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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Transfers, freshmen fitting in at UConn

It was quite the evening of basketball at Mohegan Sun Arena especially for those with ties to the 11-time national champion UConn women's basketball program.

Sue Bird led visiting Seattle with 24 points while rookie Morgan Tuck's 20 points led host Connecticut to its second win of the season. Oh, and it was the first pro game in the state of Connecticut for three-time national player of the year Breanna Stewart.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was among the 8,075 in attendance as the Sun rallied for a 77-76 victory. He took part in an autograph signing and picture taking event not far from the arena and gave myself and Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer about 10 minutes to catch up on some things.

The first topic was the contrast of two generations of UConn women's basketball standouts since Swin Cash, a star on the 2000 and 2002 title-winning teams, recently announced that this would be her final season in the WNBA. That was the focus for a feature appearing in tomorrow's paper.

He also spoke about freshmen Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin as well as transfers Batouly Camara and Azura' Stevens, who are all on campus.

"They are at different stages in their careers," Auriemma said. "You have two kids (Camara and Stevens) who have already played college basketball so they are at one end of the spectrum. The other three guys, this is all first time for them and even those three, Crystal coming off a gold-medal winning stuff (with the U.S. U-19 team) and the other two was off of everybody's radar except ours but everyone of them have their own unique things.

"It's been a while since we've had five freshmen or five new players and one senior, it is tilted the other way. Those years when we had four seniors and one freshman, it is going to be really different."

UConn will have three transfers on its roster in the upcoming season even if Camara and Stevens need to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA regulations regarding transfers. Former Georgetown star Natalie Butler could have a more expanded role moving forward. Auriemma was asked if the large number of transfers was simply a sign of the times.

"It might just be circumstances, just the right people, the right time," Auriemma said. "Sometimes there is just no need, they just don't fit or not the right positions. This one just happened to be right for whatever reason. They are kids that we know, kids that play a position that there doesn't seem to be a lot of coming out of high school so all the elements were there. I think we are fortunate to have them.

"It is not a lot of time (to get to know the incoming transfers). We were involved with Batouly coming out of high school so we know about her more than somebody else. With Azura', it is more with I got a chance to see her a little bit in the summer with USA Basketball. We recruited Svetlana (Abrosimova) over the phone, sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and hope you are right
It was all good. A lot of it is gut instinct."

Auriemma also spoke about the recovery process of freshmen Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson.

"Nothing has changed," Auriemma said. "Lou's doing some stuff. Pheesa's doing some stuff, neither of them are playing full court, there is no need to as this point. Pheesa is going to take a little longer.
both of those guys are great competitors, they want to play. it is hard to hold them back, it is a long summer, long season so nobody is in a hurry to push these guys."

He also spoke about UConn legend Nykesha Sales taking a job as an assistant coach at Central Florida.

"I haven't met too many people as good as Nykesha," Auriemma said. "She is a unique individual, a special human being who I would trust Nykesha with anything."

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