Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

American Athletic Conference unveils logo

The American Athletic Conference, headlined by UConn, has unveiled its logo.

“As with the creation of our name, we worked directly with our institutions, sports marketing experts, media partners and design agencies to create and evaluate a variety of logo options,” said AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement. “We took our preferred marks to each institution within our conference for an open forum with school presidents, athletic directors and student athletes to get their input."

The American Athletic Conference will launch the full version of its website at www.TheAmerican.org on July 1.

Beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, the conference will consist of Central Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist, South Florida, Temple, Tulane and Tulsa. The U.S. Naval Academy will become a football-only member in 2015.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New gig for Ashley Battle

Ashley Battle, a member of three national championship teams at UConn, has been named the head girls' basketball coach at Chartiers Valley High in Bridgeville, Pa., which is about 10 miles from Battle's hometown of Pittsburgh.

Battle had 1,054 points, 696 rebounds, 235 assists and 191 steals in 149 career games at UConn from 2000-05. Battle was taken by Seattle with the25th overall pick in the 2005 WNBA draft and played in 142 regular-season games over six seasons. Most of her time came with the New York Liberty. Battle played for the Liberty from 2006-09 and her best season came in 2007 when she had career-best marks in scoring (7.4 points per game), rebounding (3.7) and assists (1.6). Her WNBA career came to an end after appearing in five gams with San Antonio in 2010.

Battle replaces Spencer Stefko who led Chartiers Valley to a 137-51 record over the last seven seasons. During the 2012-13 season Chartiers Valley went 22-8 and reached the WPIAL title game for the first time in program history before losing to Bethel Park in the Class AAAA final.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

UConn recruiting rargets make U.S. U-16 team


(Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
UConn recruiting target Asia Durr was named to the U.S. U-16 squad.
Asia Durr and Katie Lou Samuelson, the only members of the Class of 2015 known to have scholarship honors from UConn and DeJanae Boykin, who has been quoted as saying she intends to make an unofficial visit to UConn this summer, were among 12 players named to the U.S. team which will be competing in the FIBA Americas U16 Championships next month.

Durr is a 5-foot-11 guard from Douglasville, Ga., who is considered by many to be the best player in the Class of 2015. Samuelson is a 6-foot-3 guard/forward who plays for California powerhouse Mater Dei (the alma mater of UConn All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) while Boykin will play for Flowers High after being a star at national power Riverdale Baptist last season.

The 12-member team was selected after four days of trials featuring 132 players. Ten of the 12 players were among the 33 initially invited to the tryouts by the selection committee. Sabrina Ionescu and Taylor Murray were the only players out of the 102 who applied for inclusion for the trials to make the team. The U.S. opens up against Brazil on June 19 with the gold-medal game scheduled for June 23 in Cancun, Mexico.

Here are quotes from Boykin, Durr and Samuelson courtesy of USA Basketball.

DeJanae Boykin (Charles H. Flowers H.S./Springdale, Md.)
How did you feel when you heard your name called?
I was very surprised. It’s an accomplishment to be able to be out here and play for the USA team and be able to represent your country. It means a lot. I was really excited. It was a blessed moment to be able to be out here and be able to represent the USA.

How tough was the competition this weekend?
It was really tough. I was very nervous. Playing against all the top people in the class of 2015 and 2016 and younger kids, also. It was very good to play against them.

What does it mean for you to have an opportunity to represent your country?
It means a lot to actually be out here and know that people recognize my talent, and I can represent my country.

Did you ever think you would have an opportunity like this?
I thought I could make it, I knew it. I thought I could make it, so I just stuck to my game.

What were you trying to show to the committee this weekend?
Versatility. I would love to be a post player, but as you can see, I’m not really that tall. I can shoot out on the wing. I can guard post players, I can guard guards, I can do whatever you want me to do.


Asia Durr (St. Pius X Catholic H.S./Douglasville, Ga.)
What did you try to focus on during the trials?
There were a few things that I tried to show. I tried to show that I was coachable, that I hustled, and that I play very hard and that I never gave up. I continued to play when I turned the ball over, I said to myself, ‘next play, I got it, I got it, and just keep your head up.'

How did you think your trials went?
They went good. It was tough, they were long but I was excited about it and I was very thankful.

When they got the finalists together and to announce who had made the team, were you nervous and how did you feel when you heard your name?
When I heard my name the first thing I did was thank God because none of this is possible without him. It was a great feeling because I was very stressed, I was so stressed, but this is a really great feeling.

What does it mean to you to represent your country in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship?
It means the world to me. This is a great chance I have to go out and try to represent my country. It’s a good feeling.

Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei H.S./Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Congratulations on making the USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team. What does this mean for you?
It’s amazing. It’s the greatest feeling ever. Just knowing that everything I’ve worked for all my life is paying off and that I get to represent this country that all the greatest players have. It’s just unbelievable.

Did you envision this for yourself growing up as a kid or even just weeks before you attended trials?
Yeah. When I was little, I grew up watching all these teams, and I just always wanted to be a part of it. I just knew if I kept working hard, I might be able to get it. Knowing I got invited before, it just became real to me. It still doesn’t seem that real right now, but it’s crazy.

Would you say this is the biggest honor of your basketball career?
Definitely.

What makes it so special?
It’s so special because just being able to represent your country, your whole country, and that you can actually do that and bring home a gold medal for them. It’s crazy.

Have you been able to tell your two sisters yet? (Samuelson’s sister Bonnie tried out for the 2009 U16 National Team, while her other sister, Karlie, tried out for the 2012 U17 World Championship Team.)
Yes I did.

What did they have to say?
They’re super excited that I finally did it because they didn’t get to.

Do you feel like there was one day during the trials where you caught the selection committee’s eye or do you feel like it was the whole trials in general?
I definitely thought the first session of scrimmaging was probably my best. I thought that was a great way to start off playing good. The next day, I didn’t have that great of sessions, but the second session I actually did better. I just thought that hopefully those two sessions could help me out and that they saw those plays that I did.

You come back for training camp in a few weeks. What are your plans until then?
Just to do the workouts they gave us.

They gave you some workouts?
Yeah they did, and I’m just going to keep working hard and get in better shape.

The competition is taking place in Cancun, Mexico. Have you ever been there or heard anything about it?
Nope. I’ve never been anywhere outside of the country, so I’m very excited.

What is the biggest thing you take away from the last few days?
Definitely just how hard everyone played and just how positive everything was. I’m just going to try and take that back to my high school team and get everyone to be as positive and hard working as everyone was here.

What is it going to take to win the FIBA Americas U16 Championship?
I think we’re just really going to have to play well as a team and not focus on anyone who needs to score. We just have to get the right baskets and make the best plays.







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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quiet WNBA debut for Kelly Faris

Former UConn star Kelly Faris had a rebound and blocked shot in her WNBA debut
In the last couple of years there was no questioning what Kelly Faris' role was when she stepped onto the basketball court. However, the former UConn star wasn't quite sure how much time she would see during her first WNBA game.

Faris was summoned off the bench late in the first quarter to replace her former UConn teammate Kalana Greene. There was 1:57 remaining in the opening quarter when she came into the game. Her first entry into the score sheet was a foul which sent New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter to the free-throw line.

Faris played the rest of the first quarter and the first 5:13 of the second quarter. The highlight of her initial stint was a block of New York rookie Toni Young's shot which led to one of teammate's Kara Lawson's five 3-pointers.

Faris only played an additional 27 seconds in Connecticut's season-opening 81-69 victory.

"I didn't know what to expect going into my first game," Faris said. "My teammates, they've all done a good job making me feel comfortable."

Faris admitted she has some catching up to do after missing a large portion of training camp because of a foot injury she suffered in the final regular season game during her senior season at UConn.

"I still have a ways to go, I definitely have to get back in shape," Faris said. "I was out of wind a little too early for me. I need to make sure I get myself back into shape."

Although Faris didn't attempt a shot in her pro debut, she was excited about the potential of playing for a Sun team which clearly wants to push the pace this season.

"Coming from the program I was at, that is what you want, you want to run as much as you can no matter what," Faris said. "They got a little tired and that was when we had to push it."

WALKER EXCITED FOR CAL/UCONN MATCHUPS
Connecticut Sun forward Ashley Walker was a star at California the last time the Golden Bears faced UConn and to say she is fired up about the potential of Cal and UConn meeting in the regular season in the next couple of seasons would be a major understatement..

Walker had a team-high 21 points as Cal lost the eventual national champion Huskies 77-53 in the Sweet 16 in the 2009 NCAA tournament. That meeting was the first between the schools in 15 years but the programs are expected to play during the upcoming season at Madison Square Garden with a return game in Berkeley likely to be a part of the deal.

"Finally," Walker said with a laugh before Saturday's game against the New York Liberty. "They didn't want to play us when I was in school, they waited and we played them in the NCAA tournament. We got them in the Sweet 16 which sucked because we had such a great season that year but I so proud of my Golden Bears. Coach G (Lindsay Gottlieb) has taken the program to another level. When we were coming in, all of a sudden we are winning games and she came in behind (former coach Joanne Boyle) and to get them to a Final Four, she is an amazing coach. 

"She learned from Coach Boyle who I had. I think the program has changed, it is a new era for Cal and I am so proud to be there and get it going and just excited for them. I can't believe they are going to play (UConn). All of our big opportunities, they are finally getting them. I am going to kick them.

So how important will it be for the Cal program to play a Connecticut program which is coming off winning its eighth national title?

"Huge," Walker said. "When I was there we played Oklahoma, Baylor but we couldn't get the big schools to come out and play us, they would play Stanford but when we started beating Stanford 'OK maybe we will go play Cal.' I think it is huge for the program to get that national recognition."

Although Walker graduated from Cal in 2009, she still keeps tabs on her alma mater. That was pretty evident when Cal  beat Georgia to earn a spot in the Final Four.

"I was in Romania screaming at 4 in the morning, literally I did a happy dance by myself in my room," Walker said. "My teammates down the hall are like 'Ashley why are you so loud right now?' I said 'you have no idea, my team just got to the Final Four.' My parents actually went to the game supporting them, it was great. I didn't get to do it but I felt like I did it. We got to the Sweet 16 and we were happy with what we did but to know that they want to piggy back on what we did and what we started, it is huge."

UCONN RECRUITING TARGETS IN CONTENTION FOR U-16 TEAM
USA Basketball has whittled the initial list of 132 candidate for the U-16 national team down to 43 after a few days of trials. It is hardly a surprise that Asia Durr and Katie Lou Samuelson, the only members of the Class of 2015 holding scholarship offers from UConn, are still in contention to make the 12-player squad. DeJanae Boykin, who is expected to make a visit to the UConn campus during the summer, also survived the cuts to date. However, Qalea Ismail who is the daughter of former North Branford High star Holly Oslander was among the players who were cut.

USA Basketball invited 33 players to the tryouts with the other canddiates earning spots by applying to be a part of the tryouts. A total of 31 of the initial invitees are among the 43 players still vying for the 12 spots on the team.

The 12-member squad which will compete in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship will be announced on Monday morning.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Connecticut Sun set the pace in opener

Anne Donovan has been coaching long enough to know that her Connecticut Sun couldn't simply hope that veteran guard Kara Lawson could shoot them to a season-opening victory.

So when the Sun headed to the locker room at halftime down by two points despite 16 first-half points from Lawson, she let the squad know that it was time to bring a little more energy to the court or suffer the consequences on the scoreboard.

Needless to say she was thrilled by what she saw in the third quarter. The Sun had eight offensive rebounds in the quarter and also held New York's dynamic guard Cappie Pondexter scoreless in the quarter to turn a two-point deficit into a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter

“I was really pleased with our second half, just the effort we had in the second half defensively,” Donovan said. “The ball did not drop that much in the first half so we talked about getting some more O glass (activity) in the second half and trying to get shots to fall that way. I thought we really focused in and did that.”

Perhaps no back to back plays caused a bigger momentum shift than Kelsey Griffin’s block of Kelsey Bone and Lawson’s 3-pointer just six seconds later to help the Sun turn a two-point halftime deficit into a nine-point edge going into the fourth quarter.

“Kelsey was such a spark for us,” Donovan said. “You look at her and you say she is not big enough and she comes up with the big block on Bone.”

The Liberty pulled within four points in the fourth quarter before back to back 3-pointers by Hightower and Renee Montgomery put the Sun up by 10.

Lawson added seven rebounds and five assists; Tina Charles had 19 points and 13 rebounds while Hightower and Griffin added 10 points each.

Pondexter had 23 points and Essence Carson added 14 points and eight rebounds for New York.

The game marked the debut of former UConn guard Kelly Faris. The Sun’s first-round pick in April’s WNBA draft had one rebound and one blocked shot in 7:37.

The proceeds from all tickets sold from Tuesday on will be donated to the American Red Cross to help the Oklahoma tornado victims.


Connecticut Sun pitch in for tornado victims

When the horrific images began to flash across the screen, Connecticut Sun general manager Chris Sienko knew the WNBA franchise needed to do something to help the tornado victims in Oklahoma.

So the decision was quickly reached to donate all the ticket proceeds for tonight's season opener against New York.

"I talked to Mitchell (Etess) on the phone and said 'hey listen we should probably do something for the folks out in Oklahoma,'" Sienko said. "We had done this before for Hurricane Katrina so we thought it would be really good to do something. There are a lot of people who are in need and if we can help in our own little way that is a plus

"Fortunately our sales were good prior to Tuesday so once we announced it and got an immediate feedback from people who want to be involved and want to come to the game. They didn't even necessarily have to be fans, they wanted to try to support Oklahoma so we did that. Thanks to Mitchell and the tribe quickly approving it, that was something we could do.

"It is a small thing we can do. There are some athletes who are doing some tremendous things with a lot of money but what we can offer is what we can do and we are happy with any part we can give."

Like so many people, Sienko was stunned by the magnitude of the destruction.

"It is always scary," Sienko said. "It always hits me with children whether it is Newtown, Boston or anywhere else but when a child gets hurt or dies it just really hits home. It is the worst thing. You always go home and hug your own kids and hopes this never happens to them or people you know."

It is not just the Connecticut Sun front office stunned by the number of deaths when the tornadoes touched down. The players are also happy to have some part of raising money for the victims.

"I think the fact that we are going to be donating ticket sales to that is amazing," Walker said. "You never know when that could happen to you and something you can live for can be taken from you."

Sienko said that once the amount of money is raised that a check will be sent to the American Red Cross. There is a chance that a check could be presented at an upcoming game but Sienko said he doesn't want it to look like a publicity stunt so perhaps a check will just be sent without a public ceremony.

Time in Australia did wonders for Kelsey Griffin

When Kelsey Griffin headed to Australia to play for the Bendigo Spirit of the WNBL, her confidence was nearing an all-time low.

Her third season with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun left the former Nebraska All-American and third overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft at a crossroads.

Three times in the first half of the season her only entry in the box score was the dreaded "did not play -coach's decision."

In the first 18 games of the 2012 season Griffin didn't play more than nine minutes and made more than one field goal just once. Only the absence of Olympian Asjha Jones for a 14 games in August and September due to a strained Achilles gave Griffin a chance for an expanded role. There were a few impactful moments highlighted by a 13-point, 10-rebound effort in an Aug. 30 game at San Antonio. But at season's end Griffin was left with her confidence shaken and her game in shambles.

All of that changed when she headed Down Under for the next stop in the overseas basketball career after stops in Hungary and Israel.

Griffin announced her arrival by ripping off four straight 20-point games. Six games into the season Griffin already had more points and double-doubles than she recorded during the WNBA season.Griffin recorded  nine double-doubles and was third in WNBL in both scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (8.6). However, more important to her that recording gaudy individual statistics was that she rediscovered her passion. She also played a key role in Bendigo's run to the WNBL championship averaging 17.5 points and 11 rebounds in the two postseason games. Griffin had 15 points and 11 rebounds as Bendigo beat Townville 71-57 in the Grand Final with Griffin earning championship game MVP honors.

"I really got back to playing my brand of basketball," Griffin said. "I am not even 100 percent there yet but I am definitely well on my way. Instead of so much of trying to fit into being a mold, trying to fit into a certain type of player I just got back to playing the way I play. That is obviously what is best for me and the team and to get back to that kind of basketball is so much easier than previous years when I worried so much about trying to be this turnaround jump shooter, trying to be this kid of scorer instead of just being me."

Griffin was an aggressive and versatile post player during her remarkable run at Nebraska. However, after being a power forward in college, she found herself being asked to play on the wing with the Sun since Connecticut had the dynamic duo of Tina Charles and Asjha Jones to play inside.

While she had her moments, her first three seasons were not what she was expecting,

"It is definitely character building," Griffin said. "I think one of the things that was the most difficult was trying to play a new position and figuring out what was what I needed to be so being here and have Coach (Anne) Donovan say you are going to be a 4 (power forward) and that is what you are going to do is really nice. If she she 'you are going to be a 3 (small forward) and that is what you are going to do' that would have been more challenging, but it would have been nice to have a direction that I knew what I am going to be on this team and know what the coaches need from me so to be able to have that mindset and that focus was helpful as a player."

Griffin's opportunity to play the power forward was opened up by Jones' decision to skip the 2013 WNBA season to recover from a variety of aches and pains..

With Griffin having returned to being the aggressive player she was in college and there plenty of playing time at the power forward, she is hoping to make the biggest impact in her fourth WNBA season which begins tonight when Connecticut hosts the New York Liberty.

"I am at heart an aggressive, physical player," Griffin said. "Now the league is very big and very physical so I am hoping to get back to that aggressiveness but at the same time I have worked very hard on my jump shot so in rhythm I wan to knock down that J and hoping I can be aggressive, getting those rebounds and it is on me because I have the ability to contribute more often."

Although eight players are back from the team which posted the best record in the Eastern Conference, there have been rumblings that the Sun will struggle to make the playoffs and that the absence of a player like Jones is simply too much to overcome. Few people outside the Sun's inner circle view Griffin as the type of player who can step up enough to ease the burden from Jones' departure.

"I am used to flying under the radar," Griffin said. "My whole college career I flew under the radar, that is more of where I have been not in the spotlight with all those accolades and expectations. I feel like if we stick to the kind of basketball we are capable there, we will be right in there."


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Friday, May 24, 2013

CPTV Sports announces its Connecticut Sun broadcast schedule

CPTV Sports announced the schedule of Connecticut Sun games it will be televising beginning with tomorrow's season opener. Right now the plan is for 18 regular-season games but there is a chance more games may be added at a later date.

Here's the list of games

Saturday, May 25 at 7 p.m.  New York Liberty at Connecticut Sun
Friday, May 31 at 8:30 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky
Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Minnesota Lynx
Sunday, June 16 at 5 p.m.  Seattle Storm at Connecticut Sun
Saturday, June 29 at 7 p.m.  Phoenix Mercury at Connecticut Sun
Friday, July 12 at 7 p.m.   Chicago Sky at Connecticut Sun
Friday, July 19 at 8 p.m.   Connecticut Sun at Tulsa Shock
Saturday, July 20 at 8 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at San Antonio Silver Stars
Saturday, August 3 at 6 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at New York Liberty
Tuesday, August 6 at 7 p.m.  Los Angeles Sparks at Connecticut Sun
Sunday, August 11 at 4 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Washington Mystics
Wednesday, August 14 at 7 p.m.  Atlanta Dream at Connecticut Sun
Sunday, August 18 at 6 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky
Tuesday, August 27 at 10:30 p.m. Connecticut Sun at Los Angeles Sparks
Thursday, August 29 at 10 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Seattle Storm
Saturday, August 31 at 10 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Phoenix Mercury
Saturday, September 7 at 7 p.m.  Connecticut Sun at Indiana Fever
Sunday, September 15 at 1 p.m.  Indiana Fever at Connecticut Sun 

Former UConn recruiting target commits to Notre Dame

Brianna Turner, who at one point in the process was near the top of players from the Class of 2014 being recruited by UConn, announced today that she has committed to Notre Dame.

Turner is a 6-foot-3 forward averaged 20.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3.5 steals and 3.5 blocks as a junior at Manvel (Tex.) High School and she is one of three rising high school seniors named to the U.S. Under-19 national team.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lacy, Walker make Connecticut Sun opening-day roster

Ashley Walker (44) led Connecticut Sun in scoring
and rebounding in preseason to earn roster spot.
The Connecticut Sun finalized its opening-day roster by cutting forward Latoya Williams and former Cheshire Academy star Johannah Leedham.

Ashley Walker, the No.12th overall pick in the 2009 draft by Seattle, made the team after leading the team in scoring (10.3 points) and rebounds (5.3) during the preseason.  Veteran guard Natasha Lacy, who averaged 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the Sun's three preseason games, also made the squad. This will be the fourth team in as many seasons for the former UTEP star. Her best season came as a rookie in 2010 when she set career highs in scoring (6.3 points), rebounding (2.3), assists (3.5) and steals (1.4) with Tulsa.

Leedham, who averaged 5.3 points in the preseason, was taken by the Sun in the third round of the 2010 draft but commitments with the Great Britain national team kept her from coming over to training camp until this season.

"This was an extremely difficult decision and it honestly came down to the last possible day for our coaching staff,” Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan said in a statement. “Right from the beginning, everyone who participated in our training camp made a strong case for inclusion on this team. Certainly, Johannah and Latoya were in the mix until the very end. Unfortunately, with an 11-player roster, these are the tough choices we face.”

Leedham has a chance to return home and play for Great Britain in the upcoming European championships. That was one of the subjects she talked about at the team's media day.


"It is a little difficult for me to be here but I put it off for so long and I had to put myself first and this is what I want to do," said Leedham,. "We have EuroBasket which is in June so if I don'tr make the team here, I will also go back and try to make EuroBasket."

The EuroBasket tournament begins on June 15 in France. Great Britain's first game is against Serbia on June 15 in Trelaze.


The Sun's final two roster spots were opened up with veteran forward Asjha Jones' decision to sit out the 2013 season to rest her ailing body and wing Danielle McCray missing the season due to a torn Achilles.

Even before training camp began it was a formality that reigning league MVP Tina Charles, Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery, Allison Hightower, Kelsey Griffin, Mistie Bass, Tan White, Kalana Greene and first-round pick Kelly Faris would be on the opening-day roster leaving two spots left to fill.

Charles, Montgomery, Greene and Faris are among 11 former UConn stars to make opening day WNBA rosters.

Atlanta: Tiffany Hayes
Chicago: Swin Cash
Connecticut: Tina Charles, Kelly Faris, Kalana Greene, Renee Montgomery
Minnesota; Maya Moore
Phoenix: Charde Houston, Diana Taurasi
Seattle: Sue Bird (injured but will be on roster for entire season)
Washington: Jessica Moore

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ashley Walker makes final push for roster spot

Former first-round pick Ashley Walker certainly seems to have done whatever she could to secure a roster spot with the Connecticut Sun as she recorded a double-double in the final preseason game of 2013.

Walker, vying with Latoya Williams for a position as the fourth and final post player, had 11 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 17:56 in Connecticut's 88-80 win at Minnesota.

In the three preseason games Walker played nearly 54 minutes and averaged 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. Williams played 50:32 and averaged 6 points per game.

It is dangerous to predict roster spots off production in exhibition games since much of the work is done under the watchful eye of the coaching staff during practices but Walker's superior rebounding work (Williams had a total of two rebounds in the three preseason games) would seem to give her an advantage for the final front court spot.

The final perimeter spot figures to come down to Johannah Leedham and Natasha Lacy. The players were given almost identical amount of playing time on Tuesday. Leedham played 15:39 and finished with six points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. Lacy played 15:37 and had three points, three rebounds and two assists.

Neither player shot particularly well from the field in the three exhibition games as Leedham was 7 of 18 and Lacy was 5 of 15. I guess the final decision will come down to what the team is looking for. If the Sun wants another small forward type, Leedham would be the likely choice while Lacy is more of a reserve point guard.

I have no say in such matters but if I had to guess, I would say that Walker and Leedham would be the final two players to make the team.

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Proceeds from Connecticut Sun opener to be donated to tornado victims


The Connecticut Sun announced that proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to victims of the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Money from tickets being sold beginning today will be donated to the American Red Cross.

“We are all saddened by the loss of life and destruction in Oklahoma,” Sun vice president and general manager Chris Sienko said in a statement. “Through our small efforts we can hopefully bring some relief to those in desperate need of assistance.”

Tickets to the game, which will be held at Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m. on May 25, can be purchased by visiting Ticketmaster.com, WNBA.com/tickets, or by calling 1-877-WNBA-TIX.

The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, health and mental health services to help communities and families get back on their feet when disasters strike. For more information, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-Help-Now. Fans can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate directly.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Pair of UConn recruiting targets trying out for U-16 national team


A pair of UConn recruiting targets from the Class of 2015 headline in the list of 135 players who have accepted invitations to try out for the U.S. U-16 national team later this month.

Katie Lou Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 forward out of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., and Asia Durr, a 5-foot-11 guard from St. Pius X Catholic High in Atlanta, were among the group of 32 players initially invited to try out. The other 102 players were chosen after they applied for inclusion into the U-16 training camp.

Samuelson, the youngest of the three sweet-shooting Samuelson sisters who each have drawn recruiting interest from UConn, averaged 20.5 points as a sophomore and had 89 3-pointers aided by recording at least six 3-pointers in four games after transferring to Mater Dei before the start of her sophomore season. She was also named the California sophomore of the year by the www.calhisports.com site. Durr averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.6 steals per game as a sophomore. She shot 52 percent from the field, 36 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line.

Another top player heading to the tryouts is DeJanae Boykin The 6-foot-2 Boykin, who averaged 15.7 points as a sophomore for national power Riverdale Baptist although she has decided to transfer to Flowers High School. Boykin recently told the Washington Post that she is planning to take an unofficial visit to UConn this summer.

No Connecticut products were among the invitees to the U-16 training camp (although Qalea Ismail a 6-foot sophomore guard from Bel Air, Md. is the daughter of former North Branford High and Syracuse star Holly Oslander). The only players from New England are Braintree (Mass.) High sophomore forward Bridget Herlihy who led Braintree to the MIAA South Division I title and a trip to the Massachusetts’ Division I semifinals, and Lexington (Mass.) freshman guard Anna Kelly.

The U-16 training camp starts Thursday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. with the team being announced on May 27. The team will compete in 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Cancun from June 19-23.

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Pair of former Connecticut Sun No. 1 picks waived

It has not been the best of times for former first-round draft picks of the Connecticut Sun.

The WNBA franchise had three first-round picks in the 2008 and 2009 and all three players have been waived during training camp.

Former UConn guard Ketia Swanier, the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft, was the first to be let go when Atlanta cut her last week.

Earlier today the Tulsa Shock cut loose Amber Holt (taken by Connecticut with the No. 9 pick in 2008) and Chante Black (the 10th overall selection in 2009). Black played in 33 with Connecticut in 2009 as she averaged 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks. Holt played in 57 games during the 2008 and 2009 seasons (starting 41 contests). She averaged 6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists for the Sun. Black and Holt were traded to Tulsa for the first-round pick Connecticut used to select Danielle McCray in the 2010 draft. Ironically, McCray will miss the entire 2013 season with a torn Achilles.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Five Huskies named to U.S. teams


                                                                    (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
UConn rising sophomore Breanna Stewart (left) and Class of 2014
recruiting target A'ja Wilson were named to U-19 national team.
UConn will be well represented on the U.S. World University Games and FIBA U-19 World Championship squads.

All-Americans Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley were among the 12 players selected to play for the U.S. in the World University Games while the trio of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were named to the U-19 squad after a three-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target A'ja Wilson was also named to the U-19 squad.


This is the fourth straight year that Hartley will represent the U.S. in an international competition as she was a member of the U-18 squad in 2010, U-19 team in 2011 and last summer played for the U.S. in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup while Mosqueda-Lewis was a member of U.S. junior national teams from 2009-11.

Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck were teammates on the U.S. team which won the 2012 FIBA Americas U-18 championship. Jefferson started all five games and averaged 5.6 points, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals while Tuck and Stewart were the top two scorers on the U.S. team. Stewart has played on five different U.S. squads since 2009 including the 2011 U-19 team while Tuck was the leading overall scorer in the U-18 tournament in 2012 at 17.8 points per game.

The World University Games will be held in Kazan, Russia from July 6-17 while Lithuania will host the U-19 World Championships from July 18-28.

Here are quotes from the four players with UConn ties on the U-19 roster courtesy of the folks at USA Basketball.


MORIAH JEFFERSON
How did you feel when you heard your name called for making the USA U19 Team?
Coming out here, you’re playing with a bunch of great people and everybody is doing their best and going their hardest and you never really know until the last second when they call your name.

You’re on the U19 team that includes the coaches and five players from last year’s U18 team, how is that going to be helpful this year?
It will help a lot because we already know what coach (USA U19 head coach Kate Meier) expects and we know a lot of the plays, so we can help the younger guys, and the people that just came in we can show what it is like to be on this team.

What is your role going to be on this team, what can you bring to this year’s team?
Leadership, point guard experience and trying to get everybody into their position. And also defense, that’s one of the main things I take pride in, so I can come out and try to push the tempo a little bit with my defense.

What is it that brings you back to USA Basketball each summer?
I just love it. You come out here and get a lot of great experience, you get in shape with the altitude, you meet a lot of great people and that’s just the basketball part of it and you want to represent your country, but outside of that you meet a lot of great people and have a great time while you’re here.

BREANNA STEWART
This is your sixth USA Basketball team, what keeps you motivated to keep coming back?
USA Basketball is the best thing about my summer. That’s what I look forward to, creating new experiences with new people. Sometimes they’re with the same people, but it’s just really fun. And I enjoy going for the gold medal.

At the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship you were one of the youngest players on the team. How will your role change with this team?
It’s funny how my role is changing, because this is my second U19 team. Last time I was one of the younger ones. This time I’m one of the older ones, and it’s weird. But, I have to be a leader because I’ve been in these situations before and some people haven’t. I have to help show them the ropes.

What does it mean for you to represent your country in this manner?
It’s an honor. I appreciate everything USA Basketball has done for me in letting me keep coming back to try out again and again, and continuing to go for gold medals. I don’t think there’s anything else you can ask for.

What can you teach some of the younger players about USA Basketball, both on and off the court?
USA Basketball on the court, obviously you’re going to go out, you’re going to play your heart out, you’re going to leave everything on the court because this is 12 people who are considered at the top of high school and college basketball for their age group. Teams are coming after us, and they want to beat us. We have to know that every team’s going to play us the best they can, and we need to just keep our composure.

Off the court, you really have to represent the United States and show people in other countries who we are, create our own image of ourselves. We need to try to change their minds about the United States in a positive way.

MORGAN TUCK
How does it feel to be returning to USA Basketball for another chance at a gold medal?
It feels really great. Every time just gets better and better. We have a different group. We have a couple I’ve played with before with USA Basketball, but I think it’s more exciting because we have a lot of new people on this team.

At the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship you were one of the youngest players on the team. How will your role change with this team?
Definitely being more of a leader. When I was on the team the last time I just tried to fit in and try to make my mark. Now I need to take more of a leadership role and try to make sure that the younger players who haven’t been here before understand the international game and they feel comfortable with it.

What can you contribute to this team?
I think I can help with the low post presence. We are a really big team and I’m the smallest post, but I feel that I can use my physicalness around the basket. I think I can be a good leader out on the court.

You already have three gold medals in international competition. Can you describe the feeling of winning a gold medal and why it keeps you coming back for more?
It’s a great feeling. It makes you feel like you’re the best in the world. When I get up there, I think of the pictures of the Olympic team when they’re on the podium, and that’s my dream one day. I feel like I’m slowly getting closer. I just love coming back. You get to play with the best players in the country. You play with people at school and your same team, but to come out in the summer, get together, practice a little bit and then go play, it’s a great feeling.

A'JA WILSON
What kind of emotions were you feeling when you heard your name called as one of the USA U19 World Championship Team members?
Oh my gosh! It was a great feeling. At first I was shocked, to tell the truth because this weekend I felt that I had the roughest time. I did not feel that I played really well. But, when my name was called and my named being Wilson, it was the last name. I was just like, ‘uh oh.’ And then finally she said A’ja Wilson, and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is such an honor.’ I’m really excited.

What do you think stood out to the committee this weekend, what do you bring to the team?
I guess, me being so young, I kind of bring the energy sometimes. I’m not saying that everybody else is old, but I guess I can bring the energy. We have height, of course, and then we also have versatility. I think I also bring those things to the team, and being a good teammate.

What does it mean for you to be able to represent your country?
It means a lot. It really does. I’ve watched these girls on TV. I’ve gone to some of their games, and just to play with them, it means a lot. Playing the sport that I love and playing for the country that I love, it’s just a great feeling to have.

Are you excited about learning from the coaching staff and the rest of your teammates?
Definitely I am. I’m very excited.

Now here are some quotes from Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis after they were named to the WUG team.


BRIA HARTLEY
Did you think you had played well at trials?
                                  (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
UConn teammates Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-
Lewis were among 12 players named to U.S. team playing
in World University Games.
I thought I played OK. I didn't think I played my best basketball ever. I'm just really happy that the committee picked me. I'm really excited that I was good enough to make the team.

Were you nervous this morning?
I was a little nervous. Even though I have made the team before, you don't want to come in here thinking, 'Oh, I'm definitely going to make the team.' You have to stay humble, but you also want to be confident, thinking you could possibly make the team. You have to come out and play basketball the way you know how to.

What do you think the committee saw in you?
I think it was versatility, because I am a combo-guard. I can play a little bit of the one and the two, and I can make sure all of my teammates are involved. Also, just talking and encouraging, that's the main thing I like to do.

KALEENA MOSQUEDA-LEWIS
Were you nervous this morning?
I was a little nervous because I definitely did not shoot very well during this whole try-out, and that's kind of my job. I tried to do a lot of other stuff, like rebounding, hustling hard on defense. Luckily it worked.

How does it feel to make your fourth USA Basketball Team?
It's still special; every time is special. Now it's really cool because I will be playing with girls that I have played against in college. A lot of them, Odyssey and Tricia and a lot of them I watched before I even got to college and said, 'They're really good.' Now I get to play with them, so it's really cool.


Joining Jefferson, Stewart, Tuck and Wilson on the U-19 are former UConn recruiting targets Linnae Harper (who signed with Kentucky) and Brianna Turner (one of three high school juniors to make the team) as well as Penn State's Candice Agee, Tennessee's Bashaara Graves, Duke's Alexis Jones, Northwestern signee Nia Coffey, Washington incoming freshman Kelsey Plum and St. Mary's High School guard Gabby Green. Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis are joined on the World University Games squad by Central Michigan's Crystal Bradford, Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg, ReShanda Gray of California, Southern California's Cassie Harberts, Nebraska's Jordan Hooper, Tricia Liston of Duke, Tennessee's Ariel Massengale (a high school teammate of Morgan Tuck's), LSU's Theresa Plaisance, Shoni Schimmel of Louisville and Baylor's Odyssey Sims.

The World University Games squad will return to the U.S. Olympic Training Center on June 25 for final preparations before embarking for Russia on July 1. The U-19 team will hold its training camp in Colorado Springs from July 1-9 before playing in a tournament with Australia, Canada and Spain in the Canary Islands from July 11-14.

The complete list of the players trying out for the U-16 national team will be coming out soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Saniya Chong gets top honor from Parade Magazine

UConn incoming freshman Saniya Chong was named the national high school player of the year by Parade Magazine and headlines the All-American team which will be published in Sunday's magazine.

Other finalists for the award was North Carolina signee and former UConn recruiting target Diamond DeShields, Duke incoming freshman Kianna Holland as well as Rebekah Dahlman and Toni Jankoska, who have signed with Vanderbilt and Michigan State respectively.

Chong, who averaged nearly 35 points and more than 9 assists as a senior at Ossining (N.Y.) High, is the third straight UConn recruit to win the award following Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart.

VAN GRINSVEN CUT BY SUN
The Connecticut Sun moved a step closer to finalizing its opening-day roster by cutting Chatilla van Grinsven, who was signed out of Saint Joseph's University as an undrafted rookie free agent.

The 6-foot-3 forward and member of the Netherlands' national team had six points and three rebounds in Connecticut's preseason opener against New York on May 11.

Barring any signings, the Sun will need to cut two more players to get down to the opening-day maximum of 11.



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A'ja Wilson in no hurry to make her college decision



Wander around the Internet these days and it won't take long for rumors about where top high school junior A'ja Wilson will decide to go to college. However, the multi-faceted 6-foot-4 star for Heathwood Hall in Columbia, S.C. is still months away from figuring out her college of choice.

I spoke with Wilson for about 10-15 minutes by phone after today's first practice session at the U.S. U-19 national team trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I will be writing a story for tomorrow's paper about Wilson's humbling early days on the court but figured I would pass on some of her thoughts on the recruiting process.

"I am taking all of my officials," Wilson said. "I sit down with my parents and every night we have a discussion about what is going to happen over this summer and pray over it

"I am very open right now because I am focusing on getting out of junior year," Wilson said. "I don't have a top 10, a top five, a top three. Once I get out of school and that is May 31. In June that is when I will start settling in because I will have a lot more time on my hands without worrying about school so much and that is when I will start thinking about it."

So what is she looking for when she picks her school?

"Just having a great relationship with the coach and the team, of course and also what would I do after I graduate from the school, where could I go, where could they get me. I want to go to the next level, I want to go to the highest level of basketball I could possibly go. Also, if I would get hurt or couldn't play anymore, could I still see myself there for the rest of the years that I have there. In college my team is going to be my second family, almost pretty close to my immediate family because I am going to be around them for so long."

As luck would have it, she ran some of the UConn players heading to Colorado for the U-19 or World University Games training camp in the Dallas airport.

"When I got to the airport the first people I saw were Breanna Stewart, Bria Hartley and Morgan Tuck and it was amazing because they had just won a national championship and I was in the airport with them," Wilson said. "Then I look over and I see (North Carolina's) Xylina McDaniel, Meighan(Simmons) from Tennessee and Cierra (Burdick) and it really hit me 'wow, I am here with these girls and I am flying on the same plane with these girls.' It is great to see how they could have lost to a team but they come together as one here."

When I spoke with her AAU coach recently, he said one of Wilson's greatest attributes is her work ethic. Maybe since she was on the small side of things when she first started playing basketball before a major growth spurt between her freshman and sophomore years in high school, but she doesn't act like the resident superstar on or off the court (until the ball is in her hands).

"I never walk off the court with a 'what if' question in my mind," Wilson said. "I give it 110 percent every single time."

Considering how much passion Wilson plays with, the last several months have been trying for her at times.

She missed the first seven games of the season for Heathwood Hall due to a wrist injury. When her team opened the season by losing three of the first four games, she was just a tad bit restless.

"It was so hard to watch because I was out with my wrist injury," Wilson said. I missed our opening game and it was against Pinewood Prep and they are out rivals. It was very tough, I don't even think I slept that night because it was very tough to watch and knowing that I can't go out and help my team but on a positive note, it helped me build my leadership skills. I have a goal for myself every year and last year my goal was to be poised on the court and I think I handled that pretty well. This year it is building my leadership role. That really helped me from a leadership perspective."

More recently, Wilson injured her knee during an AAU game.

"I came down on a girls' foot and I tweaked my LCL so I have been in therapy for two weeks leading up to the trials so it was good to get back," Wilson said.



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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Five Huskies out in Colorado Springs

Tryouts for the U.S. teams competing in the World University Games and FIBA U-19 World Championships kick off today.

The U-19's first practice is scheduled to start n about an hour with UConn sophomores to be Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target A'ja Wilson among the 34 players vying for the 12 roster spots. The team is expected to be announced on Sunday around 10:30 a.m.
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The UConn duo of Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are among the 33 players trying out for the World University Games squad. The first practice is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in Colorado (8:30 p.m. Eastern time) with the 12-member roster being revealed Sunday morning.

Prestigious honor for Connecticut Sun's Kara Lawson


Connecticut Sun guard Kara Lawson was named the winner of the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.

“Kara Lawson has represented the WNBA admirably and has done a phenomenal job in elevating its name over the course of her career,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie in a statement.  “As evidenced by her efforts on behalf of the Pat Summitt Foundation, Kara is an ambassador and leader for all levels of basketball as well as a role model to girls and women everywhere.”

During the 2012 season, Lawson donated $50 for each three-pointer made to the Pat Summitt Foundation in honor of her collegiate coach. Summitt was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.  In total, the three-point campaign raised 32,000.  In January of 2013, Lawson was named an honorary co-chair of the Pat Summitt Foundation Advisory Board.

The Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award is presented annually.  Each WNBA team nominated one player and a designated committee selected Lawson as the winner.  The WNBA will make a $10,000 donation to the Pat Summitt Foundation on behalf of Lawson.

"I'm thrilled to receive the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.  My relationship with Dawn goes back over 20 years,” said Lawson in a statement.  “She was the first female basketball player I looked up to and tried to model myself after.  She left an indelible impression on the women's game.  I've always felt that being mentioned in the same breath as Dawn meant you were doing things the right way.  My goal has always been to have a positive impact in my community.  In my role with the Pat Summitt Foundation, I have the opportunity to work with a passionate group dedicated to end Alzheimer's. Thank you to Dawn and the WNBA for this prestigious award."


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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New York honors Stefanie Dolson

Stefanie Dolson became the latest member of the national champion UConn squad to be on the receiving end of a congratulatory proclamation from the state of New York.

Freshman Breanna Stewart, the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four, previously was honored the same honor and it's logical to assume Bria Hartley's turn is next.

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Jessica Moore signed by Washington

Former UConn forward/center Jessica Moore has been signed by the Washington Mystics.

Moore has played for five different WNBA teams during her eight seasons including the eight games she appeared in with the Connecticut Sun during the 2012 season.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Swanier cut by Atlanta

Former UConn guard Ketia Swanier was cut by the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday.

Swanier, a first-round pick of the Connecticut Sun in 2008, played in 171 career games (counting the playoffs) for Connecticut, Phoenix and Atlanta during her five years in the league.

Swanier appeared in 34 games and started twice for Atlanta during the 2012 season. She averaged 2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 0.4 steals per game. She only played five minutes in the playoffs for the Dream.

Swanier's roster spot was placed in jeopardy as Atlanta traded for Jasmine Thomas and drafted Alex Bentley.

Swanier played 13 minutes in Monday's preseason game against Brazil and had two points, one rebound and two assists in the 97-47 victory. Swanier started in Atlanta's preseason opener against Tulsa but did not score in 10 minutes of action.

Even with Kelly Faris being drafted by the Connecticut Sun, the 2013 season will feature the smallest contingent of WNBA players from UConn in some time. Injured veterans Sue Bird (Seattle) and Asjha Jones (Connecticut) are sitting out the 2013 season and free agent Jessica Moore wasn't signed by a team. Now Swanier is looking for a team.

By my count there are nine former Huskies still vying for roster spots.
Swin Cash, Chicago
Tina Charles, Connecticut
Kelly Faris, Connecticut
Kalana Greene, Connecticut
Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta
Charde Houston, Phoenix
Renee Montgomery, Connecticut
Maya Moore, Minnesota
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Kelly Faris signed by Sopron

An injured foot has delayed the start of Kelly Faris' professional career and she has already found an overseas team to play for.

Sopron, the defending Hungarian league champions, announced that they signed former Faris and fellow first-round pick Tianna Hawkins out of Maryland.

Sopron finished 3-9 in Group B in the EuroLeague last season resulting in a revamping of the roster as well as a change in coaches as Norbert Szekely, who coached Sopron to the EuroLeague Final Four in 2009, is out and Serbia assistant coach Igor Polanek has been named the team's head coach.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Tina Charles could benefit from Jen Gillom's hiring

Tina Charles works against Connecticut Sun assistant coach Jen Gillom.
Following a grueling season overseas, reigning WNBA MVP Tina Charles was given a couple of extra days off before going to work at the Connecticut Sun training camp. However, sitting idly on the sidelines is simply not high on Charles' list of preferred activities. So during a break during the scrimmage portion of Tuesday night's practice Charles wandered onto the court. It wasn't long before assistant coach Jen Gillom joined her and what followed was a spirited couple of minutes of Charles trying to post up one of the top post players to ever play the game. Seeing the playful bantering combined with the aggressive attitude of both player and coach made it obvious that this could be a beneficial partnership for Charles.

Charles and Gillom have worked together before as Charles was a key member of the U.S. national team and Gillom was one of UConn and U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma's staff. Auriemma has been around the basketball coaching block a time or two so obviously he had Gillom work with the post players.

"The first time I met her was in 2009 right before that training camp in Russia," Charles said. "She definitely had an impact just talking to her and little things we will do off to the side, I just love working on individual skills."

Gillom, who has been a head coach at Minnesota and Los Angeles, spent last season as an assistant coach with the Washington Mystics. Charles averaged 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in five games against Washington during the 2012 season so Gillom has the added bonus of having not only coached Charles but also has coached against her. As good as Charles was during the 2012 season, Gillom believes there is plenty of room for her to improve.


"Tina is the type of player with all that she has accomplished in the last four or five years with college, her WNBA stint and all the accolades she has received, she is a humble kid who wants it," Gillom said. "She understands that if I settle now, if I am complacent now I won't get any better. She has room for a ton of growth and she knows that.

"She doesn't have to play with her back to the basket all the time, she knows she can improve in her face-up game, she can even extend to the 3-point line and if you get an MVP player who just plays with her back to the basket, can you imagine what her future looks like when she starts doing all these other things and hopefully that is something I can help her with because I was that type of player who was a versatile player and not playing with my back to the basket all the time. I think she is looking forward to that as well. She has said that to me several times 'hey, help me with my face up game and that is what we are planning to do is make her extend the court because with the defensive 3-second stuff not a lot of people are going to be able to contain her when she is facing up and driving to the basket when there is not a lot of help in the paint. Hopefully it will be to her benefit. Tina is the type of player who looks to improve, she wants to learn. She knows that she has a lot to learn and she wants that and that is what I am going to look forward to working with her. When you get players who have accomplished as much as she has accomplished, a lot of times they don't want to listen to you, they think they know it all and she is still young enough where she can continue to still go up."

Gillom said it is invaluable that Charles is not only the Sun's best player but perhaps its hardest working one as well.

"It says a lot for their team and I know that is why the Sun has had success in the past," Gillom said. "You get your stud working hard like that it is going to rub off on everybody else because she is your leader whether she is vocal or not what she does out on the court is going to rub off on a lot of these players. I think they appreciate that from her and I think that is what is going to continue to make this team better. All you have to do is continue to add pieces around her to make the team better and she is going to do her part. "




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Connecticut Sun cuts 2nd and 3rd-round draft picks

With Renee Montgomery planning to report to training camp tomorrow, the Connecticut Sun needed to make at least one roster move to remain at or under the 15-player roster limit.

As it turns out, the Sun cut a pair of players and it was two of the team's three picks in last month's WNBA draft who got let go.

Anna Prins is a 6-foot-7 center out of Iowa State who was taken with the 23rd overall pick while former South Florida guard Andrea Smith was taken with the 35th overall pick.

While both seemed like long shots to make the final roster, it is surprising to see draft picks cut loose so early in camp. In Prins case, I'd have to say that free agent Latoya Williams strong showing in camp probably sealed her fate.

Smith was one of the players who impressed me when I watched the Sun scrimmage last night but Connecticut is so deep on the perimeter that she got caught up in the numbers game.

This brings the roster to 14 which is under the maximum training-camp limit and three over the regular-season max. In my opinion, I would think nine players (Tina Charles, Kelly Faris, Kelsey Griffin, Kalana Greene, Allison Hightower, Kara Lawson, Mistie Mims, Renee Montgomery and Tan White) will earn roster spots leaving five players vying for two spots. It would make sense for one of them to be a perimeter player and the other a post player. If that is the way it plays out, one spot could come down to veteran Natasha Lacy going against Johannah Leedham while former first round pick Ashley Walker joins fellow free agents Chatilla van Grisven and Williams as post players fighting it out. Of course with a new coaching staff, it is possible a surprise or two could be coming by the time the Sun gets down to its 11-player roster.

Pair of Huskies will try out for World University Games team


If you're trying to locate a member of UConn's national championship team in the next week or week in a half, the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. might be a good place to start.


A day after three Huskies and the top recruiting target in the Class of 2014 were among 34 candidates trying out for the U.S. team competing in the FIBA U-19 World Championship, UConn All-Americans Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were among those accepting invitations to try out for the U.S. team playing in the World University Games.

Hartley and Mosqueda-Lewis are no strangers to representing the U.S. in international competition. They were teammates on the U.S. team which won the 2011 FIBA U-19 World Championship and in 2012 Hartley was a member of the U.S. squad which won the FIBA 3x3 World Championship for Women title.

The training camp will be held from May 16-19 in Colorado Springs. With the U-19 trials held there during the same dates, five of the eight returning players from UConn's national championship squad will be out in Colorado vying for national team berths at the same time as Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck as well as recruiting target A'ja Wilson will by trying out for the U-19 squad.

The World University Games will be held in Kazan, Russia from July 6-17.

INTERESTING UPDATE ON LEXI GUSSERT
Mike Carmin of the Layfayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier recently spoke to the high school coach of UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Lexi Gussert and provided the most detailed look at what Gussert's thought process is..

A previous update from another media outlet had reported that the sweet-shooting 6-foot wing from Forest Park High School in Crystal Falls, Michigan had cut her list to five schools and UConn was not among those schools. However, multiple recruiting sources have told me that UConn is still very much in the mix with the Michigan Class D Player of the Year.

Carmin's report not only confirmed that but provided more detail into what Gussert is contemplating at the current time. He quoted Forest Park coach Jeff Syrjanen saying "(UConn) wants her to come out there to make sure it’s a fit. I don’t know for sure if she’s going to do that or not. That’s one of the dilemmas she’s going through right now.

“A lot of people would like for her to make the decision earlier than later but when you’re making a decision like this, you need to look at all the options. This is your career and future.”

Gussert averaged 32.5 points per game as a junior and made 93 3-pointers and everything I've heard is that UConn would very much like Gussert to be part of their next recruiting class which already includes Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark and Gabby Williams.

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Kelly Faris still in holding pattern

There was a certain sense of irony to see Kelly Faris, who was known as Miss Dependability during her UConn career, reduced to the role of reluctant spectator during the early stages of her professional career.

However, there she was wearing a protective boot on the left foot she injured just before halftime in the regular-season finale during her senior season at UConn. Not wanting to have the injury be a lingering issue, the Connecticut Sun coaching and medical staffs decided to hold the team's first-round pick out for the first week and a half of training camp.


"Right now I am just waiting to get back and trust that is the right thing for me to be doing and other than that, I am paying attention," said Faris, who is targeting May 16 at the date when she can hit the practice court. "I am watching and I am trying to learn as much as I can even though I am not out on the court knowing that once I get into it and do what I've always done.


"It is a little frustrating but Coach (Anne Donovan) wants me to trust that it is the right thing to do."

Faris never missed a game during her collegiate career and until suffering the foot injury, she could have counted on one hand the number of practices she missed during her four seasons at Connecticut.

"I was definitely very fortunate to - knock on wood - not have injuries that keep me off the court," Faris said.

Even with a sore foot to contend with, these are special times for Faris. The elation following UConn's run to an eighth national title is still fresh in her mind, she is on the verge of living a dream by playing professional basketball and on Sunday she will graduate from UConn. It's safe to say these last several weeks are ones Faris won't soon forget.



"It was very stressful, it was a good stress to have but at the same time it was a major whirlwind," Faris said. "We won the championship and I got right back and then I was excited to get drafted and everything has kind of fell in at the same time, It was good, it was fun and I don't think it has sunk in yet. Hopefully once I finish my finals and graduate that will be out of the way and I will have my focus (on basketball). It might be 10 years down the road until I really think 'OK, wow look at what I accomplished.'

Faris was the unquestioned leader of the UConn squad as a senior. She took the three losses to Notre Dame and one to Baylor perhaps harder than any other member of the squad but she might have felt more joy than anybody else when the Huskies put it all together at the perfect time.

"It was the right way to go out," Faris said.

While it is hard to pinpoint one defining moment when all the stars aligned for the magical run at a national title, Faris considers the marathon heart to heart talk that UConn coach Geno Auriemma had with the guards before the start of the  NCAA moment as the point when it all began to change for the better. It was at that meeting when junior guard Bria Hartley, who had started since arriving at UConn, volunteered to come off the bench so UConn would have an offensive-minded guard to bring into the game. 



"That was huge," Faris said. "I think that was a big turning point for us, I think it showed her maturity level and I think at that point she kind of grew up and to have a freshman (Moriah Jefferson) sitting there at that meeting she is probably thinking 'wow, Bria Hartley just offered to come off the bench' but Bria understood that is what we needed at that time and once you get to that level I think you've got it. When you get to that level when you put your full trust into coach and you know he is right and you have to understand what he is doing and be willing to go along with it whether or not you think it is right or wrong so that was huge for her and I was extremely proud of her to get to that point.

"I am so proud of her for that because everybody has their ups and downs and for a player who was an All-American one year and it was hard for me. At the beginning she was injured so it was a slow start. It is not always easy, you sit out a month and feel like you are behind and things aren't going right and the media hypes it up and continue to ask about it. For her I know it was frustrating, it was a struggle for her but she turned it up when she needed to and she turned it up when it counted. There are a lot of players when they get to that point, they shut down so I think more than anything shows what kind of player she is and what kind of player she can be."

With Hartley, who was an All-American as a sophomore, returning along with 2012-13 All-Americans Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stefanie Dolson while Breanna Stewart is destined for multiple All-American honors, Faris knows the future is rather bright at UConn.
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"They have so much talent on that team that it is unbelievable," Faris said. "I am glad that the season worked out the way it did because for the younger guys they got to see how hard (it was) and how badly we wanted to get that national championship and we really had to put everything into it, the mentality, the focus so it was good for the young guys to see that so they will know right off the bat what it takes."

When Faris came in, UConn was looking to defend its national title and she was the only incoming freshman. Now Saniya Chong finds herself in the same situation. So what advice would Faris give to the high-scoring guard out of Ossining, N.Y.?

"Just kind of take it all in, don't get too overanxious about anything or in over your head on anything," Faris said.

"They are a good group and they will take her under their wing and help her out and she will need to pick things up quickly but don't get too nervous about it because in the end they are there, they will help you out, they want to win and it is that kind of program."


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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Wait is finally over for Johannah Leedham

Whenever Johannah Leedham had to pick between heading over to try out for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun or fulfilling her obligations with the Great Britain national team she would always chose the latter - until now.

Great Britain is currently in the midst of its latest training camp as it prepares for the EuroBasket championships in June. However, Leedham politely declined the offer to join her teammates so she could finally head over to the U.S. in an attempt to earn a spot in the WNBA.


"It is a little difficult for me to be here but I put it off for so long," Leedham said. "I had to put myself first and this is what I want to do. We have EuroBasket which is in June so if I don't make the team here, I will also go back and try to make EuroBasket but this is my focus."

Leedham left her home in Ellesmere Port, England to head over the U.S. because basketball in her home country is simply not a major priority. She landed at Cheshire Academy and her play was impressive enough for her to catch the eye of the coaches at Division II Franklin Pierce. All Leedham did in her four years in Rindge, N.H. was score an NCAA Division II record 3,050 points. Late in her senior season she was a bit shocked when she saw Mike Thibault, then the Connecticut Sun head coach, in the stands for one of the Ravens' games. She was even more surprised when Thibault used the 27th overall pick in the 2010 draft on the 5-foot-11 guard/forward.

Now she is back in the U.S. hoping to earn a roster spot with the Sun.


“I am excited to have this opportunity,” Leedham said. “I know (former Sun) Coach (Mike) Thibault is the one who brought me in but Coach (Anne) Donovan came in and they still invited me to camp. It is so competitive every day and just to be in this environment is what you dream of as a basketball player.”


The ironic aspect is that Leedham said she never dreamed of playing in the WNBA even when she made the decision to leave her Ellesmere Port, England home to attend Cheshire Academy and it wasn’t until Thibault made the trip to see her play during the final season in her record-breaking career at Franklin Pierce that she even pondered the possibilities of a professional basketball career.

After a couple of seasons playing professionally, Leedham exploded onto the scene by tying for the lead in the 2012 Olympics with an average of 16.2 points per game.Connecticut Sun assistant coach Jen Gillom was an assistant coach on the gold-medal winning U.S. team which faced Leedham’s Great Britain squad during the preliminary round. Gillom considered Leedham’s competitiveness to be perhaps her best attribute during the Olympics and her opinion of Leedham’s game has not changed.

“She is a fundamentally sound player who goes out and plays 100 percent every single (moment),” Gillom said. “She is not the type of player who is very fancy, show offish, she goes out and gets her job done. It kind of goes unnoticed from time to tome but when the game is over with and you look at the stats, you are kind of surprised at what she has done during the game but there have been several occasions that I noticed her during the Olympic tournament where she did shine and you saw some potential there and you think 'wow, this kid could be a great ball player. Even when she played against us I thought she did well. Even in the last day or two at training camp she has showed that she demands that respect and that is what I like about her. She goes all out and if you don't watch it she can have about 20 on you before you know it. I think she will stick around and make us make a tough decision.”

Although her Great Britain team did not win a game in the Olympics, it was an experience that Leedham won't soon forget.


"The Olympics were amazing," Leedham said. "It is hard to explain. Coming out for the first game and the arena is full and it is 10 o'clock at night, standing up, hearing our national anthem and our whole crowd 12,000 people sing it with you it was just an amazing feeling.

"We didn't win a game but we left everything out there. I think we lost games because we lacked experience, we lacked knowledge and we made bad decisions but that was all inexperience but we got where we were because we fought hard. We knew we left the Olympics knowing that people hated to play us. We were the team that nobody wanted to play. We knew we did our job and people respected us and that is ultimately a win for us, we were definitely proud of our performance.


First-round pick Kelly Faris was held out of practice due to a foot injury she suffered in UConn’s regular-season finale. Tina Charles and Tan White also didn’t practice on Tuesday but it was more of a case of resting and allowing some of the younger players to get looks by the Sun coaching staff. Renee Montgomery is expected to report to camp on Thursday which will put Connecticut over the 15-player training camp limit so a player will need to be cut before Montgomery reports.


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More details on Tina Charles' Heart of Hope Foundation

As I reported late last month when she was being honored for her philanthropic endeavors, Connecticut Sun star Tina Charles has started a foundation which will purchase defibrillators for schools.

She has already donated nearly $15,000 to purchase 10 Automatic External Defibrillators and has pledged to purchase and donate an AED for every double-double she has this season.

Here are more details courtesy of a press release being send out by the Connecticut Sun on Charles' behalf.


UNCASVILLE, Conn. (May 7, 2013) – WNBA MVP Tina Charles announced she has established The Tina Charles Heart of Hope Foundation (TCHH) in memory of her aunt Maureen “Hopey” Vaz, who died of multiple organ failure on March 9, 2013.

The TCHH Foundation will host a grant program to supply eligible schools or recreational centers with life-saving Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) equipment. Charles has already donated $14,775 to purchase 10 AEDs and she has pledged to purchase one new AED for each double-double she records during the 2013 WNBA Season. The Connecticut Sun center has the two highest single-season double-double totals (23 in 2011; 22 in 2010) in WNBA history

“The Foundation’s mission is to provide AEDs to schools and other institutions across the U.S.,” Charles said. “I specifically chose AEDs after being inspired by a story on ESPN about Wes Leonard, a high school basketball player in Michigan who was struck by sudden cardiac arrest and passed away because his school did not have an AED on sight. I then donated five AED's to the Wes Leonard Heart Team and five to the New York City Department of Education.”

The grant program will award AEDs quarterly, and participants will be required to complete a 500-word application and waiver form agreeing to terms and policies of the program.

“I started the Tina Charles Heart of Hope Foundation because it is a memory of my aunt Maureen,” Charles said. “My aunt had an immediate impact on everyone she met. With her smile, her words of wisdom and her walk with Christ showing her faith in God through all she had done. After my aunt passed this was my way of impacting and saving people's lives and carrying on her legacy, showing the heart of hope.”

The Tina Charles Heart of Hope Foundation is committed to providing AEDs nationally. For more information, visit www.hopeysheart.org.

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Stewart, Jefferson, Tuck eyeing more glory with U-19 squad

USA Basketball veterans Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were among 34 players who accepted invitations to try out for the U.S. squad competing in the FIBA U-19 World Championships and they will be joined by fellow UConn rising sophomore Moriah Jefferson, a member of the U-18 squad in 2012.

Stewart and Tuck were members of the 2011 U.S. squad which won the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championships. Stewart led the team in scoring (11.2 points per game), rebounding (7.3) and blocked shots (15 in nine games) while Tuck averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game for the team coached by former UConn star Jennifer Rizzotti and featured five players (Stewart, Tuck, Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) who were members of UConn's national-championship team.

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target A'ja Wilson is also among those heading to the training camp later this month.

Trials for the U-19 squad will be held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. from May 16-19 with the world championships being held in Lithuania from July 18-28.

Stewart is already one of the most decorated players in USA Basketball history as she was a member of the gold-medal winning U-16 squad in 2009, U-17 World Championship team in 2010 as well as the U-19 team two years ago and last year's U-18 squad. Stewart also became just the second high school player to compete for the U.S. in the Pan Am Games.

Tuck was Stewart's teammate on the U-17 squad in 2010, U-19 team in 2011 and U-18 team in 2012. Tuck was the leading scorer (averaging 17.8 points per game) to lead the U.S. to the FIBA Americas U18 Championship title.

Jefferson joined Tuck as the only U.S. players to start all five games in the tournament. She averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the tournament.

The list of players trying out for the U.S. team playing in the World University Games will come out later this week and perhaps as early as tomorrow.

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

UConn recruiting targets among invitees to U.S. U-16 training camp

A pair of players from the Class of 2015 with scholarship offers are among the players invited to try out for the U.S. U-16 team later this month.

Asia Durr, a 5-foot-11 guard from Douglasville, Ga., and Katie Lou Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 forward from Huntington Beach, Calif., are headliners among the list of invitees. The list of players trying out for the team could grow to 200 as players are able to apply to be a part of the training camp.

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Report: UConn in Sierra Calhoun's top four

According to a report by the NYG Hoops Report, Christ the King star Sierra Calhoun has cut her list to UConn, Duke, Notre Dame and Tennessee.

Calhoun, a 6-foot wing, averaged 22 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals as a junior. Her older brother Omar just completed a solid freshman season with the UConn men's basketball team.

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