UConn excited about latest recruit
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."