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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Unique offseason for national champions

A year ago after her round at the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey raved about rising sophomore Brianna Banks' improvement on the court and more confident state of mind. There were no such proclamations when she spoke with Rich Elliott of the Connecticut Post and I after her round of golf on Wednesday.

"This has been a real odd year because normally the kids are in summer school in first session and that would be now but the three freshmen (Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck) because they made USA Basketball took Maymester and the other guys because of USA Basketball are coming second semester. (Incoming freshman) Saniya Chong because she doesn't graduate until late June isn't coming until second session so we really don't have anybody on campus right now, everybody else will be around second session. It is weird, it is the first year it has been like this."

For UConn head coach Geno Auriemma this offseason has been pleasantly serene. Unlike the past few years where he would be bouncing around getting ready for national team training camps, he has no USA Basketball responsibilities. Much of his time has been spent bonding with his second grandson Andrew who was born a couple weeks back.

"It's been kind of quiet," Auriemma said. "Each one we win it gets less and less chaotic especially this year. Other some of the travel that I have done, some that I had to do and some I wanted to do, it has been pretty quiet because I don't have USA Basketball, recruiting starts July 6 so I am just kind of keeping a low profile until then."

Obviously when the July viewing period begins next month Auriemma and his staff will continue the pursuit of some big kids to add to the recruiting class headlined by verbal commitments Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark and Gabby Williams.

A'ja Wilson, rated by many as the best player in the Class of 2014, is at the top of UConn's wish list but when I spoke to Wilson during the U-19 national team trials she said her intention was to take all of her official visits so don't look for any commitments from her in the immediate future. A new name is emerging as Lynee' Belton is very much on the Huskies' recruiting radar. In a Washington Post story written 2 1/2 weeks ago, it was reported that Belton has visited UConn and there is clearly plenty of interest in the 6-foot-2 forward who will be a senior at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md. UConn is still involved with other forwards including Kathryn Westbeld, Taylor Rooks and Lexi Gussert as well as wing Sierra Calhoun. With Chong, a 5-foot-9 guard, the only member of the incoming recruiting class and the only commitments in the Class of 2014 being perimeter players, obviously securing commitments from a couple of big kids is a priority for the Huskies.

UConn has made it clear that it would welcome walk-ons since it will only have nine scholarship players next season. Dailey said she hasn't heard much of possible non-scholarship students expressing an interest in trying out for the team.

"I am not sure," Dailey said. "I am not worried about it. We have enough practice players."

Dailey wasn't sure of the status of Becca Pope who was with the team for a few months last year after transferring from UConn-Avery Point. While she has a chance of taking part in drills with the team when she is enrolled at UConn, at the current time it is looking like Pope will not be a part of a program next season.

"Hopefuly we will have some other kids," Dailey said. "It is not an easy thing to do, we don't have a lot of Marci Czels or Colleen Healys running around who are able to do it."

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