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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, June 04, 2018

UConn may move away from position coaches

Since I've been covering UConn (and my first season on the beat was 1999-2000) it's been pretty easy to see how Geno Auriemma's assistant coaches are utilized.

Chris Dailey would work with the post players as would another assistant (first it was Jamelle Elliott and more recently Marisa Moseley). The other assistant (first it was Tonya Cardoza and now Shea Ralph) worked with the guards.

Ever since seeing that Jasmine Lister will work with the guards after she was hired as an assistant coach, I was wondering if it would force a shift in Ralph's duties. I finally got around to asking Auriemma about how Lister replacing Moseley on the staff would impact the coaching responsibilities tonight at the first of the UConn Road Show events.

"There is no offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in our program," Auriemma said. "Shea's not going to move from where she is, she has such a great connection with these kids and as far as what CD is going to be doing, we've got some ideas moving forward about how we want to move our players around. We looked at our roster and it doesn't seem to me like we have a center so maybe we just say, 'OK, you guys down that end, you guys down this end' and not care much about who is where.

"There are just not that many big kids who want to play in the lane, the game has moved away from it in a certain sense. I still believe in it but I don't even know anymore what I see."

The players are back on campus meaning that the coaches get to see them (in small doses) playing pickup and going through conditioning drills so I got some updates.

First, the news is good on Mikayla Coombs return to the court. Her freshman season ended abruptly due to a blood clot issue forcing her to miss the NCAA tournament. That's a little different than a player coming off an ankle, knee or shoulder injury but Auriemma said things are progressing nicely.

"She's doing some individuals, haven't seen her play but a lot of the individual stuff she can go full (court) so we'll see where that takes her," Auriemma said. "If it is not completely gone, it will be. They have given her a clean bill of health going forward."

All-American Katie Lou Samuelson is no longer wearing a walking boot after undergoing surgery on the left ankle that she hurt early in the season but Auriemma said she is not yet cleared for basketball activities.

The best bit of UConn women's basketball related news I heard (actually I saw) was that Megan Walker headed to Missouri to go through workouts with Napheesa Collier. The sessions are run by Alex Bazzell who calls himself  a "NBA/WNBA Skills Trainer" on his Twitter account. One of the workouts was posted on Twitter and it showed Collier and Walker hitting jumping after jumper and going through a grueling workout. Bazzell's work with Collier played a key role in her development at UConn and I couldn't imagine a better role model for Walker than Collier. The competition didn't stop there. Samuelson can't take part in pickup games yet but she does make the call on which players are on which teams. Auriemma is delighted to hear that Samuelson makes certain that Collier and Walker are not only on opposing teams but have to guard each other.

"They had a little go at each today which I thought was good," Auriemma said. "I think the more of that, the better. (Lou) makes sure Pheesa and Megan are on opposite teams guarding each other so I think that will play out pretty well. I think it will help Megan a lot, Pheesa might be the best player she guards all year so not a bad way to start training."

It might already be out there but with UConn announcing that it will face Vanderbilt on Nov. 17 at Mohegan Sun Arena in the Hall of Fame Women's Showcase, it got me wondering if that was going to be the season opener. Fortunately, among tonight's attendees was UConn's Senior Associate Director of Athletics/External Relations Neal Eskine, who is the point man for the women's basketball schedule and he said that the home game against Ohio State will be the season opener.

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