Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, May 30, 2016

UConn signee Dangerfield, recruiting target Walker make U.S. U-18 team

Other than the inaugural squad in 1988 there has been a future UConn women's basketball player on every U-18 national team. That streak will continue as incoming freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield was one of 12 players named to the squad competing in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship from July 13-17 in Chile.

UConn recruiting target Megan Walker also was named to the squad as her Sidney Cooks and Amber Ramirez, who will team with Walker and Cal incoming freshman Jaelyn Brown on the team representing the U.S. at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship which begin on Wednesday in Kazakhstan.

Rebecca Lobo was the player with UConn ties to play for the U18 team, helping the U.S. to the silver medal in between her freshman and sophomore seasons at Connecticut. Four years later Stacy Hansmeyer was a member of second-place U.S. team. In 2000 Ashley Battle and Diana Taurasi helped the U.S. win the first of seven straight gold medals in the event. Charde Houston in 2004, Tina Charles and Maya Moore in 2006, Kelly Faris in 2007, Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley in 2010, Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck in 2012 and Napheesa Collier in 2014 as won gold medals at the FIBA Americas 18 event.

Dangerfield averaged 6.4 points in the United States' seven games during a gold-medal run during the FIBA U19 World Championship. She was second on the team with 19 assists (with just four turnovers) and tied for second on the team with 14 steals.

Dangerfield and Baylor incoming freshman Lauren Cox are the only players from the U19 team to take part in the U18 trials and not surprisingly, they both made the U18 team.

Walker, a rising senior at Monacan High School in North Chesterfield, Virginia, was only able to have one complete day at the trials because she is a part of the U.S. team playing in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships but that didn't stop her from making the U18 team.

Jeannie Boehm, Chennedy Carter, Tyasha Harris, Ruthy Hebard, Valerie Higgins, Evina Westbrook and Rellah Boothe are other players on the team. Boothe is the only player to be named a finalist for the U17 team and as be selected to the U18 team.

There are seven players who will be incoming college freshman as Dangerfield and Cox are joined by Boehm (Harvard). Harris (South Carolina), Hebard (Oregon), Higgins (USC) and Ramirez (TCU) while Walker, Boothe, Carter, Cooks and Westbrook are heading into their senior year of high school and all five are uncommitted so I'd expect to see some Division I college coaches making the journey to see this team go for gold.

Here are quotes from Dangerfield courtesy of USA Basketball

How does it feel to be named to a third USA Basketball team?It feels great. And then seeing who else made the team, it’s going to be a really special summer.
Two years ago you didn’t make the 2014 USA U17 World Championship Team, so you’ve been on both sides. How were you feeling when the announcement was coming?
The wait brought me back to that point, but after they came out and said what they had to say, I was relaxed.
What does it mean for you to be able to represent your country like this?It means I came back hungry to win another gold medal.
Because you have experience, do you feel like you’re one of the leaders?I feel like it, yes. I feel like it’s just a presence-type thing. I think the others are going to ask us questions and go off our lead.
On the overall make-up of the team:Looking at it, this is a physical group. I think that’s going to help us, because international play is very physical. We’re very talented, and I’m ready to see how it goes.

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Only 3 from U-16 squad make the cut for U-17 team

UConn Class of 2018 recruiting target Charli Collier is one of 18
finalists for U-17 national team (photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
One of the most pressing questions surrounding the U-17 trials was how many members from the bronze-medal winning U-16 squad would make the cut.

Well, many of the answers came this morning as the fourth cut was made to get down to 18 candidates and Alexis Morris (the leading scorer on the U-16 squad) and UConn Class of 2018 recruiting targets Aquira DeCosta and Sedona Prince were among the final 18.

"Ever since we lost, it has always been a motivation for us to win gold coming back this year," DeCosta said. "All of us are hungry to win gold."

This is the fourth U-17 team. In 2010 eight of the 12 players on the 2009 U16 made the squad, two years later six of the 12 players on the U17 team played in the FIBA Americas U16 event in '11. More recently, seven members of the U16 team in 2013 were members of the U17 squad in 2014.

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter, one of three double-digit scorers on the U-16 team which lost to Brazil in the semifinals in the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, was among those cut as the roster was trimmed from 41 to 18. There are still six more cuts that need to be made.

Since 1997 United States teams competed in 22 age-group 5 on 5 FIBA or FIBA Americas event and won the gold medals 20 times.

Back in 2001 the U.S. team coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and featuring current WNBA stars Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Alana Beard and Monique Currie suffered a loss to host Czech Republic in the 2001 FIBA U19 event en route to earning a bronze medal. That script was revisited last June when the U.S., after winning its first three games by an average of 39.3 points, lost to Brazil in the semifinals. The U.S. needed to beat host Mexico to avoid becoming the first United States squad to failing to medal in an age-group event since the U-19 team finished seventh in 1993.
DeCosta, Prince and fellow UConn Class of 2018 recruiting targets Charli Collier and Christyn Williams are among the final 18 as is Samantha Brunelle, a Class of 2019 prospect drawing interest from UConn.

"I think this was the most competitive trials we have ever had," USA Basketball National Team Director Carol Callan said in a statement. "As they emerged through the weekend, these 18 played really, really well. They provide a lot of the pieces to the puzzle of putting a roster together. It's not only at each position, but within each position, versatility, different style of play and stature. There are rebounders, there are shooters, there are defenders and there are really good players at each position."

The 18 finalists who will remain in Colorado Springs through Thursday when the 12-member squad will be announced. Here are the rest of those in contention to make the team.

Janelle Bailey, Rellah Boothe, Aliyah Boston, Jenna Brown, Maya Dodson, Destanni Henderson, Nazahrah Hillman, Taylor Mikesell, Morris, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Abigail Prohaska, Madison Williams, Zoe Young.

Eleven of the 18 finalists are from the Class of 2018 while Brunelle is one of three Class of 2019 prospects to make the cut joining Zoe Young and Aliyah Boston, a Worcester Academy star who is the only New England prospect to make the list of 18 finalists.

Boston and Janai Crooms, a 2018 prospect from Rhode Island, were the only New England players among 139 to try out for the U17 team.

Texas has four of the 18 finalists followed by Georgia and Ohio with three each while Florida is the only other state with more than one finalist.

Among the Texas players not to make the cut is Jade Williams, who drew some recruiting interest from UConn. When the Huskies were down in Texas to face SMU in January (the same trip when I saw Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey at one of Lexi Gordon's games) and didn't make it to see Williams play I kind of figured she wasn't in the Huskies' plans moving forward. Williams confirmed that.

"They were looking at me heavily but I think they recruited some people so their interest fell off," Williams said. "It is not really UConn anymore."

The U-18 team will be announced tonight around 8:30 p.m. There are currently 31 players fighting it out for 12 spots (counting Kasiyahna Kushkituah, who tried out for the U-17s and was added to the players trying to make the U-18 team) including UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield and Class of 2017 recruiting target Megan Walker.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Family ties are strong for UConn recruiting target Charli Collier

There are some high school kids who would cringe at the thoughts of having their mother work at the same school that they attend.

However, for UConn Class of 2018 recruiting target Charli Collier, the fact that her mother is a math teacher at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas is no problem at all.

"It is not awkward at all. It helps having somebody in your school that you know there with you all the time," said Collier, who is in Colorado Springs vying for a spot on the U-17 national team. "Me and my brother will be with her next year."

The Collier family has always had a special bond with basketball very much a part of it. They needed to be close considering the incredible loss they have had to endure when Collier's father died at the age of 53 after a valiant fight with cancer.

"We have always been close," Collier said. "That just brought us closer together as a family, me, my brother, my mom we are practically together all the time. We are there every day and we are there for each other."

That includes in Colorado Springs. Collier's mother, a former player at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas in the late 1980s, and brother have been doing some sightseeing when they weren't watching Charli at the U-17 trials.

They already visited Pike's Peak and a trip to the Garden of the Gods could be coming tomorrow.

My mom came last year. Touring Colorado. While I was in session my mom and brother went to Pike's Peak and could be going to the Garden of Gods tomorrow after the U-17 team is announced.

Of course Charli Collier's main focus this weekend has been on the basketball side of things. Last year she tried out for the U-16 team and was named an alternate

"I guess that motivated me to come back stronger, more in shape and be on the roster," Collier said. "When I came back this year I made sure I was more physical in the paint, make better decisions as a player and being so young, I just take it all in. This opportunity isn't always given to everybody so I am taking it all in and competing as hard as I can.

"It definitely makes you more hungry because everybody up here is good, you are competing with some of the best people in the nation and to go with all of that, you have to have confidence because if not, you will beat yourself down and you won't play well. Coming to the trials, you have to have the right mindset. You have to play every session as hard as you can, you have to do things that the committee is looking for."

Collier, who originally committed to Texas before deciding to take a little more time figuring out where she wants to go to college, admits that she doesn't have a top five or even a top 10.

"I am basically open to everybody," Collier said. "I talked to UConn, Notre Dame, Texas, Baylor and all of them and they all want me so it is all going to come down to where I feel comfortable with the coaches and my teammates. I will be there my whole four years, I don't want to be in a situation where I need to redshirt or transfer, I want to be at a school where I will be at a school for all four years and it will make me a better player.

"I talked to Coach (Marisa) Moseley, I talked to Geno (Auriemma) a few weeks back. They are recruiting me and their relationship with me is growing. I try to keep in touch every now and then. It is pretty cool talking to a legendary coach like that. Not only is he a good coach but he gives good advice to me going forward as a sophomore."

UConn is not only involved recruiting Collier, the No. 1 player on ESPN's Class of 2018 rankings, but No. 2 ranked Christyn Williams has already visited UConn. The Huskies have shown some interest in No. 6 Aquira DeCosta and Honesty Scott-Grayson (although most of the interaction with her came in the fall). According to Carl Adamec, who is out in Colorado Springs for the trials, No. 5 ranked Sedona Prince intends to visit UConn during its First Night festivities.

UConn hasn't been landing true post players in recent recruiting classes but that could change in the Class of 2018 with so many talented post players already drawing interest from the Huskies.

DeCosta is in a similar situation to Collier as she is very early on in the process of figuring out which schools she will be considering.

"I am sure where I want to go to college yet," DeCosta said.. "I am looking around and I have no idea."

That figures to change before the end of the summer.

DeCosta plays at the California powerhouse St. Mary's. When she was a freshman she played a starring role in the California Open Division title game which also happened to the final game in the brilliant high school career of current UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson.

DeCosta had 15 points in the 76-69 victory while Samuelson finished with 19.

"My high school coach (Tom Gonsalves) has helped me a lot to get better and become the person I am because he is always motivating me that even though I am good, I can always be better so it has helped me be better every day," DeCosta said. "Our practices a lot of times are harder than our games, that is how he likes to do it."

DeCosta admitted to having a bit of a nervous start at the trials but has been happy with her play as the trials have moved forward.

"There are a lot of elite players here and they are coming back to make a spot on the team but now I am getting used to it more and starting to compete with them," DeCosta said.

"I was kind of ready for it but then once I got here I thought 'wow, they are actually ready.'"

The 6-foot-2 DeCosta plays in the post in high school but is used more on the wing at the trials. She believes playing both positions will only help her down the road.




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UConn recruiting target Megan Walker not going to rush college decision making process

There are no lack of people ready for Megan Walker to pull the trigger on her college decision.

There certainly are plenty of folks proclaiming which way the Monacan High School star is leaning but Virginia's reigning Gatorade state player of the year is doing things on her own schedule.

Walker, who cut her list to a final four of UConn, Notre Dame, Texas and Virginia last month, has done the unofficial visit thing including a pair of trips to UConn but she intends to take official visits to her four finalists before announcing her decision in September.

"I have to take my official visits so two in August and two in September and after that I will make decision," Walker said.

She then added the fact that her final official visits will be taken in early September.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 wing who averaged 21.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 steals as a junior, has nothing but good things to say about her trips to Storrs.

"It was great," Walker said. "We played games and I bonded with the players, I saw the campus and it was a really good visit overall. First time when I spent the night, I was with Breanna Stewart but the rest of the time I was with the other girls. Those are the girls I am going to be with so you have to be able to have a bond with them, be cool with them off the court as well as on the court."

Walker is considered to be the best player in the Class of 2017 and has been turning heads on the AAU circuit for years. The buzz started before she was even in high school.

"Probably eighth grade year when I played 15U with Boo Williams and it just started clicking and the colleges started recruiting me and I realize them it was going to be something," Walker said.

It will really starting being something in September when the coaches start calling. Walker has been proactive and with just the four schools in contention, her phone shouldn't be blowing up that much.

Walker has handled the recruiting process in a manner which has keep things from getting overwhelming.

"It has been fun," Walker said. :I have been enjoying it and taking it slowly. I just want to have fun my senior year and not be worrying about anything.

"It's been great, if you get the chance take your visits and get to meet all the great people."

Walker won't be concerned herself too much with the recruiting process during the summer since she'll be kind of busy.

If playing in high-profile AAU events with the powerful Boo Williams program isn't enough, she has become a regular visitor to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in recent weeks.

Walker was named the MVP of the U.S. 3x3 18-and-under tournament helping the star-studded Takeover squad to the title. Teaming with Cal incoming freshman Jaelyn Brown, TCU signee Amber Ramirez and Sidney Cooks to earn a spot in the upcoming FIBA Women's 3x3 U18 World Championship in Kazakhstan.

USA Basketball typically hand picked a team to take part in the national championships so there is a strong representative competing internationally. If there is a team able to topple the one put together by USA Basketball, more power to them but normally, the hand-picked squad is the one advancing on. That is the case this time. While the other teams are put together with players who know each other, Walker admitted that she didn't know much about her teammates when they first got together.

"At first we didn't get the concept in practice but once we got it, we started winning, starting learning how to play together and how to feed off of each other," Walker said.

So what was the biggest challenging playing 3x3 compared to a normal 5 on 5 event?

"The extra cuts, the extra passes and knowing the difference between a good shot and a bad shot," Walker said. "It was a great feeling, we were ready to compete and represent the U.S. team."

The quartet came back to Colorado earlier this month for a training camp. Walker flew home and less than a week later she was on another plane bound for Colorado Springs for the U-18 national team trials.

The trials run until tomorrow when the team is announced but Walker, Cooks and Ramirez had to leave earlier today to fly to Kazakhstan for the 3x3 world championships. That meant that she had only one day to show what she was capable of in order to make the U18 team competing in the FIBA Americas U18 World Championship for Women.

"I came in here ready to go," Walker said. "I want to make a good first impression. I feel like I was in good shape for the first session."

The 3x3 tournament begins on Wednesday while the U.S. opens pool play on Thursday with games against Netherlands and Poland before wrapping up preliminary round play on Saturday against Kazakhstan and Italy. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game are set for a week from today. I believe there will be live streams of the event so I would check the USA Basketball site or Twitter account for more information on that.

The FIBA Americas U18 Championship will be played from July 13-17 in Chile.

ESPINOZA-HUNTER STILL ALIVE TO MAKE U17 TEAM
USA Basketball posted its most recent cut as the field of players competing for the 12 roster spots went from 139 to 101 to 73 and now 41.

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter is still in contention to make the team but fellow UConn commit Lexi Gordon did not survive the third cut neither did UConn Class of '17 recruiting target Mikalya Coombs.

The team will be announced tomorrow morning.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

UConn is next stop after U18 trials for Crystal Dangerfield

The reality of it all is about to hit Crystal Dangerfield.

The high school All-American point guard has already graduated from Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She is currently in Colorado Springs trying out for the U.S. U-18 national team and on Tuesday morning she will board a flight for Connecticut.

"I am ready to start that chapter," Dangerfield said. "It is five weeks of workouts, two classes so I am ready to start working on team chemistry.

"It is surreal, a dream come true. I have been waiting for about six years now just to get up there and have UConn wore across my chest."

Dangerfield won't be playing with all of her college teammates in pickup games over the next five weeks. Rising sophomores Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson will be recovering from injury while Kia Nurse will spend some of her summer training with the Canadian national team.

She will get the chance to reunite with one of her teammates on last year's U.S. U-19 team as Azura' Stevens is transferring in from Duke.

"That is huge just having a versatile player like that, a great teammate and having the extra post presence,' Dangerfield said. "She creates matchup problems so that is something I am looking forward to next year and the year after."

It is not only Stevens' basketball skills she is impressed by.

"Just how welcoming she is, Dangerfield said. "Her personality is great. On the court she is a great leader, she is vocal, she is versatile, she can guard a post or on the perimeter.

"I was very (surprised). I wouldn't have expected her to leave (Duke) but I don't know how transfer situations go but to have her come to UConn is just really big."

Dangerfield was one of three players with remaining high school eligibility remaining on last year's team which won the FIBA U19 World Championship. All Dangerfield did was finish second on the team in assists (19) and steals (14). She averaged 6.4 points per game and had an impressive 19/4 assist/turnover ratio.

"Just the maturity level, the style of play it can transfer into some of the college games (she will play)," Dangerfield said. "The physicality and I feel even off the court (it helped). We had to travel so much and it was time for me to grow up and being around older girls helped."

The U-18 team will be announced Monday around 8:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. in Colorado).

UConn recruiting target Megan Walker is also trying out for the team but she has to leave Sunday morning because she is a part of the U.S. team playing in the FIBA 3z3 U18 World Championship. There will be more on Walker's hectic summer either later today or tomorrow. She did saw that she is intending to take official visits to her four finalists (UConn, Notre Dame, Virginia and Texas) in August and September with her decision coming in September. She is hoping to take her official visit to UConn in August and it would likely be in late August since UConn coach Geno Auriemma will be in Brazil coaching the U.S. Olympic team until Aug. 20.

The U-17 team is expected to be announced around 8 a.m. local time (10 a.m. here in Connecticut). The first cut was recently made to get down to 101 players. UConn commits Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon as well as Class of 2017 recruiting target Mikalya Coombs, to the surprise of nobody, survived the initial cut.

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Air time for Breanna Stewart as well as Connecticut Sun

There will be 14 WNBA regular-season games airing on ESPN or ESPN2 this year and none of them involve the Connecticut Sun.

However, tonight's game at Seattle will be televised locally on WCCT with coverage beginning around 10 p.m.

Seattle is led by the last two No. 1 overall picks as former UConn star Breanna Stewart leads Seattle in scoring (19 PPG), rebounding (9.8), steals (2.0) and blocked shots (1.8). Former Notre Dame standout Jewell Loyd is contributing 18.3 points, 4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

There are three former Huskies on the team as perennial All-Star guard Sue Bird is averaging 11.5 points and 4.8 assists per game and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is one of two reserves averaging at least 15 minutes per game as she averages 3.8 points per game although it is surprising to see that the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made is just 2 for 12 from 3-point range in the first four games of the season.

Jasmine Thomas leads the Sun in scoring (12.5 points per game) and assists (5.5) while Alex Bentley and Alyssa Thomas are the only other double-figure scorers. It has been a slow start for Chiney Ogwumike and Kelsey Bone while rookies Morgan Tuck, Rachel Banham and Jonquel Jones are combining for only 12.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

The Sun are in the WNBA with a field-goal percentage of 36.7 and 11th in the 12-team league with an average of 72.5 points per game. It figures to be just a matter of time before Ogwumike, Bone and the three rookies hit their stride and obviously it would benefit the team if the Sun can squeak out some wins until that takes place.

Friday, May 27, 2016

UConn recruitiing target Mikayla Coombs making up for lost time

The irony of the situation was not lost on Mikayla Coombs.

The rising senior guard out of the Wesleyan School in Norcross, Georgia is trying to set up an official visit to UConn and there is a little bit of time next month for her to make it up to Storrs. There's a slight problem, however.

"I have been talking to Coach Auriemma," Coombs said after Friday's afternoon session at the U.S. U-17 trials in Colorado Springs. "There is a weekend that we are trying to get but if I make this team then I can't go because it is will be hectic but if I make the team, I think I'll be able to go. I think it will be mid-June but I don't know the date yet."

Obviously Coombs hopes to have a tough scheduling decision to make by being one of the 12 players named to represent the U.S. in the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women.

Last year she was invited to try out for the U-16 team but a torn ACL suffered early in  her sophomore season ended those dreams.
"It would be a blessing," Coombs said. "I am pretty driven because last year I had to sit out, I got invited and had to sit out because of my knee injury. It would mean a lot to me because I would have accomplished something that I could have done last year."

When Coombs was going through grueling rehab sessions, putting herself in position to make a national team was one of the things helping her to push through when things got tough.

"It helps me a lot because it is a mindset in rehab when it gets tough, you keep going,' Coombs said. "So when I come here and my shot is not falling in just in a game in general where I don't think I am doing well, I just to have to keep pushing."

Coombs views events like the U-17 trials as an opportunity to see where her game stacks up against the nation's best.

"It has been a great experience to play against the nation's best, it has been fun," Coombs said. "It helps me with what I need to work on. When I am working out, I know I want to play against the best and 'this is what I struggled with' so I can focus more on (improving)."

It also helps that Coombs has grown up in one of the top areas nationally for developing girls' basketball talent. Certainly Maya Moore stands at the top of any list of Georgia girls' basketball prodigies. In 2013 three of the top seven on ESPN's recruiting database hailed from Georgia as Kaela Davis, Diamond DeShields and Allisha Gray were ranked No. 2, 3 and 7 with Lexie Brown checking in at No. 15. Coombs is one of three Georgia products ranked in the top 30 by ESPN in the Class of 2017.

"When you go and compete against the best you can always compare them to someone because there is so much talent," Coombs said. "You think 'other players play just like her' and 'I know how to take her on this play.' It helps a lot to know what to compare it to."

Coombs admits that her No. 1 goal at the moment is getting her high school team another championship.

Wesleyan has won 11 state titles in the last 16 seasons including one when Coombs was a sophomore but the bid to repeat ended with an overtime loss to Holy Innocents in the Georgia AA title game. Coombs' knee injury limited her to one game in the only season that Wesleyan has won the state title since she got to high school. Even with the graduation of leading scorer Cairo Booker, Coombs wants nothing else but to be cutting down the nets in her final game with the Lady Wolves.
"It is honestly my main focus because I want to end my senior year on that note with a state championship, that is all I told the team and all we are working for is to win the state championship," said Coombs, a 5-foot-8 guard who averaged 13.3 points, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals as a junior. "It will be harder this year because we have moved down to 1A where they are better teams but I think this is our year. I think we can pull it off. We are all very driven so hopefully it is our year."

Coombs said she'd like to have made a college decision before the start of her senior season. She has already visited Penn State and Virginia. She is currently trying to set up visits to UConn and Stanford while an additional visit to Georgia is also a possibility.

Auriemma has made multiple visits to see Coombs play which has certainly made an impression on her.

"It means a lot to me because I know how busy he is and especially in one of my games, he flew into Atlanta and had to drive an hour and a half to Milledgeville, Georgia just to watch me play," Coombs said. "Having him do that stuff, it has an impact on me."

Coombs, a strong student interested in majoring in broadcast journalism, knows what she is looking for in her school of choice.

"A coach who makes me better every day and also academically, that is huge for my family, and where I can succeed in my major so a school I can get the best of both worlds," Coombs said.

If she opts to become the part of the Class of 2017, she could join two players also at the U-17 trials who have committed to UConn already. Here's the story I wrote earlier today on Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon.

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News of Camara's transfer to UConn was "best day ever" for Espinoza-Hunter

There has always been a certain exuberance whenever Andra Espinoza-Hunter spoke about one day coming to UConn.

Espinoza-Hunter, who has been coming to UConn games since former high school teammate Saniya Chong was being recruited by the Huskies, could barely contain her enthusiasm when she found out that former teammate Batouly Camara would be transferring to UConn.

"I am super excited," Espinoza-Hunter said on Friday shortly after the morning session on the second day of the USA Basketball U-17 team trials wrapped up. "When I first received the news that Batouly was going to visit Connecticut, I was extremely excited. Just the fact that I will be able to have three more years to be able to play with her really means a lot. Batouly, I don't consider her my sister, I consider her a mentor. She has really helped me a lot especially during my freshman and sophomore year. Even now despite us not being together, she is still able to help me a lot. Having another three years with her, she will help me grow as a player on the court but also as a person, she has taught me so much on and off the court. I really look forward to being able to play with her again."

Espinoza-Hunter gave Camara some space when she was deciding where she would land after deciding to transfer out of Kentucky.

"I had a sense (it could be UConn)," Espinoza-Hunter said. "I was getting vibes that 'hey, your little sister Andi is going to UConn and you are looking at UConn so you might as well come, we can be together again.' When I heard she was taking officials to Penn State and UConn it was kind of a nailbiter, I didn't know which way she was going to go. When I received the news, it was the best day ever."

While they played together for a couple of years at Blair Academy, their relationship goes back even further.

"I have known Batouly since I was in fifth or sixth grade," Espinoza-Hunter said. "She is obviously older than me so she will be able to help. I have always looked up to her and to this day I still do. The relationship we have is so strong, we know each other so well, we know our strengths and our weaknesses and our communication we have I enjoy a lot. The communication I have with her, I feel like I don't have with other people that I have relationships with."

So what does Espinoza-Hunter think Camara will bring to the Huskies when she is eligible to play during the 2017-18 season?

"Batouly is a very tough young woman," Espinoza-Hunter said. "Her touch around the rim, her enthusiasm and the energy she brings to the game will really help at Connecticut either on defense grabbing the boards, guarding the best post player on offene, finishing around the rim. Just the little things that Batouly has, not only offensive aspects of her game but everything about her game I enjoy and I know she will do great things at Connecticut."

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

High school coach: Latest UConn player a "total giver as a person"

Her coach at Blair Academy said Batouly Camara is a "total giver."
Quint Clarke has seen 11 of his players at Blair Academy suit up at Division I programs in the last five seasons so he knows something about dealing with talented basketball players.

While all of those players hold a special place in his heart, there is most certainly something rather unique about Batouly Camara, who earlier this week announced that she would be transferring to UConn after spending her freshman year at Kentucky.

"She is an amazing kid," Clarke said. "She has been elected as a student leader by her peers and by the faculty. She is a two-year captain. She is just a mature, thoughtful, always thinking about other people kind of kid. Even if she weren't a talented player, her character and personality make her a really important team member. She talks on the court, she talks off the court and she is always looking to see who needs help from her, she is a total giver as a person. An unbelievable person and is going to be a huge success wherever her life takes her because of all those things down the road and I think that will be blossoming at UConn."

The 6-foor-2 Camara averaged 5.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and was one of three Wildcats with at least 30 blocked shots. She was also 0 for 1 from 3-point range so it is pretty clear what she will bring to UConn when she is eligible to play during the 2017-18 season.

"She has really slimmed down," Clarke said. "She is a good athlete, she is super physical, always looking to initial contact, a big strong body but she is also athletic and she is going to surprise some people with the other things that she can do. She is a strong, physical player. I think she can guard perimeter players as well as bodying up the big, strong kids."

The issues at Kentucky are well documented. Camara was one of six players to transfer since the start of the 2015-16 season and another one was dismissed from the team. Clarke said a more stable environment was appealing to Camara.

"She is such a community and culture kind of kid," Clarke said. "She wants to be on something where they are all pulling together, where there is a real (sense) of team, everybody is supporting each other and working hard for a common goal. I think she felt early on that part of it wasn't there at Kentucky. She didn't really make her decision to leave until after the season is over but I think she knew she wasn't happy the whole way through."

Since UConn was among the teams to recruit Camara when she was at Blair Academy, Clarke wasn't surprised to hear from the coaching staff once news got out that Camara was transferring. However, when the Huskies received a commitment from former Duke star Azura' Stevens, Clarke wasn't sure how that would impact UConn's interest in Camara.

"She announced she was transferring before Azura' signed so then we saw that Azura' signed (with UConn) and there was some thought that maybe it wouldn't fit and UConn was good (at the post position)," Clarke said. "The coaches feel like they can play together and I think they can. That is part of it of any kid going to UConn of 'am I going to play.' They have a million great players and everybody wants to go there so is there an opportunity to get on the court? The coaches were very clear that they feel she can contribute. There aren't a ton of post players there. She is not going up planning to sit on the bench, she is going up there to play, she wants to be a part of winning and continuing the excellence.

"She is super fired up. She had offers from virtually every program in the country, my phone was going crazy for about a month with people calling. If anything she is a little nervous, Connecticut after all is the preeminent program in the country, she knows that is a different level of challenge but she is excited (to prove) she belongs there. The coaches have a lot of faith in her and they convinced her that was the right decision but every girl in the country knows what UConn is and it is a different kind of place than anywhere else."

What's interesting about the timing of this is that Camara will be eligible to play at UConn at the same time that current Blair Academy star Andra Espinoza-Hunter is set to begin her freshman season. The two enjoyed success together as teammates with the Buccaneers and that chemistry figures to carry over to the three seasons they will play together with the Huskies.

"They have known each other for a long time, before Blair they knew each other and they are similar personalities, they are friends and they have always stayed in touch," Clarke said. "I think they complement each other."

Clarke couldn't say enough good things about the junior season Espinoza-Hunter enjoyed at Blair.

"She is getting better and better," Clarke said. "We had some injuries this year and she had to take on a bigger role, she can score at an unbelievable level and she is adding so much to her game. Two years ago most people would have said she is (just) a shooter. She has become physical, she can penetrate, she can post up, she finishes through traffic, she rebounds, she had an unbelievable year."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Camara transferring to UConn

Time will tell how the UConn coaching staff does in adding post players in the next recruiting class but the 2017-18 Huskies will have some size up front thanks to another transfer joining the program.

Batouly Camara, a former Blair Academy star who spent her freshman season at Kentucky, will be joining former Duke star Azura' Stevens as transfers joining the Huskies since the end of the season.

Camara is a versatile 6-foot-2 forward from New York who averaged a double-double as a senior. In her three seasons at Blair, she led the Buccaneers to a 62-8 record and three consecutive Mid-Atlantic Prep league titles.

Here's a video I shot when Camara took part in the USA Basketball U-18 national team trials back in 2014.

Camara averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game as a freshman at Kentucky.

She had a career-high 11 rebounds against UNC-Asheville in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In a loss at South Carolina Camara had a career-high 14 points to go with nine rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 25 minutes before fouling out. She also had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in an overtime win against Tennessee.

Camara previously announced that she would be transferring out of Kentucky, one of six players to transfer, another was dismissed and multiple players who have committed to play for the Wildcats have backed out of those pledges.

This will mark the first time UConn has three transfers on its roster as Camara and Stevens joins Natalie Butler, who is set for her second season on the court at UConn after transferring from Georgetown.

On the 2004-05 season UConn's roster featured junior-college transfer Rashidit Sadiq and Brittany Hunter, who played at Duke as a freshman. Hunter had to sit out that season and by the time she played in a game with the Huskies, Sadiq was no longer a part of the program. Rita Williams also went the junior-college route, spending her freshman season at Mitchell Community College and teamed with former University of Arizona product Sarah Northway for two seasons. However, Mitchell was part of UConn's plans coming out of high school so including her in a list of transfers is kind of hard to do even though she officially would be included as a transfer.

Both Camara and Stevens would have to sit out the upcoming season. Stevens will have two years of eligibility remaining while Camara would have three.

UConn has 13 scholarship players for the upcoming season and with only Saniya Chong and Tierney Lawlor leaving at season's end. UConn has two commitments (Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon) in the next class so there are two remaining scholarships in the Class of 2017.

The Hartford Courant was the first to report that Camara was likely to land at UConn.

NURSE TO MISS EARLY PORTION OF CANADA'S OLYMPIC PREPARATIONS
The Canadian women's national team is currently in Edmonton for the first stage of its Olympic preparations before leaving to play five international friendlies in Spain and France. However, UConn rising junior guard Kia Nurse is not currently with the team and according to a team spokesperson, neither Nurse nor any of the WNBA players in the player pool will be taking part in the European tour.

There's no cause for concern regarding Nurse as she is back at UConn to what was termed "school commitments" but is expected to join the team this summer. The move makes sense as Nurse looked like she was exhausted by the end of what was a hectic summer for her and the Canadian program which won the Pan Am Games and FIBA Americas title. As the team's leading scorer in both events, Nurse will obviously be a member of the squad and by remaining in Connecticut, she won't be overworked this summer. Canada still has two more training camps, a three-game set of exhibitions against China as well as more international friendlies being held in the U.S. and perhaps in Connecticut shortly before the team leaves for the Olympics.

FORMER HUSKIES MAKING NEWS
A couple of items to report regarding former UConn stars.

First, Tamika Williams was hired at Penn State after leaving her job as an assistant coach at Kentucky. Also, Jamelle Elliott will serve as an advanced scout for the U.S. team at the Olympics.

Cincinnati, where Elliott serves as the head women's basketball coach, announced the news earlier today. Ironically, she will join her former teammate and classmate in the court coach/advance scout as Jen Rizzotti will also handle those chores.

What's interesting with Williams' appointment is that she coached Camara in her final season at Kentucky and now one of the players she will get to coach at Penn State is UConn transfer De'Janae Boykin.

Also, former UConn star Carla Berube and former UConn assistant coach Tonya Cardoza were named court coaches at the upcoming U-17 and U-18 national team trials.

The U-17 trials run from Thursday-Monday with the U-18s running from Saturday-Monday.

UConn Class of 2017 commits Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon are among 150 players competing for 12 spots on the U.S. taking part in the FIBA U-17 World Championships while 30 players including UConn incoming freshman Crystal Dangerfield and Class of 2017 recruiting target Megan Walker are taking part in the U18 camp. Walker is part of the U.S. squad playing in the FIBA Women's 3x3 U18 World Championships from June 1-5 in Kazakhstan so the four players on that squad will be leaving on Sunday and only take part in Saturday's sessions.

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UConn players shine in WNBA matinee

An afternoon game televised locally on MSG and on NBA TV in other parts of the country turned into a showcase for a pair of former UConn stars.

Tiffany Hayes had 27 points (going 10 for 10 from the foul line) and 11 rebounds as the Atlanta Dream defeated the New York Liberty 85-79 to improve to 3-1.

Tina Charles had a game-high 29 points (going 13 for 24 from the floor) to go with 10 rebounds, six assists, seven steals and two blocked shots for the Liberty. Kiah Stokes finished with five points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. Shortly before the game started it was announced that Swin Cash returned to the team. She was one of the last cuts but obviously the team figured out a way to bring her back and remain under the salary cap. She had six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

Former Connecticut Sun forward Elizabeth Williams had 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists and four steals and former Hillhouse star Bria Holmes added seven points, one rebound and one steal for Atlanta.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Report: Former Kentucky forward may land at UConn

There was a time when Batouly Camara was in the mix to join the UConn women's basketball program. According to a report by the Hartford Courant, that may actually end up happening as Camara is considering a transfer to UConn.

It was almost two years ago to the day that I posted a blog about the former Blair Academy star when I was out in Colorado Springs for the USA Basketball junior national trials.

"It (UConn's interest) was a progression, being with USA (Basketball) and being able to talk to them, word gets around," Camara said at the time. "I feel honored to be even considered by UConn and Geno (Auriemma)."

Camara is a versatile 6-foot-2 forward from New York who averaged a double-double as a senior. In her three seasons at Blair, she led the Buccaneers to a 62-8 record and three consecutive Mid-Atlantic Prep league titles.

Camara averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game as a freshman at Kentucky. She had a career-high 11 rebounds against UNC-Asheville in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In a loss at South Carolina Camara had a career-high 14 points to go with nine rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 25 minutes before fouling out. She also had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in an overtime win against Tennessee.

Camara previously announced that she would be transferring out of Kentucky, one of six players to transfer, another was dismissed and multiple players who have committed to play for the Wildcats have backed out of those pledges.

Camara has a couple of advantages when it comes to potentially landing at UConn. First, she was involved with the UConn coaching staff during the recruiting process so there is already a sense of what kind of player and person she is. Also, former UConn star Tamika Williams was one of the Kentucky assistants last season (although she also left the program) so the Huskies can get an honest assessment of Camara from somebody who knows what it takes to play for the 11-time national champions.

If Camara does land at UConn, I believe it would be the first time that the Huskies have accepted two transfers in the same year. Former Duke star Azura' Stevens has already been officially announced as an accepted transfer. Both Camara and Stevens come from programs dealing with departures at a fast and furious rate. UConn rising junior Natalie Butler came to UConn from Georgetown under similar situations. Both Camara and Stevens would have to sit out the upcoming season. Stevens will have two years of eligibility remaining while Camara would have three.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Former UConn stars weigh in on life after the Big 3 for the Huskies

Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley were among the returning players at UConn learning to adapt to things on the court following the graduation of the legendary Maya Moore so there might not be two better people to provide insight into the challenges awaiting for next year's Huskies.

Led by Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson, the Huskies have the nucleus to make a run at an unprecedented 10th consecutive Final Four but the graduation of Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck leaves some major holes to fill for the Huskies.

"I didn't play with any of them (other than Saniya Chong) but I watched them and you can see their games are improving throughout the season," Hartley said before leading her Washington Mystics team to an overtime victory over the Connecticut Sun on Saturday. "They might struggle with some leadership and somebody is going to have to step up into that role. They are going to have some growing pains but you have seen it at UConn in year's past, players step up and players mature, players step into that leadership role and they are able to figure it out."

UConn lost in the national semifinals when Dolson and Hartley were freshmen and sophomores but those lessons proved beneficial later in the duo's time with the Huskies. That could also happen with the returning UConn stars.

"I think it will be fun," Dolson said. "I know Coach Auriemma will be excited, people are going to challenge him because they think the team is going to drop and that just gives him more ammo to make them great."

Dolson was one of the former UConn stars able to be in Indianapolis as the Huskies won their fourth straight national title. It gave her a chance to experience the run for glory from a different side of things.
"I think the best part was that their were so many alums and so many amazing women there who all went to UConn, all have gone through the same thing, all won a national championship at some point and to be able to be there for history was special," Dolson said. "I was like the biggest fan there. When they were getting the trophy, I was up in front taking the pictures because I was so excited for them and so happy I had the ability to be there."

Hartley was still playing overseas so she couldn't be there but she remained in contact with Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck.

"I would text them before every game," Hartley said. "It was kind of cool, especially those three, I have seen them grow up a lot. I was there when they were freshmen and it was our (Hartley's and Dolson's) first national championship. It was really exciting, I wish I could have been there but hopefully sooner rather than later I will get to the Final Four.

"You just look at winning four national championships and doing it every year ... If you look at my career, our first two years it was really hard to get to that point. They stuck to it each time even in games when they were kind of down a little bit, they were able to come back or when they had bad (stretches) they were able to maintain that maturity level, maintain their composure to come back and finish games."

Dolson and Hartley met up with Tuck for the first time as a professional in last night's game and the Mystics' next game is against Stewart's Seattle Storm squad on Thursday. The first on-court showdown with Jefferson won't come until June 29.

"I was just thinking about it today, it is funny to see them in the league because I feel like I always thought they would always be in college which I am sure people thought the same thing for me and Bria," Dolson said. "I am happy for them that they have grown up, matured and have been so successful. In the league, they are going to be special players so I am excited to see how far they go."

ANOTHER SPECIAL HONOR FOR LOBO
Former UConn star Rebecca Lobo is no stranger to being inducted into hall of fames but in November she will receive another prestigious honor when she becomes a part of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame induction class.

In order to put this honor into perspective, it is not a sports hall of fame but for legends in all walks of life. The only other sports figures currently inducted are Olympic gold medal winning figure skater Dorothy Hamill, a player called this countries' "First Lady of Golf" Glenna Collett Vare and softball legends Joan Joyce and Donna Lopiano. Lobo will join some iconic figures like Prudence Crandall and Harriet Beecher Stowe as well as four-time Academy Award winning actress Katharine Hepburn.

Induction will take place on Nov. 2 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

OLYMPIC SCHEDULE SET
Times have been announced for the Olympic women's basketball tournament. The U.S. team featuring five former Huskies has the first game of the day/night for its first two preliminary round contests. It' can be a little confusing when it comes to listing the dates of the game so rather than going by the tine locally in Rio, I will list the time here in Connecticut.

The U.S. will play Senegal at 11 a.m. on Aug. 7 and will be in the same time slot  the next day against a team to be determined by the results in the Olympic qualifying tournament. The U.S. will meet Serbia at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 and then on Aug. 12 will meet Canada, led by UConn's Kia Nurse, also at 2:30 p.m. The U.S. will play another qualifier in the final game in pool play on Aug. 14 at 11:15 a.m.

Canada, which kicked the first of its training camps on Saturday in Edmonton, opened with a qualifying team at 1:15 p.m. on Aug. 6, will play Serbia on 1:15 p.m. on Aug. 8, Senegal on Aug. 10 at 2:30 p.m, followed by the aforementioned game against the U.S. before wrapping up pool play against a qualifier at 4:45 p.m. (the final game in the group play portion of the tournament). The top four teams in each of the two groups advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 16, the semifinals are set for Aug. 18, the bronze-medal game and gold-medal contest scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 20.
France, the 2012 Olympic silver medalists, and Spain, which won the silver medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championships, highlight the 12 teams vying for five Olympic berths in the qualifying tournament which runs from June 13-19 in France. Two teams will be in Group B with the U.S. and Canada while three teams will be placed in Group A.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson no fan of being labeled

When former UConn star Stefanie Dolson posted a photo on instagram of a moment of pure joy with her and her partner, she wasn't thinking it would result in her declaring in a story on the ESPN site that she is in a gay relationship. However, in the days since that article was published, the All-Star forward for the WNBA's Washington Mystics has no regrets for letting people know who she is.

Before the Mystics played the Connecticut Sun on Saturday night Dolson entertained questions from reporters, many of whom covered her during her time as a Husky. The nearly 10-minute interview session was dominated with questions about the impact of the ESPN article.

"Everything is great," Dolson said. "Everybody has been supportive. I don't really see it as an announcement. It was mainly to get out that the WNBA as a league is supportive of who we are as women and that is why our fans are so great because they support us too. That is what I've got since the article and everybody has been supportive and just glad I am happy.

"I've had a few people say that it is something that our league needs to have people who are comfortable for themselves to say who they are and let the fans know. Not that everybody needs to, not everybody needs to be public but I am a pretty public person so why not let the fans into who I am."

ESPN, after seeing the aforementioned photo of Dolson, approached her about going public with her life as LGBT professional athlete.

"I had a decision to do it or not," Dolson said. "I think they just saw the instagram stuff, saw that I was happy and see if I would be willing to let the fans into my world.

"I didn't even think about it when I posted the picture. It meant nothing in that aspect, it was just posting a picture of two people really happy."

Not all of the reaction Dolson has received has been of the supportive variety but she merely shrugged her shoulders when thinking about any negative responses she has received in the last week and a half.

"There has been some positive stuff, some negative but everybody has opinions and then there has been stuff where 'OK.' It doesn't matter and that is probably the best reaction. They just take me for who I am and move on.
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"We have taken really big steps forward as a society in general in accepting people for who they are, letting them live, be happy and love whoever they want. It is definitely different from years past to what it is now but there is still space and room to grow."

Dolson, who said in the article that her main objective in any relationship is more about her own happiness than sexual preference, is willing to take the torch as an advocate for the LGBT world.

"It is mainly to be a role model for the younger girls because they don't know what is going on in the world right now but they will grow up being an even better generation than ours for accepting who people are," Dolson said.

"I am willing to (be an advocate), the biggest thing is not labeling. The reason I did the article is putting it out there that the league is accepting but also labeling is not a big necessity. I don't think people should be labeled for who they are whether it is gay, straight, bi-sexual or whatever it is. I am a part of the LGBT community and I have always been even before I came into who I am, I've had friends who are and I am big supporters of them and always have been an advocate."

Dolson has received support from her family as well as current and former teammates.

"It is good that she is kind of able to step out and be herself, everybody can accept her for who she is," said Mystics guard Bria Hartley, a teammate of Dolson's since they were both freshmen at UConn. "I know I will always accept her.

"You have seen her grow and grow, become more open and more comfortable with who she is. I think she is happy and I am happy for her."

Hartley believes the step that Dolson has taken could benefit future generations.

"You want to see young girls and young boys come out and say they are comfortable with who they are regardless of their sexual orientation," Hartley said.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Day to remember for UConn's Samuelson


UConn rising sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson has earned her share of honors in her playing career but today had to be extra special as she had her No. 33 retired at California powerhouse Mater Dei High School.

Photos from today's ceremony courtesy of Mater Dei High School
Samuelson set Mater Dei single-season records with a 29.2 scoring average, field-goal percentage of 62.0, an 89.4 free-throw percentage, 117 3-pointers made, 178 free throws made and 211 foul shots attempted. Her 42 points, 10 3-pointers made and 16 foul shots made are single-game program records (the latter being tied with her sister Karlie). Although she only played her final three seasons at Mater Dei after playing at Edison High as a freshman, Samuelson ranks second behind former UConn star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in Mater Dei High with 2,244 points, 760 rebounds and 297 3-pointers.

As a freshman at UConn Samuelson scored 408 points, the ninth most for a freshman in program history. Samuelson had a team-leading 78 3-pointers despite missing the national title game and second half of the national semifinals with a broken foot. Mosqueda-Lewis is the only UConn player with more 3-pointers as a freshman.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

UConn, Texas to meet in Jimmy V Classic

UConn and Texas have met in the last two NCAA tournaments and now they will play in the regular season for the first time since 2009 when the Huskies and Longhorns meet in the Jimmy V Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena on Dec. 4. The game will begin at 4 p.m. and air on ESPN.

This will be UConn's sixth consecutive Jimmy V Classic and ninth appearance overall while Texas will be playing in the event for just the second time.

“Being a part of the Jimmy V Classic is always very special and enjoyable. For several years now, this game has become part of the ESPN college basketball landscape and to be associated with it says something about your program and how it’s viewed nationally," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "More importantly, being a part of the Jimmy V Classic gives us the opportunity to teach this year’s group of players a little about Jimmy, what he stood for and how important the cause of curing cancer is. Playing in this game never gets old."

UConn is 7-0 against Texas with four of the wins coming in the NCAA tournament. The Longhorns have the distinction of being the only team the Huskies beat more than once in the NCAA tournament during its run of three straight titles from 2002-04 and also played them multiple times in the NCAA tourney during the current streak of four straight national titles.

Texas figures to have one of the better backcourts in the country led by last year's leading scorer Brooke McCarty as well as rising stars Ariel Atkins and Lashann Higgs. High school All-American Joyner Holmes, who drew some recruiting interest from UConn, comes into the program to add some size following the graduation of WNBA first-round pick Imani Boyette.

The Texas game is part of an ambitious non-conference schedule for the Huskies. UConn will host Baylor, Chattanooga, Dayton, DePaul, Ohio State and South Carolina, play on the road against Florida State, Kansas State, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska and Notre Dame. Also, with the American Athletic Conference making the switch to playing 16 regular-season games after having 18 conference games, look for the breakdown of home and away opponents to be announced likely not long after the conclusion of the AAC annual meetings set from May 31-June 3 in Miami.

Here are UConn's previous Jimmy V Classic results
11-24-2002 at Raleigh, N.C.: UConn 78, North Carolina State 50
11-21-2004 at Releigh, N.C.: North Carolina 71, UConn 65
12-5-2005 at Hartford: North Carolina 77, UConn 54
12-6-2011 at Hartford: UConn 81, Texas A&M 51
12-2-2012 at Hartford: UConn 63, Maryland 48
12-17-2013 at Durham, N.C.: UConn 83, Duke 61
12-6-2014 at South Bend, Ind: UConn 76, Notre Dame 58
12-5-2015 at Storrs: UConn 91, Notre Dame 81

 

Friday, May 13, 2016

UConn alums lead the way in WNBA again

Most of the WNBA rosters have been updated on the official site to reflect the final cuts and once all of the rosters are announced, UConn will lead the way with a total of 14 players on WNBA rosters, five more than any other school.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the UConn contingent is that eight of the 11 players on the Huskies' 2012-13 team will not only be in the WNBA this season but they were first-round picks.

I did some checking and the eight players from one team ties the record. The 2000-01 squad had eight future WNBA players who saw game action (Svetlana Abrosimova, Ashley Battle, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Kelly Schumacher, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Williams)  and nine eventual WNBA players on the roster because Jessica Moore was being redshirted and did not play a game. The 2002-03 Tennessee squad also had eight future WNBA players (Tasha Butts, Shyra Ely, Tye'sha Fluker, Gwen Jackson, Kara Lawson, Loree Moore, Ashley Robinson, Shanna Zolman) while Candace Parker sat out the 2004-05 season otherwise there would have been eight WNBAers on that team as well.

The 2012-13 team's eight first-round selections did break the mark of seven from the 2000-01 team for most coming from one team

2012-13
1-2016 Breanna Stewart
2-2016 Moriah Jefferson
3-2015 Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
3-2016 Morgan Tuck
6-2014 Stefanie Dolson
7-2014 Bria Hartley
11-2013 Kelly Faris
11-2015 Kiah Stokes

2000-01
1-2002 Sue Bird
1-2004 Diana Taurasi
2-2002 Swin Cash
4-2002 Asjha Jones
6-2002 Tamika Williams
7-2001 Svetlana Abrosimova
14-2001 Kelly Schumacher

Here's a look at the UConn products on current WNBA rosters
Atlanta: Tiffany Hayes
Connecticut: Kelly Faris, Morgan Tuck
Minnesota: Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore
New York: Tina Charles, Kiah Stokes
Phoenix: Diana Taurasi
San Antonio: Moriah Jefferson
Seattle: Sue Bird, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart
Washington: Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley

Among based on the Los Angeles Sparks roster on the site, among the cuts today were Jasmine Lister, who spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant at UConn.

Finally, the WNBA released its annual poll of the league's general managers and it shouldn't be a shocker to see former UConn stars leading in several categories as Maya Moore is listed as the best finisher, Tina Charles has the best post moves and is the second-best rebounder, Sue Bird is listed as being the best passer and having the highest basketball IQ while Diana Taurasi is the best shooter, toughest player and tied for being the best leader.

Who is the most underrated player in the WNBA?1. Emma Meesseman = 17%
T-2. Alysha Clark, Alex Bentley, Briann January, Jantel Lavender, Candice Dupree, DeWanna Bonner, Tanisha Wright, Tiffany Hayes, Kayla McBride, Elizabeth Williams = 8%
Which player is the best finisher?
1. Maya Moore = 42%
2. Angel McCoughtry = 25%
T-3. Nnneka Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins, Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne = 8%
Which player is the best at getting her own shot?1. Diana Taurasi = 42%
T-2. Angel McCoughtry, Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore = 17%
3. Candace Parker = 8%
Which player is the best rebounder?1. Nneka Ogwumike = 33%
T-2. Courtney Paris, Tina Charles = 25%
T-3. Rebekkah Brunson, Sancho Little 8%
Which player has the best post moves?
1. Tina Charles = 42%
2. Candace Parker = 17%
T-3. Crystal Langhorne, Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles, Kelsey Bone, Nneka Ogwumike = 8%
Which player is the best passer?1. Sue Bird = 50%
2. Lindsay Whalen = 25%
3. Courtney Vandersloot = 17%
4. Diana Taurasi = 8%
Which player is most dangerous in the open floor?1. Angel McCoughtry = 67%
T-2. Cappie Pondexter, Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Riquna Williams = 8%
Which player is the most athletic?
1. Angel McCoughtry = 42%
2. Nneka Ogwumike = 33%
T-3. Candace Parker, Jewell Loyd, Maya Moore = 8%
Which player is the best pure shooter?1. Diana Taurasi = 33%
2. Elena Delle Donne = 25%
3. Allie Quigley = 17%
T-4. Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Tricia Liston = 8%
Which player is the best leader?T-1. Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings = 33%
2. Maya Moore = 17%
T-3. Lindsay Whalen, Sue Bird = 8%
Who is the toughest player in the WNBA?1. Diana Taurasi = 42%
2. Tamika Catchings = 25%
T-3. Briann January, Lindsday Whalen, Maya Moore, Tanisha Wright = 8%
Which player has the best basketball I.Q.?
1. Sue Bird = 42%
2. Diana Taurasi = 33%
T-3. Candace Parker, Lindsay Whalen, Penny Taylor, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings = 8%
Which player is the best at making her teammates better?
1. Tamika Catchings = 50%
T-2. Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird = 25%

SPECIAL HONOR FOR SAMUELSON
According to a tweet by Mater Dei High School coach, the school will retire Katie Lou Samuelson's No. 33 in a ceremony on Wednesday.

Samuelson scored more than 2,000 points in her three seasons at Mater Dei and set single-season program records in scoring average, 3-pointers made and free throws made and attempted.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Former UConn star Faris makes Connecticut Sun roster

The Connecticut Sun have released second-round pick Jamie Weisner as well as Jennifer O'Neill meaning that former UConn standout Kelly Faris has made the team's opening-night roster.

Veteran forward Camille Little has reported to camp after her overseas season came to an end as the Sun have the 12-player roster heading into Saturday's season opener at Chicago.

Little and Faris are joined by returning players Alex Bentley, Kelsey Bone, Chiney Ogwumike, Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas. First-round picks Morgan Tuck, Rachel Banham and Jonquel Jones and free agent signee Aneika Henry make up the team's roster.

If my math is correct, there should be 14 former UConn players on opening-day rosters including eight from the 2012-13 team (Faris, Tuck, Washington's Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, Seattle's Sue Bird, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Breanna Stewart and San Antonio's Moriah Jefferson).


Also, former Hillhouse High star Bria Holmes has made the roster for the Atlanta Dream as four players including the Delisha Multon-Jones, the WNBA's all-time leader in games played, have been released.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

UConn/Kansas State game wiill be played on December 11

Kansas State announced that it will host four-time defending national champion UConn on December 11 at 1 p.m. local time, 2 p.m. here in Connecticut.

It will be the third meeting between the teams and is the back end of a home and home series between the two teams.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

UConn's Auriemma meets with President Obama one last time

There often tends to be some anxious moments when championship sports teams meet with President Barack Obama. However, with this being the sixth time that Geno Auriemma has brought one of his national championship UConn teams to visit with President Obama, there were so such apprehensive moments.

Case in point are Auriemma's opening remarks after President Obama spoke for about seven minutes.

"(UConn came down in) 2009, came back and all enjoyed it and we came back," Auriemma said. "I remember saying to President Obama 'you know your fourth year is coming up and I don't know what the future holds. I know we are going to be back.' He said 'so am I.' Taking that, I was hoping the rest of the NCAA years after four years of Stewie, Moriah and (Morgan), we could have a vote and see if we have him for another four years. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. We've been fortunate to have Tuck. Moriah and Stewie for four years, Briana (Pulido) joined us and they have done something that is pretty incredible in a sense that every other player who goes to college for the rest of the time that they play basketball can never beat, can never top what they have done. Somebody can tie them, somebody can do exactly what they've done but they go to bed at night knowing that nobody in the history of basketball has ever done what they have done and nobody will be able to do more than they've done and that is something we are really proud of.

"The trips down here are memorable because we know the President is a tremendous basketball fan, he keeps on top of things, he picks us every year in the NCAA tournament," Auriemma said. President Obama deadpanned  "clairvoyant"

"What I am going to miss the most. I don't know if you've ever gotten a phone call from the President but my phone rings and there are just lines and it says unknown call and I said I am not answering this, I don't know who it is. The next day 'unknown call' and I put it away. The third day it said 'you better answer this.' I picked it up and he is on the phone. I am going to miss the relationship, I am going to miss coming down here, I am going to miss his support that we have but if you have been paying attention to what is going on in the media these last six or seven months, as time goes by we are probably going to miss him more than he misses us."

UConn presented President Obama with a jersey with the No. 11 representing the 11 national championships and his response was "I am a little bigger than this, this is Moriah's size."

There was also a basketball presented to him and a rocking chair (although it was not brought out for the actual on-camera ceremony).

"Coach brought me a rocking chair," President Obama said. "I am not taking this as an insult, I am assuming it was meant with love but Coach, I do want you to know I am not going out to pasture here in fact I may even be able to come to one of your games live so don't think you've gotten rid of me that easily."

UConn's Nurse, Connecticut Sun's Weisner invited to Canada national team camp

UConn's Kia Nurse, the leading scorer on Canada's gold-medal winning Pan Am Games squad and FIBA Americas title-winning team, and Connecticut Sun rookie Jamie Weisner are among 24 players invited to Canada's national team training camp later this month.

All 12 players who played for Canada in the Pan Am Games and FIBA Americas tournament are among those invited to the May 21-30 training camp in Edmonton.

After the training camp concludes, a team will be picked to head overseas to play five international friendlies in six days in Spain and France with games on June 4 & 5 in Spain and contests on June 7, 8 & 9 in France.

There will be another training camp from June 26-July 8 in Edmonton before facing China in games on July 9, 10 and 11 in the Edmonton Grads International Classic. There will be another training camp, this one in Toronto, from July 22-26 before heading to the U.S. (perhaps in Connecticut) for an exhibition game/games against the U.S.

Monday, May 09, 2016

UConn signee Dangerfield headed to U.S. U18 trials

UConn incoming freshman and top Class of 2017 recruiting target Megan Walker are among 27 players scheduled to take part in the U.S. U-18 national team trials later this month.

Dangerfield and former UConn recruiting target Lauren Cox, both members of the U.S. team which won the gold medal at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women highlight the list of players who will be competing for the 12-member U-18 team from May 28-30 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Those players taking part in the U17 trials will also be eligible for the U-18 team which will be playing in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship from July 13-17 in Chile.

CONNECTICUT SUN CUTS TWO
The Connecticut Sun released Victoria Macaulay and Brandie Baker and announced that Aneika Henry-Morello has reported to camp. This brings the roster to 13 with Camille Little yet to join the team so no cuts would need to be made before the team gets down to 12 players by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Barring any surprises, former UConn standout Kelly Faris is competing with Jennifer O'Neill and Jamie Weisner for the final roster spot.

The WNBA is promoting its league pass with a full-season package costing $16.99 as well as a $1.99 offer for single games and $9.99 for a team pass.

The League Pass will feature archives of all nationally televised games airing on NBA TV, ESPN and ESPN2.  Nationally televised WNBA games are not available live through WNBA LEAGUE PASS.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Former UConn star Faris hoping to be part of Sun's future

Kelly Faris shakes her head in amazement or perhaps disbelief when the former UConn standout is reminded that she has played more games with the Connecticut Sun than any player on the current roster.

The former first-round pick has seen time in 81 regular-season contests in her first three seasons. The question now is whether she will make it to game No. 82.

Barring any surprises, it would seem as if returnees Alex Bentley, Kelsey Bone, Camille Little, Chiney Ogwumike, Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas, free-agent signee Aneika Henry and first-round draft picks Rachel Banham, Jonquel Jones and Morgan Tuck will make the team leaving five other players fighting it out for one roster spot.

First-year Sun coach Curt Miller is certainly giving all five players a chance in the preseason games as Jennifer O'Neil has played 23 minutes and 59 seconds in wins over Chicago and San Antonio, second-round pick Jamie Weisner has played 22:31, Victoria Macaulay has been on the court for 21:31, just two more seconds than Faris while Brandie Baker has seen 17 minutes of action.

Faris plans on doing what she has done since being drafted by the Sun and that is competing on every possession while being the best teammate possible.

"It is a very competitive camp, everybody is fighting for a spot and there is a lot of talent and there aren't enough spaces so it is going to be a tough decision," Faris said. "Everybody has been really fighting. I am sticking to what I know best, just trying to continue to add to that."

If the Sun were completely healthy last season it's highly likely that Faris would not have made the roster. She wasn't being utilized much in the early stages of the 2015 season. Other than a 16-minute stint in a win at Atlanta, Faris played only 27 minutes in seven games in the month of June. She had a total of five points in eight June games, four coming in a win at Seattle.

Faris scored a season-high 12 points against Chicago on July 12 but would only average 8 1/2 minutes in the next seven games. With the injuries beginning to mount, Faris found her role and playing time increasing. She had a stretch with seven straight games playing at least 25 minutes and in the last 10 games she appeared in Faris averaged 5.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.8 steals per game proving that she can play in the league. But with an influx of new players and a new coaching staff. there's no guarantee that Faris will make the team. Certainly her attitude is the same. When Faris committed to UConn an opposing coach told UConn's Geno Auriemma that Faris would not have a significant role with the Huskies. Auriemma's response was something effect of "that's why your program is where it is and we are where we are." Faris' ability to impact the game in more ways than just being a scorer made her one of Auriemma's favorite players to coach. Faris' defense has been her calling card but her ability to be a good teammate has made her a valuable part of the last three Sun teams.

When she wasn't in the game and there was a timeout in the first two preseason games, she bolted off the bench to greet each player coming to the bench.

"With any situation your role each year is going to change," Faris said. "I am still getting used to being called a vet, it is a little different but you kind of know how things work, you know the ropes.

"For me it is good to have a team full of rookies because I can teach them and kind of lead the way a little bit. It has been a little different and I've had to step up in different ways than I've had to in the past."

While I am not in the meetings with the coaching staff, it would seem as if there are too many post players for Macaulay to make the team although I have liked what I have seen from her and it would also seem as if Baker, the last player of the five to be invited to camp, would be a long shot to make the team.

While O'Neill looks like she knows what she is doing out there, with Jasmine Thomas, Banham and Bentley all able to play the point guard, I'd be a little surprised if she makes the final roster. That would leave Faris and Weisner fighting it out for the final spot. It will be interesting to see if Miller is willing to cut loose Weisner, the Pac-12 Player of the Year as a senior and risk seeing her landing on another team's roster.

Miller said his initial plan was to have seven perimeter players and five posts on his first team but that changed with the draft-day trade to acquire Jones. With Alyssa Thomas not considered to be a post by Miller, that leaves the Sun with six posts and six perimeter players unless he sends one of the post players packing which would allow him to keep both Faris and Weisner.

The good news is that Miller said he doesn't plan on making any cuts before the final preseason game on Sunday at Dallas so it will give Faris and the other players fighting for roster spots some more days in practice and another game situation to make a push towards making the roster.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

White House Visit Planned; Bolingbrook High reunion

UConn's national championship team will be reunited once again when the team makes yet another trip to the White House.

The Huskies will have an audience with President Barack Obama at 2:30 p.m. and the event will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live

With the WNBA seasons set to begin for UConn All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson so Tuesday fit the schedule for the UConn players, coaches and officials at the White House. It will be the fourth straight trip to the White House for UConn's Big 3.

"I think what makes it more exciting is that it is kind of the last thing that us three will do together and our team," Tuck said. "It is Obama's last time with his presidency so it is kind of cool to see him again for the last time.
"I think it is different each year but this year it is different because I will never be going back with the UConn team and if I do go back it won't be President Obama in the office, it will be a different president so that is kind of what makes it different."

This will be the program's 10th trip to the White House. There was no trip for the Huskies after winning the national title in 2000.
REUNION TIME FOR TUCK, MASSENGALE
Obviously tonight's matchup between former UConn teammates and roommates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck is garnering much of the attention but there was another reunion for Tuck during the two days of WNBA preseason basketball at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Among the players vying for a spot on the Atlanta Dream is Ariel Massengale, Tuck's teammate for three seasons at Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School.

"I played with Ariel from fourth grade on and throughout high school so for us to be kind of the same position now in high school and see her, that is really cool," Tuck said. It is cool to be able to do something with somebody who is pretty much like a sister who I have known my whole life."

Massengale, who played collegiately at Tennessee, and Tuck were members of three consecutive Illinois 4A championship teams under the guidance of Tony Smith at Bolingbrook. While Atlanta and Connecticut did not play on either Wednesday or Thursday, the former high school teammates did get a chance to meet up.

"We got in town Tuesday, her and her mom sat down, we hung out for about an hour or hour and a half," Massengale said. "I watched her play yesterday and sat next to her mom so it was good to catch up with her.

"It is exciting. Morgan and I have been playing together since we were in the fourth grade and to play our first preseason game on our first day, it was wonderful. I was so happy to see her out there. Our dads started us out young coaching us up so it is something we worked for. She went to UConn and won four national championships. Now she is here, our high school and our hometown are very proud of us.

"It was great. Our coach, he pushed us every single day. We told him our dreams and our goals and he made sure we accomplished those."

Massengale become one of three players in Tennessee's illustrious history with at least 1,000 points and 500 assists. Having played at the highest level of women's college basketball, Massengale may have more appreciation than most people of Tuck being a part of four national championship teams in her four seasons at UConn.

"It is hard to put that into words," Massengale said. "It was a beautiful thing to watch. I am so proud to say I know her, I know the work she put in from the start of it so I am not surprised that she has been able to accomplish the things she has.

"She has always been a great kid, a lot of fun. When she was younger she was a little quiet and now she is a little more outgoing, she has grown into herself. She has always been a lot of fun and we had a good time together."

Massengale was taken in the third round of the 2015 WNBA Draft by Atlanta but did not play last summer after undergoing knee surgery.  She played 11 minutes and had two points in the 74-67 loss to San Antonio in her pro debut.

"I am coming back from injury after a year and to be on the court again, I am happy and just trying to take full advantage of it," Massengale said. "It is extremely hard (to miss the 2015 season) but I believe everything happens for a reason, I learned from it, I am healthy, I am 100 percent and  ready to go."

TUCK TO RING BELL
Tuck will be among those representing the WNBA taking part in the ringing of the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

Tuck will be joined by WNBA President Lisa Borders, WNBA Chief Operating Officer Jay Parry, WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee Brown as well as Epiphanny Prince of the New York Liberty.

"I never really thought about it before or knew much about it but to go and do that, people look at it every day and it is people's jobs so I think it is pretty cool that I get to do that," Tuck said.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Nervous debuts for former UConn stars

Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson, part of the winningest recruiting class in women's college basketball history, each began their professional careers with victories. However, it was hardly just another day at the office for either one of the former UConn stars.

Jefferson missed eight of her 11 shots and finished with six points, six assists and two steals in 25 minutes off the bench as San Antonio defeated Atlanta 74-67.

"It took me a while to kind of get it together," Jefferson said. "My teammates did a good job of making shots. I tried to get out in transition and really push it. As the game went on I got more used to it."

Shortly after being taken with the second overall pick Jefferson noticed that San Antonio's first two preseason games would be played at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"It felt like I keep going back and forth between Texas and Connecticut," Jefferson said. "I am excited to be here, the fans are great."

Tuck started in Connecticut's 84-81 win over Chicago. She was just 1 of 8 from the field as she ended up with seven points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 27 minutes.

"I was definitely nervous coming out like the first game in college but am glad we pulled out a win," Tuck said.

Tuck said that the lessons learned trying to guard WNBA veterans like Elena Delle Donne and Jessica Breland will serve her well.

There will be another experience for her on Thursday when she is on the opposing sideline from Jefferson, her former roommate.

"That will be exciting, we haven't played against each other for a very long time so it will be great to be out there on the court with her again," Tuck said.

Speaking of new roles, Jefferson is drawing more attention as not only the No. 2 overall pick but also as a Texas native playing for  San Antonio Stars.

Veteran San Antonio coach Dan Hughes couldn't say enough good things about Jefferson's approach, energy and positive approach she brings to the practice court.

"It feels like I just left Connecticut," Jefferson said. "I try to do the same thing, I try to bring a lot of energy to practice, making sure I am talking

"I am having so much fun and I am really happy to be on the court. It is something you work for your entire life and to be here , it is the best feeling."

As for the additional interviews and public appearances ....

"Usually Stewie (Breanna Stewart) gets most of the attention, they were a lot more people doing stuff so (she thought) 'where's Stewie?' but I don't mind it."

Former Hillhouse High star Bria Holmes also made her WNBA debut as she started and had six points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals in Atlanta's loss to San Antonio.

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