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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

UConn's Stokes swatting away shots at record pace

In her first three seasons at UConn the only time that consistency was used when describing Kiah Stokes usually came in a quote from Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma bemoaning the lack of consistent production from the talented forward/center.

However, in at least one area of her game, Stokes is in the midst of one of the most consistent seasons any UConn player has ever enjoyed.

Over the last five games Stokes' blocked shot totals are 7, 6, 7, 7 and 7. The single-game blocked shot totals in the UConn record book stop at 8 so I did some research to find the last time a Husky had at least six blocks in five straight games and found it has happened exactly once by Kiah Stokes.
So where does Stokes' shot-blocking prowess come from?

"I remember my freshman year Marissa (Moseley, UConn's assistant coach who works with the post players) would make up drills to block shots so maybe that has something to do with it but I played volleyball so that has something to do with it, that is my only answer," Stokes said.

During this recent stretch Stokes has blocked some shots with both hands and that is not a coincidence.

"Marissa said a lot of my fouls, I will block the ball up here but my other hand will be on their body so she keeps reminding me to have both hands up and don't push them with our body because they are going to call fouls if you have one hand on them," Stokes said.

Stokes has 80 blocked shots in the first 18 games of the season, one shy of her career high set a season ago and it is the ninth best total in UConn history. With as many as 21 games remaining, Stokes is on pace to shatter the single-season program record of 131 blocks set by Rebecca Lobo during the 1993-94 season. If she were to keep up her current pace and play the maximum of 39 games (if UConn reaches the American Athletic Conference and Division I title games) she would finish with 173 blocked shots which would be the fourth best title in NCAA Division I history trailing only the 223 and 206 recorded by Baylor's Brittney Griner during her freshman and junior seasons and the 195 blocked by Louella Tomlinson of St' Mary's during the 2009-10 season.

As much as Stokes loves blocking shots, you rarely see exuberant reactions from her after she swats away a shot.

"I may not be the most emotional person on the court but it is something I love to do, I love to get all hyped up," Stokes said. "I was taught as a kid to keep a cool head and not get too emotional so that is the one thing that is hard for me it to show excited emotion so I am good as hiding it if I am mad or frustrated but positive emotions, I don't really express  my feelings but I am excited and it is the one thing I know I can do well and I am excited to do it." 

Ironically, the one person who would like to see the blocked shot numbers go down is Auriemma.

"I think the fact why Kiah has so many blocked shtos is that our guards are just so bad at keeping the ball in front of them and it is providing those guys a lot of opportunities," Auriemma said. "I wish they didn't have as many blocked shots because that means there would be less people in there."

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