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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

UConn eyeing sizeable 2014 class

With a brief break between games this week, UConn coach Geno Auriemma was able to hit the road to check on a couple of big kids in the high school Class of 2014.

While NCAA rules preclude Auriemma from discussing uncommitted recruits, recruiting sources have indicated that he came away extremely impressed with A'ja Wilson, a 6-foot-5 wing out of Heathwood Hall Episcopal Academy in Columbia, S.C. and Kathryn Westbeld, a 6-foot-2 forward out of Fairmont High in Kettering, Ohio.

Wilson, considered by many as the nation's top high school junior, did not disappoint with Auriemma in the stands for Tuesday's 80-22 win over Orangeburg Prep. She had 33 points (on 14 of 22 shooting), 15 rebounds, three assists, three steals and four blocked shots in 80-22 win. It was Wilson ninth straight game shooting better than 60 percent, fell one rebound shy of having a double-double in every game this season. Averaging 29.6 points, 14.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.6 steals and 5.8 blocks per game, shooting 68.4 percent from the field (not including Friday's win over Augusta Christian).

Wilson is a tremendous athlete. As an eighth grader she was a sub 13 second time in the 100 meters and she led Heathwood Hall to its first state tournament in volleyball.

Westbeld, who is a new name on UConn's recruiting radar, had 24 points in Fairmont's 54-48 loss to Centerville on Wednesday. Westbeld is said to be the kind of well-rounded, blue-collar type of player that UConn loves to recruit and every indication is that she is very much in the mix with the Huskies.

This is a key year of recruiting for the Huskies. With Saniya Chong the only player signed this year UConn only has seven scholarship players in the fold once Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley graduate in 2014. The Huskies do have a commitment from talented Arizona wing Courtney Ekmark and what I am hearing is the Huskies would like to bring in two more perimeter players and two big kids.

Wilson is clearly the top priority for UConn and it remains to be seen whether she will opt to leave South Carolina. What I've been hearing is that she is not planning to make a college decision until after the summer AAU season is completed.

Another top player on the Huskies' radar is Sierra Calhoun, a guard at Christ the King who recently scored her 1,000th career point. UConn has been out to see her play a few times with Auriemma in the stands for a memorable showdown with Chong's Ossining squad. Sources have indicated that UConn loves her game and likes her as a person and every indication is that they will offer her a scholarship. She would be a natural to land at UConn since her father said he'd prefer that both of his kids went to the same college and his son Omar Calhoun Jr. is a freshman on the UConn men's basketball team.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect on UConn's radar is Nevada guard Gabby Williams who was averaging more than 30 points per game before suffering a knee injury. UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph was out in Sparks, Nev. to watch Williams have 23 points, six rebounds, seven assists, six steals and three blocks in an 85-61 win over Spanish Springs eight days ago. Unfortunately, the 5-11 guard tore her ACL in a game the following day.

What is interesting about Williams' recruitment is that she is one of the nation's best high jumpers. As a 15-year-old she finished fifth in the high jump at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials. Williams has been quoted as saying she plans on competing in both sports in college and intends on redshirting in 2016 to prepare for a run at making the Olympic team. I can't recall the last two-sport scholarship player during Auriemma's tenure so it would be something unique if UConn manages to land her. While my initial reaction is that a track phenom like Williams would be more likely to stay in a warm-weather setting for training purposes, it should be noted that UConn grad Trisha-Ann Hawthorne just ran the fastest 200 meter time in the world during the current indoor season earlier this week so world-class track and field stars can thrive in a New England environment,

You may have noticed that a couple of names have yet to be mentioned (Brianna Turner and Jordin Canada). There's a pretty good reason. All indications are that UConn's interest in them is waning a bit although I am not ready to proclaim that the Huskies are no longer involved with either one. Both players  have recently released a top five list of schools which includes UConn but I'd be very surprised if either of them will land at UConn.

This is where it gets interesting. If UConn wants to land five players and miss out on a couple kids I highlighted above, things could be a little dicey. Ideally Auriemma said he prefers to have a team with 11 or 12 players on it. Next season there are nine scholarship players to go with walk on Becca Pope, a former Nonnewaug star expected to be on the team next year as well. Pope earned All- New England and All-American honors at UConn-Avery Point where she set a program record with 116 3-pointers in her two seasons. A knee injury has sidelined her this season but she can be seen on the sidelines at UConn's practices. There's a chance she could be added to the roster this season especially if she is cleared to practice in February which is a realistic possibility. 

It seems like a safe assumption that Auriemma would prefer to get to 11 scholarship players for the 2014-15 season and with the departure of  Dolson and Hartley, that would mean signing four players during that recruiting cycle. There's not a heck of a lot of margin for error considering UConn's practice of targeting a small number of recruits each year. Of course Williams and Westbeld were not known UConn recruiting targets until recently so there is always a possibility that other players could emerge in the future.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is public knowledge that UConn's interest is waning on those 2 propects, then wave bye bye. Why would any kid consider UConn if a CT media is telling everyone UConn is losing interest?

Rare for UConn to land players from TX or CA just because of the long distance and lousy weather. Geno and CD are making UConn less appealing to warm weather players with small rosters and limited playing time for reserves in real games.

Geno and CD can feed the media all the excuses they want. How many Top 50 HS players really want to sit on UConn's bench for 4 years like Buck or Kearns? Geno and Shea publicly blamed reserves for the turnovers the starters had. And that helps recruiting how?

Geno and CD built this program. But their stubborness and throwin players under the bus could crumble their empire in a very short time. Another 1 or 2 player recruiting class would raise a red flag.

4:35 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since there is no Cincy blog yet, I have to put my comments here for now.

The "game" tonight was an embarrassment for WCBB. UConn "threw" the game to avoid running up the score on Cincy. How is that good for the sport?

The sports world in CT praised Faris for her 2nd half effort against Duke. Tonight she gave less than 100%, as did the rest of the UConn starters.

Say bye bye to 1st team All American. At least Diggins put up numbers against Providence. It's called being a competitor no matter the competition.

UConn's 2nd team tonight will be the 1st team in 2014-15. They were horrendous against a terrible team.

How exactly does tonight's game help UConn get ready for Baylor and Notre Dame? Oh, that's right. It doesn't. Tonight was all about not making Jamelle too unhappy.

Great lesson for kids. Everyone gets a trophy.

10:38 PM 
Anonymous HuskyNan said...

"Geno and CD built this program. But their stubborness and throwin players under the bus could crumble their empire in a very short time."

LOL. Geno's in his 28th stubborn year as a coach. He seems to have done OK with the way he's been running things.

9:42 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People just have to take a deep breath and relax, Geno has done this for the past 28 years and I bet he has done a magnificent job running this program.. Players adjust to the rigors and challenges of the elite college basketball differently and he has proven it time after time again that he gets the best of each player he has coached for the most part and we just have to wait and see.. It's not how u start that matters most but it's how you finish it.. If these group of young players respond well to his challenges then UCONN will again vie for the national championship once again.. One bad game doesn't win or lose a championship..

12:13 PM 

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