Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Time for UConn to get back to work

Things are back to normal with the UConn women’s basketball team.
The Huskies will hit the practice court tomorrow to put the final touches on preparations for their first game in next two weeks.

Since UConn vanquished Louisville for the third time this season, the amount of basketball-related activities has been intentionally sporadic. UConn coach Geno Auriemma have his team plenty of time off.  That was the smart choice as Moriah Jefferson said her tender foot is feeling much better as if Brianna Banks’ ankle. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has also been able to get stronger after a bout with the energy-sapping mononucleosis. Stefanie Dolson was dealing with a head cold but said she is feeling much better as well.

When the team hit the practice court, Auriemma has liked what he has seen.

“It's been OK,” Auriemma said. “We gave them a bunch of time off. We can't be out there real long, we can't be out there every day. Stefanie (Dolson) has been bothered by a cold but other than that, there is not much else that you can do. All you can do, you are just waiting around. It is just an abnormal amount of time to be off so I think everybody will be happy because at least we will have some focus on what we need to do, what we are doing and where we are going, who are we playing.”

After winning the American Athletic Conference tournament, Auriemma said he was hoping to get reserve guards Banks and Saniya Chong going after they have struggled to contribute in recent games.
“They have both made some progress since last Monday and I hope it carries over,” Auriemma said. “Having said that, they have practiced pretty well for a while now but they don't function well in games for large stretches.”

Both Banks and Chong believe they are in a better frame of mind heading into the NCAA tournament than they were going into the conference tournament.

“Me and Saniya feel like we have been practicing pretty hard and getting our stuff together,” Banks said. “Our team needs our help and I think it's been going pretty well.”

Auriemma pointed out to Chong that she had more fouls (five) than points (four) in the AAC tournament and the talented freshman is eager to make a bigger impact beginning on Sunday when UConn plays Prairie View A&M in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“I just have to work hard. In the last tournament I haven’t been doing anything,” Chong said. “Coming out here and practicing, I have been working extra hard so I can at least be a part of a team. I just have to come in and do something like Mo (Jefferson) and all of them are doing and play the same game and be a part of it.”

One benefit of the time off is that it gave Chong and Breanna Stewart to head back to New York to watch their former high school teams play in the state tournament. As luck would have it, Chong’s alma mater (Ossining) faced the Cicero-North Syracuse program where Stewart earned national player of the year recognition so Chong, Stewart and Morgan Tuck made the ride to watch Ossining emerge victorious.

“We weren't able to see our teams play for a year so for us to be there and watching for the states and seeing how much my team has improved from last year and especially the younger girls did amazing,” Chong said.

So what was she most impressed with?

“I would say how much they improved and being there, Jalay (Knowles) getting twice as many rebounds, Shadeen (Samuels) making so many 3s in transition, Stefanie (Svoboda) coming up from JV and being the point guard was amazing.

Chong did not engage in any trash talking to Stewart after her team got the win and although disappointed, Stewart took the loss in stride.

“They were a good team and fought really hard but Ossining played really well,” Stewart said. “I wasn't losing my mind; you wish you could see them doing better. There were times when they were struggling,
“I think everybody appreciated it. There were a few people who were on the team who I played with when I was there and just to see them as they have obviously gotten older, I think they appreciated me coming back because even they see what I am doing now, CNS is still where I came from.”

Another beneficial aspect of giving his team some time off is that Auriemma was able to hit the recruiting trail. By all accounts, he liked what he saw as he continues to set the table for the next couple of recruiting classes.
When he spoke at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce breakfast earlier this week that May will be a time when he will be hosting some of the top prospects in the Class of 2015. In a perfect world, UConn would love to bring in all the top players during the same weekend but it is uncertain if that is going to happen because of issues with SATs, AAU responsibilities, potential conflicts with USA Basketball and travel since most of them would need to board to plane to get to UConn.

“There are four or five kids that if we can sign or get commitments from we will probably have gotten four of the top five players in America,” Auriemma said.

Guards Asia Durr, Katie Lou Samuelson and Haley Gorecki and forwards Napheesa Collier and De’Janae Boykin are at the top of UConn’s recruiting wish list for the next recruiting class.

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Anonymous Joe said...

Banks was so dynamic last year before her knee injury. What a shame for her, she just hasn't been the same since.

"Maybe next year...."

2:34 PM 

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