Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

UConn spreading the wealth on offense

When the UConn football program made a coaching change and replaced Paul Pasqualoni with interim head coach T.J. Weist, the phrase "All In" became the team's catch phrase.

Wherever you looked inside the Burton Family Football Complex, there were "All In" signs pretty much everywhere. Geno Auriemma isn't a fan of catch phrases and never has been but if he were, maybe those "All In" signs could be put to good use.

A quick look back through the archives and I was unable to find a team of Auriemma's where every scholarship player had at least one double-digit scoring game - until now. Each of the nine players under scholarship have posted at least three games with at least 10 points. Not surprisingly Breanna Stewart leads the way with 17 double-digit scoring games.

In my opinion, that is what sets this team apart. The star players simply don't seem to care who gets the shots as long as they go in. Not only have six different Huskies led the team in scoring, but even more impressively six of them have been the leader in assists.

"It is really helpful. I think the fact that we are looking to pass or looking to set up a teammate kind of hurts us sometimes but we are always confident in everybody being able to knock down shots, that comes from repetition in practice," Stewart said.

Auriemma has had unselfish teams throughout his tenure. He admits that passing ability and the willingness to share the ball rank high on the list of attributes he looks for when he hits the recruiting trail.

"I think you have to be like that when you have five players on a floor, they are all pretty good players and they are all pretty good offensive players," Auriemma said. "We try to recruit kids who are good passers.

"It takes a while for everybody to get their footing and get a feel for what is going on and this group is no different. Stefanie (Dolson) is certainly a big help, K (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis) has become one of our best passers. You always think of your guards as your best passers but we have K, Stewie and Stefanie as three of our better passers."

That passing ability was on display last season when the 798 assists marked the second best total in UConn history trailing only the 846 registered by the 2001-02 team. If this year's team keeps up its current pace, the Huskies would hand out a record 851 assists.

I finally got around to asking Stewart for her reaction to being the youngest player named to the U.S. senior national team player pool after the Rutgers game and her response gives you an idea of just how competitive she is.

"To be named to the pool it is great it shows that good things have happened but at the same time I have to keep working hard because that is not my goal just to be in the pool, I have bigger goals than that," Stewart said.

So when was the first time the dream of playing in the Olympics popped into Stewart's mind?

"I think it was once I started playing USA Basketball," Stewart said. "Before that I didn't really know about that, I knew about the Olympics but I didn't know about the younger levels but once I started to play USA Basketball I said this is cool and I would love to play at the highest level."

When I was up at Blake Arena to see UConn recruiting target Katie Lou Samuelson play in the HoopHall Classic last week, I was able to get a few minutes to chat with Auriemma before I left so he could do what he came to Springfield for - to see Samuelson play. One of the main topics of conversation was his recent trip to see UConn signee Gabby Williams play. I don't always pester Auriemma every time he sees a recruit play but considering that Williams had 35 points as part of a triple-double, I was curious what he had to say.

Perhaps the most intriguing comment he made was how Williams' body type reminds him of Nykesha Sales when Sales was a high school kid. There are few players Auriemma has coached who he holds in higher regard than Sales so it was quite the statement. He talked about seeing Williams play again after the Rutgers game.

"She was really thin and like a little kid when I first saw her a couple years ago and you look at her now and she looks like a college player," Auriemma said. "She is not 100 percent of where she is going to be. When you miss a whole year (with a knee injury) it is going to take a while but I thought she looked great, I am really happy for her. She is really excited about her team this year and I was really impressed with her, I really was."

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