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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

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."

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."

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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