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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Hammond has no regrets

                                                                                                                 (Associated Press photo)
Former UConn recruiting target Sara Hammond happy at Louisville.
Perhaps if the lure to play close to home wasn't so strong Sara Hammond would be a member of the UConn squad which is 40 minutes away from a record-tying eighth national title.

However, the native of Mt. Vernon, Ky. has no regrets about her decision to play at Louisville.

"That's been the main question since I've gone to college, why did you pick Louisville over UConn?" Hammond said. "It is ironic because every time we play them that's the main question that gets brought up: 'How does it feel to be playing UConn?' You could be on the other side playing with the Stefanie Dolsons and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis'. I decided to stay at home because I wanted my family to watch me play. I took a visit to Connecticut. I loved their program. I loved their campus. Geno Auriemma, besides Jeff Walz, was my next favorite coach. I saw the look on my mom's and dad's face when they saw me excited. They loved it and they were happy for me. But I could tell they were going to be really sad if they couldn't watch me play basketball. I knew 15 hours away from home would be heartbreaking for my family and me. That was the main reason I stayed at Louisville. Instead of driving 15 hours they would have to drive only two hours down the road.

"Connecticut's a great program. I love Geno Auriemma. The whole recruiting process with him was wonderful. Their players were amazing to me. But I'm happy to be at Louisville. I wouldn't trade it for
anything in the world. It's just kind of crazy how it's all evolved and we're here playing Connecticut for a national championship."

UConn got in late in the recruitment of Hammond but nearly was able to steal her away from under the noses of Big East rival Louisville.

"It was hard," Hammond said. "Throughout that summer I had my mind made up that I was going to Louisville just because of how hard they had recruited me. And then in late July I got a phone call from Geno Auriemma saying that they wanted me to come up and they were going to offer me a scholarship. At that point it was a toss-up. Me and my family sat down, we prayed about it, we talked it over, and I talked with my high school coach about it too. We came to a decision that you've got to do what your heart tells you and my heart told me to stay at home with my family."

When Louisville freshman forward Courtnee Walton arrived at New Orleans Arena for Saturday's open practices, there were a couple of familiar faces in the crowd ready to catch up for lost time.

Curtis Ekmark, Walton's high school coach and her former St. Mary's teammate Courtney Ekmark have been down in New Orleans and were able to chat with her for a few minutes.

Walton has precious memories of her time playing at St. Mary's for Curtis Ekmark, who was in town as one of the coaches for the WBCA High School All-American Game and with her daughter having committed to UConn, they play on sticking around for tomorrow's national title game.

"It was a lot of fun and I think it helped prepare me for practice like it would be in college and I would be a little more prepared," Walton said. "I definitely had great memories in high school and winning the national championship was great. We just played so we learned more about the game than just run here, do this and do that so as well as learning a lot of defensive principals. 

As for Courtney Ekmark, NCAA rules limit what a current college player can say about a player yet to sign a letter of intent but she did have this to say about Courtney:

"I love the way she is always positive and she always had so much energy and is really fun to play with."

UConn announced that fans can head to Gampel Pavilion to watch tomorrow night's national championship game. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. for the 8:30 p.m. game


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