tickets can be purchased online by logging on to the XL Center website at or the Ticketmaster website at Tickets can be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets.

Tickets can also be purchased at the XL Center Ticket Office beginning Nov. 19. Weekday ticket office hours are noon-5 p.m. For weekend events, the ticket office will open four hours prior to the start of an event.

Finally, the Connecticut Sun announced a special ticket package beginning on Monday.

The holiday package will be available for purchase until 5 p.m. Dec. 14 (while supplies last). The package, which is available for $100 and valued at $244, includes 10 upper level vouchers good for any regular season game during the 2013 season as well as one free upper level ticket to the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 27.

The holiday package will be available by calling 1-877-SUN-TIXX. For more information on the holiday packages and other Connecticut Sun tickets, visit

UConn has had mixed results with small recruiting classes

In a perfect world the UConn women's basketball program would bring in three or four recruits every season.

However, history has shown that simply is not a realistic expectation. There has been a trend of UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his staff securing a sensational group of recruits one season followed by a class of one the following year.

That is what happened after Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams highlighted perhaps the best recruiting class in women's basketball history as the following season Kennitra Johnson was the only UConn signee.

Fast forward to 2008 and a trio of high-proflile recruits (Elena Delle Donne, Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty) were the big names in another much ballyhooed recruiting class. Once again getting recruits to sign on the dotted line was not easy chore. When the signing period came and went, Kelly Faris was the lone member of the Huskies' recruiting class.

In a case of it being like deju vu all over again, a year after the terrific trio of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck there will be only one scholarship freshman coming into the program for the third time in the last 15 years.

After her signing party on Wednesday, Ossining (N.Y.) guard Saniya Chong talked about her feelings being the only freshman (barring walkons) joining the Huskies next season.

"I would say I am a little nervous because I am basically go out there by myself," Chong said. "I have to find my own way as a freshman, I have to do my own things but it is going to be a challenge and I am looking forward to it."

Things did not end well when Johnson was the lone recruit. Johnson was a valuable reserve as a freshman on the 1999-2000 national championship team but she transferred following her sophomore season.

The situation couldn't be more different with Faris who has been an underrated and underappreciated member of three straight Final Four squads.

Auriemma could easily pass as the president of the Kelly Faris fan club.

"You talk about missing people, she is going to hard to replace," Auriemma said.."I don't think you find players like that every day. If I said 'look we are only going to recruit Kelly Faris types every year' we'd have a recruiting class of one every year because there just aren't that many (like her).

"She (Faris) is somebody that everybody can emulate. All of your offense is pretty much God given. You just have an ability to score points and do certain things. The stuff that Kelly does, that is just hard work. That is just a commitment that he has made to herself and to her teammates. More people should emulate her and more people should aspire to be like Kelly Faris. The game would be better and  coaching would be a lot more fun."

Her teammates also have an incredibly high opinion of the 5-foot-11 senior from Plainfield, Ind.

"Kelly, I would say that she is our best player," said UConn sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who like Faris was named to the Naismith preseason watch list. "She doesn't score the most points but Kelly does all the intangible things.I personally think if anybody were to want to play on a Connecticut  basketball team, you need to play like Kelly Faris. If you can't score, you are going to play hard and do all the things that Coach (Auriemma) wants you to do.I am always going to remember Kelly Faris for how hard she plays, she may not have all the awards but it is nice to see people recognize (that).

"I try to live up to those standards, Kelly is my lifting partner so we are pretty close so I try to emulate her. I think that is the best person I could try to emulate here."

Auriemma said that Faris, who has spent her career as an even-keel player, has been playing a little fast in practice this season.

Faris admits that the reality that his is her final season is starting to hit home.

"It is weird, it is different but at the same time it is exciting," Faris said. "You think about how fast ... I was just a freshman myself and all of a sudden I am here. You just to have to go with it, take on your role and have fun with it because it is your last go round for everything. A lot is expected of me and I am going to try to fulfill that."

Labels: , , ,

Matchup of veteran coaches highlights UConn/A&M tilt

This weekend is a first for UConn coach Geno Auriemma as he will get the chance to see the Texas A&M campus for the first time when the Huskies play the Aggies on Sunday afternoon.

The game will also a pair of coaches with more than 1,400 Division I wins between them. Since Blair was already serving as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s when Auriemma accepted the job as a University of Virginia assistant back in 1981, Auriemma had some fun discussing Blair's coaching longevity when I asked him about Blair's place in women's basketball before Thursday's practice.

"I don't know when Gary Blair started coaching but I am sure he asked Dr. Naismith should be basket really be 10 feet," Auriemma said. "It seems like he has been coaching so long that he must have started when he was 12. When I was at Virginia in 1981, he had already been coaching a while so as far as I can remember coaching women's basketball Gary Blair was always a part of it and he was always on winning teams whether he was a head coach or assistant and he was always surrounded by other great people. I think it was fitting for him to win a national championship. Sometimes in this game you are rewarded for the time you put into it, you do it the right way, give a lot of yourself to the game and you get rewarded. It doesn't always happen but  I am glad it happened in his case. He's been in a lot of different places and done a lot for a lot of players and has given a lot to this game."

After winning three Texas 4A state titles at South Oak Cliff High School, Blair made the jump to the college game in 1980 when he was named an assistant coach with the Lady Techsters. Ironically both Auriemma and Blair landed their first collegiate head-coaching job in 1985. While Auriemma took over at UConn, Blair coached Stephen F. Austin to six NCAA tournament berths in eight seasons. Blair headed to Arkansas in 1993. The highlight of his 10-year run was a trip to the Final Four in 1997. In 1998 Blair and Auriemma squared off at the Four in the Fall tournament in San Jose with UConn winning 100-64. Blair, who will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, is now in his 10th season at Texas A&M and in 2011 the Aggies won the program's first national title.

The Aggies are off to an 0-2 start with losses to Louisville and Penn State and will face their third straight top 10 team to open up the 2012-13 season. Texas A&M has seven freshmen including three who played more than 10 minutes in the loss to Penn State so the early portion of the schedule is definitely a baptism of fire.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

UConn excited about latest recruit

As promised yesterday when I wrote about Saniya Chong's letter signing, we would have a chance to ask Geno Auriemma about the only member of the next incoming freshman class.

Both Auriemma and assistant coach Shea Ralph, who will be Chong's position coach for the Huskies, raved about the electrifying 5-foot-9 guard from Ossining, N.Y.

"I don't know how to describe her really," Auriemma said. "She puts points on the board, she is just one of these kids that scores points. I watch her sometimes and at the end of a half I'll say to somebody 'how many did she have?' They will tell me and I'll say that is impossible. She is fast, she can handle the ball, she is a tough kid, she scores and she likes to pass the ball which is unusual for kids who score that many points.

"She reminds me a little bit of Shea (Ralph), she is not as big and strong as Shea except she shoots the ball better from the perimeter. Shea wasn't a 3-point shooter when she got out of high school but she reminds a little of Shea in that she just scores points a lot of ways, she gets to the free throw line a lot. She is a little bit better passer than Shea although that is hard to say because I did not see Shea pass the ball. I just like her. She is a nice kid and the kind of kid who will be successful here at Connecticut."

Ralph was a dynamic scorer coming out of high school in North Carolina (where Chong lived for several years before her family relocated to Ossining four years ago).

Ralph compared her more to current freshman Moriah Jefferson than to the way she played in high school.

"She is going to be great in our system," Ralph said. "She loves to play full court, she is a great passer, she can shoot it from 30 feet out. Those are things that you can't teach.
"She plays 100 miles an hour all the time which I like but we are just going to have to show her that you can't do that all the time. She plays with that kind of energy, she kind of does whatever. She is going to have to learn that kind of aspect of how we play. I think it is easy to pull the reins on kids rather than  get them to go harder. She is a 1 (point guard) but she is a scoring 1. She is a little bigger than people think. She is comfortable with the ball in her hands.

"She is different from me. She is more athletic than me, she is a better shooter than I was. She is not as big, I was just mean. She is not mean, she can get into spaces and find people. I shot it more. She shoots it so well. I remember we took Coach (Auriemma) to a game and she made eight 3's in a row and seven of them were right in front of him."

UConn freshman forward Breanna Stewart played against Chong in last year's New York Class AA tournament. Stewart led her Cicero-North Syracuse team to a 79-51 win over Chong and Ossining in the AA semifinals. So naturally I wanted to get Stewart's scouting report on the kind of player that Chong is.

"I am really excited for Saniya," Stewart said. "I think we had a lot of fun when she came on her official  this year because I didn't know her that well during high school and we had a good time together. She is just a really quick guard. She is long, she is taller and she is always looking for her teammates first but then at the same time you have to be careful because she can shoot the ball."

The signing of Chong wraps up UConn's recruiting class. It has been an intriguing process for the UConn coaching staff to say the least so I asked Auriemma to describe what it was like trying to secure a class the year after signing one of the most highly-touted classes in program history.

"We knew going in that it wasn't going to be one of those recruiting classes that we had last year but what is better, one player who you know is going to play 30 minutes maybe or five players who only two of them are going to play," Auriemma said. "I think for us, with the advent of practice players and the fact that we have such a good history here with them I don't really worry about how many people are on our roster. The danger with a program like ours, everybody thinks you should have 15 players, there are coaches who think you should have 15 players to offset injuries. Tell me how you are going to get 15 players to stay happy at the University of Connecticut especially when the first five are all first team All-Americans and a couple of them are national players of the year? Do you really think that the bottom five are going to be at that level? Probably not.

"I would say that recruiting this particular class is a little interesting. It had a lot of peculiarities to it to say the least. The trick is to identify those kids that you think can come in and play for you right away or have a chance to play for you down the road. The problem you have at Connecticut is that if you don't play by the time you are a sophomore you are hoping that we don't have great recruiting classes behind you because it you are not playing here by the time you are a sophomore and we are still recruiting high school All-Americans behind you, by the time you get to be a junior you are stuck. It is hard. You have to identify who are those kids who can come in and play for you right away and who are the kids that you know are content to wait a couple of years before they play. That is getting harder and harder to do."

Labels: , , ,