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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

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."

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