Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

UConn's freshmen excited to get rolling

One of the highlights of UConn's early season practices is seeing how the freshmen get acclimated.

It wasn't that big of a deal last year with Saniya Chong the only new scholarship player but yesterday was the introduction of freshmen Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams as well as transfer Natalie Butler.

I consider this group to be one of the more intriguing collection of newcomers since I have been covering the team.

You have Edwards, the Meriden native who spent a season playing in New York and two more at Blair Academy in New Jersey. Butler is a rebounding machine and a rare transfer into the program. Ekmark made the unusual decision to bypass her senior season of high school and had a variety of different basketball experiences over the last year. Nurse's experience with the Canadian national team has been well documented and then there is Williams, a top five finisher in the high jump at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials who saw her final two high school seasons end prematurely due to torn ACLs.

All five were out there early and often during the portion of practice the media was allowed to watch. There were nervous moments as they attempted to learn the different drills, absorb the coaching from Geno Auriemma and his staff as well as the encouragement they were getting from their more experienced teammates.

"It was tough in the beginning but we kind of caught on," Nurse said. "It was something we were excited to be a part of."

Ekmark echoed her classmate and roommate's take on her first official practice as a Husky.

"It is awesome," Ekmark said. "Obviously we are fired up and excited for our first college practice, it was good, it was fun. It was a different level of intensity for all of us because it is a different jump from high school to college.

"Moriah (Jefferson) and Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) are really helpful. I know to me I can talk to them if I ever need help with anything and I can ask them  so it is really nice to have them here and it is fun playing with them also."

Nurse is grateful to have leaders like Jefferson and Mosqueda-Lewis to help show her the way.

"They are great leaders," Nurse said, "They give us everything we need to know and we are never surprised with anything thanks to them. They are great basketball players, have great basketball IQs and we just learn from them every day."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said one of the points of emphasis with the newcomers is to have them make shots. With a grueling preseason conditioning program and the way the challenging practices take a toll on them, they are going to have to learn how to fight through the fatigue.

"Everything is new right now so we are learning a lot of new stuff," Ekmark said. "We are trying to keep our legs on our shots but you have to keep shooting."

Nurse just recently got back to campus after spending most of the summer with the Canadian national team. It was time well spent as Nurse was a starting guard on a team which finished fifth in the FIBA World Championship for Women.

"I feel great," Nurse said, "I got a couple days off when I came back. Your body can only take so much and my body got used to playing for a long time all the time so I am lucky to have the staff here that help you rehab everything."

One of the biggest concerns was going to be if Nurse fell too far behind academically due to all the class time she missed while she was overseas. Turns out there was no cause for concern.

"I caught up," Nurse said, "The teachers have been really great and my room was spotless due to Courtney, she kept it clean. Everybody has been really great, the academics center, everybody has worked really hard and I am really grateful for them."

It's looking like the rosters for tomorrow night's scrimmage will not be announced until tomorrow morning so stay tuned. By the sounds of it, UConn is putting together quite the program to pay homage to its championship pedigree. More details will be coming out in the next 18 hours although Wener Ladder announced it will be presenting the ladders the men's and women's teams used to cut down the nets after winning the national titles in April.

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Anonymous Joe said...

Isn't capitalism just amazing sometimes?

"The official sponsor of the ladder used to cut down the nets at UConn's national championship."

I wonder how many extra sales they will get out of that!

3:23 PM 

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