Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

UConn's Butler remains upbeat despite injury

Under normal circumstances this would be the time when Natalie Butler would be pushing for a prominent role if not a starting one at UConn.

Sitting out the mandated one season after her transfer left the 6-foot-5 Butler eager to be more than just an energetic practice player for Huskies. Well, her debut with the Huskies will have to wait as she tore ligaments in her left thumb which resulted in surgery a week and a half ago.

"My initial reaction, I was heartbroken but I have a great support team here," said Butler after UConn's practice on Thursday. "All my coaches have been supportive and my family has been amazing giving me all the support I need and I have a great doctor. Dr. (Craig) Rodner really gave me confidence that they are going to get me back as soon as possible."

As soon as possible may not be until UConn kicks off the conference portion of its schedule with a Dec. 30 game at Cincinnati if she is back that early.

She is currently wearing a cast, the second different one she was fitting with since the surgery, and after three weeks in this cast she will be fitted with a splint.

"I should be back in eight weeks," said Butler, who was injured on a defensive drill when a basketball struck her thumb. "What I've learned is everything happens for a reason, you have to take it in stride and I have great teammates who have been very supportive and a great coaching staff."

Dan Wiley was a well-known figure in the California girls' basketball circles both as the head coach at Edison High School where he coached UConn freshman Katie Lou Samuelson for a season and with the powerful Cal Swish AAU program so his unexpected death on Monday at the age of 61 has hit the basketball community hard.

"You will never find somebody who has a bad thing to say about him," Auriemma said of Wiley.
"He is kind of the right-hand man with the Cal Swish AAU team. I just found out about it because it just happened. I talked to Russ (Davis, the Cal Swish coach and director) about it today and it kind of brings everything to a different light - he is my age."

Davis is also the head coach at NAIA powerhouse Vanguard University who will be bringing his team to Storrs for a Nov. 8 exhibition game against the Huskies. Auriemma believed that Wiley was planning to come to that game to watch.
"I know he had a huge impact on Russ, the Cal Swish program, the kids, he just had a good way about him," Auriemma said.

Here are the videos I shot from today's practice so enjoy

UConn unanimous No. 1 team in Coaches Poll

The USA Today Coaches Poll is out and UConn is the No. 1 team, no surprise there. I thought there was a chance South Carolina might steal some No. 1 votes away but the Huskies were the top team on all 32 ballots.

South Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Baylor round out the top five.

Here's where UConn's regular-season opponents are ranked:
2. South Carolina
3. Notre Dame
6. Maryland
7. Florida State
10. Ohio State
19. South Florida
22. DePaul

The Associated Press (which I vote on) comes out on Nov. 3. The top eight on my ballot is the same as the Coaches Poll except I flipped Florida State and Maryland in the 6/7 spots. The teams on my ballot and in the USA Today poll with the biggest difference of opinion were No. 11 Texas (I placed them at No. 20) and No. 24 Northwestern (15th in my ballot). I also overvalued (if you trust the coaches' opinions) South Florida (13th on my listing) and Mississippi State (who I had in at No. 9). The coaches have much higher opinions of Duke and Arizona State than I did and considering how many people transferred out of North Carolina, I have no idea how they made the top 25.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Boykin making up for lost time at UConn

Freshmen Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson have been receiving plenty of hype leading into the season. Their names were even mentioned by UConn coach Geno Auriemma along with Saniya Chong and Gabby Williams as a potential fifth starter. However. the third member of the freshman class can play a little bit too.

It hasn't been an easy last year for De'Janae Boykin. Most of her senior season at Flowers High School was spent on the sidelines after she injured her wrist. Then she was dealing with an Achilles' issue when she was at UConn.

Boykin recently returned to practice and wasn't little time making an impression on her coaches and teammates.

"The last three of four days she has been back and she looks good," Auriemma said at Monday's American Athletic Conference media day. "She had the Achilles thing so she is having a hard time going full speed but when she gets the ball around the basket, she knows what she is doing. She's going to be OK, she just needs time."

Senior guard Moriah Jefferson has also been impressed by the work being done by Boykin.

"She's impressive," Jefferson said. "I didn't get to see her play a lot in high school so I didn't get to see what she had and how much she had to battle with injuries but she does a lot of dirty work, she gets in there and finishes around the rim."

The CenterStage broadcast featuring an hour of Michael Kay's interview with Auriemma will debut tonight at 10:30 on YES after the Bulls/Nets NBA game and postgame show.

I was in attendance at the taping of the show and Kay certainly did his homework.

Auriemma accepting the job at a local Dunkin' Donuts, his hiring of Chris Dailey as an assistant coach, his meeting with the legendary John Wooden are among the topics to look for. Even people who have seen Auriemma interviewed hundreds of times will enjoy this broadcast.

Ironically one of the topics I brought up with Kia Nurse at AAC media day was how her brother Darnell was handling being sent down to the AHL by the Edmonton Oilers. Little did I know that just two days later he would be called up with the Oilers dealing with some injuries on defense and he scored his first NHL goal last night.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Darnell Nurse this season. He is considered to be one of the top prospects out there and I really thought he would be in the NHL all season.

Edison High School girls' basketball coach Dan Wiley died on Monday at the age of 61.

People who followed the career of Samuelson, the highly-touted UConn freshman, might remember that name because he coached Katie Lou when she was a freshman at Edison High School before she transferred to Mater Dei.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UConn's Tuck proud her parents practice what they preach

There was rarely any middle ground when Morgan Tuck was growing up. Her strict but fair parents went to great lengths to teach Morgan and older sister Taylor right from wrong and not to be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.

I have found Tuck's parents to be very much like their daughter - respectful and somewhat content to remain out of the spotlight. When they were among the parents to send letters complaining about the coaching tactics of the Illinois coaching staff (Morgan's older sister Taylor just finished her four-year run at Illinois), I was a little surprised. However, Morgan believes that they were merely acting in a fashion consistent with how they raised their family. They also waited until Taylor's playing days had come to an end so it was not a case of the Tucks acting like stage parents but instead believing it was the right thing to step up about the allegations including systematically trying to create racial tension within the team.

"My mom is a little more outspoken than my dad but I think it does mean a lot because our parents always taught us to stand up for what you believe in and stand up for what you believe is right," Tuck said at Monday's American Athletic Conference women's basketball media day. "Taylor told me all the time about her experience at her school and when I compared it to mine, it was completely opposite not only winning and losing but how you enjoy it. I think what they are trying to do is make it better for the people who are there and hopefully nobody else has to go through what she has to go through when she was there and I think it means a lot.

"Winning makes a difference but just my experience and I really enjoy being at UConn, I enjoy the people I am around and I couldn't see myself being anywhere else. It is something I wish Taylor could have had and I wish she would have had the same experience I have had."

As for Taylor Tuck, she is currently enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth taking classes so she can pursue a Masters degree as she looks to have a career in health administration.

I've heard of coaches making financial gifts to their schools including Geno Auriemma and his wife Kathy coming up with the lead gift of $80,000 to the Sandy Hook School Memorial Scholarship Fund at UConn.

South Florida coach Jose Fernandez and his wife Tonya have also gone about giving back to the school that has brought them so much joy and stability as he became the first active USF coach to endow a scholarship.

The first Jose & Tonya Fernandez Women's Basketball Scholarship will be given out next season and at AAC media day he discussed what led to this generous move.

"I am going into my 16th season, my wife and I are very passionate about the school and there are so many things we can do," Fernandez said. "We get caught up in winning games, I've had so many wonderful student-athletes that I have had an opportunity to coach and you want to leave a legacy.

"Tampa and USF has been home for us and we wanted to do something that other people step up and follow and our end goal is to have all of them endowed. We get paid pretty nicely to coach women's basketball so something like that we can give back, I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be able to do it."

Having his wife's name on the scholarship is also very important to Fernandez.

"She runs the house, kids, dogs and my wife does a great job on social media," Fernandez said with a laugh.

Neither Fernandez nor his wife can determine who is given the scholarship, that will be handled through USF Foundation channels.

"He is that kind of guy," USF All-American guard Courtney Williams said. "He and his wife are great people so it wasn't a surprise to me because I have known him for four years. I think he has been with this program for a long time and he is well respected and I definitely think it is a great thing."


Monday, October 26, 2015

Lawlor, Pulido get scholarships; Butler on the mend

The location of American Athletic Conference women's basketball media day might have limited the amount of Connecticut media at the event but it certainly did not cut back on the number of newsworthy items to address.

Let's start with former walk-ons Tierney Lawlor and Briana Pulido being rewarded for their hard work by being given scholarships. It is actually something that happened at the end of the 2014-15 season but I didn't begin to hear rumblings about it until I covered an Ansonia High School football game a few weeks back and a school official said that Lawlor, an Ansonia High graduate, was given a scholarship for her final two seasons.

I wasn't able to address it with UConn coach Geno Auriemma at First Night but media day was a perfect time to confirm it which he did.

"I just felt like they deserved it," Auriemma said. "When you are putting in the same amount of time, you are putting in the same amount of work, you are making the same sacrifices as all the other kids, I think after a period of time that you prove you are willing to do that for nothing, I think it is something that you deserve so I felt like they deserved it."

Auriemma has run a no-frills type of program and he did make the scholarship awarding process a Broadway production.

"We meet with the players at the end of the year individually so when they came in, we sit down with them and I said 'this is what we are going to do, what do you think?' And you can just imagine their reaction," Auriemma said.

We got the players first and I did not know about Pulido being put on scholarship for her final season but I did get Moriah Jefferson on Lawlor.

"She is the first people who will ask me to shoot or if you need a rebounder, we will shoot together," Jefferson said. "She is a great person to have around."
Auriemma knows the rest of the UConn team shares Jefferson's opinion on Lawlor and Pulido.

"They love those guys because our players know how fortunate they are," Auriemma said. "I don't ever want them to feel like they are entitled to anything so for them to see that those kids had to earn it ... The only thing that the other kids had to do to be on scholarship, they just had to be really good basketball players in high school  and they were awarded a scholarship to come here. These other two, they had to come here and prove that they deserved it and that means a lot to our players."

UConn has suffered some freak injuries over the years but few more bizarre than the torn ligaments in the left thumb of Natalie Butler.

A pass from a teammate caught Butler with her thumb extended. The decision was made for her to undergo surgery and that took place exactly a week ago. Auriemma is hopeful that Butler, who sat out last season after transferring from Georgetown, could be back around Christmas.

"We are really anxious to get her back," Auriemma said. "When somebody operates on your thumb, that takes a long time to heal.

"I am always thinking eight (weeks), she might be thinking five but I don't know. You have her here, you work hard all summer, she had it going in workouts in September and all of a sudden she is on the shelf."

The good news is that Morgan Tuck and De'Janae Boykin are both back at practice.

Auriemma was very much in favor of the move to four quarters and loves the idea of being able to advance the ball with a timeout in the last minute of the second and fourth quarters as well as some of the other rules implemented this year.

However. he's like to take it a step further. With old friend Russ Davis (the AAU coach of UConn freshman Katie Lou Samuelson and former UConn guard Lauren Engeln) bringing his Vanguard team in for a Nov. 8 exhibition game at Gampel Pavilion, there will be some different rules being utilized.

The lane will be widened, there will be an 8-second count to get the ball across midcourt, a 24-second shot clock, the shot clock will only reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound, the international 3-point time of 22-1 will be in play and the game will feature men's regulation basketballs instead of the smaller ones used in women's games.

"I'd like for people to see it and see if there is any difference at all," Auriemma said. "He is a great guy, he coaches the game the right way, his kids play the right way. These rules benefit him, he doesn't usually have a center, it will be fun for them. We will see where it goes, it might not go anywhere I think it is a good time to do it

"People think I come up with these ideas to help us win more games," Auriemma said. "Me widening the lane, you think that helps me? I don't think so. You think I want Stewie (Breanna Stewart) further from the basket? No, I want to be able to throw the ball to Stewie a foot from the basketball but if we widen the lane that gives teams that don't have Stewie a chance to be a little bit more competitive. Move the line back, why? So you don't have these kids  jacking up 3s who aren't good 3-point shooters now only the best 3-point shooters are going to shoot it. We are back to one basketball for the entire world, this is our basketball so kids can go on any playground, play basketball and they are using the came ball. We are going to try it, see what happens to go from there.

"If he (Davis) had said we aren't doing it that we wouldn't have been able to do it but I knew he would be in for it . I have known him for a long time, we are paying him a lot of money to come out here, he is coming to my house and he is going to drink 10 bottles of my really good wine so believe me he isn't doing this for free."

There was one tweak that he was not able to get approved and that was moving the rims down about four inches.

"I wanted to lower the basket but I couldn't get (approval)," Auriemma said. "There was a rough kind of estimate with the average height of a NBA team, what the average height of a men's college team is and what the average height of a women's college basketball team and we figured about four inches would be really good and not even tell anybody and see if they notice until the first time Stewie went up and dunked it. It wouldn't even be about that, just play at the rim and I would just like to see what that looks like but we are not doing that."

With the announcement that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would be stepping down as the U.S. men's national team coach after next year's Olympics, I thought it was a good time to make sure that Auriemma was planning to follow through with his plans to step away from the U.S. women's national team coaching gig after the '16 Olympics as well.

"I hope it is sometime after the Rio Olympics that 'thank you Coach Auriemma for your services but they are no longer required, we are going in another direction," Auriemma said. "I just don't want it to be before next August. I don't think anybody thought it Mike was going to do it a fourth time. Doing it twice is hard, doing it three times I can't even imagine the amount of commitment, the amount of time it takes. People think there is no stress because you are coaching the best players in the world but because you are playing the best players in the world, there is a lot of stress.

"This is it. I said it last time that this was it but I am a softie when people ask me and I gave in, I did it maybe because part of me wanted to."

Auriemma looked exhausted when he returned from the 2012 Olympics and he admits doing both the U.S. and UConn jobs takes a toll on him.

"You don't notice in on a day to day basis," Auriemma said. "If you add it up over eight years and you come back October 12 and you start practice on Oct. 15, after a while you add it all up, you look back and you can feel it. It doesn't pop up all of the time but there are those moments that you are sitting there and say 'I haven't had time to catch my breath.'"

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco made it clear that he is very much in favor of having the American Athletic Conference women's tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena.

It was held there in the conference's first two years, is returning there in 2016 with the AAC holding an option to have it there in 2017 as well. Aresco threw out the possibility of extending the deal beyond the next two years.

"Mohegan has been good to us," Aresco said. "As long as UConn remains a mainstay of our conference, how could you go wrong? We bring in 30-35,000 people, the other teams enjoying playing in front of those kinds of crowds. It is a lot of fun for them, there is a lot of energy around that tournament. A lot of the other women's tournaments have struggled and ours does not.

"It is a beautiful arena, everybody likes playing there. It is the right size. We have a one-year presence and then a one-year option so we could be there two more years and I'd like to talk about even extending it.

"You might say that the other teams, they might say it is a long way to go and it is in UConn territory  but no they love the fact that this is the best tournament of the women's (conference tournaments)."

Surprise, surprise, surprise: UConn picked to win AAC

I know it will come as a shock to hear that the other American Athletic Conference teams picked three-time defending national champion UConn to win the AAC title.

It had to be equally as stunning to hear that Breanna Stewart was picked at the preseason player of the year. The only real curveball came when the AAC did not name a freshman or newcomer of the year.

UConn's Geno Auriemma couldn't vote for his own team so he cast his ballot for South Florida, the team to give UConn the toughest tests in conference play a season ago.
USF, Temple, East Carolina and Tulane round out the top five.

Stewart, UConn's Moriah Jefferson and South Florida's Courtney Williams were unanimous first-team picks. Morgan Tuck was also named to the first team while Kia Nurse was a second-team pick.
UConn won the 18 regular-season games by an average of 48.7 points per game and in conference play led all AAC squads in field goal percentage offense and defense, 3-point percentage offense and defense, rebounding margin, points scored and fewest points allowed, assists, steals, blocked shots, turnover margin and assist/turnover ratio.
Although the Huskies lost Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the NCAA's record holder for career 3-pointers, and blocked shot dynamo Kiah Stokes to graduation, UConn returns five of the top 25 scorers in the AAC in Stewart, Tuck, Jefferson, Gabby Williams and Nurse.
UConn, coming off a 38-1 season, kicks off the exhibition portion of the schedule on Nov. 2 against Lubbock Christian at the XL Center. The preseason finale will be on Nov. 8 against Vanguard at Gampel Pavilion. UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his Vanguard counterpart Russ Davis, the former AAU coach of Samuelson, have agreed to experiment with new rules including a wider lane, an eight-second half-court count, a 24-second shot clock, a 3-point line 16 inches deeper than the one used during NCAA games and utilizing a men's basketball rather than the small one used during women's game.

The Huskies kick off the regular season on Nov. 16 at Ohio State and the AAC opener is Dec. 30 at Cincinnati marking the first time since the 1999-2000 season that the UConn begin regular season and conference play with true road games.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Former UConn recruiting target Cox commits to Baylor

Lauren Cox, considered to be the top player in the Class of 2016, committed to Baylor after making her official visit there over the weekend.

Cox had visited UConn during First Night and was UConn freshman Napheesa Collier and UConn commit Crystal Dangerfield on the U.S. team which won the FIBA U19 World Championship.

I went to one of Cox's games at Flower Mound High School last year when I was in Texas for the UConn/SMU game and while she didn't come out and say it, I had a sense that her close family ties would result in her not going too far away for school.

Cox announced her commitment via her Twitter account

After 5 great visits to 5 amazing programs, I'm blessed to say that I have committed to Baylor University💚🐻💛

This should wrap things up for UConn's next incoming freshman class with Dangerfield being joined by Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin,.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

UConn/Vanguard exhibition could be a testing ground

UConn coach Geno Auriemma hasn't been shy about saying that some rules need to be tweaked for the sake of improving the sport of women's basketball.

The move to four quarters and being able to advance the ball into the front court with a timeout in the final minute are among the rules changes he applauded. Well, it is looking like Auriemma could get a look at some more potential changes as the Nov. 8 exhibition game against NAIA power Vanguard could be a testing ground.

Here are some of the changes that could be instituted if the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel gives its approval (and there seems to be little reason why they wouldn't)

The width of the lane will be 16 feet, which is 4 feet wider than NCAA play.
The 3-point line will be at the international distance of 22 feet, 1 inch. The NCAA line is 20 feet, 9 inches from the basket.
A team will not be granted a timeout unless it has possession of the ball. (If a team scores a field goal, it will not be granted a timeout immediately after the basket, which can occur under NCAA rules.)
The game will be played with a 24-second shot clock instead of a 30-second shot clock.
A team must advance the ball into the front court in 8 seconds instead of 10 seconds.
The game will be played with a men’s basketball instead of a women’s basketball.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

UConn's Stewart found her comfort level with U.S. squad

Even as accomplished player as Breanna Stewart can have times when she questions if she is good enough.

Last year's experience at the FIBA World Championship for Women was such a time.

Being on a team with players like Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Seimone Augustus and Angel McCoughtry was certainly an eye-opening experience. Stewart didn't see much playing time (36 minutes in six games) and wasn't particularly productive (1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game). Given another chance to test herself in practice against some of the game's most legendary figures, Stewart noticed a difference in her own mindset during the recently completed training camp and European tour.

"I could tell that the comfort level that I had with those players and a lot of them were the same players," Stewart said. "Playing with physical, top-level players, that was what I needed and that helped my confidence for me to see that 'I could play at that level.' I knew I could but the fact that I was actually producing was great. I wasn't over thinking things and playing the basketball that I can play."

Stewart averaged 19.5 minutes in the four exhibition games, scoring in double figures in the last two games. She ended up averaging 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Wrapping up UConn's First Night

Just got home after covering UConn's First Night festivities and with the combination of me being a little loopy because of the amount of cough medicine and cough drops I have in my system and the fact that I will be getting up early for tomorrow's UConn football game, I will keep this somewhat brief (or at least brief by my standards).

First, kudos to the fans and/or the UConn marketing staff. It didn't seem too long ago that the interest in the First Night/SuperShow/Midnight Madness event was trending in the wrong direction. However, with a hockey game taking place at the same time, there was barely an empty seat in the house. I think it helps to have the event be mostly basketball related, no silly contests that made the event drag on and having plenty of t-shirts thrown to the students is never a bad idea.

As for the competitions, Moriah Jefferson hit nearly every shot in winning the 3-point shooting contest.. Katie Lou Samuelson, who eliminated Breanna Stewart in the semifinals, didn't shoot poorly in the finals but there was no stopping Jefferson.

"I was just trying to get (shots up) fast," Jefferson said. "In the first round I didn't realize how much time I had so this time I wanted to get them up as fast as I could and they ended up going in."
I thought with this being her final First Night or should that be her first Final Night, Stewart would take part in the dunk contest. She coyly said "I wasn't asked."

The scrimmage featuring the men's and women's teams being split into two teams was a competitive affair won by Team Geno 63-56 over Team Kevin. This event has often become a dunk fest for the men's players but Kia Nurse did have six points, two rebounds and three assists and Stewart four points, two rebounds and three assists for the winning squad while Napheesa Collier having eight points for Team Kevin with many of them coming with some strong work on the offensive glass.

"Obviously they weren't trying that hard (on defense) but I was just trying to swoop in and get them," Collier said. "I haven't been here before so it is my first time experiencing this and just seeing what support we have, it was really cool."

Freshman De'Janae Boykin, who is dealing with an Achilles issue after seeing most of her senior year of high school lost due to a wrist injury, did not take part in the scrimmage. Neither did Natalie Butler, who was hit in the thumb by a ball in a recent practice. Morgan Tuck is dealing with a minor hamstring issue and was held out of the event. None of the three will be practicing tomorrow. I'm not sure if there will be any access next week but if not, I am sure there will be updates on all three of them at American Athletic Conference women's basketball media day next Monday.

There was plenty of praise for the freshman class. Geno Auriemma compared their approach, mindset and maturity level to the Stewart-Jefferson-Tuck class which is pretty high praise.

There's a lot more to get to including Stewart saying that she felt like she belonged alongside some of the world's best players at the recent U.S. national team training camp and European tour and I will get there eventually but with a noon football game to cover, I'm not exactly sure when eventually will be.

It was a highlight to see Ray Allen in attendance. I had one previous dealing with Allen and it was when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks and the UConn women played in a regional in Milwaukee. I was interviewing him in the locker room when the time that the locker room was open came to an end. He asked me if I needed more time with him and I said yes so he graciously walked outside so I could finish my interview. Considering that this was the first time he had even met me and how easy it would have been for him to say 'sorry but the time is up', I came away very impressed with Allen.

I was asked to check on whether ESPN3 would carry streams of the games televised on SNY and I was told by the people at UConn that the setup is the same as last year so some games will be subject to blackout in the SNY coverage area but will be available on an archive basis.

There was no live stream of tonight's festivities and with UConn streaming the hockey game, there will not be an archive of the event either so I did my best to get out as many videos as I could and here they are.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

UConn quartet members of WNBA championship team

Maya Moore can add another WNBA title to her collection of championships and she has plenty of company from UConn country.

Renee Montgomery, Asjha Jones and Kalana Greene were also members of the Minnesota team that defeated Indiana 69-52 in the deciding game in the best of five game WNBA championship series.

This is the ninth time in the last 10 years that the WNBA champ had at least one former Husky on the roster. Ironically, Indiana was the lone exception back in 2012.

It is the first title for Jones, Montgomery and Greene bringing the total of UConn products to win a WNBA title to 13.

2015: Minnesota (Kalana Greene, Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore) def. Indiana
2014: Phoenix (Diana Taurasi) def. Chicago
2013: Minnesota (Maya Moore) def, Atlanta (Tiffany Hayes)
2012: Indiana def. Minnesota (Maya Moore)
2011: Minnesota (Maya Moore, Charde Houston) def. Atlanta
2010: Seattle (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Svetlana Abrosimova) def. Atlanta
2009: Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, Ketia Swanier) def. Indiana (Jessica Moore)
2008: Detroit (Kelly Schumacher) def. SA
2007: Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, Kelly Schumacher) def. Detroit (Swin Cash)
2006: Detroit (Swin Cash) def. Sacramento
2005: Sacramento def. Connecticut (Nykesha Sales, Asjha Jones)
2004: Seattle (Bird) def. Connecticut (Nykesha Sales, Asjha Jones)
2003: Detroit (Swin Cash) def. LA
2000: Houston (Jen Rizzotti) def. NY
1999: Houston (Jen Rizzotti, Kara Wolters) def. New York (Rebecca Lobo-injured and did not play)
1997: Houston def. New York (Rebecca Lobo)

UConn's Auriemma to have a busy day on Nov. 3

The day after the three-time defending national champion UConn women's basketball team plays its first preseason game will be anything but a quiet one for Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma and All-Americans Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart.

First up is a full day at the ESPN/NCAA combined women's basketball media day on the ESPN campus. Media day will feature a "starting five" of Jefferson, Stewart, Baylor's Nina Davis, Tennessee's Diamond DeShields and Tiffany Mitchell conducting interviews with not only a variety of ESPN's platforms but also with regional and national media. Auriemma and fellow 2015 Final Four coaches Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, Brenda Frese of Maryland and South Carolina's Dawn Staley will also take part in the event.

Players and coaches could find themselves on SportsCenter, First Take, His & Hers or on any number of radio shows.

That event is set up wrap up around 4 p.m. and then Auriemma and UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie will take part in the Evening the Champions hosted by the UConn Foundation at the Grand Ballroom of the Hartford Marriott Downtown on 200 Columbus Boulevard. A cocktail hour will begin at 6: p.m. followed by dinner and the program at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $85 each. Tickets can be ordered online at

UConn is set to hold its first official practice today while the annual First Night festivities featuring a scrimmage with teams consisting of players from both the men's and women's team, 3-point shooting contest and dunk contest will take place on Friday. Doors at Gampel Pavilion open at 6 p.m. with the event starting at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

UConn's Stewart with 10 points as U.S. wins European tour finale

UConn's Breanna Stewart had 10 points and six rebounds as the U.S. senior national team defeated ZVVK USK Praha 85-53 to finish its European tour with a 4-0 record.

Stewart scored in double figures in the last two games of the tour and finished with 31 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, five steals and three blocked shots.

She will head back to UConn with U.S. and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma as the team prepares for its first official practice of the 2015-16 season, likely on Wednesday. The annual First Night event will be held on Friday.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Stewart delivers for U.S.; Pair of UConn legends honored

UConn's Breanna Stewart had 12 points, shooting 6 of 9 from the field, and former UConn star Stefanie Dolson added 11 points as the U.S. national team defeated Dike Naples 86-50 in the third game of its European tour.

Brittney Griner led the U.S. with 15 points.

Here are some quotes from Stewart courtesy of the folks at USA Basketball.

On tonight’s game:We were working out the kinks a little bit. We have a big game on Saturday, it’s our last game on this tour and we want to finish off strong. This is preparing us for that.

What was your five-member group trying to work on?Our group was trying to make sure we had the fluidity of our plays down and that kind of stuff. There are certain sets that we want to make sure, if we have to use them, we know how to do so and are ready to do that. Eventually we figured it out.

What are you personally getting out of this tour?Personally, just getting great experience playing with all these pros. Seeing what they’ve done to have such success at the next level, preparing myself for that and using it to have a great senior year. 

The U.S. wraps up the tour on Saturday with a game against Folimanka in the Czech Republic.

Former UConn teammates Tina Charles and Maya Moore were the second and third-leading vote-getters behind WNBA Most Valuable Player Elena Delle Donne on the All-WNBA team.

Angel McCoughtry and DeWanna Bonner join Delle Donne, Charles and Moore on the first team.

Here is the voting
Player                                     Team                          Position                Points     
Elena Delle Donne                  Chicago Sky               Forward                 195
Maya Moore                           Minnesota Lynx          Forward                 188
Tina Charles                            New York Liberty        Center                   167
DeWanna Bonner                   Phoenix Mercury        Guard                    131
Angel McCoughtry                  Atlanta Dream             Guard                    102

Player                                     Team                          Position                Points     
Candace Parker                     Los Angeles Sparks    Forward                 106
Tamika Catchings                   Indiana Fever              Forward                 63
Brittney Griner                        Phoenix Mercury        Center                   147
Epiphanny Prince                   New York Liberty        Guard                    96
Courtney Vandersloot             Chicago Sky               Guard                    73

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

UConn's Stewart helps U.S. win another exhibition game

UConn All-American Breanna Stewart had three points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal and former UConn star Sue Bird had four points as the U.S. national team defeated the Italian national team 79-66.

Angel McCoughtry led five U.S. players in double figures as she had 19 points. After posting a triple-double in the first U.S. exhibition game, she had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

The U.S. team will remain in Italy and face Dike Naples tomorrow before wrapping up the tour with a game on Saturday in the Czech Republic against USK Prague.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

UConn could hold practice or two before First Night

In the past it wasn't too hard to predict when the powerhouse UConn women's basketball team would hold its first practice as it would be the Saturday morning after First Night, the annual mid-October fan fest.

However, there's a pretty good chance that the Huskies will get a couple of mid-week practices in next week. UConn could actually practice right now but with UConn coach Geno Auriemma and reigning national player of the year Breanna Stewart in Europe right now as the U.S. national team is getting some work in, it would make no sense to get practices underway until they are back. That could happen on Sunday so perhaps the drills will start a few days after that. You won't be reading much from the opening practice as the plan right now is for the next media availability to come at First Night on Oct. 16.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

UConn's Stewart with 6 points in exhibition for U.S.

The U.S. national team had its first exhibition game after a short training camp in Europe.

Elena Delle Donne had 21 points while Candace Parker had 14 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals and two blocked shots in an 84-52 win over Uni Girona.

UConn's Breanna Stewart had six points, five rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes while former Huskies Sue Bird and Stefanie Dolson finished with 10 and 4 points respectively.

Connecticut Sun guard Chelsea Gray had nine points for Uni Girona.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Donovan deserved better fate with Connecticut Sun

There are those who will look at the three straight losing seasons and declare Anne Donovan's tenure as the Connecticut Sun head coach as a failure. I believe that would be unfair and inaccurate.

If Donovan was anything, she was incredibly unlucky.

She walked into a non-win situation as the team's stars were so outraged by the firing of Mike Thibault that in their own way they walked out on the franchise. Asjha Jones never played a game for Donovan, Tina Charles played most of the 2013 season before beginning the series of events resulting in her forced trade to New York and Kara Lawson simply stopped playing for the team and landed in Washington with Thibault.

Take three all-stars away from any team and see what happens. The results in 2013 and 2014 were rather predictable as the Sun posted records of 10-24 and 13-21.

This year, however, was a different story. The team's top two scorers from the previous season (Chiney Ogwumike and Katie Douglas) would not play a game during the 2015 season due to injuries, neither would veterans Allison Hightower, Kelsey Griffin and Danielle McCray. Yet, the Sun opened the season winning seven of the first eight games and Donovan was an early candidate for WNBA Coach of the Year honors. The injuries kept coming. Alex Bentley and Alyssa Thomas combined to miss 19 games, first-round pick Elizabeth Williams missed 13 games and was sidelined for the season just when she was looking like a lottery pick.

Perhaps Donovan knew that the Sept. 13 game against the Chicago Sky would be her final as the Connecticut Sun and maybe the players were clued in as well because they went down fighting and ended the season with an 86-75 victory.

Listening to Donovan speak before and after the game, there were signs that she was moving onto the next chapter in her life. Certainly when news hit that veteran WNBA assistant coach Jen Gillom took a job at an Arizona high school, it seemed like a matter of time before news of Donovan's resignation came out.

It was an interesting three seasons. Donovan wasn't quite sure what to make of the Connecticut media when she came here. Women's basketball is a big deal in Connecticut and is covered that way. Early on in her tenure, she didn't quite know how to handle it when people like me would ask big-picture type of questions but over time she got more comfortable dealing with us. No, she's not as comfortable around the media as Geno Auriemma or even Thibault for that matter but she came a long way in that regard. She gave me tremendous insight when I did a story on the large number of high-profile college transfers and  gave me some of her time shortly after hearing about the death of one of her former players. She also was a great help when I did a feature on the Ogwumike sisters' desire to be more than just on-court basketball stars.

However, more than just being more willing to think outside the box in dealing with the media, she will leave the franchise is much better shape than she found it. I doubt there will be the same sort of chaos resulting when Thibault was cut loose. Whoever gets the job is going to have plenty to work with. It is not a stretch to say that the Sun could be considered a playoff caliber team right now with the return of Ogwumike and Hightower (and perhaps Griffin) to a nucleus including first-time all-stars Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone as well as Alyssa Thomas, Williams, Camille Little, Jasmine Thomas, Shekinna Stricklen etc. etc. etc. The Sun also has the No. 3 overall pick, likely either South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell or UConn's Moriah Jefferson.

Anybody who saw the development of players like Bentley and Bone (with Bone being named the WNBA's Most Improved Player on the same day that Donovan decided to step away) can't help but give some credit to Donovan. I am sure those in the "Anne Donovan hates UConn players" camp are loving this news but I always found those comments downright silly. She would loved to have coached Jones and had the services of Charles for more than just the 2013 season but they made the decision to go elsewhere. If she had stayed and had the chance to coach Jefferson, I think she would be enjoyed that experience. It is not easy to be the Sun head coach because there are people out there who simply think it is a given that UConn players will be suiting up for the Sun. Ogwumike (Stanford), Bone (Texas A&M) and Bentley (Penn State) are tremendous players and great people who won over the Connecticut fan base and rightfully so. I think she got a bad rap in this area but her replacement won't have the same reputation to deal with since they will have had nothing to do with the formation of the 2016 roster except what takes place in the draft.

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out in the end and where Donovan lands next.