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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bria Hartley excited to meet up with ex-AAU teammate

Other than when they are vying for a spot in the Final Four, Bria Hartley considers Kentucky guard Jennifer O'Neill to be one of her closest friends.

However, the two former AAU teammates have not had any communication over the last few days they have been at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena.

“We saw each other but it was kind of like 'hey Jen, hey Bria,'” O’Neill said. “It was kind of like she was going to her game and I was going back to the locker room.”

Perhaps they will exchange a quick hug before the game but after that, the friendship will be put aside for a couple of hours.

“Off the court we are fine but on the court we are competitive, it is business,” Hartley said.

It’s safe to say they will see plenty of each other on Monday night as they lead their teams into the Elite Eight.

O’Neill is coming off a 19-point effort in the regional semifinal victory over Delaware and is one of three double digit scorers for the Wildcats. Ironically, two of those three did not play when the teams met in the Elite Eight a year ago. O’Neill was out for the season with a foot injury while DeNesha Stallworth had to sit out after transferring from California.

Hartley knows O’Neill will be trying to make up for lost time after missing what would have been her sophomore season.

“I am sure it was really hard for her because I know more than anything she wants to be out there on the court and it was unfortunate that she couldn't,” Hartley said.

Hartley and O’Neill were two of the best guards in the state of New York. They shared a trainer and it was only a matter of time before they took the court together. The powerhouse Exodus AAU program was the place with their two phenoms joined forces.

“She was always a threat, people would always (key) on her,” O’Neill said. “She is a great teammate, always talking to people, encouraging them. She can shoot the ball really well, quick off the bounce and explosive in transition. I loved playing with her in AAU.”

Hartley’s first recollections of O’Neill came when she was on the opposing teams in either scheduled or impromptu games.

“I saw her play and started playing with her after my freshman year,” Hartley said. “I think it was the summer after my freshman year when I started to go play with her. Even though I didn't play with her (before that); I played against her and I saw her play around the city.

“I loved playing with her, she is one of my closest friends and I know we really complemented each other when she was on the court. We were both quick, shifty guards and we really worked well together. We had the same competitive nature; we worked out together so we were really familiar with one another when we were on the court so it worked in our favor.”



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