Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bidding adieu to UConn women's basketball fans

I have some news to report. After having the pleasure of covering 15 Final Four and nine national championship teams in the 16 seasons that I have been the primary beat writer for the UConn women's basketball program, my role is changing.

I've been balancing the coverage of the UConn football and women's basketball beats for the last six seasons but with the New Haven Register now part of the Hearst Connecticut Media organization, a decision has been made to split up the UConn coverage. As a result, I will continue in my role handling the day to day coverage of the UConn football program while Doug Bonjour (@DougBonjour) will be providing coverage of the women's basketball program beginning with Monday when the team (with the exception of Batouly Camara who will be in class during both periods when there will be media availability) will be available to the media at the annual Geno Auriemma Fore the Kids charity golf tournament.

Thanks to everybody who has followed along over the years and I'm sure you'll enjoy reading Doug's  coverage of what should be a very exciting upcoming season.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A little bit of an update courtesy of UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey

With the exception of Batouly Camara, all the members of the 2018-19 UConn women's basketball team will be available to the media at Geno Auriemma's annual Fore the Kids golf tournament so look for some updates to be coming soon. In the meantime, in between her participation in the charity mini-golf tournament and the celebrity pro-am UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey provided an update.

Neither Katie Lou Samuelson (ankle surgery) nor Mikayla Coombs (blood clot issue) are cleared for basketball work but both are getting shots up and doing the work in the weight room.

"Her range of motion is improving," Dailey said of Samuelson. "She is working really hard in the weight room. She is doing a great job keeping everybody (in line), she is really taking on the leadership role and doing a tremendous job. We are looking forward to having her back on the court."
Coombs' freshman season ended prematurely due to the blood clots and now she is working to return to the court.

"Still unable to have contact, on medication but she is doing the shooting but can't play at this point," Dailey said.

Two players who can play are freshmen Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams, who have been on campus for a few weeks giving them a chance to take part in the offseason conditioning program and in the pickup games.

"It is a quick five weeks, probably (quick) for me and not for them," Dailey said. "For the freshmen, it is the first time going to class ... It's been great. I think the leadership of our older players with Napheesa, Lou and Crystal they have been terrific with the young guys. They are working really hard so I am pleased.

"They are freshmen but they are not backing down, they are fighting through being tired and what we are asking them to do and I think that says a lot about them. They are two tough kids and are going to be thrown into the fire pretty early so this is a good test for them."

Nelson-Ododa and Williams are members of the U.S. team competing in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship from Aug. 1-7 in Mexico. They will head out to Colorado Springs on July 20 to begin preparations for the tournament.

Dailey admitted that this is an interesting time for the coaching staff. With Marisa Moseley taking over as Boston University's head coach, former graduate assistant Jasmine Lister has returned to UConn this time as an assistant coach. With Shea Ralph set to give birth to her first child in the coming days, it could make things a little more hectic than normal during the July recruiting periods.

"This has been the most unsettled our program has been," Dailey said. "I don't remember a spring where there has been this much change and this much uncertainy with how everything works. We've always just adapted, whatever comes out way we handle. Shea is going to have a healthy baby and we will cover what we need to cover when she is not there. I think within the next week (she is due to give birth). Hopefully next week at this time we will be celebrating a new Husky."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

UConn announces non-conference schedule

UConn announced its non-conference schedule for the upcoming season and the slate is highlighted by matchups with the last two national champions.

The Huskies will play on the road against defending champion Notre Dame  on Dec. 2 in the Jimmy V Classic while non-conference portion of the schedule concludes with UConn playing host to South Carolina.

An interesting twist to the schedule is that UConn will play its second and final preseason game against Southern Connecticut State University after facing Ohio State in the regular-season opener.

Another highlight will be a showdown with a Baylor team likely to start the season ranked in the top five. There will be a game at Louisville on Jan. 31 with back to back road games on Dec. 19 against Oklahoma and Dec. 22 at Cal.

Sun. 4 – VANGUARD (exh.)
Sun. 11 – OHIO STATE
Thu. 15 – SOUTHERN CT (exh.)
Sat. 17 – vs. Vanderbilt (Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase, Mohegan Sun Arena)
Thu. 22 – Ole Miss (Paradise Jam, U.S. Virgin Islands)
Fri. 23 – St. John’s (Paradise Jam, U.S. Virgin Islands)
Sat 24 – Purdue (Paradise Jam, U.S. Virgin Islands)
Wed. 28 - DEPAUL

Sun. 2 – at Notre Dame (Jimmy V Women’s Classic)
Tue. 4 – at Saint Louis
Wed. 19 – at Oklahoma
Sat. 22 – at Cal

Thu. 3 – at Baylor
Thu. 31 – at Louisville


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Emotional night at Mohegan

Things weren't exactly going the home team's way when I clicked the Twitter app on the my phone during the first half of last night's Connecticut Sun/Washington Mystics game

When I saw the tributes to former Sun coach Anne Donovan pouring in, I could hardly believe what I was reading. At the age of 56 and less than a week after she was seen at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Donovan died of heart failure.

Whether it was in her time as the Sun's coach, her stint at Seton Hall or other WNBA stops including the one when she guided the Sue Bird-led Seattle Storm team to the 2004 WNBA title, I've interviewed Donovan so many times. One of those sessions, however, stood apart from all the rest.

A few months before Donovan would coach her final season with the Connecticut Sun came the news that Shannise Heady, who played for Donovan at Seton Hall, died in a car accident.

“I think it is another life reminder that you take nothing and nobody for granted,” Donovan said in that late January, 2015 interview. “The relationships and interactions that we have with people on a day to day basis, it could be your last opportunity to make an impact with somebody and it is just a reminder of how short life can be.”

Those words resonate now more than ever. Tributes began making their way onto social media during last night's game and continue to roll in. They speak of her incredible basketball career when she was an iconic star at Old Dominion earning her induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame four years later and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015. What followed would be coaching stops at East Carolina and Seton Hall, Philadelphia of the ABL as well as with Charlotte, Seattle, New York and finally Connecticut in the WNBA. She also coached the U.S. to the 2008 Olympic title.

Donovan's time in Connecticut was not easy. The surprising firing of Mike Thibault (who happened to be coaching the visiting Washington Mystics last night) did not sit well with the Sun's star players. Asjha Jones would never play for Donovan while Tina Charles and Kara Lawson appeared in a combined total of 35 games during the 2013 season. The Sun posted records of 10-24, 13-21 and 15-19 with the Sun. In her final season, the Sun lost two games in overtime and three others in regulation by five points or less.

Alex Bentley and Jasmine Thomas came to Connecticut during Donovan's time there in trades with the Atlanta Dream and both have thrived during their time in Connecticut. Bentley spoke about the team being determined to play with an extra jump in their step in the second half after hearing of Donovan's death. The Sun did that by rallying to take the lead before falling 95-91. Trailing by 30 points, it matched the largest deficit a WNBA team overcame to take the lead. Ironically, the Sun set that mark in a loss to Minnesota in 2010.

Bentley and Thomas both spoke about how Donovan would keep in touch with them and when they least expected, she would send them a text message congratulating them on their recent success. Donovan made those gestures in her typical understated fashion. She wouldn't want to do anything that would take the spotlight off of the current coaching staff.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed my dealings with her. She wasn't as comfortable around the media as somebody like Thibault and it is no easy task being "the other" prominent women's basketball coach in Connecticut. There is a shadow cast by the incredible success of Geno Auriemma's UConn program especially since many of the reporters who cover the Sun also handle the daily coverage of UConn and in the beginning of her tenure with the Sun I'm not sure that Donovan was completely comfortable with all of that. She grew to embrace that role in her own way. I recall doing a story on the impact of transfers on the women's college game and she gave me some great stuff and when you went to her on subjects that might be a little off the radar, she never failed to deliver thought-provoking responses.

Last night was not an easy one for the players, coaches or media members all coming to grips with the loss of a true basketball legend all while doing their jobs at one of the arenas that become Donovan's basketball home away from home.

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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Friday, June 01, 2018

UConn's conference schedule is announced

The American Athletic Conference announced the women's basketball home and away schedule.

UConn, which has never lost a game as a member of the conference, will face UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, USF and Temple at home and on the road, will play at Tulane, Tulsa and Wichita State while East Carolina, Memphis and SMU will be home only opponents.

The dates and times will be announced at a later date and typically that takes place around Labor Day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Bob Joyce to remain the radio voice of UConn women's basketball

Three and a half months after it was announced that 97.9 ESPN would become the new home for UConn's basketball, football and men's hockey programs, news has come out that Bob Joyce, the voice for the 11-time national champion women's basketball team would be continuing in that role.

The move means that Joyce will be leaving WTIC but will continue to call the games for Geno Auriemma's powerhouse program as well as men's hockey games when his schedule permits.

In other women's basketball broadcasting news, the WNBA's Connecticut Sun announced that NBC Sports Boston will air 22 regular-season games beginning with Friday's game at Chicago. Fox 61/CW 20 will carry five games (June 15 at Seattle, July 3 at Los Angeles, July 7 at Las Vegas, July 15 at Minnesota and July 22 at Dallas).

This means that only four of the Sun's 34 games won't be shown on either NBC Sports Boston, Fox 61, WCCT, ESPN2, Twitter or NBA TV.

Here's the schedule
June 1                    at Chicago                              9 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 3                    at Washington                      3 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 5                    at Atlanta                               8 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 7                    at New York                           7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston             
June 9                    Minnesota                             2 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 15                  at Seattle                               10 p.m.                   Fox 61/CW20
June 22                  at Atlanta                               7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 24                  at Indiana                               6 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 26                  at Washington                      7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
June 27                  Indiana                                   7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
July 1                      at Seattle                               7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
July 3                      at Los Angeles                      10:30 p.m.             Fox 61/CW20
July 7                      at Las Vegas                           10:30 p.m.             Fox 61/CW20
** July 11              New York                               11:30 a.m.             NBC Sports Boston
July 13                    Phoenix                                 7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
July 15                    at Minnesota                         7 p.m.                     Fox 61/CW20     
July 17                    Atlanta                                   7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
July 20                    Seattle                                    7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
July 22                    at Dallas                                 4 p.m.                     Fox 61/CW20
July 24                    Washington                           7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 1                New York                               7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 5                Las Vegas                               3 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 10              at Chicago                              9 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 12              Chicago                                  3 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 14              Dallas                                      7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 17              Minnesota                             7 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
August 19              Los Angeles                           3 p.m.                     NBC Sports Boston
*All times EST
** The New York Camp Day game will be re-broadcast at 7:30 p.m.