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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

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.

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