Thursday, October 30, 2008

Latest Huskies of Honor

On Nov. 16, at the Huskies' season opener, UConn will induct the 1994-95 team that went 35-0 into the Huskies of Honor.

It is the first editions since December 2006 when 10 players were brought in as the initial class. This will also be the first time an entire team is honored.

That first title is still the sweetest for coach Geno Auriemma.

“I think that’s the one,” he said. “It was the first time you ever were able to experience something like that. There’s something different about it. The feeling that you get and the reception that team got will be beyond anything that will ever happen.”

Among the honorees are Auriemma and assistants Chris Dailey, Tony Cardoza and Meghan Pattyson, as well as players Rebecca Lobo, current assistant Jamelle Elliott, Jennifer Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Kara Wolters, Pam Webber, Kim Better, Jill Gelfenbien, Carla Berube, Sarah Northway, Missy Rose, Brenda Maruis and Kelly Hunt

Friday, October 24, 2008

Big East Tournament staying put

The Big East announced Thursday that its conference tournament will be staying in Hartford at the XL Center through 2011 thanks to a two-year contract extension.

Various reports had linked the tournament to Mohegan Sun Arena as well as the possibility of seeking out other venues in-and-out of state.

Chuck Steedman, XL Center Senior Vice President and General Manager said the arena is working closely with the city, local businesses and organizations such as the state tourism board, to expand the entertainment and amenities surrounding the event.

“This is a demonstration from the region that we want to desperately to have what we consider the premier women’s college basketball tournament to remain in Hartford and beyond in the central Connecticut region,” Steedman said. “It really is a tremendous event, and we have one simple goal: That is to make absolutely certain…to provide a tremendous environment for the student-athletes, the coaches, the administrators and certainly our fans.”

You might recall that after UConn narrowly defeated Louisville at the tournament's championship game, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz complained how its unfair to play the game in Hartford every year, always giving UConn an advantage. he changed his tune somewhat.

“I know the league looked into different things,” he said. “We’re just told to play. It’s something we’ll continue to do and hopefully we’ll get a few more chances at playing in championship games.”

Also remember this will be the first year that all 16 teams will participate, which I think is fantastic. I'll tell you this much -- the year-end banquet hall barely held the teams that were playing and the media. Throw in everyone and I can't wait to see how this is handled.

Media Day polls

Preseason Player of the Year
Maya Moore, UConn

Preseason Freshman of the Year
April Sykes, Rutgers

Preseason All-Big East Team
Candyce Bingham, Louisville
Tin Charles, UConn *
Krystal Ellis, Marquette*
Shantia Grace, South Florida
Chandrea Jones, Syracuse
Angel McCoughtry, Louisville *
Renee Montgomery, UConn
Maya Moore, UConn*
Epiphanny Prince, Rutgers*
Kia Vaughn, Rutgers*
Shavonte Zellous, Pittsburgh *

*denotes unanimous selection

Preseason honorable mention

Laura Kurz, Villanova
Deirdre Naughton, DePaul
Lindsay Schrader, Notre Dame

Coaches’ poll
Team (first-place votes) total votes

1. UConn (14) 224
2. Rutgers (1) 201
3. Louisville (1) 200
4. Notre Dame 182
5. Pittsburgh 162
6. Syracuse 156
7. Marquette 147
8. DePaul 132
9. West Virginia 109
10. Villanova 85
11. Georgetown 77
12. South Florida 76
13. St. John’s 66
14. Seton Hall 40
15. Cincinnati 33
16. Providence 30

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thanks... Matt Stout, who filled in for me at the team's practice Tuesday. It was my one-year wedding anniversary, so I stepped out and Matt did a great job highlighting the start of the UConn careers of the three freshmen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Add another to the ranks

Samarie Walker, a 6-foot-1 guard out of Dayton, Ohio, gave the Huskies her verbal commitment Friday at First Night. She told me over the phone today that her verbal came earlier than expected, which was a pleasant surprise to coach Geno Auriemma.

She averaged 13.9 points per game as a sophomore and was ranked the top player in this year's junior class. That means if you go back, the Huskies have nabbed four of the last five top players in their class — Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne (who is now at Delaware) and Walker.

“It’s really a dream come true,” Walker said. “I always watched Maya Moore during her junior and senior years thinking, ‘I’m going to play with her,’ and I’m actually going to get the chance to.”

In picking UConn over Rutgers, Walker said that the players at the other schools she considered were not as laid back as the Huskies.

“They really remind me of the girls that I’m close to on my team,” she said. “They really welcomed me and the coaching staff was a lot different than what I thought they would be, very cool people.”

Walker plays at the same high school that produced former Husky Tamika (Williams) Raymond. The two spoke last week with Raymond raving about her time at Storrs.

A converted guard, Walker can post up her defender (scary) and shoot from the outside (scarier). Husky fans, I'll let your imagination run wild when you think of the lineup possibilities.

Let's just project a little at what the Huskies are looking like down the road with graduation year listed.

Renee Montgomery
Cassie Kerns
Tahirah Williams

Tina Charles
Kaili McLaren
Jacquie Fernandes
Meghan Gardler
Kalana Greene

Jessica McCormack
Maya Moore
Lorin Dixon

Caroline Doty
Tiffany Hayes
Heather Buck

Kelly Faris

Samarie Walker

UConn's going to need some post players, besides Heather Buck. It's not a knock against Heather, but one post does not make an inside game.

Friday, October 17, 2008

First Night

One of the big what-ifs of First Night is the speculation over what recruits will be in attendance. This year, I can tell you that senior Kelly Faris of Heritage Christian in Indianapolis, and sophomore Olivia Bresnahan of Butler High School in Pittsburgh, were present.Faris, you may recall, committed to UConn in March while the Huskies were playing in Bridgeport.

"Itʼs hard for me to believe that Iʼm going to be here playing for Connecticut," Faris said. "You always dream of being with a program like this and to know I will be here is very relaxing to me. I have my decision made and I am just happy to be here to watch it all.
"Everyone told me that making my decision when I did would be a huge weight off my shoulders and it definitely was."

Faris played with the National Under-18 team this summer, which she said helped her game significantly. Coincidentaly, she saw the Huskies last year when they scrimmaged the Olympic team at Gampel.

"Playing with the national [u-18] team over the summer helped a lot with my mental outlook on the game. It was also a little taste of what the college game is like because it [the tournament] was played on a completely different level than what you see in hs and aau. You have to step up your game in order to get a shot on the court. I think Iʼm a better player because of it. And it also showed me many different things that I still need to work on before I get out here to play. I know I need to work on my shooting and become a better ball-handler, no matter where you are on the floor."

"When I visited last year and watched them practice, I realized it was everything that I was looking for, in terms of intensity and desire. I talked to the girls and found out how hard they are willing to work for what they desire."

Only a sophomore, the fact that Bresnahan was here bodes well. She avaergaed 15.2 points per game last season for Butler, and describes herself as more of the type of player who drives to the hoop and makes plays.

"I love the campus and the entire team seems no nice," she said. "Iʼm having a lot of fun. This is just the start of the whole process and itʼs a little overwhelming at the start. Iʼm trying to just take things one step at time and consider all of my choices. I know it has the potential to ger a little overwhelming and tiring at times. I think Iʼd like to have it over before my senior season just so all the pressure is off me."

A few notes on the evening...

I was surprised to see Heather Buck break out her dance moves. She is fitting in very well with this team and will be a big contributor. When I spoke to her Thursday, she mentioned how happy she is to be in a situation different than high school (where she won a state title with Jacquie Fernandes) because the last two years at Stonington Buck faced triple- and quadruple-teams by defenses. At UConn, because of Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Kalana Greene and more, she will rarely see double teams. She's not going to know what to do with so little contact!

Montgomery has always been cocky, confident and not affraid to speak her mond. But as the leader of this team, she has a swagger that's been four years in the making. When introdiuced, she came out with oversized, fashion sunglasses (I think Charde left those for her). This is Renee's team and she's not affraid to let anyone know.

Tina Charles is sometimes criticzed for being too nice, especially by Geno Auriemma. Yes, her kindness can show itself on the floor as she can lack aggressiveness. There are moments where you stop and see the good her kindness brings. After the women's scrimmage, the team threw t-shirts into the stands for fans. Charles grabed her last t-shirt, pointed into the crowd, ran around the press row tables and asked a couple fans in the front row to move to their side. Then, Charles handed a t-shirt to a young child, maybe three years old. No matter how more aggressive Tina becomes on the basketball court, I hope that generous, caring aspect never goes away. She's a good kid, and I hope people who watch women's basketball know that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Media Day video

Photos from media day

Here's the link to the Bulletin's photo gallery from today's Media Day.

UConn Media Day

The Sporting News preview

Since some of you either can't get it, won't get it but want to or just don't know where to get is the Sporting News' 2008-09 preview. Click on the page you want to read for a larger version.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three polls, Three No. 1s

Athlon, Lindy's and The Sporting News each ranked the Huskies as the No. 1 team in the nation in their respective preseason polls. UConn was also selected as a preseason Sweet 16 team by USA TODAY.

Also, Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles were named by the Sporting News as preseason All America selections. I will post the Sporting News preview late tonight. Just to clarify, since I read something on another website, no, the order in which the players are listed in the Sporting News rankings are not based on a points system. Since I'm the one who came up with the list, there is no rhyme or reason to the order outside of First-, Second- and Third-teams.

Sporting News Top-25
1. Connecticut
2. Maryland
3. Oklahoma
4. Stanford
5. Rutgers
6. North Carolina
7. Tennessee
8. Duke
9. Louisville
10. Cal
11. Texas A&M
12. Oklahoma State
13. Virginia
14. Notre Dame
15. Vanderbilt
16. Texas
17. Arizona State
18. Baylor
19. Ohio State
20. Florida State
21. Marist
22. Xavier
23. Auburn
24. Syracuse
25. Marquette

Athlon Top-25
1. Connecticut
2. California
3. Stanford
4. Texas A&M
5. Duke
6. Maryland
7. Oklahoma
8. Arizona State
9. Tennessee
10. Louisville
11. Rutgers
12. North Carolina
13. Ohio State
14. Texas
15. Old Dominion
16. Vanderbilt
17. Oklahoma State
18. Virginia
19. Kansas State
20. Florida State
21. Xavier
22. Auburn
23. Michigan State
24. Utah
25. Pittsburgh

Lindy’s Top-25
1. Connecticut
2. Stanford
3. Maryland
4. Tennessee
5. Rutgers
6. North Carolina
7. Duke
8. California
9. Louisville
10. Oklahoma
11. Texas A&M
12. Oklahoma State
13. LSU
14. Texas
15. Virginia
16. Baylor
17. Ohio State
18. Vanderbilt
19. Auburn
20. Notre Dame
21. Arizona State
22. Florida State
23. USC
24. Pittsburgh
25. Marquette

(listed alphabetically)

Arizona State
North Carolina
Notre Dame
Texas A&M

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome back....

Folks, the season unofficially starts Thursday as the Huskies host their media day. That's followed by First Night on Friday and the periodic practices open to the public. That said, be on the lookout for regular updates here and on

Check out this year's Sporting News College Basketball annual. Not only do they pick the men second in the nation, but the women's preview was written by yours truly. I'm not telling you who I picked where -- you need to pick up a copy. I got mine today.