Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Memories of her brother live on for UConn's Saniya Chong

The tattoo on Saniya Chong’s left wrist is rather easy to overlook due to its lack of gaudiness but there is no understating its importance to the UConn freshman guard.

The tattoo merely says 1985-2006 in simple black lettering and every time Chong looks at the ink etching on her wrist, she can’t help but lovingly remember her older brother Andrew died in 2006 at the age of 20 of what was called a suicide in a 2011 story by the New York Post.

Chong was just starting to showcase her prolific offensive skill set at that time. Within a few years the college coaches began to take note of a speedy guard with incredible range on her jump shot. But even as Chong’s national profile began to rise, she never forget those early days when he older brother would have Saniya playing on his team during neighborhood pick-up games.

“He was more of a motivator and my middle brother was on the court with me,” Chong said. “He was nice, he would put me on his team and playing against his friends so it was pretty good.”

As a middle schooler Chong was obviously devastated by her brother’s death. She knew she had to do something to remember Andrew but keeping with her quiet nature, she wanted it to be something that was heart felt and not a way to bring extra attention onto herself.

“That was the very first thing I got,” Chong said, “I always talked about it and that was the first one, I knew I had to get it. I didn’t want something too big because I didn’t want it (so noticeable) on the court but I always knew something I could see.

“Since my tattoo is there I always see it. It is not like I am not thinking about it, every time I see the tattoo or see it that always reminds me of him, I always think about it. I see it every day so it is always like a remembrance right there. He is always there cheering me on, every time I (see) the tattoo he is always there everywhere I go.”

When Chong suits up for UConn she likely will need to wear a band aid or some sort of tape to cover the tattoo considering the UConn team rules about not having visible tattoos showing during games. Chong, a 5-foot-9 guard from Ossining, N.Y., is OK with that. She will wear whatever she needs to when she plays for the eight-time national champions.

“It’s been challenging and motivating but I am ready for it,” Chong said.

In other news, junior guard Brianna Banks said she hopes to be cleared for full-court basketball drills in about another week. I'll have more on her in the coming days but it's been a hectic day considering what has been going on with the football team here at UConn.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pair of UConn grads in WNBA finals

When Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes were teammates at UConn the Huskies won a pair of national titles.

There will be only room for one of them to add to their championship haul when Moore's Minnesota Lynx and Hayes' Atlanta Dream face off in the WNBA championship series.

Both teams completed two-game sweeps on Tuesday.

Moore had 27 points and three rebounds as the Lynx defeated the Phoenix Mercury 72-65 win game two of the Western Conference finals.

Former Husky Diana Taurasi had 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Charde Houston finished two points for Phoenix.

In the Eastern Conference finals, Atlanta completed the sweep with a 67-53 win over defending WNBA champion Indiana as Hayes finished with seven points, six rebounds and two assists.

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U.S. wins 3x3 U18 title

The United States, featuring a pair of players from the Class of 2015 on UConn's recruiting radar, won the FIBA 3x3 U18 title with a 20-12 win over Indonesia.

Katie Lou Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 wing from Huntington Beach, Calif., and Arike Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-9 guard from Milwaukee, teamed with Notre Dame commit Brianna Turner and California commit Gabby Green to win the title with wins over France, Spain and Estonia on Sunday after going 4-1 in pool play (with the loss coming to Lithuania).

Here are quotes from Ogunbowale and Samuelson courtesy of the folks from USA Basketball.

Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.)

How’s it feel to win gold?
It feels great, it’s really cool. It took a lot of work.
What were the keys to winning gold?
We just had to be more physical than the other teams and keep up our intensity the whole time and come out strong every game.
Did fatigue become a factor with it being hot and playing so many fast-paced games in a short amount of time? Could you feel the other teams tiring?
We felt they were (tiring), you could just tell. We did well because we subbed often and that kept us pretty fresh.
The winning of the gold medal was a team effort, it seemed like there was great balance on the USA team.
Oh yeah, I felt it a lot. Even from Colorado our first time playing with each other. At first it was a little rough but then we kind of came together really quickly and so then I knew it would be good from there. We have a feel for how each other plays, Gabby and Bri (Brinna Turner) played with each other and then me and Katie and played with each other and we put it all together.
What were some of the characteristics that led the team to gold?
Probably just the drive, motivation, determination, all those three. We wanted to win, we didn’t want anything less than a gold medal so that helped and our pride in our country.

Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei H.S./Huntington Beach, Calif.)
How does it feel to win gold?
It feels great; it was a great experience.
Talk about the gold medal game with Estonia; what was the key?
We started off really well. Estonia played hard but we really kept a face paced game and I think we tired them out and we kept going with our intensity and it really helped.
France entered its game with the U.S. 6-0, what did you think the key was in this game?
We knew we had to come out hard and if we played the way we did against Spain the day before we knew we could win it. So we just came out and played as hard as we could and we just wanted this and we played really well.
The winning of the gold medal seemed to be a total team effort. The team appeared to have really good chemistry. Is that true? 
We got along really well and we all knew our strengths and weaknesses and we all helped each game. We all got along great and we’re really close now and it was great to play with them.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nurse, Canada fall in FIBA Americas title game

UConn recruiting target Kia Nurse finished with nine points, two rebounds and three assists but Canada lost to Cuba in the gold-medal game in the FIBA Americas World Championship for Women.

Nurse finished the tournament averaging 10 points, 2 rebound and 2.5 assists per game. She was one of only two teenagers to average at least 10 points per game in the event.

Canada still qualified for next year's FIBA World Cup by virtue of reaching the championship game..

Brazil also earned a spot in the 2014 World Cup by defeating Puerto Rico in the third-place game.

Ansonia's Ashley Prim had 11 points, one rebound and one steal for Puerto Rico.

UConn Class of 2015 recruiting target Katie Lou Samuelson helped the U.S. reach the quarterfinals in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships.

The U.S. rebounded from its first loss in the tournament, losing 11-9 to Lithuania in pool play, to beat Spain in wrap up round-robin play and then defeated Thailand 21-14 in the Round of 16. The U.S. will face undefeated France in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

"We definitely struggled (versus Lithuania)," Samielson said. "I think we just came out feeling too comfortable from the day before and we just couldn't hit any shots. Lithuania came out playing really hard, we're lucky it came in pool play so that we have another chance because it really helped us get better and realize what we have to do.

"We were really pumped to come out for that game (against Spain) because we had just lost and we were ready to play.  We knew that once we got halfway through we could do this if we kept playing the same way we were. Our defense was really good and we played overall really well."

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UConn recruiting target goes for gold today

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Kia Nurse, a 6-foot guard from Hamilton, Ontario, had nine points, one rebounds, two assists and two steals as Canada defeated Puerto Rico 73-48 to advance to the gold-medal game at the FIBA America Championship for Women. The victory also secured Canada a spot in next year's FIBA World Championship for Women.

The 17-year-old Nurse is averaging 10.2 points, 2 rebounds and 2.4 assists for undefeated Canada which will play Cuba in the championship game. Cuba upset defending champion Brazil 72-68. The only other teenager in the tournament with a higher scoring average than Nurse is Venezuela's Daniela Wallen, who has signed a letter of intent to attend Independence Community College, who averaged 10.8 points in the tournament.

An interesting side note is the one of Puerto Rico's players is former Kolbe Cathedral star Ashley Prim. Prim had three points and one rebound in the loss to Canada and is averaging 7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. The winner of the Puerto Rico/Brazil game will join Canada and Cuba as the three FIBA Americas representatives in the FIBA World Cup which will be held in Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct.5.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hayes, Moore lead teams within a win of WNBA finals

Former UConn stars Tiffany Hayes and Maya Moore played starring roles as the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx opened the WNBA conference finals with victories.

Hayes scored 15 of her game-high 23 points after Tamika Catchings gave Indiana a two-point lead in the third quarter of the Eastern Conference finals. Not a bad performance for a player with a reputation of not playing her best in the postseason or on the big stage when she was coming out of UConn, don't you think?

Hayes was 8 of 14 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range to go with three rebounds, three assists and one steal in Atlanta's 84-79 victory over the defending champion Indiana Fever.

Moore had 20 points (on 8 of 14 shooting), five rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot as Minnesota rolled to an 85-62 win over Phoenix in the opening game of the Western Conference finals.

Diana Taurasi led Phoenix with 15 points while Charde Houston added nine points.

The conference finals resume on Sunday with Indiana and Phoenix both needing to win at home to extend the series to a decisive third game.

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Eight former of current UConn players slated to take part in U.S. training camp

USA Basketball just released the list of names of players who have accepted invitations to take part in next week's national team training camp in Las Vegas and it is safe to say that UConn will be well represented.

Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi and current UConn stars Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart will also be out there for the first training camp since UConn's Geno Auriemma was named the head coach of the 2016 Olympic team. The camp will be held from Oct. 4-6.

Obviously either Moore or Taurasi will have to miss the training camp since their teams are squaring off in the WNBA's Western Conference final and one of them is guaranteed to be playing in the WNBA championship series.

Seven current college players have accepted invitations as Baylor's Odyssey Sims, Kayla McBride of Notre Dame and Maryland's Alyssa Thomas will join the four UConn players. I don't have the complete list of players who were invited and declined but Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike has a scheduling conflict so she is not going to be there.

Here are the players invited to the camp with players with possible WNBA scheduling conflicts in bold.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury);  Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks); Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx); Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty); Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars); Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury),  DeWanna Bonner (Phoenix Mercury), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock), Stefanie Dolson (University of Connecticut), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Lindsey Harding (Los Angeles Sparks), Bria Hartley (University of Connecticut), Briann January (Indiana Fever), Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks), Kayla McBride (University of Notre Dame), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (University of Connecticut), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars), Odyssey Sims (Baylor University), Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut), Alyssa Thomas (University of Maryland), Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky), Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx) and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars

UConn going hard after Canadian national team guard

It's been kind of a bizarre recruiting year for UConn.

Considering that the Huskies only incoming recruit is guard Saniya Chong, the belief was that the Huskies would bring in one or two post players. However, other than South Carolina phenom A'ja Wilson, it looks like the Huskies aren't involved with any other frontcourt players in the Class of 2014. Of course, the Huskies did pretty well for themselves when a 6-foot Maya Moore played the power forward position so perhaps 6-footers Gabby Williams and Courtney Ekmark could be used in a similar fashion. Plus, there aren't going to be too many people to feel sorry for the Huskies next year when they have the services of Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Morgan Tuck and Kiah Stokes to play the forward positions.

At the current time UConn has commitments from Ekmark, Williams and Meriden native Sadie Edwards, all perimeter players and other than Wilson, the only other player I can confirm is actively being pursued by UConn in the Class of 2014 is Canadian national team guard Kia Nurse.

UConn went to Hamilton, Ontario for a recent home visit with Nurse. Then the day after UConn coach Geno Auriemma was in Indianapolis for the women's basketball summit, which resulted in multiple recommendations for improving the women's game, he was en route to Mexico to see Nurse play in the FIBA Americas Championship for Women so I guess it is safe to say that the Huskies are interested in Nurse who is listed anywhere from 5-9 to 6-feet.

Nurse is certainly proving to be worth the trip for Auiremma as she is the second-leading scorer for a Canadian team which won Group A with a 4-0 record to earn the top seed out of that pool for tomorrow's semifinals.

Nurse scored in double digits in the three three games of pool play including recording 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in a 53-40 win over previously undefeated Cuba on Wednesday.

Playing on a team including Notre Dame All-American candidate Natalie Achonwa, former Vermont star Courtney Pilypatis and Canadian national team veterans Krista Phillips and Shonna Thornburn, Nurse is averaging 10.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Nurse is no stranger to representing Canada in international competitions. She averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.2 steals at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championships, put up 13.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in the 2012 FIBA U17 Championship for Women (including scoring eight points and adding six rebounds, two assists and a steals in an 86-47 loss to the U.S.) and has been with the Senior National Team this season during the European tour, Four-Nation event in China and Super Four International Tournament.

As for the recruiting process, a Swish Appeal story said that UConn, Kentucky, Indiana, Penn State and Tennessee are the final finalists and she will go through the process of taking official visits although her father Richard (a former CFL player) said it is not guaranteed that she will take all five of her visits before making her decision.

Richard is far from the only gifted athlete in the Nurse home. Kia's brother Darnell was taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft while her uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.

While I haven't heard of a date for a visit yet for Nurse, I don't think Auriemma headed down to Mexico if he wasn't planning to have her come in for an official visit. Typically the weekend of First Night is the preferred slot for high-profile recruits to make their way to Storrs and I hope to have more information on Nurse's intentions in near future.

One last note on recruiting, Ekmark and Wilson are scheduled to play in the inaugural Full Court Fresh 50 Invitational on Sunday at Westlake High in Atlanta.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Former Huskies Moore and Taurasi on All-WNBA team

Former UConn stars Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi headlined the All-WNBA first team which was announced today.

The Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles was the top vote-getter with 167 points followed closely by Taurasi and Moore with 162 and 161 points respectively. League MVP Candace Parker from the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen rounded out the five-member first team.

Former UConn star Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun was selected to the second team.

Taurasi and Moore finished second and third in scoring during the regular season as Taurasi averaged 20.3 points per game while Moore put up 18.5 points per game. Charles ended up as the fifth leading scorer with an average of 18 PPG and was second in rebounding (10.1 per game) and also second with 17 double-doubles.

Funding approved for practice facility

UConn's Board of Trustees approved the final budget for the basketball practice facility today.

The board approved a budget of $33.3 million although UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel told the Associated Press that "we probably need to raise another $7-8 million."

Progress on the construction of the facility, which will be next to Gampel Pavilion where Memorial Stadium used to sit, has been going well and below is a video I shot when I was up at UConn yesterday.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Former Wilbur Cross star signs with BC Tsmoki-Minsk

Former Wilbur Cross and Boston University star Chanell Alford has signed to play with BC Tsmoki-Minsk n the Belarus Premier League.

Alford, a 5-foot-8 guard, finished with 1,802 career points which is the third most in Boston University program history and she set a school record with 244 career 3-pointers. She is leaving Monday to join the team which will also be playing in the EuroCup Women event.

Tsmaki-Minsk had a 13-5 record in the Premier League including a 12-2 record in the Premier League Stage One standings. Tsmoki-Minsk lost in the Premier League championship game to Olimpia. Belarus naitonal team players Olga Istseliatsova and Zhanna Haradzetskaya are expected to be among the top returnees.

Taurasi, Hayes keep championship hopes alive

Thanks to big games by Diana Taurasi and Tiffany Hayes, three of the four teams advancing to the WNBA conference finals feature former UConn stars.

Taurasi had 18 points, five rebounds, 10 assists and two steals as the Phoenix Mercury defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 78-77 in a wild winner take all game in the Western Conference semifinals while Hayes had nine of her 18 points in the fourth quarter including four straight free throws in the final 40 seconds as Atlanta defeated Washington 80-72 in game three of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

With Charde Houston (one block in game 3) and Taurasi both on Phoenix and MVP runner-up Maya Moore on Minnesota, it is guaranteed that at least one former Husky will be in the WNBA championship series. It is the 11th straight season that at least one former UConn player will play in the WNBA finals.

Here is the breakdown
2012: Indiana def. Minnesota (Maya Moore)
2011: Minnesota (Maya Moore, Charde Houston) def. Atlanta
2010: Seattle (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Svetlana Abrosimova) def. Atlanta
2009: Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, Ketia Swanier) def. Indiana (Jessica Moore)
2008: Detroit (Kelly Schumacher) def. SA
2007: Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, Kelly Schumacher) def. Detroit (Swin Cash)
2006: Detroit (Swin Cash) def. Sacramento
2005: Sacramento def. Connecticut (Nykesha Sales, Asjha Jones)
2004: Seattle (Bird) def. Connecticut (Nykesha Sales, Asjha Jones)
2003: Detroit (Swin Cash) def. LA
2000: Houston (Jen Rizzotti) def. NY
1999: Houston (Jen Rizzotti, Kara Wolters) def. New York (Rebecca Lobo-injured and did not play)
1997: Houston def. New York (Rebecca Lobo)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Landmark day leads to wide-ranging recommendations for women's basketball

With some of the highest profile names in the sport at NCAA headquarters for a women's basketball summit, several changes were recommended.

Leading the way was a shift of playing the Final Four the week after the men's Final Four is over and move from a Sunday/Tuesday format to having the semifinals on Friday and title game on a Sunday.

Also, the top 16 seeds will serve as subregional hosts while there will be a shift from the current four regional site format to two super regional sites.

There is also the hope that sites will be utilized on a multiple year basis. What that could mean is that the same site will host the super regionals in back to back years and then it could serve as the host of the Final Four.

Also, in 2016 there is a recommendation that the Division I, II and III Final Fours all get held at the same time in Indianapolis. Currently the plan is to have that be a one-year deal but that could change based on a feedback from how the event works out.

It should be noted that these are just recommendations and need to be passed in an official vote which comes up in October.

While many of the recommendations had to do with the postseason format and the attempt to break away from shadow cast by the highly-successful men's tournament, there was a move to make the women's game less physical and more free flowing. That part of the recommendation might be the one that I am most interested in seeing how it is implemented.. NCAA Vice President Anusha Browne said that the process of identifying points of emphasis for officials to clean up the game has already begun. It sounds like more handchecking and away from the ball contact will be called moving forward in an attempt to have a more up and down style of play.

Browne said no changes will be made in the format for the 2014 tournament. If the recommendations are passed then it will be up to organizers in Tampa, the site of the 2015 women's Division I Final Four, to see if they can be implemented in time for that event.

Basically the main points that came out of the White Paper, a report written by former WNBA President Val Ackerman were agreed upon by those in attendance which included UConn Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, former Women's Sports Foundation President and Brakettes softball Hall of Famer Donna Lopiano, former UConn point guard and current Hartford head coach Jen Rizzotti, American Athletic Conference associate commissioner Danielle Donehew, ESPN's Carol Stiff and other prominent coaches and administrators.

U.S. training camp dates announced

USA Basketball announced that it will hold a training camp from Oct. 4-6 at the Cox Pavilion practice gym at UNLV.

It is the first training camp since UConn's Geno Auriemma was named the U.S. national team coach through the 2016 Olympics.

"I’m really looking forward to kicking off the next four years with this training camp in Las Vegas,” Auriemma said in the USA Basketball press release. “It’s going to give me a great opportunity to see some of the younger guys and how they fit into my system, as well as working with our veterans again. It’s been just over a year, but I can’t wait to start the process of trying to figure out how we can mesh all of our talent together and get ready for next year’s World Championship.”

Players attending the camp will be announced at a later date. Players from at least eight of the 12 WNBA teams will be eligible to take part in the camp as Connecticut, San Antonio, Tulsa and New York missed the playoffs, Seattle and Chicago were eliminated from the postseason yesterday while the losers of tonight's Washington/Atlanta and Phoenix/Los Angeles games will be knocked out of the playoffs as well. Players from teams which lose in the conference finals could also take part in the camp. There's a chance that active college players could be invited to the camp as well.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

AAC commissioner's thoughts on Mohegan Sun as tourney host

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco sat down with the media for about 20 minutes before last night's UConn/Michigan football game. Naturally, football topics dominated the question and answer session but Aresco did give his thoughts on defending national champion UConn headlining the AAC as well as Mohegan Sun Arena as the host for the inaugural AAC women's basketball tournament.

"With UConn we feel like we are already one of the top leagues but Louisville is in for only one more year and we lost Notre Dame which was one of the top teams," Aresco said. "We really think having UConn in the league is going to elevate our other programs. Connecticut is really important in women’s basketball and Mohegan could well be a long-term site but XL (Center) once they get back into the picture (could be a potential host). Mohegan is the right size, I think the women are excited about going there. We think we will have good attendance there but that is another one where we do have an option for another year and we are going to try to play it by ear. We were gratified that we had a lot of interest from a lot of sites for the men’s and women’s tournaments."


Saturday, September 21, 2013

No regional in Bridgeport this year

When I spoke to UConn's Senior Women's Administrator Deb Corum at the press conference announcing that Geno Auriemma will be the U.S. Olympic coach she said that UConn intended to bid for the NCAA subregionals and there was a chance that a Connecticut arena could make a run at acquiring the 2014 regionals.

The deadline to submit bids was Wednesday and  a source confirmed that Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport did not make a bid for the regionals because it was hosting the NCAA Division I hockey East Regional on Mar. 28 and 29. Bridgeport figures to make a bid to host the 2015 regionals.

It could still be a couple of months before the NCAA announces the sites for the subregionals and regionals.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Stokes anxious for her junior season to start

After finishing up with my interviews with UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni and a handful of members of the Huskies' football team, I was able to catch up with junior forward/center Kiah Stokes.

The last I had heard from Stokes was that she was playing in a summer league while back home in Iowa so she talked about that experience and her summer in general.

"I worked out with my dad and my brother and they helped push me," Stokes said. "Towards the end of it I went to league in West Liberty. I got to play a game a week but I had to leave for the last three weeks. It was a lot of fun working out and getting back into the flow of things.

"It helps a lot. It is one thing to work on your skills and it is another thing to play five on five, going against other people and it helps a lot, I think.

"I took a couple of weeks off just to let my body rest and once the end of May came around, I got back at it again and started working out hard to get ready for this season because we are trying to repeat. I feel UConn, us as a team, we always have a target on our backs but you know it is even bigger because every team wants to take us down. I know Louisville in the regular season, they are going to be gunning for us so we have to keep working to make ourselves better."

Stokes has had her ups and downs during her first two seasons at UConn with a couple of injuries, some nice games and other times when he drew the ire of the UConn coaches for her poor practice habits.

Now an upperclassman, Stokes said she has an improved work ethic. Stokes knows that with nine scholarship players, there isn't much room for error and she needs to put herself in position to be a regular contributor both in practice and during games.

"I've been working hard because I am a junior and I have to push our underclassmen to work just as hard so that helps a lot," Stokes said. "It (the nine scholarship players) is a good and bad thing, it means you really need everyone. Coach is only going to play five people (at once) which makes it hard on the rest of the team. We've been there before. My freshman year he took me, Stef (Dolson), Heather (Buck) all the posts out of the game at Marquette and said 'if you aren't going to do it, we will get five who can, five guards.' It was five guards who played that game. He is all business but with nine people we understand we all have to be involved.

"I worked all summer for it and now it is time. We're doing the individual (workouts) with the coaches, it helps a lot and just getting back into the rhythm with the team it is a lot different this summer. I am a junior and I finally understand how it works finally, it is a good thing and we are all excited to get ready for the season."

Auriemma has been pushing Stokes hard. When she was a freshman he called the freshman the X factor in the Husies' bid for a national title. Stokes averaged 9.5 points and 8 rebounds in the first two NCAA tournament games but averaged 2 points and 4.3 rebounds in the final three NCAA tournament games. The story was the same during her sophomore season.

"I remember Coach (Geno Auriemma) said last year that if I don't trust you, I am not going to play you and I really trying to earn his trust this year," Stokes said. "I think I have done a pretty good job so far but you can always do better and that is what I am trying to do. I remember last year Coach said to Stef (Dolson) and Bria (Hartley) 'you guys have one year and then you are seniors so you have get it figured out.' It is the same thing for Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis), me and Bri (Banks) this year, we have one year to get it down pat before we are seniors and we have to actually lead this team."

Stokes had a pretty interesting summer off the court. First, her father Greg came out to local papers in Iowa that his daughter had no intention of transferring. The transfer rumors baffled Stokes considering how much she enjoys being at Connecticut.

"I personally don't think about it too much," Stokes said. "I know there were a few people who asked me about it and I said 'no, I love it up here and I don't want to quit.' I am not a quitter and having him go through all of that was great because I was getting tired of it. At home people were 'so are you going to stay at UConn?' I said 'yes, I am staying at UConn. There is no reason for me to come back (home). We won so of course I want to stay and earn that again. It was frustrating a little bit but I think they understand, if they know me they know I wasn't going to leave. We got one of those down so I have to try to be my best and win another one."

Stokes was also involved in Bunny Ear gate as she and Stefanie Dolson held up two fingers on either side of President Barack Obama's head during a photo at the end of the Huskies' trip to the White House on July 31.

It was Dolson that received most of the negative backlash following the incident.

"I got a little but not as much (as Dolson) which I am not that mad about," Stokes said. "I guess it wasn't that good of a thing, He (President Obama) told us to do it otherwise we never would have done it but I don't think people understand that. I was really shocked (at the negative reaction). He is our President, I understand that, but I didn't think people would get so mad about it especially when he told us to do it. Looking back, I think it is pretty funny but I would never do it again even if he says it because of the bad reaction we got. It is a learning experience. It was fun at the time, 20 years from now I will tell my kids 'yeah, I have the President bunny ears.' "

Stokes provided some updates on how freshman Saniya Chong is adapting to life at UConn and also on classmate Brianna Banks, who is working her way back from the torn ACL she suffered in a Feb. 2 game at St. John's.

"She (Chong) is so quick," Stokes said. "I thought Moriah was quick but she is just as fast, maybe a little faster. She is good, she still has her freshman ways a little bit but she is fitting in with us and how we do things here. She is aggressive, she is quick and she drives to the basket a lot which is good because we always need somebody to get to the basket. She has a little bit to go but she is getting there."

As for Banks, who I have seen taking shots at Gampel without a knee brace or any signs of her previous knee injury, Stokes said she is coming along pretty quickly.

"I think she is making really good progress," Stokes said. "She hasn't started playing with us yet, she is taking it slow with the no contact stuff but she will be back with us in no time."

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Five former UConn players in WNBA playoffs

With the Connecticut Sun missing the playoffs and injured veterans Sue Bird and Asjha Jones sitting out the season, there is a smaller UConn contingent than normal in the WNBA playoffs.

There are five UConn products who have a chance to lead their teams to the WNBA title as Maya Moore is a member of 2011 champion Minnesota, Diana Taurasi and Charde Houston play for two-time champion Phoenix, Swin Cash plays for Eastern Conference top seed Chicago and Tiffany Hayes plays for Atlanta.

The first round of the WNBA playoffs feature the following matchups
Seattle vs. Minnesota
Phoenix vs. Los Angeles
Indiana vs. Chicago
Washington vs. Atlanta

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Connecticut Sun clinch WNBA's worst record

With last night's loss to Washington the Connecticut Sun are guaranteed to finish with the worst record in the WNBA season. On paper that would give the Sun the best chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA draft.

However, the odds of the Sun securing the top pick won't be as overwhelming as other teams as the Sun are 9-24 with a game left against Indiana while New York, San Antonio and Tulsa have 11-22 records with one game remaining. It should also be noted that last year Washington finished fourth in the lottery despite having the league's worst record, two seasons ago Tulsa had the best chance of winning the lottery only to finish second.

Last year the lottery was conducted on Sept. 26 but I haven't heard when this year's lottery will be done.

This is just my opinion, but I would consider Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford, Maryland's Alyssa Thomas, Odyssey Sims of Baylor, Notre Dame's Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa and UConn's Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley and Duke's Chelsea Gray  to be the top candidates available to the lottery teams. I would consider Ogwumike to be the player who could help the Sun the most as a frontcourt featuring Tina Charles and Ogwumike could be absolutely frightening. The other question facing the Sun is whether they will look to ship off some veterans in an attempt to acquire another first-round pick in what appears to be a very deep draft. Other than those players I have already mentioned, you have others like Penn State's Maggie Lucas, Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg, USC's Cassie Harberts, Louisville's Shoni Schimmel to be among potential first-round picks although I am sure I am missing some other worthy candidates as well.

The Sun's trade for Kayla Pedersen means that the Sun gave up the 13th overall pick which makes me wonder if Connecticut would make that trade again.

Friday, September 13, 2013

UConn No. 1 in Lindy's Magazine preseason poll

It's around that time of the year when the preseason national polls start coming out.

Lindy's Magazine started things off and predictably selected UConn first followed by Duke, California, Notre Dame and Stanford. UConn will face six of the top 10 teams in the poll: Duke (2), California (3), Stanford (5), Louisville (8), Baylor (9) and Maryland (10).

Quinnipiac checks in at No. 25 in the poll

Here is the poll
1. UConn
2. Duke
3. California
4. Notre Dame
5. Stanford
6. Tennessee
7. Kentucky
8. Louisville
9. Baylor
10. Maryland
11. Dayton
12. Colorado
13. South Carolina
14. Penn State
15. Gonzaga
16. Chattanooga
17.   Purdue
18. Iowa State
19. Georgia
20. Creighton
21. Texas A&M
22. Wisconsin-Green Bay
23. UCLA
2    24. LSU
2    25. Quinnipiac

Friday, September 06, 2013

Impressive effort by Sun's Tan White

With Tina Charles joining starters Allison Hightower, Kara Lawson and Kelly Faris on the sidelines it would have been easy for the Connecticut Sun to just roll out the balls and count down the seconds until the frustrating 2013 season is nothing but a part of history.

However, veteran Tan White was scoring a career-high 26 points to go with six assists, three rebounds, three steals and one memorable block when she chased down rookie Tayler Hill from behind led the Sun to a 77-70 victory over Washington on Friday night.

The soft-spoken White has assumed more of a leadership role with so many of the Sun's top players out for the season with a variety of injuries.

"Tan has been talking about pride all week," Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan said..

White backed up her talk with one of her best performances in a Connecticut Sun uniform.

"We are playing with a lot of pride, it doesn't matter who is out we are just going to fight and play hard as a team," White said.

"We feel like we are a much better team than our record indicates. It's been a long season overall but no matter who dresses out, we have to play for 40 minutes as a team."

With Charles missing her first game of the season, only Kelsey Griffin and Kalana Greene have played every game with Griffin the only one to start every game. Lawson, Montgomery, White, Hightower and Faris have combined to miss 57 games.

The Sun has a WNBA-worst 8-22 record and is guaranteed to finish with one of the top four picks in the 2014 WNBA draft. There have been rumblings that veterans could be on the trading block so those healthy enough to suit up could be playing for 2014 contracts.

Knee discomfort to sideline Tina Charles for rest of season

A tough season go all the more challenging for the Connecticut Sun as the decision has been made to shut down reigning WNBA MVP for the rest of the season due to lingering knee issues.

"I've been playing through it," Charles said before Friday's game against Washington. "I'll have to see how my body feels (to decide when she returns to the court)."

The Sun have the worst record in the WNBA and have been eliminated from playoff contention so the team decided it made little sense for Charles to risk further injury by playing in the final five games of the season.

"I feel like we are all pros and we have been battling not having certain guys all season," Charles said.

After the game Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan discussed the decision to shut down Charles for the rest of the season.

"She did not want to give up the hope that we get in the playoffs and that is my biggest thought that I am happy she stuck it out for as long as she did," Donovan said. "I am proud of her."

Charles also addressed the appointment of her college coach Geno Auriemma as the U.S. Olympic coach for the second consecutive term.

"This is Coach Auriemma's playing field," Charles said. "This is what he does; he likes to coach great players and loves to get the best out of every player. Every time you are coached by him you are going to take something away from your game or your life, he is just a great guy and I am really happy for him.

"This will be a whole new training camp for me. I never put myself ahead of anybody. I am going to go in there and fight for a position as long as I am granted an opportunity."

NBA A-lister a big supporter of UConn's Geno Auriemma

I've spoken to so many different big shots in the basketball world about UConn Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma in the last decade and a half and today came the opportunity for me to get the take of Naismith Hall of Famer and former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo's thoughts on what makes Auriemma the type of coach that he wanted to coach not one but a pair of U.S. Olympic squads.

After the press conference announcing that Auriemma would be coaching the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics, I asked Colangelo the USA Baskertball chairman, what impressed him the most about Auriemma's on the court work during the run to the 2012 gold medal. 

"He has a presence and it is a winning presence," Colangelo said. "He always seems to be in control of the situation and there is a comfort level having somebody like that leading the charge. You need to have a coach that the players are going to respect. How does that come about? It comes about because of a track record, because of some relationships, his ability to communicate. When I say he was the best candidate, there is no question about that."

Although Auriemma had publicly stated he wasn't interested in spending another four years as the U.S. Senior Women's National Team coach, Colangelo believed that Auriemma would say yes if offered the gig again.

"My feeling was he would," Colangelo said. "Sometimes you just know instinctively that would probably be his answer."


UConn planning to bid for 2014 subregionals

Deb Corum, UConn's Senior Women Administrator said that the university will be making a bid to host the first and second rounds in the 2014 NCAA Division I tournament but will not be pursuing the regionals.

"(UConn will bid for) first and second rounds," Corum said. "We will not bid for regionals because quite honestly we are opposed to the concept that you could buy yourself into the Final Four and we are opposed to that decision so we could disingenuous if we bid on it if we said it is the wrong thing to do."

Corum said it was possible that a Connecticut arena could land the regionals so perhaps UConn won't need to go very far to play its way into the Final Four.

The deadline to submit bids to host either the subregionals or regionals is Sept. 16 with the decisions expected to be made by the NCAA in November. Obviously the process is a little more drawn out this year.

"It is totally different and some of the decisions that the committee made this summer created that the timeline be different so it is a little bizarre but we will have to get used to it," Corum said.

Corum also likes the idea that one UConn men's and women's home game will be played outside of either Storrs and Hartford. For the women's team it is the game against Temple which is likely to be played at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

"It think it really helps," Corum said. "We are state institution with some nice arenas. It is good that we can go to play (there) for our fans."

Auriemma couldn't turn down about chance at Olympics

When Geno Auriemma returned from London after guiding the star-studded United States team to a fifth straight Olympic gold medal, he was content that his work with USA Basketball came to a glorious conclusion.

He was certain that somebody else would receive the honor of coaching the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics and he felt that way right up until the time that USA Basketball officially offered him the job on July 31.

Auriemma recalled the timeline which led to Friday's announcement that he would be the first person to coach the U.S. women's basketball program in back to back Olympics.

Here's what Auriemma had to say at the press conference about his change of heart.

"It is not my turn any more, it is somebody else's turn," Auriemma said. "I did what I was asked to do and what I wanted to do and I did it as well as I thought I could do it but what happened since last August when we won and a few weeks ago, all that time I kind of held to my convictions that I was not going to do it. First of all, I was never asked so I didn't want to presume anything and second of all USA Basketball on the women's side has never done that so why should I presume I would be the first one to do that?

"To give you an idea of how USA Basketball works, the day we are at the White House July 31 so as we are getting ready, we are going to meet the President (for a ceremony honoring UConn's national championship) and be with the President and see what the United States really stands for, the phone rings and it is Carol (Callan) and Jim (Tooley) saying 'you know we are calling because we want you to be the next Olympic coach and here is why.' The whole time I am just sitting there going 'this can't be an accident that while you are here in Washington, D.C. you are being asked to represent your country. I said I just need some time to think about it and make sure it is the right time for my family and it is the right thing for USA Basketball. The more I thought about it and the more time that passed it became pretty apparent to me and my family that this was the right thing to do, that when people have this much confidence in you, people ask you to do something that is not easy to do and they have a lot of admiration for the way you've done it in the past, that means a lot.

"It is hard to put into words how you feel at the end but it is another journey, another beginning."

There will be a three-day training camp and Callan, the USA Basketball Women's National Team Director, said it is likely to occur late into the WNBA playoffs around the time of the conference finals or WNBA championship series but before players begin leaving for overseas.

Auriemma named Olympic coach

Geno Auriemma was offficially named the U.S. Senior National Team women's basketball coach through the 2016 Olympics.

Auriemma coached the U.S. to a fifth straight gold medal in 2012 but said he was not interested in being the Olympic coach again.

"When people ask me if I was going to do this again throughout the course of the spring and summer," Auriemma said. "I said exactly how I was feeling. I had done it; it was great; it was unbelievable but I felt like it was time to move on to something different," Auriemma said.

That was how Auriemma felt until about three weeks ago when  he decided to agree to another term as the Olympic coach.

Auriemma figures to have a different looking team than the dominant squad which won the 2012 title as six of the 12 members of the gold-medal winning team are over 30.

"Playing for Coach Auriemma challenges and excites me as a competitor," said 2012 Olympic gold medalist and former UConn star Maya Moore. "I love his passion and personality as a coach.

Auriemma will become the first person to coach the U.S. women's basketball in consecutive Olympics. John Head coached the gold medals in the 1953 and 1957 World Championships.
The U.S. team, which featured six former UConn players, won the Olympic gold medal for the fifth straight time in 2012.

Auriemma is entering his 29th season at UConn. He has a 839-133 record and with seven of the top scorers back from a team which won the program's eighth national title, the Huskies figure to be the preseason No. 1 team heading into the 2013-14 season.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

UConn announces its home sites

UConn announced the breakdown of where the UConn home games will be played during the upcoming season.

Gampel Pavilion will host one of the most anticipated non-conference games when Stanford comes to Storrs on Nov. 11 and it be the host site for the first two games the Huskies will play in the Hall of Fame Classic against Boston University and Monmouth on Nov. 22 and 23. Gampel will also be the site of the first of two regular-season meetings with Louisville and the final regular season conference game against Rutgers.

Here is the complete list of games played at Gampel: Nov. 1: Gannon (exhibition); Nov. 11: Stanford; Nov. 22: Boston University; Nov. 23: Monmouth; Dec. 29: Cincinnati; Jan. 7; Houston; Feb. 4: Southern Methodist; Feb. 9: Louisville; Mar. 1: Rutgers.

The XL Center will host the season opener against Hartford on Nov. 9 and the St. Bonaventure game in the Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 24.

This is the list of games being played at the XL Center - Nov. 5 Philadelphia (exhibition); Nov. 9: Hartford; Nov. 20: Oregon; Nov. 24: St. Bonaventure; Dec. 5: UC-Davis; Jan. 22: Memphis; Jan. 26: South Florida; Feb. 19: Central Florida

The site of the Jan. 11 game against Temple has yet to be announced but it is expected to be played at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

Fri. 1 GANNON (exhib.) Gampel Pavilion  TBA
Tue. 5 PHILADELPHIA (exhib.) XL Center TBA
Sat. 9 HARTFORD XL Center 4 p.m.
Mon. 11 STANFORD Gampel Pavilion, Storrs  ESPN2 7 p.m.
Fri. 15 at Maryland Comcast Center, College Park, Md. ESPNU 6 p.m.
Sun. 17 at Penn State Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa. TBA TBA
Wed. 20 OREGON XL Center  7 p.m.
Fri. 22 BOSTON UNIVERSITY Gampel Pavilion 7 p.m.
Sat. 23 MONMOUTH Gampel Pavilion  4:30 p.m.
Sun. 24 ST. BONAVENTURE XL Center 4:30 p.m.
Sun. 1 vs. Ohio State Mass Mutual Center, Springfield, Mass. ESPN2 5:30 p.m.
Thu. 5 UC-DAVIS XL Center 7 p.m.
Tue. 17 at Duke ESPN2 7 p.m.
Sun. 22 vs. California ESPN2 1:30 p.m.
Sun. 29 *CINCINNATI Gampel Pavilion 5 p.m.
Wed. 1 at *UCF UCF Arena, Orlando, Fla. 4 p.m.
Sat. 4 at *Memphis FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn.TBA
Tue. 7 *HOUSTON Gampel Pavilion 7 p.m.
Sat. 11 *TEMPLE TBA 12 p.m.
Mon. 13 at Baylor Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas ESPN2 7 p.m.
Sun. 19 at *Rutgers Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J. ESPN2 TBA
Tue. 22 *MEMPHIS XL Center 7 p.m.
Sun. 26 *USF XL Center  CBSSN noon.
Tue. 28 at *Temple Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pa. 7 p.m.
Sat. 1 at *Cincinnati Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio TBA 2 p.m.
Tue. 4 *SMU Gampel Pavilion 7 p.m.
Sun. 9 *LOUISVILLE  ESPN 1 p.m.
Sun. 16 at *USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Fla. CBSSN 4 p.m.
Wed.19 *UCF XL Center 7 p.m.
Sat. 22 at *Houston Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston, Texas TBA
Tue. 25 at *SMU Moody Coliseum, Dallas, Texas TBA 8 p.m.
Sat. 1 *RUTGERS Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn. CBS SN 4 p.m.
Mon. 3 at *Louisville KFC YUM! Center, Louisville, Ky. ESPN2 7 p.m.

Auriemma to be named Olympic coach

USA Basketball has scheduled a press conference at UConn tomorrow where UConn's Geno Auriemma is expected to be named the U.S. Senior National Team head coach through the 2016 Olympics, a source close to the situation has confirmed.

Auriemma coached the U.S. to the 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2012 Olympic titles but has repeatedly said that he had no interest in coaching the U.S. national team again.

This will mark the first time the same coach will be tabbed to coach the U.S. women's basketball in back to back Olympics.

The U.S. team, which featured six former UConn players, won the Olympic gold medal for the fifth straight time in 2012.

Auriemma is entering his 29th season at UConn. He has a 839-133 record and with seven of the top scorers back from a team which won the program's eighth national title, the Huskies figure to be the preseason No. 1 team heading into the 2013-14 season.

Auriemma had publicly declared that he was not interested in returning as the Olympic coach as recently as during his appearance at the Travelers Pro-Am in June. A source said that Auriemma was not considering a return to coach the national team at that time but in recent weeks he had a change of heart.

While the head coach will remain the same, the team while shows up to defend the title in Rio in 2016 could look much different as six of the 12 players on the U.S. squad were older than 30. It remains to be seen whether national team stalwarts like Tamika Catchings and former UConn stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will opt to make a run at another Olympic gold medal.

When she was in Connecticut for the WNBA All-Star game Taurasi was asked if she intended to be on the 2016 Olympic squad.

"I am going to Rio, are you kidding me," Taurasi said. "I am going to the Copa Cabana, I am dancing. I am taking my bikini, I am going. I don't know if I am playing but I am going. I didn't say I was playing but I am going."

Auriemma's first big test in his second stint as U.S. Senior National Team head coach is the FIBA World Championships or World Cup which will be held in Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5, 2014. The U.S. automatically qualified by winning the Olympic title. The winner of the tournament automatically qualifies for the 2016 Olympics. If the U.S. doesn't bring home the gold it would need to take part in a FIBA Americas qualifying tournament in 2015.

Tomorrow's press conference will be streamed live on the site.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Moore honored by WNBA

Former UConn star Maya Moore was named the WNBA's Western Conference Player of the Month for August as she scored at least 15 points in 10 of the 12 games and led all Western Conference players with a 21.6 scoring average. She led all WNBA players with 30 3-pointers made.

Highlights of Moore’s play in August included: Aug. 6 at San Antonio: Double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds in a 93-80 victory.
Aug. 18 vs. New York: 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 6-for-10 from behind the three-point line in an 88-57 win.
Aug. 24 vs. Indiana: Scored a WNBA season-high 35 points on 15-of-21 from the field in an 84-77 victory.
Aug. 31 vs. Seattle: 30 points on 12-of-15 from the field and five rebounds in a 97-74 win.

Chicago's Sylvia Fowles was named the player of the month for the Eastern Conference as Fowles averaged 18.1 points and 11.2 rebounds.


Tickets for Ohio State game now on sale

Tickets are on sale for the 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge with the Ohio State/UConn game highlighting the four contests played at the MassMutual Center on Dec. 1.

Tickets range from $10-60 and are available through or the MassMutual Box Office. For more information visit

A ticket is good for all four games and here is the schedule

10 AM Bowling Green vs. Monmouth
12:15 PM Boston University vs. Old Dominion
2:30 PM Marist vs. St. Bonaventure
5:30 PM UConn vs. Ohio State – ESPN2

UConn will also host games against Boston Univeristy, Monmouth and St. Bonaventure in the Hall of Fame Challenge from Nov. 22-24 but tickets for those games need to be purchased through UConn.

Also, there is no word on when UConn will announce its home sites and for those asking about the bidding for NCAA subregionals and regionals, the deadline to place a bid is Sept. 16 with the announcement of the sites obviously coming out at some point after that.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Another title for UConn recruiting target

UConn Class of 2014 recruiting target Katie Lou Samuelson picked up her second gold medal of the summer as she was a member of the victorious U.S. team which won the FIBA Americas 3x3 U-18 title over the weekend.

Samuelson, a 6-foot-3 wing out of Huntington Beach, Calif., teamed with former UConn recruiting target Brianna Turner as well as Gabby Green and Arike Ogunbowale as the U.S. outlasted Canada 17-15 in Sunday's gold-medal game.

Samuelson was the second-leading scorer on the U.S. team which won the FIBA Americas U16 Championship (featuring a win over Canada in the title game) and Ogunbowale was also a member of that squad. Green and Turner were members of the U.S. team which won the U19 World Championship gold medal.

The quartet will represent the U.S. at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship from Sept. 26-29 in Indonesia.