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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Catching up with UConn coaches at the Travelers

Mike Cavanaugh, Chris Dailey and Randy Edsall chat
before start of mini-golf tournament in Cromwell

Just returned home from my annual day of coverage at the Travelers Championship.

It's been a few years since I've covered the tournament during the four rounds. Typically I head to Cromwell for the Celebrity Pro-Am and mini-golf tournament to catch up with UConn coaches.
The day started with the team of UConn women's basketball associate head coach Chris Dailey, hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh and Randy Edsall winning the title in the second (and final) flight in the tournament. With their victory (aided by a pair of holes in one by Chris Dailey and one each by Cavanaugh and Edsall) $2,500 was donated to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

The first flight was won by a team representing the Golf Channel headlined by Chantel McCabe (like me a fellow New Hampshire native) and with the help of a player pulled out of the stands when the team was short a player. With their victory, $2,500 will be donated to the Youth On Course charity.

A few things to report.

First, I asked Geno Auriemma if there was any cause for concern after Kia Nurse bypassed the first two stages of training and the international friendlies with the Canadian national team. He said it was more of a case of Nurse not overloading her schedule.

"They thought she needed a little bit of a break and she thought she needed a little bit of a break but I think she is going to do something with them later on this summer (when Canada will be one of the top contenders to win the FIBA Americas title)," Auriemma said. "Obviously she is kind of torn, she doesn't want to miss training camp and our trip to Italy."

Nurse figures to take part in the final stage of training beginning on July 23 in Edmonton where the 12-player roster for the FIBA Women's AmeriCup will be played in Argentina.

Geno Auriemma signs autographs after his Pro-Am round at Travelers
Also, Auriemma was one of two winners of the United States Olympic Committee Co-National Coach of the Year award. It was quite the honor bestowed on Auriemma as the only basketball coach - men's or women's - to win the award was Tara VanDerveer, the winner of the inaugural award in 1996.

"I was really surprised when I heard because that is usually something to goes to other coaches other than basketball," Auriemma said after finishing his round at the Pro-Am. "When Carol (Callan, Women's National Team Director for USA Basketball) told me about it, I was really surprised and thrilled.

"Sometimes we take things for granted, look back and realize it is eight years of your life. So many thing happen over those eight years (coaching the U.S. women's basketball team to a pair of Olympic titles), so many people you have met so when you are honored like this at the end of your run, I almost took it as it is not so much as what happened in Rio but for the whole eight-year run."

I also caught up with Dailey to get her take on how freshmen Mikayla Coombs, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Lexi Gordon and Megan Walker are adapting to life at UConn since they are currently in summer school.

"If you talk to (rising sophomore) Crystal (Dangerfield), there is a big difference between Crystal, Kyla (Irwin) and Molly (Bent) this year," Dailey said. "They know what to expect so you are dealing with four freshmen who no matter what they did, they are never going to be totally prepared. They haven't been challenged, they've had their moments where they've been to manage it and other times when they have really struggled. That is what is great about the summer, it gives them a chance to see what it is like so it kind of gives us a jump start."

With four starters returning, transfers Azura' Stevens and Batouly Camara eligible and four freshmen in the fold, UConn will be a much deeper team than a season ago.

"We have 13, only 1 or 2 more but it seems like a lot more," Dailey said. "I don't know how it is all going to pan out, where things are going to fall but it is a better problem to have than not to have enough so we are happy about that."

More on the freshmen will be coming on Monday when we get to talk to the UConn players during Auriemma's annual charity golf tournament at Hartford Golf Club.
Auriemma also addressed his rather hectic schedule this spring and summer which will include three different trips to Italy.

"I just got back from two weeks in Europe, some of it was work, some of it was a little bit of vacation," Auriemma said. "I am going to do a FIFA thing in Geneva, a coach's clinic in Stockholm, get ready to go to that 19-and-under thing (featuring Dangerfield, Walker and UConn recruiting target Christyn Williams), before you know it, our trip is going to come. It has kind of been hectic. I knew it would be.

"Sometimes I don't get to go in a long, long time and now I am going to go three times in one summer."

Auriemma has liked the reports he has been getting on his players.

"All the guys in school have been doing pretty good," Auriemma said. "School has been good, everybody has been doing well, the four freshmen are trying to figure things out."

Finally, I asked Dailey for her take on how rookie Saniya Chong has been doing with the Dallas Wings. Chong, a third-round pick, had six points and two rebounds in a win over San Antonio tonight. She is averaging 7.6 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists in the last six games

"She is doing a great job," Dailey said. "In that game (a win over Washington on June 18th) she made a huge 3 for them, I am happy for her, she seems to enjoy it. They are having some success and she is playing a role in that."

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