Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

UConn lends its voice in Br{ache the Silence campaign

When Stefanie Dolson was asked if she and her teammates would be interested in cutting a video as part of the Br{ache the Silence campaign to combat homophobia, the UConn senior center was quick to not only agree to take part in the project but also got teammates Bria Hartley, Brianna Banks and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to take part in the video used as part of BTS Tour of Champions campaign.

"I think it was really important," Dolson said after Thursday's practice. "I have a lot of gay and lesbian friends and to be able to put our face on that and show that there are a lot of stigmas and stereotypes women's basketball players have 'oh, they play and they are gay or they are lesbian.' For us to say that it doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is and to kind of get that word out, it meant a lot to me because I feel very strongly about that and I think it is wrong when people have those opinions and stereotypes about people so I am really happy we go that chance to do it. They contacted Pat (McKenna, UConn's women's basketball sports information director) he told me and I picked a few people do it."

Since the video has been posted, there has been plenty of support for the Huskies' involvement in the project via social media. Dolson has also received some positive feedback after the video was posted.

"Here and there," Dolson said, "I think it is a topic that people don't really contact others about it but it has been a lot of positive feedback and no negative feedback which is good."

Labels: , , ,

Exuberant Banks ready for her return to court for UConn

Brianna Banks has made that short walk from Gampel Pavilion to the Burton Family Complex more times than she cares to remember over the last several months but none were quite like the one she made yesterday.

Banks has been working vigorously so she could return to the court for UConn's exhibition games. Right on schedule Banks was given the OK to practice without restriction on Wednesday and is expected to play in the Huskies' preseason opener on Friday.

"All I could do was smile and the doctor (Robert Arciero) said 'it was the first time I have seen you smile,'" Banks said.  "I said 'you told me something I wanted to hear.'

"I went and saw the doctor and he saw the (range of motion) test that I took and it looked great and in the past two weeks it was great and then he and Rosie (Ragle, UConn's athletic trainer) did a little talking and he said 'you can go for it.'"

UConn coach Geno Auriemma doesn't have a set allotment of playing time he is planning to give Banks in tomorrow night's preseason game.

"I don't think we got into any game saying we are going to play her 'x' amount of minutes and that's it," Auriemma said. "I think we just go by 'what does it look like?' I am sure she is going to be winded a little bit. She did everything she was supposed to do but she probably had to work a little harder than she ever did but she looks good."

Banks has drawn raves from teammates and coaches alike for her positive attitude throughout the process as she worked her way back from a torn ACL.

"The only thing you can do through the process is keep a positive attitude and do what everybody is telling you to do in terms of the doctors, trainers and be as much of a part of the team as you can and it is really the only thing you can bring so when you don't do that, it makes everything exponentially harder so I think she has done a good job with that," UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph said. "Her transition back has been good in terms of it can be easy to get down on yourself, harder to do initially, you feel like you are stuck in mud, you forget how to play a little bit so she is probably making more mistakes than she normally makes but she is being aggressive and mentally that is one of the harder things to do when you come back from an injury because it is easy to be tentative when you come back. Brianna has been great in terms of understanding that she has worked to this point and she is going to work hard, be aggressive and keep moving forward.

"I think it has been one of her big goals (returning by the first preseason game). It is hard because people will tell you that but part of the rehab is getting back. It is one thing to say 'I am going to be cleared' and it is another thing to be able to play well and do the things you want to do well so she has done a great job of getting herself back into practice and doing everything the trainers have told her to do and now it is that she needs to keep improving."


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

UConn's Dolson a Senior CLASS candidate

UConn center Stefanie Dolson is one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS award which honors not only on the court success but also work in the classroom and in the community.

The list will be cut to 10 finalists during the season and the winner will be announced during the Final Four.

Although the voting for basketball is not open yet, votes can be entered on the site.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

UConn overwhelming No. 1 team in coaches poll

The preseason coaches' poll was released today and to nobody's surprise UConn was the runaway No. 1 team.

UConn received 31 of the 32 first-place votes (the other one went to Tennessee) to earn the top spot. Duke, Stanford, Tennessee and Louisville rounded out the top five.

UConn plays six of the top 10 teams this season
2. Duke (Dec. 17)
3. Stanford (Nov. 11)
5. Louisville (Feb. 9 & Mar. 3)
6. Maryland (Nov. 15)
9. California (Dec. 22)
10. Baylor (Jan. 13)

UConn returns its top three scorers (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart and Stefanie Dolson) and seven of the top eight scorers from a team which went 35-4 and won the program's eighth national title.

The Huskies kick off the preseason with a game against Division II Gannon on Friday at Gampel Pavilion. The season opener is on Nov. 9 against Hartford.

The Associated Press preseason poll will be released on Friday.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Geno's first radio show of season set for tomorrow

The first of the "UConn Women's Basketball Coach's Shows" will air tomorrow from 6-7 p.m. on WTIC-1080 and WELI-960.

The show will be broadcast live from Geno's Grille in Storrs and fans are invited to be on hand when WTIC-1080s Bob Joyce and Geno Auriemma discuss the progress of practice as well as the upcoming preseason opener against Gannon. ESPN's Doris Burke will join Auriemma and Joyce on the show.

Here in the early schedule for the show
Tuesday, October 29 – 6-7 p.m.
Thursday, November 7 – 6-7 p.m.
Tuesday, November 19 – 6-7 p.m.
Wednesday, November 27 – 6-7 p.m.
Tuesday, December 3 – 6-7 p.m.
Thursday, December 19 – 6-7 p.m.

UConn hosts Division II Gannon on Friday at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion in the preseason opener. Junior guard Brianna Banks has not been cleared to practice yet and is considered questionable to play against Gannon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One step closer to Friday-Sunday dates for Final Four

The Division I Women's Basketball Committee approved the recommendation to change the dates of future Final Fours.

If the recommendations are approved by Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet, the women's Final Four will be played on a Friday and Sunday after years of having the national semifinals on Sunday with the national title game on Tuesday as soon as the 2015 tournament.

Another of the recommendations set forth from Val Ackerman's "White Paper" is that the top 16 seeds will host the first and second rounds beginning with the 2015 tournament.

One recommendation that was not approved was moving the women's Final Four to the weekend after the men's Final Four. Also, the committee agreed with the WBCA that allowing teams to host regionals was not best for the competitive interest of the game so beginning in 2015, regionals will be played on neutral courts.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Four UConn players on preseason Wooden watch list

The UConn quartet of Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart are among 30 players named to the Wooden Award preseason watch list.

Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart and Dolson were the top three scorers on a Connecticut team which went 35-4 and won the program's eighth national title.

Mosqueda-Lewis averaged 17.6 points per game with 118 3-pointers. Stewart, who was named the American Athletic Conference preseason Player of the Year, averaged 13.8 points and had a team-high 74 blocked shots. Dolson averaged 13.6 points a game, was the team leader in rebounds (7.1) and was one of three Huskies with at least 100 assists. Hartley averaged 9.2 points per game as a junior.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stewart, Hartley help Team Geno to victory

My football coverage responsibilities have me in Covington, Ky.  tonight instead of being at Gampel Pavilion for First Night but figured I would pass on some numbers from the scrimmage.

Breanna Stewart had five points and three rebounds and Bria Hartley had three points and two assists to help Team Geno to a 51-49 win over Team Kevin. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had seven points and Stefanie Dolson two rebounds and two assists for Team Kevin.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scrimmage offers new wrinkle to First Night festivities

From Midnight Madness to the SuperShow to First Night, there have been a variety of events planned to try to make the annual FanFest as interesting as possible to the UConn fan base.

Tomorrow comes the latest experiment as the men's and women's teams will be split into two teams, one coached by Geno Auriemma and the other one by Kevin Ollie.

At American Athletic Conference media day Auriemma weighed in with his thoughts on the scrimmage.

"I think it is another fun thing for them to do," Auriemma said. "I don't know who picks the teams but generally you have some say on the teams you are coaching but this one was just handed to me, I don't know which general manager picked that team but we will be talking about that afterwards. I think it is going to be fun for the kids, I know they are all looking forward to it. It is just a fun thing, it is an opportunity to run up and down. You can do some things with guys that you can't do with women and I am sure they are looking forward to it as well  The guys already know they are pretty good, they (the women's players) are not physically at he level that any of our guys are at so maybe that will put to rest all the geniuses out there 'well, you should play your men's team because you would do very well against them' so they could see comparatively out there that there are two different things and you get to appreciate what some of our players do and I am looking forward to it."

UConn junior guard Brianna Banks, still working her way back from knee injury she suffered against St. John's last season, is a member of "Team Kevin" but she will not take part in the scrimmage portion of First Night.

Doors open at Gampel Pavilion at 6 p.m. There will be an autograph session with players and coaches from men's and women's teams until 6:45 p.m. with First Night festivities starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $3 in both the North and South garages.

The Connecticut Sun Foundation and Mohegan Tribe Donations Committee will each contribute $2,930 ($10 for each rebound grabbed by Tina Charles during the 2014 season) to Charles'  Hopey’s Heart Foundation.

The foundation was established by Charles in April in memory of her late aunt Maureen “Hopey” Vaz. The Foundation hosts a grant program to supply Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) to schools and recreational centers.

“I'd like to thank the Connecticut Sun Foundation and Mohegan Sun for their support of the Hopey's Heart Foundation,” Charles said. “Through their donations, we are able to provide life-saving AEDs to approximately 10 schools and recreational centers throughout the country. I truly appreciate their generosity in helping me to increase awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the need for AEDs wherever people are active.”

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

First practice is in the books

UConn had its first practice of the 2013-14 season this afternoon and everybody but junior guard Brianna Banks took part as Banks has yet to be fully cleared as she continues to work her way back from the knee injury which ended her sophomore season after 21 games.

UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey said that she saw some good things but "we have some work to do but not bad, we'll see how it goes on Thursday (when UConn practices again)."

Dailey said that there is just as much teaching going on during the first day of practice as there has been in the last couple of seasons even though guard Saniya Chong is the only new scholarship player.

"We have three new guys (including walk-ons Tierney Lawlor and Briana Pulido) and I think they panicked just during warmups a little bit," Dailey said. "It is going to take a little while. I thought Saniya did some really good things, she has a really good feel for the game, she can get her shot and is physical on offense, I don't know about defense yet but it was good. It is a long season."

Labels: , ,

Defending champion UConn to hold its first official practice today

Thanks to a change in the NCAA rules, there is more flexibility for coaches in terms of when they hold their first official practice.

Many teams have already been practicing but UConn has resisted the urge to do that. Being the old-fashioned guy that he is, Geno Auriemma always looked at Oct. 15 at the date when practice started (although it actually was the Saturday closest to the 15th when he held his first practice in the past) so Auriemma made the decision to have the first official practice today.

The players are certainly ready to get to work.

"I think anxiousness and that last stretch of working out and preparing for the season, it is kind of like the last 10 minutes of a really long car ride you want to get there and be in your bed and in this case you want to get there, you want to start practicing and you want to have the season start," UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson said. "It is exciting to know it is right around the corner and preseason is over."

Unlike last year when UConn brought in three freshmen who were all expected to play signficant roles, guard Saniya Chong is the only scholarship freshman this season. With eight players back from last year's national championship team it is likely that the Huskies will be able to hit the ground running at the first practice..

"It is definitely the calm before the storm," junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We are excited. It has been seven weeks of preseason and we are looking forward to getting on the court, playing basketball and getting to work."

The practice will give Auriemma a chance to see how walk-ons Briana Pulido, a sophomore from Miami, and Tierney Lawlor, a freshman from Ansonia, adapt to the first official practice.

Auriemma likes what he has been hearing about Lawlor and Pulido from the other players and coaches.

"I think their demeanor, the way they are and just their attitude made an impression on our players and that is probably more impressive than anything else," Auriemma said. "I want to see them doing the things that they know they can do and not trying to do things they can't do. I've been around really, really good walk-ons and I have been around some bad walk-ons and for all reports, these kids are going to great for us. I am sure there is going to be a week or so when it is going to be difficult for them in practice."

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Central Florida coach spent couple of summers working with UConn stars

Central FLorida coach Joi Williams coached five
current UConn players on U.S. junior national teams
Few introductions will be necessary when Central Florida coach Joi Williams leads her team against UConn on Jan. 1 in Orlando and Feb. 19 in Hartford thanks to a pair of USA Basketball coaching stints.

Back in 2010 Williams was an assistant coach on the U.S. team which won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women. UConn's Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson were members of that squad which won five games by an average of 55.8 points per game. The following summer she was an assistant coach on the U.S. team which won the FIBA U19 world championship. That squad also featured Dolson and Hartley along with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck.

Williams looked back on those two summers when I spoke to her at American Athletic Conference media day.

"It was great, the first summer with the U18s we had Bria and Stefanie and the U19 year we had all of those guys plus Morgan Tuck so it was a lot of fun," Williams said. "Obviously they earned their way onto that team because they are very talented and deserving. It was a lot of fun and a lot of great stories, Stefanie especially has a great sense of humor so I had a good time with all of them.

"I did work the posts so I worked more with Tuck, Stefanie and Stewart so that was a lot of fun. Tremendous potential obviously, when Breanna had her breakout (performance) last year I am sure nothing in the country was surprised, I certainly wasn't it probably just took her a little bit of time to get acclimated but  it is like the USA Basketball experience for her, she just could take over and any time she did it just happened. Just very coachable, I think that is the big thing with those three that I worked with, very humble. Morgan brings a lot of value, she brought a lot of value when she was our team because she is kind of the quiet assassin type, she doesn't have a lot of highs and lows and she is very even temperament and really does a lot of the dirty work and was a great leader for that team."

Williams knows it will be quite the challenge when facing the Huskies and those five players are major reasons why the Huskies figure to start the season as the nation's No. 1 ranked team.

"It will be tough, they are very talented a great team and a great program but we are excited a bout the challenge," Williams said. "At UCF we are used to being underdogs, we have been there before and it is not going to be any different this year but our mindset is that we want to go in and play with a chip on our shoulder."

Dolson remembers her time working with Williams quite fondly.

"She is great, she is tough and she didn't take any BS from players," Dolson said. "If you weren't running a drill hard she kicked you out and that is something I respect as a player to see a coach who doesn't really care and is willing to push you as hard as she can. It was nice to see her."

Some things are more important that wins and losses and nobody has to tell that to anybody in the athletic department at Cincinnati.

Ben Flick, who was a freshman offensive lineman on the Bearcats' football team, was killed in a car accident last month and receiver Mark Barr suffered serious injuries in the same accident.

Cincinnati women's basketball coach Jamelle Elliott, a former forward and assistant coach at UConn, reflected on what these last few weeks have been like at Cincinnati.

"When that happened, Whit Babcock our AD did a really good job of making sure there was counseling because there were a lot of people affected by it, even my players, a couple of my freshmen players went through a summer program with them and they were extremely close to them so it was a trying time for all of us," Elliott said. "There are still some lingering things going on from an emotional standpoint but I thought Tommy (Tuberville, Cincinnati's football coach) and Whut handled it about as well as you could handle it as far as making sure you put the student-athletes first, their feelings first. For a short time football wasn't the most important thing, it was about the players and making sure they got the help they needed to grieve somebody who was an impact player even though he was a freshman, he impacted a lot of lives."

UConn's schedule now has the complete television listings including 17 games being televised by SNY. Every regular-season game will be televised including seven games being on ESPN2, another one on ESPN and two more on ESPNU.

Throughout the recruiting process New Jersey high school star Taylor Rooks was one of the small list of players mentioned as being on UConn's recruiting radar. However, the recruitment of Rooks ended a while back. It all turned out pretty good for the ultra competitive Rooks who committed to Stanford.

Labels: , , , , , ,

UConn stars reflect on national team camp experience

It might not be accurate to describe the trip to Las Vegas as a thrill of a lifetime for UConn stars Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart simply because all three players are hoping the time spent working out with the U.S. national team is just the start of a quest to make the U.S. Olympic team.

Although they only took part in three practices over three days, they believe the experience will serve them well this season.

"Just seeing how hard the older players and how they never quit," Dolson said. "Tamika (Catchings), I was with Tamika a lot when they split up the teams and she never stops talking, she never quits. If she misses a shot she will go down and get a steal and it is just something that you kind of see as a younger player and you see the experience that they all have and just kind of take it all in."

WNBA MVP Candace Parker made it a point of mentioning Stewart as one of the young players who impressed her during the training camp.

"Just to be around them and play against them was an honor," Stewart said. "I think it is going to help me a lot, I think it is going to help me mentally because I am able to compete with them at practice and practice at them and getting ready for the season and using what I learned from them i a couple of days in Las Vegas and putting them (to use) at UConn."

The current Huskies have interacted with former UConn greats and knowing Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi helped make things go a little more smoothly.
Half of the college players at training camp were UConn products

"They were awesome Diana, Sue, Tina because we would come off after doing some stuff and they would help us out knowing that they came from Connecticut, played for Coach and did so well and everything they say, you need to write it down," Dolson said. "It was a lot of help and a great experience."

That doesn't mean that there were some anxious moments as the current college stars got to share the court with players they grew up idolizing.

"The best part for me was to go out there and be a part of some of the best players to ever play women's basketball and get to know them on a personal level," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "You see them on TV and obviously they are great players and they are also great people and you don't get to know that until you spend time with them

"I think I was one of the more nervous ones out there just because I didn't know what to expect, I didn't want to do too much. I just wanted to go out there and play basketball."

Labels: , , , , ,

Awards continue to roll in for Breanna Stewart

So just how deep is the 2013-14 UConn team? Well, the Huskies return three players who have been named WBCA All-Americans and none of them were named the preseason Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference. That honor went to sophomore Breanna Stewart.

Stewart had a sensational performance to lead the Huskies to an eighth national title six months ago. Stewart averaged 26 points per game in wins over Notre Dame and Louisville to earn Most Outstanding Performer honors at the Final Four. Now she looks to build on the impressive ending to her freshman season.

“It is a nice honor but what it is saying if you play well and you do really well this year then maybe this will happen,” Stewart said. “I want to obviously play well and start off in practice.”

Great things are obviously being expected from Stewart, a 6-foot-4 native of North Syracuse, N.Y.

"A lot of us expected a ton from her when she came in freshman year," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We were surprised that the real Bre  didn't come out until the end of the year because all season we told her 'you can do this, you are capable of doing that.' She didn't believe us and she realized at the end of the season that 'you know what I can do this and I can  do more.' She was unbelievable and everybody saw that."

A few other notes from media day:

UConn will hold its first official practice tomorrow but it will not be open to the media.

Louisville coach Jeff Walz said that his non-conference slate for next year is booked up but he would consider scheduling a non-conference schedule with UConn with the Cardinals heading into the ACC.

"For next year we have our non-conference completed but for the following year it is something I would be interested in talking to Geno about," Walz said.

Walz also said senior forward/center Sheronne Vails, a one-time UConn recruiting target, will miss the season with a knee injury.

"She actually hurt her knee in Baylor game, finished out and played in the Final Four," Walz said. "She had some stuff cleaned up in her knee, had some plugs put in . She could probably play in January if needed but we don't want to do that to her. We are going to have her redshirt, come back and play a full season."

Central Florida head coach Joi Williams was an assistant coach on the U.S. team which won the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women and featured UConn's Dolson and Hartley. She was also an assistant on the U.S. squad featuring Dolson, Hartley, Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart and Morgan Tuck which won the U-19 World Championship in 2011.

"She was always real positive for us and she is a really good coach," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "She was probably the most quiet coach we had, she was very calm, collected and when she had something to say people listened."

UConn picked to win AAC; Stewart preseason POY

The conference affiliation may have changed but the UConn women’s basketball team is still in its familiar perch - as the preseason favorite to win a conference title.
The Huskies, returning eight players from their national championship squad, were picked to win the American Athletic Conference by the other nine coaches and three UConn players were selected to the preseason all-AAC team.
Louisville, the team UConn beat in the 2013 national championship game, was picked to finish second and
received the first-place vote from UConn. South Florida, Rutgers and South Methodist rounded out the top
UConn’s Breanna Stewart was selected as the preseason player of the year and she was joined on the
preseason All-AAC team by teammates Stefanie Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Stewart, Dolson and Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel were the only unanimous all-conference selections. Bria Hartley was an honorable mention selection.
UConn returns seven of its top eight scorers from a team that went 35-4 and won the program’s eighth national title.
The Huskies will hold its annual “First Night” fan fest on Friday with the men’s and women’s teams splitting into two teams for a scrimmage. UConn opens the season on Nov. 9 against Hartford.

1. UConn (9)
2. Louisville (1)
3. South Florida
4. Rutgers
5. Southern Methodist
6. Memphis
7. Cincinnati
8. Central Florida
9. Temple
10. Houston

Briahanna Jackson, Central Florida So. G
Dayeesha Hollins, Cincinnati Sr. G
Stefanie Dolson, UConn Sr. C
Sara Hammond, Louisville Jr. F
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn Jr. F
Keena Mays, SMU Sr. G
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville Sr. G
Antoinita Slaughter, Louisville Sr. G
Breanna Stewart, UConn So. F
Inga Orekhova, South Florida Sr. G

One person's American Athletic Conference predictions

In a couple of hours the inaugural American Athletic Conference's inaugural women's basketball preseason poll and all-conference team will be announced. As I have done in the past when UConn played in the Big East, I took a shot at predicting how the poll and player list may look. It's no easy task since I am not as familiar with many of the teams in the conference but here goes

Preseason poll
UConn: Not exactly going out on a limb here. UConn returns three All-Americans in Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and leading scorer Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis but the Huskies most talented player is 2013 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart.
Louisville: Shoni Schimmel, Sara Hammond and Bria Smith form the nucleus of a team that could make another run deep into the NCAA tournament
Southern Methodist: Reigning Conference USA Player of the Year Keena Mays leads a talented group of returning players as the Mustangs look like a NCAA tournament team.
South Florida: The Bulls will miss the graduated Smith sisters but several key pieces return from a team which 22 games and nearly upset eventual Final Four team California in NCAA tournament.
Central Florida: High-scoring sophomore guard Brihanna Jackson is one of four returning starters for team which reached Conference USA tournament final last season
Rutgers: Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer needs to replace the Scarlet Knights’ best perimeter shooter and top two post players but has a roster full of highly-touted recruits to build around
Temple: Former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza returns three of top four scorers off a 14-18 team as Owls could make a run at NCAA tournament berth
Cincinnati: Bearcats return seven players who started games a season ago and have the pieces to be a vastly improved team.
Houston: Cougars will miss the dynamic Porche Landry but return nearly everybody else from a team which could make a run at a winning season
Memphis: Tigers are glad to have Mooriah Rowser back after she was limited to three games during 2012-13. She teams with Ariel Hearn for what could be dynamic 1-2 punch.

Preseason All-Conference Team
Stefanie Dolson Sr. C
Bria Hartley, UConn Sr. G
Sara Hammond, Louisville Jr. F
Ariel Hearn, Memphis So. G
Brihanna Jackson, Central Florida So. G
Betnijah Laney, Rutgers Jr. G/F
Keena Mays SMU Sr. G
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis UConn. Jr. G/F
Inga Orekhova, South Florida Sr. G/F
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville Sr. G
Breanna Stewart, UConn So. F
Player of the Year
Breanna Stewart: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was UConn’s top scorer and Stefanie Dolson is also a returning All-American but anybody who watched the Final Four knows that Stewart is not only the Huskies’ most gifted player but also as talented as any player in the country.
Rookie of the Year
Tyler Scaife, Rutgers: It’s always risky predicting early success for Rutgers’ freshmen since it often takes time for first-year players to grasp the Scarlet Knights’ complex defensive schemes but the graduation of Erica Wheeler opens up plenty of playing time in the backcourt.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Moore wins another WNBA title

Back in 2011 Maya Moore was still a wide-eyed rookie playing a key role on a star-studded Minnesota Lynx team en route to winning the franchise's first WNBA title.

Her role these days are anything but understated. Moore had 23 points in an 86-77 win over Atlanta as the Lynx wrapped up a second title in three years with a three-game sweep of the Dream.

Moore scored at least 20 points in five of the seven playoffs games as she joins Jen Rizzotti, Swin Cash, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Kelly Schumacher as the only other UConn products to win multiple WNBA titles. Moore was named the MVP of the WNBA finals. Taurasi was the only other former Husky to earn that honor when she was named MVP back in 2009.

Moore averaged 20 points per game in the finals and 20.9 points in the playoffs.

Moore's former UConn teammate Tiffany Hayes came off the bench to lead Atlanta with 20 points.

This is the 11th time in the last 15 seasons that the WNBA champions had a former Husky on the team

Here is the breakdown
2013: Minnesota (Maya Moore) def. Atlanta (Tiffany Hayes)
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)

UConn announces teams for First Night scrimmage

It was previously reported that the men's and women's teams will be split up into two teams for a scrimmage on First Night a week from tomorrow.

UConn announced the teams a little while ago. Saniya Chong, Bria Hartley, Breanna Stewart, Kiah Stokes and walk-on Briana Pulido will play for Team Geno. Brianna Banks, Stefanie Dolson, Moriah Jefferson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Morgan Tuck and walk-on Tierney Lawlor will be on Team Kevin although I would be surprised if Banks does too much of the live scrimmaging stuff as she continues to work her way back from a torn ACL.

Doors will open at Gampel Pavilion at 6 p.m.

This is the first official confirmation from UConn about the two walk-ons. Pulido is a sophomore guard from Miami who played at Gulliver Prep and Archbishop Carroll earlier in her high school career  who came to UConn to compete on the track and field team. Lawlor is a  freshman guard and former three-sport star at Ansonia High who had 902 points and 739 rebounds in 92 career games with the Chargers. Pulido will wear No. 11 and Lawlor No. 20.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

UConn to host first and second rounds in NCAA tournament

The NCAA announced sites for the subregionals and regionals in the 2014 women's basketball tournament.

Gampel Pavilion will host the first and second rounds on either Mar. 22 and 24 or Mar. 23 and 25. This would be the 23rd time in the last 25 years that the Huskies would open play in the NCAA tournament in the state of Connecticut with 20 of those games being played in Storrs.

UConn will hit the road for the regionals as the sites are Louisville, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Stanford with host schools able to play on their home courts for the subregionals and regionals. What that means is that UConn could have to play Notre Dame, Louisville or Stanford on their home court en route to making a record seventh straight trip to the Final Four. While there's a lot of basketball to play between now and when the NCAA pairings are released, it would seem to me that the Nebraska regional would be a natural landing spot for UConn.

UConn chose not to submit a bid for the regionals and Webster Bank Arena is hosting a Division I men's hockey regional.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Brianna Banks drawing raves from coaches, teammates

While she hasn't been cleared to start taking part in full-court basketball drills, Brianna Banks has been receiving plenty of praise from those inside the UConn program for her work ethic and attitude during her recovery from a torn ACL.

While I was up at UConn today working on a football story on freshman quarterback Tim Boyle I was able to catch up with Geno Auriemma and he couldn't say enough good things about Banks.

"Even though she hasn't been playing any pick-up (basketball), in all the individual workouts and all the drills that they have done she looks great and we are anxious to see her in a full-court situation," Auriemma said.
"It is unfortunate (she suffered a season-ending knee injury in a game against St. John's) because her freshman year was a bit of a struggle as it is for a lot of freshmen but at least they have their sophomore year to look up to. She goes home, really makes a significant improvement, significant changes and comes back has earned the confidence of her teammates and her coaches and that happens, everybody feels for her. She deserved better."

It is not only Auriemma who feels that way. Fellow UConn junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was also rather complimentary about the approach Banks has taken during the long road to recovery.

"She kept such a positive attitude throughout this whole thing, a lot of us were real shocked at how well she took it," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "She has been working her butt off the whole time, in the training room with (UConn athletic trainer) Rosemary (Ragle), with (UConn assistant strength and conditioning coach Amanda) Kimball and she is really excited to get back on the court.

"She definitely brings a lot of energy when she is on the court and she is that spark off the bench, whenever we needed a little boost Coach put her in, she got stops for us, got steals and made some key plays so hopefully she is going to that again."

Banks is expected to be cleared for full-court drills shortly and should be ready to go when the Huskies open the regular season next month.

"I am just ready to get back on the court," said Banks, who averaged 7.3 points per game in 21 games before getting injured. "I am just trying to get back to actually playing. I am just trying to take it slow now. I can't do contact yet, they want my quad to get a little stronger and everything else is really stable. It feels fine, I feel like a normal person. I am just ready to play and play like I was (at the time of the injury) and continue to get better every day. Rosie said she could have some limitations on it but after that I should be fine."


4 UConn players on Wade Award watch list

UConn's Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart were named to the preseason Wade Trophy watch list.

Mosqueda-Lewis led the defending national champions in scoring during the 2012-13 season, averaging 17.6 points per game. Stewart, the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four, averaged 13.8 points and had a team-high 74 blocks shots, Dolson averaged 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds while Hartley contributed 9.2 points per game.

UConn is the only team for four players and the only other player from the American Athletic Conference named to the list was Louisvile's Shoni Schimmel.

The Huskies kick off the 2013-14 season on Nov. 9 when they host Hartford at 4 p.m. at the XL Center.

2013-14 Preseason CandidatesPlayer Institution Position Year 
Natalie Achonwa Notre Dame Forward Senior
Rachel Banham Minnesota Guard Junior
Brittany Boyd California Guard Junior
Gennifer Brandon California Forward Senior
Jerica Coley FIU Guard Senior
Stefanie Dolson Connecticut Center Senior 
Aaryn Ellenberg Oklahoma Guard Senior
Bashaara Graves Tennessee Forward Sophomore
Chelsea Gray Duke Guard Senior
Bria Hartley Connecticut Guard Senior 
Jordan Hooper Nebraska Forward Senior
Maggie Lucas Penn State Guard Senior
Tyaunna Marshall Georgia Tech Guard Senior
Kayla McBride Notre Dame Guard Senior
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis Connecticut Forward Junior 
Chiney Ogwumike Stanford Forward Senior
Theresa Plaisance LSU Forward Senior
Ebony Rowe Middle Tennessee Forward Senior
Shoni Schimmel Louisville Guard Senior
Meighan Simmons Tennessee Guard Senior
Odyssey Sims Baylor Guard Senior
DeNesha Stallworth Kentucky Forward Senior
Breanna Stewart Connecticut Forward Sophomore 
Alyssa Thomas Maryland Forward Senior
Elizabeth Williams Duke Center/Forward Junior

Monday, October 07, 2013

Samuelson, Calhoun showcase players at 2014 HoopHall Classic

The schedule for the prestigious HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass. was released a little while ago.

A tripleheader on Jan. 17 includes two of the top players in the country as UConn Class of 2015 recruiting target Katie Lou Samuelson leads her Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif. squad faces defending MIAA Division III state champion Archbishop Williams out of Braintree, Mass. at 6 p.m.

Former UConn recruiting target and Duke commit Sierra Calhoun's Christ the King squad plays Braintree High School at 7:30 p.m. on the 17th.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Geno encouraged by first two days of training camp

When Geno Auriemma headed out to Las Vegas for the first training camp since he was named the U.S. senior national team coach through the 2016 Olympics, he wasn't sure what to expect.

With two of the three practices in the books, Auriemma has been pleasantly surprised with what he has seen especially with the six active college players taking part in the training camp.

"We've got a bunch of college players here and today I thought they did a good job," Auriemma said. "They are competitive and they don't take a step back and they were very impressive. I was proud of the way they all handled themselves.

"It was a huge difference between yesterday and today. I thought yesterday was pretty good but today was great. We learned a lot about these kids in one day. It was competitive and played started to assert themselves a little more and the fact that there are some former Olympians not being here has given a lot of the young guys a chance to showcase who they are."

I asked Auriemma how his three players (Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart) looked over the last two days.

"I think they have come in and tried to do all the things they are good at," Auriemma said. "They have come out and not tried to be something that they are not but also haven't faded into the woodwork like 'we are only in college so we are just here to stand and watch.' They have done all the things they are good at. We have given the committee say 'we are glad you invited us.'"

Today was the first chance I had to ask Auriemma about Bria Hartley's decision to stay home and pass on taking part in the training camp because of a minor tweak in her left ankle, the same ankle which caused her so many issues last season when she ignored the pain and continued to practice on the tender ankle.

"Bria was incredibly disappointed and she still wanted to come," Auriemma said. "I think it was important to stay (at UConn) do some rehab. It was just a minor tweak and in a couple of days (he told her) you will be back at 100 percent. I know how competitive you are and if you go out there you are going to go out there and go harder than she needed to go. A few years ago she would have gone out there and tried to push, even last year and look what happened. This year she was much more mature about it, she understands and she will get another opportunity."

Auriemma has been energized in leading this camp even if players from Atlanta and Minnesota couldn't attend because they are playing in the WNBA championship series.

"It's been great being around them, it has been great having court coaches with us." Auriemma said. "For me basketball season is coming up. It gives you a real head start and it kind of gets your juices flowing. I am excited about it. I think it has been a great two days."

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, October 04, 2013

Hartley playing it safe this time

Nobody can accuse Bria Hartley of being a slow learner.

A year ago she played through the pain in her left ankle during the preseason and by the time she let on that there was something bothering her she had done enough damage that the gimp[y ankle impacted her play for most of the season.

With what UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma termed a "tweak" of that same ankle, Hartley opted to stay back in Storrs and pass on the chance to take part in this weekend's U.S. national team training camp.

The move was merely precautionary and she certainly could have played and/or practiced on the ankle if she needed to but she was wisely erring on the side of caution.

On Monday Hartley said she was pretty excited about getting the chance to take part in the national team camp.

"I am really excited," Hartley said "Vegas, I don't think it can get any better than that. It will be cool to see some of the Olympians that are going to be there and WNBA players it will be cool to play against them to see where you are at/"

Her teammates Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart all made it out to Las Vegas for the training camp which kicks off today.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 03, 2013

A day to remember for UConn commit Gabby Williams

In recent weeks Gabby Williams' physical therapist has sent out tantalizing hints that her most recent visit could be the final one during her arduous recovery from a torn ACL.

He had thrown out the "this is the last one" so many times that when he told the UConn commit earlier today that she was done with the rehab process Williams needed a little extra convincing.

"I took my final movement test and I scored really well," Williams said. "I go see the doctor next Tuesday and hopefully he will clear me. I have been doing drills, all the drills that everybody else can do but I just don't play."

So was Williams ready to scream to the high heavens in celebration when she realized that she wouldn't need to visit to physical therapist any longer?

"Oh my gosh yes," Williams said. "Usually he will tell me it is my last day and say 'no, come in one more day.' So finally I asked 'I'm done? I don't have to come back?' He said 'the next time I see you, you will be in a uniform.'"

Williams is hopeful that she will be able to suit up for Reed High School's season opener next month.

"I definitely am going to be more aware, not scared or timid or anything but more aware of what I am putting my body through and I am not putting myself in any position where I am asking for it," said Williams, who was injured in the first 30 seconds of a mid-January loss to Reno. "I feel good. I think I am going to come back with a lot of adrenaline and energy because I am so excited to play again."

Williams tried to be as positive as she could be with her teammates following the injury but she admits that it was hard on everybody involved.

"It was really frustrating because I was so used to winning and the team wasn't doing well," Williams said. "It was time for me to put them on my back. It was a very difficult time for me because I couldn't be there physically for my team. You can only do so much motivating them but at the end of the day you are not really doing anything so they can block you out or whatever. I tried my best to be motivational and another cheerleader on the bench but you can only do so much."

Williams will join fellow Class of 2014 commits Courtney Ekmark and Sadie Edwards at UConn's First Night festivities on Oct.18.

"I am super excited and excited to meet the other commits and recruits, see the girls up there," Williams said.

Top uncommitted Class of 2014 recruit A'ja Wilson is also expected to be in attendance. There's an outside chance that another highly-touted uncommitted member of the Class of 2014 could make an official visit to UConn that weekend.

The father of Canadian national team guard Kia Nurse said he was hoping to confirm the dates for a visit with UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph tonight and he expects Kia to visit UConn "at some point in the next month."

UConn usually tries to use the First Night event to bring in the top recruits so it would not surprise me to see that being the weekend that Nurse comes to Storrs.

"It's been a process," Richard Nurse said. "It has not been an enjoyable process but I don't think it is stressful because she had to focus on some other things with the national program so she has been playing some high level basketball so at the end of the day her focus has been on that as opposed of worrying about the process. She has a few thoughts in her mind of where she wants to go and what she wants to accomplish as an athlete so I think that has been more of the mindset."

Nurse, the youngest player on the Canadian team, averaged 10 points and 2.5 assists in the six games as Canada finished second to earn a berth in the 2014 FIBA World Championships.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma's hectic month of September included a trip to Xalapa, Mexico to see Nurse in action early in the tournament.

Obviously spending the last two years playing on Canada's senior national team has only helped Nurse's emergence as a top-flight player.

"I think it is invaluable," said Richard Nurse, whose son Darnell was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft. "I think any time you get to play against some of the best players in the world internationally it can do nothing but boost your confidence to be a starter at that level, to be able to defend and score the basketball at that level that is invaluable coming into the NCAA"

So when is Kia going to make a college decision?

"That is the Million Dollar Question," Richard Nurse said with a laugh. "I am not exactly sure. It would be nice to have it done before the start of the early signing period. I am not sure if it will because of the time restrictions."

Some other recruiting notes, Ekmark will make two trips East according to her father Curtis as she will play in the prestigious Rose Classic on Oct. 12 in New York.

While I don't have the entire list of recruits UConn coach Geno Auriemma went to check in on during September, between Twitter and recruiting sources I know he went to see top Class of 2015 recruits Asia Durr, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, DeJanae Boykin, Kalani Brown and Arike Ogunbowale as well as top Class of 2016 prospect Lauren Cox.

College players add new twist to U.S. training camp

Without question the most intriguing part of this weekend's U.S. national team training camp in Las Vegas is the new wrinkle of having some of the top collegiate players in the mix with former Olympians and pro stars.

I spoke to U.S. women's national team director Carol Callan today to discuss why USA Basketball has some many active college players in the mix at this camp.

"We have always had a consistent look towards our programs from U-16 on," Callan said. "We have a lot of players who love to play USA Basketball and they play time and time again and this is just a natural progression of that. We know that the team that played in London that a lot of them are capable of playing again in Rio but then all of a sudden there is a large age gap and we need to start looking to the future. As we started looking at young WNBA players we also looked at some college players that had even played with some of those young WNBA players on some of our teams in the past. It just made sense if we are really looking forward to develop a program and bring in as many young WNBA players as we can that we should also be looking at the college kids that have had significant contributions to USA Basketball."

In 2010 there were 10 active college players taking part in the training camp held in Hartford but there were part of the USA Select Team and did not train with the national team.

"It truly was a college group that was a team of its own and they played only together," Callan said. "Now this group of college players we are truly looking at them as viable members of our national team so they will not be singled out to play with each other, they will be thrown in with everybody and they are legitimate
contenders to be on the national team.

"When we first started a national team concept it was 1995-96 and that team went and played 22 games against colleges and universities and I think at that time there was a feeling that some of those college teams could beat us and people misunderstood the physical maturity and strength, the experience of professional players so our team went through and had great success against college teams. Now we are at the point where everybody realizes that pros have developed in many ways to be premier, elite athletes and now the question is can college kids compete with that, can they grow from that and maybe more important to us isn't so many that any one particular one college player could take on a professional player and hold their own but if we truly want to prepare players for the future it would make sense that we would have them in the presence of  Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, and I use them because they are the most experienced professional players we have, but they can teach more than just basketball to young players so we are simply expanding our program reach younger players that we think are viable contenders for our national team. This puts us in good shape for the next several Olympics."

UCconn's Auriemma will be assisted by court coaches including Olympic assistant coach Doug Bruno, former UConn guard and current Hartford coach Jen Rizzotti as well as South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Pokey Chatman of the WNBA's Chicago Sky. Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx was supposed to be a court coach as well but she's a little busy preparing the Minnesota Lynx for the WNBA championship series. Callan provided a timeline for the naming of Auriemma's assistant coaches.

"Four years ago we named coaches somewhere in winter, February/March would be a logical time frame of when to identify them," Callan said. "It is not as critical because the world championship is not until the end of September next year so the hurry isn't so much who the assistant coaches will be, the critical piece was to get Geno on board. All the court (coaches) we have, they have all been with us before so it is an opportunity to look at a variety of coaches and then make a decision."

Callan said not to assume that the assistant coaches will come solely from those selected to be court coaches.

"Some of it is just availability," Callan said. "We don't ever say 'here are the players who couldn't come or here at the coaches that couldn't come.' We just say 'here is who is coming' but there are certainly other people who could be considered even though they are not here this weekend simply because they weren't available."

Callan said that everybody on the initial press release is still scheduled to take part in the training camp with the exception of the players from Minnesota and Atlanta who are in the WNBA finals. That changed when UConn's Bria Hartley did not make the trip to Las Vegas because she was dealing with a minor ankle issue. After seeing how much lingering injuries impacted Hartley during her junior season, that's a smart move by her or whoever made that decision.

Labels: , , ,

UConn announces details for First Night

A scrimmage with teams made up of players from the men's and women's teams will be the highlight of the First Night festivities on Oct. 18 at Gampel Pavilion.

Here is the schedule
3 p.m. – FanFest on Fairfield Way
6 p.m. – Doors Open 
6 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. - Autographs
7 p.m. – Show Begins

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Last month has been a whirlwind for Geno Auriemma

In the last four weeks his duties as the U.S. senior national coach have been put on a backburner by UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

Auriemma had plenty of work to get done on the recruiting trail, even more than the typical September since he will be coaching the U.S. squad in the FIBA World Championships next year at this time so he not only needed to connect with players from the Class of 2014 but also those from the Classes of 2015, 2016 and even 2017.

"My whole month, my August was August, most of my Augusts are the same no matter what but in September I was in 14 cities in 20 days including (Xapala) Mexico," said Auriemma before the Jimmy V Classic dinner and charity auction at Gotham Hall in New York. "I don't think I was ever in the same city two days in a row. I was doing my part for UConn because that was my No. 1 focus, that is my job and that is my first and foremost responsibility and I enjoyed it. We made a lot of inroads and we got a lot done because next September I am not going to be around and I am not going to be here next September, I am going to be in Istanbul so I don't want one of these kids to go 'well Coach Auriemma is not here' and have some of these other coaches go 'I am here and Coach Auriemma isn't.' Well the reason he is not is because he is coaching the best players in the world trying to win a gold medal so I just wanted to make sure I made some contact with all of these kids so I got to know them personally and they got to know me so in that respect it was maybe one of the best 20 days I have spent in a long, long time."

Auriemma leaves in the morning for Las Vegas, the site of the first U.S. national team training camp since he was named the U.S. national team coach through the 2016 Olympics.

"It is so hard, we are really hamstrung by the whole WNBA season just ended for some of these guys, some of them lost in the playoffs so there is that disappointment, they have their trips to Europe looming," Auriemma said. "There is never an optimal time for us to do this, my guess is we can get my philosophy moving forward and what I want and that will be something. However many show up, they are all going to be thrown in there and it is going to be sink or swim."

A different wrinkle is the addition of some of the top college players at the training camp including UConn stars Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Beanna Stewart.

"A lot if is going to be difficult for them because most of the college players, I would say 90 percent of them, 99 percent of them aren't good enough to play for the Olympic team, they never played international basketball at that level," Auriemma said. "It is going to be difficult so being there is going to remind them how difficult it is and also what they want to do if they want to get to that level and some of them will get to that level by virtue of when they get into the WNBA and they do go overseas. Right now they are in college so they re going to see the difference between professional basketball and they are also going to get a sense of what USA Basketball means at that level not like 16 and under, 17 and under, this is something at a whole other level."


Looking back at Bria Hartley's move to the bench

Even since that late April day when I heard UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey tell the story about how All-American guard Bria Hartley volunteered to come off the bench during the Huskies' run to an eighth national title, getting the chance to speak to the former All-American guard about how that all transpired was on my to-do list.

Well, that finally happened on Monday when all nine scholarship players were made available to us.

Let's start with the background. UConn coach Geno Auriemma gathered the guards around him and said that status quo was simply not going to get the job done. He told them they held the fate of the season in their hands. Before the meeting was over Hartley was the one who stepped up to the plate.

Here is what Dailey said during a luncheon honoring former UConn star Tina Charles' philanthropic endeavors.

"I think was one of the turning points for us was he met with our guards for probably an hour or hour and a half and talked  with them about what we needed moving forward and how important their play was going to be on whether we were going to have a chance to win a national championship," Dailey said. "He had to get the guards to see what he saw and that we needed to have more from our guards and we needed to bring more off the bench. In doing that he had to ask Bria Hartley, actually she volunteered, to volunteer to come off the bench. Bria Hartley last year was an All-American as a sophomore when we went to the Final Four. She had a difficult year because of injury, she didn't play the same way, she struggled and was up and down the whole year. In this meeting she volunteered to come off the bench and be that person that we need to give us more offense off the bench. I couldn't have been happier for Bria because I think that says everything you need to know about her. She wants to win a national championship and she knew that was what she had to do, that was the role she had to fill and she was a big part of why we won the game. People like to point out Breanna Stewart and how she played but I am telling you that if Bria Hartley doesn't accept that role and doesn't realize that 'hey I want to win a national championship and this is my best chance to do it with my teammates.' We don't win the national championship this year regardless of how Breanna Stewart played. I was happiest for Bria.

"She is our most confident, most competitive (player). We were standing in the runway (before the national semifinal against Notre Dame) and I looked at her and said 'this could be our last practice.' She said 'it won't be.' I said 'are you guaranteeing that?' She said 'yes.' I said 'all right.' I knew for three days that there was no way we were going to lose to Notre Dame because of the way our kids approached it and the way Bria approached it and the way people accepted their roles."

After starting 34 of 38 games as a freshman, all 38 games during her sophomore season and started 28 more times last season. But knowing that Auriemma was looking for an offensive spark off the bench, Hartley volunteered to go from a starting role to that of a reserve.

"It is not the easiest thing to do because I want to start and I want to play but sometimes you have to sacrifice something to get what you really want," Hartley said. "That is one of the main things I learned being at Connecticut and it actually helped me grow up a little bit and be more mature. A lot of stuff that Coach Auriemma told me to do and CD talked to me and I just knew if we wanted the best chance to win that we needed to do. They knew it wasn't easy for me, at the time it was like 'oh, the Coaches don't understand what I am going through'. But they did (understand) because they have been doing this for a long time and a lot of players have had their struggles. It is great to see how much they help and how much they  it helped me grow as a player."

Hartley's move meant a lot to her coaches and teammates especially after the lineup shakeup helped spur the Huskies to the national title.

"That obviously shows how unselfish we are as a team and how unselfish Bria was," said Breanna Stewart, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Final Four.."Obviously when you are a basketball player, everybody wants to start and for Bria to be able to say that she would come off the bench it is obviously a sign of how mature she was because she knew that would be beneficial to our team. It was a great leadership moment I think."


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Wilson, Ekmark impress in all-star game

A'ja Wilson is expected to take an official visit
to UConn later this month according to her AAU coach
On Monday morning I was watching a replay of the Full Court Fresh 50 Invitational when a little thing like the news that UConn fired football coach Paul Pasqualoni made me put that project on hold.

I finally got around to watching the entire game, which was played on Sunday, so I could come up with unofficial numbers of how UConn commit Courtney Ekmark and recruiting target A'ja Wilson did in the game.

Again, these are just my unofficial numbers but I had Ekmark scoring 10 of her 14 points in the second half. She had three 3-pointers, five rebounds, three assists and a steal while Wilson had all nine of her points in the first half and added 18 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots to lead the White team to a 101-64 win over the Blue.

What was interesting about the game is the the White team's head coach is Jerome Dickerson, who is Wilson's AAU coach and also coached former UConn guard Kalana Greene in AAU while the Blue team's coach was UConn Class of 2015 recruiting target Asia Durr's AAU coach.

I spoke to Dickerson earlier tonight to get his take on the performances by Ekmark and Wilson.

"She (Ekmark) can rebound, she can pass, she can dribble, she is a great player and a great teammate," Dickerson said.

"I have know A'ja since she was 12 years old and A'ja, I played her at the 1 (point guard), 2 (shooting guard) and 3 (small forward). I thought the USA team hurt her game because they only had her play by the basket and when I had her during the summer, I had her playing the 2. I missed having her the whole July because she was with a USA team and they had her playing the 4 and 5, I had her playing the 1, 2 and 3. It helped because she got the experience but it hurt because the other girls shot the 3's and took players to the basket, that part of the game she didn't even display and that is the best part of her game. She knows she can do all of that, she knows she could have dominated the game but she decided to play team ball and pass the ball to her teammates because she could have scored 50 points in that game."

Dickerson said that Wilson is planning to take a visit to UConn later this month. When I asked him if she was planning to visit the weekend when the Huskies will hold its annual "First Night" festivities he thought that was the weekend but he was going to reach out to Wilson's family to confirm that and get back to me.

"She talked to UConn already and they have dates set, I think so it is going to be before basketball season and the rest (of the visits) after basketball season," Dickerson said. "Her mom doesn't want her to do visits during the season because she will have a lot of think about. Coaches are going to be on her so she is going to have a whole lot to think about take. She will couple visits before basketball season. Hopefully she will make it beforehand."

That last part was something new because the last time I spoke to Dickerson he thought Wilson would wait until the spring to make her college decision.

Labels: ,