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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Special night for future UConn teammates

As if the UConn flavor in the international friendly between the United States and Canada wasn't hard to miss, seeing four former Huskies, head coach Geno Auriemma, former star point guard Jen Rizzotti as well as resident superstar Breanna Stewart and incoming freshman Kia Nurse pose for a photo before the game serves as a reminder of just what Auriemma has built in Storrs.

With all due respect to Maya Moore (8 points, 4 assists, 6 steals). Tina Charles (7 points, 3 rebounds), Sue Bird (3 assists, 2 steals) and Stefanie Dolson (2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal), the night belonged to the youngest players on both the U.S. and Canadian teams.

Stewart finished with seven of her nine points in the fourth quarter in the United States' 76-51 victory while Nurse had six points (hitting a pair of 3-pointers) for Team Canada.

Who better than highly-respected USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan to capture what Stewart and Nurse were able to accomplish.

"She (Stewart) is very comfortable with what she she is doing," Callan said. "I think she absolutely belongs with this group."

As for Nurse?

"Canada has done such a nice job with their women's program," Callan said. "They have spent a lot of time with their young players and her to play that well on the national team and this is not even her first year at UConn is amazing."

Nurse, true to her modest nature off the court, blushed she her veteran teammate Kim Goucher was asked to describe the impact Nurse had in the game and on the national team program.

"Kia has been great," Goucher said. "She is impressive, the way she can put pressure on the ball defensively is a game changer and I think she just has been getting smarter and learning a lot over the last few years. She has been a great addition to the team and will only continue to grow as a player. She will get smarter and her future is incredibly bright."

While a little shy away from the court, she is anything but when she starts playing.

Dolson mentioned that more than one player on the U.S. bench raved about what they saw from the 18-year-old Nurse.

"She is definitely a big guard, she brings a lot and is skilled player," U.S. guard Lindsay Whalen said. "She has a very big future, it will be fun to see her grow and continue to get better. She is going to have a chance her with the national team to keep getting better and play against some great competition."

Nurse was quick to credit her teammates for helping her hit the two shots from long distance.

"I started to read the defense a little more," Nurse said. "My teammates screened and they passed me the ball, that is pretty much what got me open.

"It is tremendously important to play the best players in the world. They are gifted individually and to gain experience to see what do against me and what I need to work on is (important) because they put the pressure on me and they push me to be better."

That is the same thing that Stewart is getting from her older U.S. teammates. While she played with Dolson for two seasons, getting a chance to share the court with some past UConn greats is something Stewart relished.

"Being with them and creating a bond with them is something that makes you realize that they set the standard at UConn," Stewart said. "They were the ones that were there years before I was there. They started the UConn tradition and now we are continuing it.

She also loved the environment from the fans in Bridgeport.

"Being here in Bridgeport, we get a lot of UConn fans and UConn players get a nice applause and just to see how many people have played at UConn and are currently playing at UConn or are going to be playing at UConn be so successful in basketball is really great to see."

Stewart was thrilled to see Nurse play well.

"It was good to see Kia play,' Stewart said. "She is obviously going to mature a lot playing with a national team, playing against so many great teams and great players. I think it is a learning experience for her as well. It just shows that this is the level that if you want to become really successful in basketball. this is the level that you have to play at. She will take it back to UConn, really work hard and be ready for the season.

"She is so intense, She is a strong, tall guard and she can really disrupt people on defense and when she needs to create for herself on offense, she can do that as well."

The 13 players who suited up for the U.S. will head to Paris for some more tune-ups. There could be as many as six others joining them including former UConn star Diana Taurasi as the players who took part in the Phoenix/Chicago series for the WNBA title have yet to join the team. Sylvia Fowles' foot injuries will keep her out of the FIBA World Championships and Callan said it was yet to be determined if the other five players will all be joining the squad in Europe. The roster has to be cut to 12 before the start of the World Championships.

"Up in the air still," Callan said. "There are still a couple that have to get cleared by doctors and working travel arrangements for others. Unknown yet (how many will be part of the player pool)."


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