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