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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Impressive end to today's practice

The last few practices I have attended at Gampel Pavilion have come to an end simply because the allotted time had expired and not because the UConn starting unit performed at such a high level that head coach Geno Auriemma thought it was the appropriate time to call it a day.

However, there was something a little different about what I witnessed and heard on Thursday. It actually started before we were allowed into the court to catch the final 30 minutes of practice. I heard more on-court chatter than I had perhaps all season long. Then there was a crispness when the UConn starters worked on the half-court offense.

The final play of the afternoon was a thing of beauty as Caroline Doty took a couple dribbles straight ahead before dishing the ball off to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Mosqueda-Lewis threw to ball to Stefanie Dolson in the high post who then got it to Bria Hartley on the left side of the court. Hartley dribbled to the middle of the court and then made a perfect pass to Kelly Faris in the left corner. Faris' wide open 3-pointer rattled in and Auriemma had a question for his team.

"Who called that play?" Auriemma demanded to know. The five starters were afraid to answer so he repeated his inquiry. Finally Dolson meekly raised her hand and said "we ran it before."

Figuring she would get reprimanded for going off script, the opposite actually happened.

"I know you ran it before. You should coach the team because that was good."

Following practice Auriemma explained why he was so thrilled with what he saw.

"The best players that play and the best teams that play are teams that can always do two things very well, they can take direction and only have to see things once or twice and they've got and they can also think for themselves," Auriemma said. "When you have a bunch of young guys playing all they want is direction over and over and over and over again. The problem is that when you are out there playing, it is not like football when there is a stoppage of play after every possession that you can give them direction so today's practice was a little more about thinking on the fly and making decisions and making sure we are all on board, we are
all on the same page because there is some stuff that happened Monday that I was scratching my head and so where the other coaches 'where the hell did this come from' and that is because nobody wants to take some direction, take some ownership out on the floor, say 'I've got it, let's go' so little by little hopefully it improves."

The tone for practice was set by senior Kelly Faris who made a simple request that her teammates work through practice together no matter how much Auriemma might rip into them.

"I think it was a step in the right direction for all of us on the floor especially with our starting five," UConn junior guard Bria Hartley said. "We have pretty experienced players so we should know and I think we do know what to bring, what works best and to be honest w should know it better than the coaches do because we are the ones out there doing it. It was good that we all had input on the play that we ran. I think it says a lot because when you are in games, big games like Baylor, a sold-out arena it is hard to hear. In the two Final Fours I have played in, I have experienced that so you have to go out there and make the right play if you can't communicate and then if you don't agree with what Coach, you have to show him something different and say 'hey, Coach we need to run this.'

"It was a step in the right direction and it can help with our team unity. At times instead of being on the court and work together, we kind of tried to do it individually and that is not going to work in a team sport like this. I think it is good that no matter what, it was like what Kelly said at the beginning of practice that no matter what challenges Coach gives me, we need to make sure we are a cohesive group and that is what we focused on today. That is what you saw today when we were able to come up with those plays."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was practice. And senior day opponent is not Notre Dame or Baylor. We have gone down this road too often. Great practice or great 3 game run against the have nots. Chris Elsberry's article was perfect.

1:49 PM 
Anonymous Carl said...

Incisive, insightful, splendid piece of reporting, Jim. Thanks.

4:05 PM 

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