Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Former UConn stars revel in "normal" offseasons

Part of the deal that comes with joining the UConn program is that basketball dominates the majority of the 12 months for the latest batch of core players.

There are preseason workouts, pick-up games and then the workouts during the season, games, runs deep into the NCAA tournament. After a little time to catch their breath, the players are back usually enrolled in summer school with more workouts to come. There tends to be chances to play for various USA Basketball teams.

When they graduate, their summers are spent in the WNBA. In the fall and winter they are playing overseas. Since they are living a life most people would take in a heartbeat, there are few complaints about this "all basketball, all the time" lifestyle. But there is a price to pay. Time away from their friends and family can be difficult and of course there is the toll that playing basketball year round - especially at the professional level - takes on their body.

Connecticut Sun teammates Kelly Faris and Morgan Tuck actually had some time to tend to family business and in the words of Tuck, "I got to live a normal life."

Tuck was working her way back from her latest knee surgery and didn't play overseas. Faris played a total of five games with Bnot Hertzeliya in Israel. Faris averaged 13.8 points, 4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals on a team including fellow WNBA players Imani Boyette, Tayler Hill and Keisha Hampton.

The rest of the time she spent back home. She was able to be there as one of her sisters got married and another one gave birth to her second son. Of course, Faris worked at her game.
"A lot of the same stuff I usually do but worked really hard to ball handling, being able to handle
on-ball pressure just so I could add a little bit more to the game and be more more versatile," Faris said.

In her time playing in Israel, she got to play point guard and it was an experience she found to be beneficial.

"It was good for me to get a lot of experience," Faris said. "It was a good league, it is a competitive league so I actually played against Jas (Thomas) twice which was good for me feedback wise just being at the point, we guarded each other and played against each other so that was helpful to hang out with her to see the things I needed to work on, the things that were good so there are a lot of players from the (WNBA) in Israel so you are always playing against somebody good. It was fun to get the ball back in hands and be the one controlling things."

The team Faris played on finished third during the regular season while the Maccabi Ashdod team featuring former UConn star Tiffany Hayes won the title.

Faris is hoping that her work at the point guard will translate into playing for the Sun for a fifth season in a row.

"You never know what is going to happen that is why you have to come in every day and do everything you can. don't necessarily assume you are going to be on the team or you are going to have this spot or that spot which is my mindset every year," Faris said. "I don't ever assume that I am on the team. I am going to come in, give everything I can to prove you are making the right choice by keeping me."

While Faris will once again have to prove she belongs on the roster, Tuck's spot is secure. Certainly Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller has no intentions of cutting the player taken third overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft. With the trade of veteran forward Camille Little and a torn Achilles' tendon sidelining All-Star forward Chiney Ogwumike for the season, Tuck and fellow 2016 first-round pick Jonquel Jones figure to be go-to options in the post.

Tuck, while unable to play basketball during the winter, was able to work on parts of her game.

"I have worked on shooting., that is the one thing I could do consistently throughout the rehab
process and that is something I've wanted to improve on anyways." Tuck said. "I worked on some ball handling and making sure my shot is more consistent last year.

"For me as an undersized 4 (power forward), I know I can make 3s but I want to make them way more consistently, that will just expand your game and to me that will make your game easier when you can hit 3s instead of having to drive, push through people so that is something I really need to make sure is better this year."

While there is plenty of experience at the guard position, it is a different story for the post players.

Alyssa Thomas is the frontcourt player with the longest continuous tenure. When Kayla Pedersen reports to camp, she's have 89 games of experience with the Sun but she was not in the WNBA a season ago. Rookie Brionna Jones joins newcomers (to the Sun)  Lynetta Kizer, Danielle Adams, Reshanda Gray and Jennifer Hamson as post players looking to make the team. The younger players will benefit with Pedersen, Kizer and Adams missing the early portion of training camp due to their overseas commitments although the team announced today that Adams has reported leading to No. 13 overall pick Shayla Cooper being waived. There is also Shekinna Stricklen, who is more of a wing even if she has the size to play in the post.

"We have (three) more coming in, they are still overseas and I think we are going to be good," Tuck said. "It is weird because the only returning posts are me and JJ (Jones) but it is a challenge but I think it is going to be fun. we are going to have a good group that all have to work really hard because we don't have a vet like Camille Little so it will be fun and exciting."

Tuck had a recent knee procedure but it was more of a cleaning out deal so she feels as healthy as possible. She hopes to be able to practice without restriction in the coming days.

"I don't like that I've had as many (knee surgeries) as I have had but I am feeling good and I feel like everything I had to do has worked out and this is the best I've felt in a long time," Tuck said. "I have put a lot of work in during this offseason to make sure I will be ready to go for the season. I am still in my time frame for return from my surgery in September so I think it was needed, my knees feel great.

"Every day this week I've added more and hopefully this weekend I will be a full go in practice.
(Wednesday) I got to do some 1 on 1. I am rusty but it feels good to be out there competing with my
team. I didn't want to miss any training camp but missing a few days at the beginning isn't a big
deal. I am excited to get going and have fun."

Tuck was a regular at UConn women's basketball games and even filled in as the color commentator on the radio for a few UConn games when work conflicts kept Debbie Fiske from making it to some of the road games.

"Trying to enjoy my life," Tuck said of her basketball-less winter. :I got to travel a little bit I got to go home a lot more and just make the best out of the situation I am in. I think it was a really good time, I got to live a normal life so it was good."

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