Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, June 29, 2015

UConn's Breanna Stewart a finalist for Honda Cup

It isn't very often that UConn's Breanna Stewart fails to win a prestigious national award she has been nominated for.

However, that is what took place on Monday night in Los Angeles as former Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, a sophomore at Cal, was named the winner of the Honda Cup.

This is second year in a row that Stewart was named one of the three finalists for the award which is picked from the 12 individual sport winners. Florida softball star Lauren Haeger, the first player in history with 70 career wins and home runs, was the other finalist this year.

Stewart was bidding to become the fourth UConn women's basketball player to win the award as Maya Moore joins swimming legend Tracy Caulkins as the only two-time winner while Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti won in back to back years in 1995 and 1996.

Stewart was named one of the top three finalists in 2014 before Alabama gymnast Kim Jacob was named the winner of the award.

Stewart led the Huskies in scoring (17.6 points per game) and rebounding (7.8) and became the first women's player to be named Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four three times.

She will enter her senior season 10th on UConn's career scoring list with 1,960 points, is 10th on the career rebounding charts and fifth with 288 blocked shots.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

UConn's Stewart up for Honda Cup

Breanna Stewart has a chance to win one of the few awards to elude her during a remarkable first three seasons at UConn as she is one of 12 finalists for the Honda Cup.

The winner will be announced on Monday between 9-10 p.m. live on the CBS Sports Network during the Collegiate Women's Sports Awards. Maya Moore (a two-time winner), Jen Rizzotti and Rebecca Lobo are the only UConn women's basketball players to win the award.

If the online balloting counts for anything, Stewart is the favorite as she has received more than twice as many as one of the 11 individual sport winners. Stewart has received 30 percent of the votes. UCLA women's soccer star Sam Mewis has received 13 percent of the votes, California swimmer Missy Franklin and Albany field hockey standout Paula Heuser have picked up 12 percent of the votes.

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter helps U.S. win FIBA Americas 16 bronze medal

UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had 10 points, five assists and four steals as the United States defeated Mexico 81-24 in the bronze-medal game at the FIBA Americas U16 Championships.

Espinoza-Hunter led the U.S. with seven 3-pointers in the five games (which ranked fifth among all players in the tournament) and was tied for second on the team in scoring averaging 10 points per game.

She was one of four U.S. players in double figures against Mexico as the U.S. rebounded after Saturday's loss to Brazil. Alex Morris, the top scorer for the U.S. in the tournament and Jade Williams had 11 points each while Espinoza-Hunter and Destiny Littleton each had 10 points.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

U.S. stunned in FIBA Americas U16 semifinals

For just the second time since 2000 a United States women's team playing in the FIBA Americas U16 or U18 or FIBA U17 or U19 World Championships will not be playing for the gold medal.

The U.S. rolled to three wins in pool play at the FIBA Americas 16 Championships by a combined score of 251-133 and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the U.S. would beat Brazil to advance to Sunday's gold-medal game.

However, with Izabela Leite had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Obalunanma Ugwu had 20 points and 12 rebounds as Brazil posted a stunning 72-63 victory.

Alexis Morris had 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists to lead the U.S. UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had nine points, seven rebounds and two assists as well as five turnovers.

The U.S. will play host Mexico in the bronze-medal game while Canada and Brazil will play for the gold medal.

This is the 20th U16, U17, U18 or U19 event the U.S. has played since 2000 and 18 times they came away with the gold medal including 16 undefeated runs to the title.

The U.S. had an 18-0 record in the FIBA Americas U16 event before the loss to Brazil, is 23-0 in the U17 World Championships and since 2000 is 34-0 in the FIBA Americas U18 championship. The U.S. did lose three games since 2000 in the FIBA U19 World Championships but two of them came in pool play. The lone exception came in the 2001 semifinals when UConn's Geno Auriemma was the head coach and Diana Taurasi the team's leading scorer when the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic and finished with a gold medal.

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter, U.S. advance to U16 semifinals

UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had six points, two rebounds and two assists as the United States defeated host Mexico 85-44 to win Group A at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Destiny Littleton had 17 points and seven rebounds, Alex Morris had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists while Aquira De Costa and Sedonia Prince combined for 17 points and 26 rebounds as the U.S. finished pool play with a 3-0 mark.

The U.S. will play Brazil in Saturday's semifinals while Mexico and Canada will meet in the other semifinal.

Friday, June 26, 2015

UConn GA Lister enjoying the best of both worlds

Jasmine Lister is by nature a positive "glass is half full" type of person but even she is a little stunned at her good fortune over the last nine months.

The undrafted rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt was a last-day cut by the Seattle Storm a year ago and she made such an impression that UConn legend Sue Bird recommended to UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey that she consider Lister for a vacant graduate assistant job.

Lister was there every step of the way as the Huskies won their third national title in a row. While Lister hadn't completely given up on playing professionally, she wasn't figuring to get too many opportunities to return to the court until her two-year run as a GA at UConn was over.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

A couple weeks ago Brian Agler, who left his job as the head coach at Seattle to take over in Los Angeles, reached out to Lister to see if she might be interested in joining the injury-riddled Sparks team. That began a series of events resulting in Lister making her WNBA regular-season debut in Tuesday's loss to Washington.

"He called me last Sunday night, can you be in D.C. early tomorrow morning," Lister said before Friday's game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I found the first flight out, I was in my apartment near campus and had one of our lovely managers take me to the airport at 5 a.m. in the morning and practiced the next day.

"He had kind of asked me a few weeks before what my availability was, if I would be able to come away from UConn stuff so I had to communicate with the coaches over at UConn and they let me go. I got the second call, I was kind of like 'OK, I can go do this now.' Everybody was really happy for me and very understanding and it was a matter of them telling me I could leave tomorrow morning.

"I was in awe, I couldn't believe it at first. I just kind of took it and transitioned as quickly as possible. I was thinking about it and said I have been playing basketball my entire life so do what you know what to do  and listen to instruction, be coachable which is what I do."

There might have been people surprised that Lister stepped right in, played eight minutes and finished with four points, four rebounds and one assist after not playing in a competitive game since the 2014 preseason but Agler was not among them.
"We had her in Seattle last year and we knew we weren't going to keep another point guard because we have Sue (Bird), Temeka (Johnson) and Tanisha Wright and we knew we only had 11 players so having another point guard didn't make any sense. She came in, wasn't drafted and because when she was there, we practiced so well and she helped us practice that we kept her to the last day.

"We were thinking of finding a player two weeks ago so I talked to her and nothing really panned out. We are sitting there in a coaches meeting leading up to the Connecticut game and she called me. I said 'Jasmine it is so ironic that you called because there is a chance that we are going to be looking for a point guard pretty soon.'

"She is sharp. She came in and picked things up within an hour. When she played the other night I wasn't surprised about the energy, the effort or the focus that she had. She is on top of things, she is very vocal in practice, has great leadership skills. I think she has only helped herself with how she has played the other night."

With the injuries to Erin Phillips and Alana Beard and Kristi Toliver not yet back  with team after playing in the European championships Lister is seeing plenty of action. When Johnson went down early in Friday night's game against the Sun and clearly hobbled, Lister played 30:41 in the 80-76 overtime loss. She finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists.

Agler wasn't aware about Lister transitioning to a coaching role until he headed to the UConn/Stanford game in November.

"I sitting on the sideline she walked out and I said 'what are you doing here?'" Agler said. "She keeps coming back into my life."

While Lister didn't have a team to play on since getting cut by the Storm, she did have a support system in place to remain in game shape.

"I had been training, (UConn assistant coach) Shea Ralph had been working me out during the offseason with Sue Bird and Kalana Greene so I was staying ready and I was playing pickup (games)," Lister said. "I just love basketball so in the event that I didn't get a training camp, it was still like 'OK, I am still going to play ball.'"

Lister is thrilled to be able to work alongside Geno Auriemma and his staff while also continue her basketball career.

"It is a huge opportunity on both levels," Lister said. "It is a huge blessing and I couldn't be anymore grateful so I am not taking it for granted at all.

"It (UConn's national-championship run) was so surreal. That is like a once in a lifetime opportunity and to be a part of that was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful to Coach (Geno Auriemma) and all the other coaches on the team to be able to have me."

The  question when she was signed was whether she was a stop gap player while the Sparks wait for their veterans to get healthy or whether she was there for the duration. She is certainly making a strong case to remain with the team for the rest of the season even when Toliver and Phillips return.

"I am going with it and I have a goal to potentially make the team, if not fine, but I want to make the team. I am going back to LA, practicing and playing in the next game."

No European Games medal for former UConn star

Tiffany Hayes has been away from the Atlanta Dream along with teammate Aneika Henry because she was trying to lead Azerbajian to a medal in the 3x3 basketball competition at the European Games.

Hayes helped  Azerbajian win three of its first four games to reach the quarterfinals. Hayes made a one-point basket to break a 16-16 tie but Spain ended the match scoring the final three points to record the 19-17 win in the quarterfinals.

Hayes got off to a slow start with two points in the first two matches, a 15-11 loss to Switzerland and 14-10 win over Netherlands. In the final three matches she had 23 points including a team-high 10 in a 17-10 Round of 16 victory against Lithuania.

Russia won the gold medal beating Ukraine 22-17 in the championship game while Spain earned the bronze medal.

Hayes has played in five games for the Dream, scoring in double figures in each contest. Despite getting off to a tough start shooting the ball making 30 percent of her shots and shooting 27 percent from 3-point range, Hayes is Atlanta's second-leading scorer with an average of 12.2 points per game. Atlanta has a 1-3 record without Hayes heading into tonight's game against Washington.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter, U.S. win big again

UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had nine points and four rebounds as the United States defeated Honduras 86-41 to improve to 2-0 in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Honesty Scott-Grayson, who is Espinoza-Hunter's teammate at Blair Academy, had 18 points to lead three U.S. players (all non-starters) in double figures.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

UConn commit Espinoza-Hunter leads U.S. to win in opener

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter had 16 points, five rebounds and an assist as the United States opened with an 80-48 win over Argentina on the first day of the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Espinoza-Hunter had a tough shooting game as she was 1 of 8 from inside the 3-point line but she was 3 of 6 from 3-point range as she shared the scoring lead with Alexis Morris and also played a team high 30 minutes.

Hunter Scott-Grayson, who is Espinoza-Hunter's teammate at Blair Academy, added 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Jade Williams had eight points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

UConn freshmen "have a lot of personality"

We were able to get Geno Auriemma's thoughts on the three freshmen when he held court with the media at his annual golf tournament on Monday.

Today it was associate head coach Chris Dailey's turn to give her impression of De'Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson.

"What I have taken away from the younger players is they have a lot of personality and that is going to be fun to coach," Dailey said after finishing her round in the celebrity pro-am at the Travelers Championship. "I think for us, it is a really long year and we don't do a whole lot at this point because if you start coaching them in June I don't know if they want to listen to you in September, October and November and hopefully we play until April so they got a sense about campus, about academics and workouts. They kind of saw some of the things they needed to work on and showed them how to get better at that but most importantly thy come with a lot of personality which will be fun."

Dailey had a fun day including ending her round in the mini-golf tournament with a hole in one before playing 18 holes in the pro-am.

"I followed the pro's lead and it is all about pace," Dailey said of her ace. "It was fun. It was the easiest hole on the course.

"I get excited about any of that stuff. I was ready to play another round, if you do well you want to play another hole so it was good. I had to carry Geno and Coach Diaco and I did the best I could."

UConn women's basketball reels in ESPY nominations

UConn resident superstar Breanna Stewart was nominated for an ESPY as the best female athlete and best female collegiate athlete.

Geno Auriemma is a candidate for the best coach/manager while former Huskies Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi are among five up for the WNBA Player of the Year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Plenty of debuts in Washington/LA game

It was all about long-awaited season debuts in the nationally-televised Washington/Los Angeles WNBA game tonight.

Former UConn star Bria Hartley, who has been sidelined with a stress reaction in her foot, saw her first action of the season with the winning Mystics. Hartley finished with six points in six minutes in Washington's 84-80 victory.

Nneka Ogwumike, who injured her ankle in a preseason game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, also saw her first regular-season action of the season. Ogwumike played 36 minutes and finished with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists before fouling out (on a silly play around the free throw line in the backcourt).

One surprise was seeing the name of UConn graduate assistant coach Jasmine Lister in the box score. Lister, who starred at Vanderbilt, went to training camp with the Seattle Storm last year before being cut. Brian Agler, who was the Seattle coach at the time and now is the head coach with Los Angeles, obviously made a positive impression on Agler as she was signed to fill a void in the LA backcourt caused by the injuries to Erin Phillips and Alana Beard as well as Kristi Toliver on her way back to the U.S. after playing for the Slovak Republic in the Eurobasket Championships. Lister had four points, four rebounds and one assist in eight minutes in her first WNBA regular-season game.

Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson chipped in with seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Washington.

UConn's Williams expanding her game

Gabby Williams went into her first collegiate season with her eyes wide open.

With her final two high school seasons cut short due to knee injuries, Williams had plenty of catching up to do when she arrived at UConn. She had to work herself into position just to be able to practice and then had to adjust when the coaches informed her that she would be playing forward.

With Williams scoring in double figures five times in her first nine collegiate games and twice having back to back 10-rebound games, it all looked so easy for Williams. The reality, however, is that the learning on the fly aspect of her freshman season was more challenging than it might have appeared.

"I didn't know what was going to happen, I don't think I thought that far ahead," Williams said. "I was like 'I am here now, let's see what I can do.'"

So how did the high school guard make the move to the front court?

"Just put in extra hours, I didn't know one post move so I had a lot to learn," Williams said. "I depended on my athleticism for a lot. I think a lot of it was just mostly the coaches being patient with me and making sure I got it right."

It didn't hurt that she is a world-class high jumper who finished fifth in the event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials. Even if she didn't know exactly what she was supposed to do, she aggressively went after rebounds and when given the ball in the lane, all she did was lead the Huskies with a 63.7 field-goal percentage. She was also UConn's third-leading rebounder even though she played only 15.6 minutes per game.

Unlike a season ago, Williams has been able to spend the entire year working on her game. She has been putting in the work adding range on her jump shot and improving in other areas so she can be more than a reliable finisher in the low block.

"I've been working on my ball handling so hopefully I can move off the block," Williams said. "I do call myself a forward. That is kind of a funny thing now, I like it more down there than I did playing guard. Obviously the coaches know best and they saw something that I didn't see the entire time I have playing basketball so I had to put my trust in them."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma is asking Williams to make gradual improvements to her game and likes what he has seen.

"In the (off)season she has put a lot of time in the gym and she is getting really comfortable and that kid is going to be really good," Auriemma said. "I don't know how far away but right now if we get her comfortable 15 feet away (on her jump shot) that makes it really hard for people. I remember when we recruited Meghan Pattyson and people said she is a 5-10 power forward, how are you going to win a national championship? We didn't but we went to the Final Four. You put somebody who is an incredible athlete, she is good around the basket who as she gets a little bit better shooting the ball, it is a tough matchup for people."

Williams was feeling good enough to try out for the U.S. team playing in the FIBA U19 World Championships. She did not make the 12-member squad but believes the experience was still a positive one.

"It was disappointing because that was my first shot at it," Williams said. "I think even being there I gained a lot of confidence, I was working more on the off the ball screen stuff and mid range and that kind of stuff. I think my shot improved while I was there. Coming back I saw things I need to work on so I think it really is a blessing."

Last year Williams spent plenty of time with Morgan Tuck as both recovered from knee surgeries. This year they are working together doing individual drills as they both look to expand on what they can do on the court.

"We are doing our individuals together and we are both working on the same stuff, expanding more than just back to the basket kind of stuff," Williams said. "It is going to be harder for people to guard us with our mid-range game."

One teammate who hasn't been around to work with Williams is fellow rising sophomore Kia Nurse. Nurse, who was just named to the Canadian team playing in next month's Pan Am Games, has been back in Canada working with the national team. On Monday, the day she was named to the Pan Am Games squad, she also joined her brother Darnell (a top prospect for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers) lighting the flame in the stadium being used to host the soccer competition at the Pan Am Games.

"It is really fun just to watch her," Williams said. "We got really close last year so she tells me about it. I know how much she loves her brother and how much she loves her country so it is really cool to see her with the success that she has."

Williams is putting herself in position for a successful sophomore season with good old fashioned hard work.

"Just paying attention to every detail that I can, how fast I am getting the ball up and that kind of thing because now is the time to do it," said Williams, who said she is taking hundreds of jump shots on a daily basis. "Maybe up to a thousand (per day), just shoot as much as I can."


UConn's Auriemma has seen his golf tournament spread its wings

Annually those who cover the 10-time national champion UConn women's basketball program circle that Monday in June when Geno Auriemma's annual Fore The Kids golf tournament is held at the Hartford Golf Club.

That is the day when we get to catch up Auriemma, some of his returning players and usually get to speak to the freshmen for the first time. While it is an incredibly productive day for the assembled media (this is blog No. 3 off the event with more to come), it would be a mistake not to look at the bigger picture.

The annual tournament has raised millions of dollars for the Connecticut Children's Medical Center making sure a difference is so many lives. Auriemma doesn't even remember how many years in a row he has held the golf tournament but is amazed to see how it has grown. The first event had 60-70 golfers but now there are 190 golfers who sign up for the event.

"Each year we grow it a little bit more," Auriemma said. "What we can offer people to come here, how many corporate sponsors we have been able to add and how much money we have been able to deliver to the Connecticut Childen's hospital but we have a great setup. We have the best golf course, Joe Connerton our pro is the best and his staff, our corporate sponsors take care of us every which we can to maximize the money going to the hospital, all volunteers.

"We can only get it so big without making it a 10-hour day of golf. When I first got involved we made $10,000 and had a very small group of people and ever since then it has gone to 190 golfers and I don't know if you go much more than that. We have a new committee starting next year, Brien Beakey and Joe Campise have stepped down and we have some new people coming in and we will talk about some ideas moving forward and see where that takes us."

Monday, June 22, 2015

UConn's Tuck opts to play it safe this summer

Morgan Tuck wanted so much to be taking the court alongside UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart this summer.

The versatile Tuck would have been a good fit for the talented U.S. team taking part in the Pan Am Games next month but it didn't take much prodding for her to err on the side of caution.

After undergoing multiple procedures on her knees, Tuck was able to play in all 39 games during the 2014-15 season. Perhaps she would have been healthy after taking part in trials, practices and games with the U.S. this summer but she simply didn't want to take any unnecessary risks so there will be no USA Basketball duty for Tuck this summer.

"I really wanted to play," said Tuck on Monday while working at Geno Auriemma's annual Golf Fore The Kids tournament at the Hartford Golf Club. "They didn't have a team for me last year so I was really looking forward to this year. The positive is to get more time at home, I get to see my family and I get to rest my body which I think is good.

"I have a lot of time to spend in the gym, get some shots up and work on my ball handling so I am just going to try to improve my skill set."

Part of her time away from UConn was spent in Grand Rapids, Michigan as she worked at a basketball camp with her sister Taylor, a recent University of Illinois graduate.

"It was my mom's high school reunion," Tuck said. "We went and one of the guys does camps and things like that for the community and we kind of took over one of his camps. They had a clinic in the morning and we kind of taught basic basketball, encourage those people in that part of Grand Rapids because it is not the best part so we are trying to bring same positivity, show them that this is where we started out, we used to live here and you can be successful and play at highest level."

Having spent some time in Grand Rapids before moving to Bolingbrook, Illinois and now with her parents living in Virginia, I asked Tuck how many hometowns she has. She joked that she has been to Virginia so infrequently that she is not ready to call that a hometown just yet.

Tuck was part of a star-studded three-member recruiting class when she came in with Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart so she is a perfect person to ask about the current freshman class of De'Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson.

"They are really good and work hard so I think they will be successful here," Tuck said. "They are handling it well. When they come in, they don't know what to expect. They have never had to do some of the things we are going. I think the summer is kind of a good buffer where it kind of gets you in a little. you see what we are about, how hard we work and how we are supposed to conduct ourselves. I think the summer is a good way to dip your foot in and I think they are handling it well. They are fitting right in. Of course they have their freshman mistakes where you have to teach them what to do."



Freshmen getting crash course on life at UConn

While many of their former classmates and teammates might be kicking back and enjoy life this summer, De'Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson have plans over these next few months that are anything but relaxing.

The UConn freshmen have been on campus for three weeks and when they aren't taking summer classes, they are hitting the court with the returning members from a squad that has won three consecutive national titles.

At UConn even informal basketball games are "very intense" according to Collier.

The trio has wasted little time in making strong opening impressions on the UConn coaches and players.

"They always have a jump coming in but I think they are doing really well," Morgan Tuck said. "When they come in, they don't know what to expect. They have never had to do some of the things we are going. I think the summer is kind of a good buffer where it kind of gets you in a little. you see what we are about, how hard we work and how we are supposed to conduct ourselves. I think the summer is a good way to dip your foot in and I think they are handling it well."

Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma,was available to the media along with Boykin, Collier, Samuelson, Tuck, Gabby Williams and Moriah Jefferson during Auriemma's annual charity golf tournament at the Hartford Golf Club. He did not hold back with his praise for the three newcomers.

"They came to UConn because they want to be like Stewie (Breanna Stewart), they want to be like Dee (Diana Taurasi) or Maya (Moore) or whatever the case may be, that is all well and good until your (butt) is buried on the bench because you are struggling, now reality hits you in the face," Auriemma said. "They have it and they understand it, they know they have to earn it. These three as a group and as individuals, they are pretty impressive."

Collier and Samuelson will leave in a couple of weeks to join the other members of the U.S. team competing in the FIBA U19 World Championships. In the meantime, they are trying to absorb as much as they can in the pick-up games.

"We've been in the weight room and scrimmaging," Collier said. "Definitely showing what I can work on and how people older than me are playing, It is so different from high school.
It is really hard but I knew it was going to be."

Boykin lost most of her senior season of high school after injuring her wrist. This summer will give her a chance to get all her timing back.

"It's been fun to get back on the court and have time to play, continue to get stronger," Boykin said. "Going against Stewie, going against Tuck it is great. They are competing against us and they are trying to get better in order to get ready for the season. They are telling us to stay focused, getting our minds right and get stronger.

"I didn't have my senior year so this is pretty much my senior year. It is great, it gives me the feeling of getting back on the court."

Auriemma addressed plenty of subjects including a rundown of nearly every player who will be on the 2015-16 team, the rules changes and incredible number of high-profile transfers. There will be more on what he had to say as well as more from Tuck, Williams and Jefferson in the next couple of days.

Here's more from Auriemma on his three freshmen.

"In the end it is on them, how bad do they want to be great, how much time are they willing to put into the game, how coachable are they? What kind of competitive spirit do they have? You don't know these things until you get them. You watch this 21-year-old kid (Jordan Spieth) play golf and he reminds you of the same motivation that drove Tiger (Woods) to be the best. If you have a high school kid, you find that they have those qualities and they have the game to back it up anything is possible. Katie Lou has a lot of advantages that a lot of kids don't have, she is a great shooter, she is 6-3 and has a quick release and she is a smart player. She has a huge advantage of being really well coached in high school. A lot of kids who come to college who were really well coached in high school like Napheesa Collier was, like Katie Lou was, those guys can compete immediately at the college level. They kids who didn't have really good coaching in high school, they are on the ones who struggled the most. Tina, Sue Bird had great coaching in high school. You see some of these kids and they come out, they have the right background, the right makeup, the talent and the heart anything is possible.

"(Boykin) is still not 100 percent yet. She is completely different from the other two guys in some of skills that she has and some of the things that she does are just very subtle. Sometimes with Napheesa and Katie Lou, they are right out there and if you watch De'Janae closely you see some of the subtle things she does that makes her a really good player and contribute to winning. I am excited for all three of them.

"(Collier) competes really hard every possession and has skills, when I watch her now she does things that I didn't even know she could do. These guys are coming into college with the right mix of stuff you need to be really good."

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UConn's Nurse named to Canadian Pan-Am team

UConn's Kia Nurse and her brother Darnell, a first-round pick of NHL's
Edmonton Oilers, were torch bearers in ceremony in their native Hamilton
(photo courtesy of the City of Hamilton)
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, UConn rising sophomore guard Kia Nurse was one of 12 players named to the Canadian team playing in the upcoming Pan Am Games.

Speaking of the Pan Am Games, Nurse and her brother Darnell who is a top prospect of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, will be among the torch bearers for an event at the CIBC Pan Am Games Soccer Stadium in Hamilton, Ontario.

Nurse was a starting guard for Canada during its run to surprising fifth-place finish at the FIBA World Championship for Women. The top 10 scorers from that team are on the squad that will be the host squad for the Pan Am Games. The additions are former Notre Dame star Natalie Achonwa, who was injured and unable to suit up for Canada last year, and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.

Nurse finished as Canada's fourth-leading scorer averaging 6.9 points per game in the World Championships. She would start 36 of 39 games as a freshman at UConn. She finished third on the team with 53 3-pointers and 55 steals as the Huskies won their third consecutive national title.

UConn's Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart are members of the U.S. team playing in the Pan Am Games.which runs from July 16-20.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Report: UConn to visit Ohio State on Nov. 16

The dates for UConn's non-conference games continue to trickle in.

The latest, courtesy of a report in the Columbus Dispatch, is a Nov. 16 game at Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be tested early as they will play fellow Final Four squad South Carolina on Nov. 13.

UConn will host Kansas State on Nov. 23, play at Chattanooga on Nov. 30, host Notre Dame on Dec. 5, face Florida State on Dec. 11 at Mohegan Sun Arena and host LSU on Dec. 21.

As if losing to the Connecticut Sun for the second time this season wasn't enough of a downer for an Atlanta Dream currently sitting in fifth place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference with a 2-3 record, the team announced that former UConn star Tiffany Hayes and reserve forward Aneika Henry will miss the next five games as they will be playing for host Azerbaijani in the 2015 European Games.

Hayes, who is second on the Dream in scoring averaging 12.2 points per game, recently was granted citizenship in Azerbaijani as she will take part in the 3 on 3 basketball competition at the European Games from June 23-26.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Texas, UConn to play at Mohegan Sun Arena

UConn's 2015-16 non-conference schedule is expected to be released during the upcoming week. There aren't too many surprises as it has been previously reported that UConn would be playing Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Kansas State, LSU, Florida State, Colgate, South Carolina, Chattanooga and DePaul. Also, Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer is reporting that UConn will play an opponent to be determined in the Maggie Dixon Classic.

Some of the dates have been leaking out. UConn will play at Chattanooga on Nov. 30 (although that is ironically the only contract yet to be signed and returned to UConn among the 2015-16 non-conference games). LSU announced that it will play UConn in Connecticut on Dec. 21 and Kansas State has said the date of its game in Connecticut against UConn is Nov. 23. Also, the UConn/Florida State game is set for Dec. 11 at Mohegan Sun Arena. I caught up with Deb Corum before last night's Women's Football 101 Clinic (she was one of the 200 or so participants) and she Dec. 5 is the date of the Notre Dame game and the South Carolina game will be in February. She also said that Texas and UConn will be playing beginning in the 2016-17 with the home and home series beginning with a game at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Weak moment" results in new non-conference series for UConn

Nebraska coach Connie Yori delivered one of the best quotes I have seen from an opposing coach discussing a regular-season series with UConn.

"I think it was a really weak moment for me," Yori told the Journal Star. “It must have been coming off a win or something when we got the call, because those are things after the fact when you say, ‘What did I just do?’ No, it will be a great experience for us to play the best team in the country at their place. It will be an opportunity to learn a lot from that experience."

Talks for the Nebraska-UConn series can be traced back to when the Huskies played in the 2014 regional at Nebraska in front of packed houses even though the Huskers were upset and did not reach the regionals.

The series will begin next year with a game in Connecticut as part of the 11-game non-conference schedule. The plan is for UConn to announce the details of its non-conference schedule next week.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Latest UConn commit "doesn't take any plays off"

Tabor Academy guard Molly Bent was considered to be an under the radar recruit as she was considering Ivy League schools and some mid-major schools. However, according to her AAU coach, she was pretty well known by the UConn coaching staff as Geno Auriemma saw her play three times before Bent committed to UConn.

"Molly is a high-motor kid," Rhode Island Breakers coach Jim Edgehill said. "She is a college conditioned athlete right now, she has great ball handling skills while she worked on to become a true point guard. Last year when she played with us with the Breakers she was more of a scoring guard. This year we talked to Molly about making everybody around her better and there are games where she made everybody on our team a lot better. She has hit the next level as a player, she has a great mid-range game, she can hit the 3 and is a great transition kid. She is a great defender, she pushes when you need it and is learning how to slow the game down when you need to slow it up. She rebounds well for a guard, she doesn't take any plays off.

"When Shea (Ralph) came to see me after one of the games in the Deep South she said that Geno doesn't have anybody like her at UConn and loves how hard (she plays) and what she can do on the court. Geno knows how many scorers he has and Molly can score but she can do everything else. She doesn't need to score but Geno loves her because she doesn't take one play off, it doesn't matter if she is playing the entire game or the fourth game of the weekend, she doesn't take a play off."

Bent often had scheduling conflicts between her club soccer and AAU basketball teams. She finally gave up club soccer and now she is starting to get seen by more and more top programs.

"Last year was the first year she was playing full-time (AAU) basketball," Edgehill said. "She is a high-level soccer kid so she was splitting between soccer and basketball. Last year was the first exposure tournament she ever played it. I understood that Molly could play at a high level, I understood it because of the kids we had on our team and who we play against but she is a kid who works on her game all the time. She is the first one in the gym, the last one out of the gym."

Edgehill said that Bent had an outstanding showing when the Breakers won the 17-and-under Signature bracket at the 2014 Deep South Classic including a strong performance for Bent matched up against Stanford commit Anna Wilson out of the powerhouse Boo Williams program.

"This year we went to the Deep South, we ended up playing team from Georgia, the Celtics, we ended up beating them by six," Edgehill said, "Molly played great, Geno and Shea were there, came next couple of games. The Kentucky coach (Matthew) Mitchell came up to me after one of the games in the Deep South and said 'she could play for us right now.'"


Monday, June 08, 2015

NCAA approves move to quarters

Once the legislation was passed by the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules Committee it became a foregone conclusion but today the NCAA announced to move to playing four 10-minute quarters beginning with the 2015-16 season.

It’s official! NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves playing four 10-minute quarters in women's basketball.

The move will cut down on timeouts, both the ones taken by the coaches and ones designated as media stoppages. There will be one media timeout in each quarter and that would occur at the first stoppage after the five-minute mark. The other two media timeouts would come after the first and third quarters, Under the previous format there were media timeouts at the first stoppages after the 16, 12, 8 and 4-minute marks. Teams will be given four timeouts, one fewer than under the previous format and only two of them will carry over into the second half. Holding onto timeouts could be huge because teams will be allowed to advance the ball into the frontcourt on inbounds plays following made baskets after a timeout in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

It will also change how bonus free throws are awarded. Under the previous format, teams would shoot 1 and 1 after the seventh team foul and were given two shots after the 10th foul in each half. Now teams will shoot two free throws after the fifth foul in each quarter.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Bent thrilled to have UConn in her future plans

When Molly Bent looks back on her take on the recruiting process less than 18 months ago all she can do is chuckle at her choice of words.

Bent said she's love to play at national powers UConn or Notre Dame in a January, 2014 story which ran in the Cape Cod Times Bent said "I would never be able to go there."

My how things have changed.

After she caught the attention of the UConn coaching staff playing in the Deep South Classic in Raleigh, N.C. she was invited to a campus visit with the three-time defending national champions. When she left campus on Wednesday she was fairly certain she found her college of choice. Just to be on a safe side she slept on it and on Thursday called UConn coach Geno Auriemma to tell him she was committing.

"It was two years ago when I decided to transfer from Barnstable to Tabor and a large part of that was the basketball aspect to be able to repeat a year and have that competition," Bent said. "I think I have made a lot of strides since then and did everything I could in practice to better my game. I think as the years went on I said I can play at that level."

While she couldn't help but be struck by everything UConn has to offer when she went on a visit, it was the players' personal touch that really won her over.

"I loved the campus," Bent said, "I loved playing pickup with them and how they play, the UConn style, unselfish, team-orientated basketball. After we finished playing pickup, a lot of them came over to talk to my parents and those who weren't doing it picked up a ball and started shooting. I have gone on visits before and sometimes when pickup was over, the players were done but not at Connecticut. I just love to play basketball and I love to be surrounded by those kinds of people."

Bent, a straight-A student, was being heavily recruited by Ivy League schools and some mid-major programs in the Northeast. That all changed when she appeared on UConn's radar in late April.

"I think I was a little surprised because I am kind of under the radar and I didn't know that they would actually come watch," Bent said. "I know my coach tried to contact them before because I was confident in myself and just the way I like to play I think I would fit in with them. I am just so grateful that they stopped and watched, they saw something in me and believed in me."

Bent spent two seasons playing for her father at Barnstable High. She set the school records with 549 points in a season and 42 in a game. Bent scored 1,001 points in two seasons before transferring to Tabor Academy. The 5-foot-9 guard repeated her sophomore season and has been a standout in both soccer and basketball at Tabor.

At Tabor she wasn't asked to shoulder all of the offensive burden. She averaged about 17 points a game in her first season and around 12 points per game last season when she was one of three Tabor players named NEPSAC Class A East All-Stars and was also named to the Massachusetts Prep Star
Athletes Prep/Private School all-star squad.

"The last two years I considered myself a 1/2 kind of combo guard but in this past year especially with my AAU team I have taken on more of a point guard," Bent said. "I love to distribute the ball, I love to pass and find other players especially in the open court because I like to run. I can also play the 2 whatever the team needs me to do."

Bent likely could have chosen to play soccer at the collegiate level but a couple years ago she found herself dealing with too many conflicts between club soccer and AAU basketball.

"It wasn't until last summer when I kind of dropped the club soccer in the spring and fully committed to playing basketball and I am happy that I did," Bent said. "I didn't know whether I wanted to play soccer or basketball in the college but then a couple summers ago I missed a lot of basketball tournaments for soccer tournaments and I thought 'hey, I don't want to do this anymore."

Bent becomes the third player from the Class of 2016 to commit to UConn. Crystal Dangerfield, a member of the U.S. U-17 national team and two-time Gatorade state player of the year from Tennessee, and State College (Pa.) High School forward Kyla Irwin.

Friday, June 05, 2015

UConn gets a player, Sun lose a star

My timing was impeccable.

I decided to take a rare basketball-free Friday night, it's not like anything major was going to happen, right?

Oh, you mean other that Tabor Academy guard Molly Bent committing to UConn and the Connecticut Sun announcing that reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike would not play for the team this season.

Let's start with the commitment of Bent, a 5-foot-9 guard who scored 1,001 points in two seasons at Barnstable High before transferring to Tabor Academy where she repeated her sophomore season.

Bent is also a dynamic soccer player who according to Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer and SNY Bent was on campus for a visit on Wednesday and she committed the next day.

She joins Crystal Dangerfield, a member of the U.S. team playing in the FIBA U19 World Championships, and Kyla Irwin as commitments from the Class of 2016.

After the season-opening loss to the Washington Mystics Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan informed the media that Ogwumike will not play this season. The original hope was that Ogwumike would return at some point this season after undergoing knee surgery.

"We made the decision this week that Chiney will not come back this season," Donovan said. "The six to nine month prognosis that she had, although she is getting better every day, it’s a lot of pressure for her to come back. Her doctors and ours chewed it over and decided that a 100 percent healthy Chiney is the best that we can hope for."

UConn's Nurse, Canada lose final game in European tour

Despite team-high totals of 10 points, five assists and two steals from UConn's Kia Nurse Canada lost 50-42 to France in the final of six international friendlies played over the last week and a half.

Canada finished 4-2 in the games split between Spain and France. Nurse scored in double figures three times. She finished the tour averaging 9.5 points, 3 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

UConn's Nurse helps Canada past Italy

UConn rising sophomore Kia Nurse had nine points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal while playing a team-high 29 minutes as Canada defeated Italy 67-62 to improve to 4-1 in its European tour.

Miah-Marie Langlois had 11 points, Kim Gaucher had 10 points and Miranda Ayim added eight points and nine rebounds for Canada, which wraps up its string of international friendlies with a game against France tomorrow.

Giorgia Sottana had a game-high 16 points to lead Italy.

Also, the WNBA released its annual survey as former UConn star Maya Moore received 66.7 percent of the votes from the league's general managers to win another MVP award, received the same number of votes when it came time to pick the player they would start a franchise with and tied Elena Delle Donne by receiving 25 percent of the votes in the category of best pure shooter. Sue Bird was named on 41.7 percent of the ballots as the best leader, received 75 percent of the votes when GMs were asked who would make the best coach and tied Delle Donne with 33.3 percent when they voted for the player they wanted to take the last shot with the game on the line. Tina Charles received 50 percent on the votes as the player with the best post moves while Kiah Stokes was named by 25 percent of the GMs as the sleeper rookie most likely to be a success.


Former UConn star Greene cut by Mystics

When the Washington Mystics come to Mohegan Sun Arena for tomorrow's season opener, former UConn guard Kalana Greene will not be with them.

Yesterday the WNBA site listed Greene as being the final cut by the Mystics and today that became official as Washington opted to keep former UTEP star Kayla Thornton over Greene.

Greene has a solid preseason as she averaged 7.7 points, 4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

If my math is correct, there will be 12 former UConn products on opening day rosters unless the Connecticut Sun grab some players off the waiver wire and cut loose Kelly Faris to make room. Here is the team by team breakdown

Atlanta: Tiffany Hayes
Connecticut: Kelly Faris
Minnesota: Asjha Jones, Maya Moore
New York: Tina Charles, Swin Cash, Kiah Stokes
Seattle: Sue Bird, Renee Montgomery, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
Washington: Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

UConn's Nurse stars for Canada again

Sorry that I'm a little late with this since I was at media day for the Yale-Harvard Regatta today, but it was another impressive showing for UConn rising sophomore Kia Nurse during Canada's string of international friendlies in Europe.

Nurse did not start but had a team-high 14 points to go with five rebounds, two assists and a steal as Canada defeated Poland 73-68 in the first of three games Canada will play in France.

Canada will play tomorrow at noon and then wrap up its stretch of six games in nine days when it plays France on Friday at 2:45 p.m.

Canada currently has a 3-1 record on its tour. Nurse has scored in double figures in two of the four games and is averaging 9.5 points, 3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.8 steals per game.

Chattanooga coach Jim Foster said on the "Pressrow" show that Nov. 30 is the date that UConn will be in town for the non-conference game between the schools.

UTC women's bball coach Jim Foster said on "Pressrow" that Mocs will host UConn on November 30th. Thanks to @jgreesontfp for the assist.

The game will mark the first regular-season non-conference game for UConn in the state of Tennessee since an 89-80 loss at Tennessee on Jan. 7, 2006. UConn does make the trip to Tennessee to face Memphis as part of its American Athletic Conference schedule.

UConn's intention is not to announce the dates of its non-conference schedule until it becomes official because dates tend to change. It already has happened with the Colgate game, previously reported to be played on Dec. 2 but I've been told that is no longer the case. LSU did announce that it will play UConn on the road on Dec. 21 and Kansas State announced it will play at UConn on Nov. 23. Also, UConn and Florida State will play on Dec. 11 at Mohegan Sun Arena.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Connecticut Sun lose a pair of veterans

The Connecticut Sun reluctantly are getting even younger.

Kelsey Griffin and Allison Hightower had the most continuous service with the WNBA team heading into the season as both were taken by the Sun in the 2010 WNBA Draft. However, it was announced today that Griffin was being waived and Hightower suspended as a result of their injuries.

Griffin injured her hip in the preseason opener and underwent surgery which will force her to miss the season. In a release the team said it hopes to sign Griffin next season.

Hightower underwent knee surgery in March and with her unavailable and it being uncertain when Chiney Ogwumike will return to the court after her own knee injury, the decision was made to suspend Hightower.

With the moves former UConn standout Kelly Faris is the only player who was with the Sun before the start of the 2014 season.