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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

First national title opened recruiting doors at UConn

UConn's run to 1995 national title and TV exposure
enabled UConn to secure commitments from Georgia
phenom Maya Moore and Californian Diana Taurasi
As UConn officially sent out a release on the signing of four players during the early signing period it was impossible to see the hometowns of Phoenix, Sparks, Nev. and Hamilton, Ontario and not be immediately struck by how much times have changed.

The first eight classes signed by Geno Auriemma after he arrived at UConn were comprised entirely from players on the Eastern seaboard. Pennsylvania was a particular favorite recruiting spot for Auriemma, Chris Dailey and the rest of the UConn staff. Players from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Virginia were also in those early signing class.

The pendulum began to swing during the Huskies run to the first of eight national titles during the 1994-95 season. The following season freshmen included Oregon's Tammy Arnold and Ohio's Amy Hughes. The following year marked the first time that UConn signed a class with players made up exclusively from spots outside UConn's recruiting primary area as North Carolina native Shea Ralph was joined by Oklahoma natives Stacy Hansmeyer and Paige Sauer.

Now if you look at UConn's all-time leading scorers, the current top 13 includes a player from Georgia (Maya Moore) one from California (Diana Taurasi), others from Russia (Svetlana Abrosimova), West Virginia (Renee Montgomery), Florida (Tiffany Hayes), North Carolina (Ralph) and Ohio (Barbara Turner).

"I think the area that you recruit from sometimes has to do with the level your program is at," Auriemma said. "(When) we started wherever we could drive to in a reasonable time that is our recruiting base so we made a decision that if we could recruit that triangle , Boston-Pittsburgh-Washington, D.C. if we could be good in that area than we could be good. Back then, if we could drive there in four or five hours, let's go recruit those kids because they might not know who we are at least they know who we are playing against. Once games starting being televised and people across the country could watch us play and we got to a level of success that meant there would be kids from all over the country and in some cases other countries that were watching play so then it became much easier to get involved with those kids."

It is a double-edged sword as most of UConn's recruiting misses in the recent years have done as much with geography than basketball issues. Auriemma tries to play devil's advocate with recruits from places where driving to home games is not an option.

"I tell them they should stay home, that is the first thing I should tell them," Auriemma said. "Who wouldn't want to play close to home. That works for some kids but not the kids we are recruiting, they know what we have is pretty unique."

While a class including Courtney Ekmark, Sadie Edwards, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams will be rated as one of the best classes nationally, the Huskies may not be done as they are still very much involved with the nation's No. 1 player A'ja Wilson out of South Carolina. The 6-foot-5 Wilson will not be signing during the early period which ends today and she will not complete her official visits until after her senior season at Heathwood Hall is completed.

Regardless of which towns they grew up in, the constant among all recruits is the ability to deal with the relentless pursuit of perfection as Auriemma is constantly pushing his players. Case in point, sophomore Breanna Stewart had a spectacular first half offensively with 19 points in a win at Maryland. At halftime Stewart did not receive words of praise from her head coach but a tongue lashing for not pulling down a single rebound.

"I think when it comes the type of person, it goes it is a different thing, everybody is different but it is just the mindset you have to have," UConn senior center Stefanie Dolson said. "You have to be comfortable with being yelled at and every little thing you do criticized and be willing to learn. It is tough but when people know this is where they want to come, they make the decision."

Auriemma talked about Ekmark, Edwards and Williams yesterday since their letters of intent have been received. With Nurse's letter now having been received, Auriemma can speak about her after tonight's game. Here is an interesting story about how Nurse wrote when she was in seventh grade that her dream was to play at UConn.

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Blogger Stephen said...

Tiff is from FL (which doesn't change the point)

10:29 AM 

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