Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leader 1

If there's any question, any doubt as to why Renee Montgomery is among the game's elite, look no further than today's win over Hartford. Yes, it was Hartford, but let's say the game was North Carolina and Montgomery had gone down with the busted lip as she did today, do you think she would have re-entered the game? She offered to go back in today, but Geno Auriemma said no. It was the right call in an already decided contest.

After the game, Montgomery's lip was big, swollen to the point as if she were balancing a cherry on it. Dripping with blood, she calmly and casually played off the small injury. With a quick turnaround before facing LSU on Saturday, you know there are many of other players in the country who would sit out the next game.

Montgomery was the Huskies Saturday. She carried them early on when they had trouble finding the basket. Her 20 first-half points were more than all of Hartford's players combined at the half.

When she went down with the cut, the Huskies missed her immediately. The Hawks went on a small run until the Huskies gathered themselves and continued the drubbing.

New leader

Renee Montgomery passed Jen Rizzotti, the former Husky and current Hartford coach, to become the all-time leading scorer among point guards at UConn. Montgomery's 20 points bests Hartford's 16 points thanks to a 9-for-11 efort.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dolson quotes, as promised

From my conversation Saturday with new UConn recruit Stefanie Dolson:


On when she decided:

“Probably after we had gone to a game the weekend of Thanksgiving versus Oklahoma. After that I realized I really wanted to go.”


On liking the UConn’s proximity to home.

“Yeah, I guess. My parents like it more than I do.”


What she liked about UConn:

“On their campus it reminds me of where I live, the people – I love the people there. Then their program is a winning program and I feel like it was the best place that would make me the best player I could become.”


On going someplace where there is pressure and attention”

“The pressure I can handle. I’m pretty good with pressure. Actually, I do better when there’s more pressure on me. Attention, no. I’m not a big attention person. I am with my friends, but not when it comes to basketball. With basketball, I just want to play the game and do the best I can.”


On playing somewhere where she won’t be the focal point from Day One.:

“With that, I feel like if I go there with other people like Maya Moore and stuff, I feel like I won’t be the star but I’ll be an asset. I’ll be an extremely good asset to the team, help it win.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Geno's Christmas gift

On Christmas Day, UConn coach Geno Auriemma got the gift he had been wanting -- a 6-foot-5 center. Stefanie Dolson of Port Jervis, N.Y. gave Auriemma her verbal commitment to attend UConn as part of its 2010 recruiting class, joining Samarie Walker. Walker, who is 6-foot-1 gives the Huskies some size.

Speaking with Dolson today, she said that while she's not as excited as her parents about her attending college so close to home, the Storrs campus reminds her of home (a good thing) and that she believes UConn is the place where she can have her potential maximized.

It was after watching UConn dismantle Oklahoma last month that she decided UConn was the place for her. Dolson said that she likes the idea of playing in a pressurized situation, saying that she does well in those environments. She's not much for attention, however, preferring to stay under the radar.

Looking forward to the Huskies and the subsequent graduation classes:

2009
G Renee Montgomery
F Tahirah Williams
C Cassie Kerns

2010
G Kalana Greene (can leave in 2009)
C Tina Charles
G Jacquie Fernandes
F Meghan Gardler
F Kaili McLaren

2011
G Maya Moore
G Lorin Dixon
C Jess McCormick

2012
G Caroline Doty
G Tiffany Hayes

2013
C Heather Buck (assuming she is redshirted this year)
G Kelly Faris

2014
C Stefanie Dolson
F Samarie Walker


I will add more on Dolson later, including quotes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For those who care


ESPN's Outside the Lines will be featuring Elena Delle Donne this Sunday. I guess ESPN likes to beat the dead horse, but with EDD's violleyball success, the network has an excuse. Because, we all know how BIG college volleyball is. Really, it is.

Think about it. It's national tournament goes on ESPN and ESPN2, meanwhile some basketball games get pushed to ESPNU so they can't be seen by most of the nation.

This is a screen capture provided by the network.

Here's a link to a preview clip:
http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/video/videopage?videoId=3776195

There will also be a write-up on ESPN.com Friday.

Some quotes, provided by ESPN, from the Sunday and Friday pieces (check out the last one from Geno Auriemma).


“About age 13 I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. It’s not fun.’ My teammates used to seem like they were having a lot of fun, and I’d look around like, ‘I should be having fun, too.” -- Elena Delle Donne


“I was trying to force happiness upon myself, which I couldn’t find. I faked it really well because I didn’t want other people to know.” -- Elena Delle Donne


“At camps, we’d have guest speakers who would say, ‘You got to have that passion for the game -- that’s what will get you through to the next level.’ And I was thinking in my head, ‘I don’t have that at all.” -- Elena Delle Donne


*Coming home and telling my parents -- I mean, not many kids show up at their doorstep when they’re supposed to be at college – so I mean my stomach was spinning. They were just like, ‘Couldn’t you have tried it for a little longer? Maybe you’re just homesick.’ And I was like, ‘That’s not it at all. I don’t have the passion. I can’t keep doing this.’” -- Elena Delle Donne, on the difficulty of returning home after leaving UConn workouts and summer school last June


"She’s like a totally different person than what I saw when she played basketball. I think she looked miserable. I think she looks a lot better now. She looks really happy.” -- Meghan Bonk, Delle Donne’s Delaware volleyball teammate and high school friend


“I don't know how you can play that much basketball and be that good at it and say, ‘I hate it since the time I was 13.’ To me those two things don't go together -- that you would be that good at something and not enjoy any of it. It's hard for me to come to grips with.” -- Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yuck

This was ugly. And I have to tip my cap to Geno Auriemma. OK, he's friends with Holy Cross' Billy Gibbons. But Geno didn't have to pull his starters. Geno didn;t have to show mercy to Gibbons or to the Crusaders. His responsibility is to the Huskies.

Yet, that has as much of a reason behind not playing the starters. There's just something to be said about good sportsmanship.

What would have happened if the UConn starters had stayed in the whole time? 150-15? Who wants to see that? Who wants to see the circus come to town?

Geno said this was a tough game as far as keeping focus and because of what could have happened beyond what did. He questioned whether this was a beneficial series to continue, whether Holy Cross benefits from these games.

Gibbons appreciates what his team gets from facing UConn.

"I've done it every year I've been in the Patriot League, which is now 19 years. We've made the finals of the Patriot League 15 times of the (last) years, which I am very proud of, and we have won it 11 times. I think the reasons are because we play Connecticut and the tough schedule that we play non-conference have made us better for our league which is our ticket to the NCAA's."

Could this be a record breaker?

The fewest points allowed by UConn is 20. Holy Cross is minus its second-leading scorer and is bad to begin with.

Thoughts?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Paris in November

Courtney Paris looked bad in that first half, didn't she? Nothing-for-7 shooting and had eight boards (most were her missed shots). I, like a lot of others thought, "She stinks." OK. More likely, "She's not as good as I expected." And for the first 20 minutes , she wasn't. She let Tina Charles and even Kaili McLaren push her around and Paris played a disinterested game.

However, what we saw in the second half, was much more like what we expected. Paris had eight points quickly and in a matter of minutes. Felt like seconds.

She's a great talent -- when she's interested and when she focuses. The real Courtney Paris is who we saw in the second half, so people, don't kid yourself into thinking she's not all that. She is. But right now, I'd take Tina Charles every day of the week and twice on Sunday (especially this one).

Late-night ramblings

In all of the craziness that followed the big win over Oklahoma, I forgot to give you a further update on Heather Buck.

As I said earlier, she told me she is doing better, but Buck didn't sound like someone who would be playing soon. In fact, when asked after the game. Coach Geno Auriemma joked about his first-year center's progress. he said she is allowed to jog and if that goes well, then run. If that goes well she can eat solid food then she'd be allowed to cross the street.
"She's still a ways away from doing anything."

You might read she'll be back in the next two weeks, don't count on it. The earliest ETA in my book is New Year's Eve against Hartford and she may play just a few minutes. Keep in mind she is in worse shape than when training camp started, so she is at least a month behind. Auriemma should be able to find her a few minutes in clean up duty toward the end of 2008 or beginning of January.

Anatomy of a coaching relationship

Geno Auriemma and Sherri Coale, the Oklahoma coach, have a great friendship and friendly rivalry. Coale appreciates Auriemma for bringing the Huskies to Norman Oklahoma a few years ago. It was a move that really helped get OU fans behind the Sooners and helped the program gain exposure.

If you haven't noticed, Auriemma likes to play different teams in an attempt to grow the sport.

Toward the end of his postgame conference, Auriemma shared some insight into his relationship with Coale, who is one of the most expressive coaches in the country.

"I talked to Sherri (Saturday). I said, 'WHat kind of game do you want to play? Do you want to play for the national championship, 55-53, it'll be kind of boring? Or do you want to run up and down and let's have some fun and let's see what happens?' She said, 'I don't know how to answer that?' I said, 'I know how we're going to play. We're going to go up and down and that's how you like to play. So it's going to be whoever makes the most shot who's hoing to win. Maybe if we were playing for a national championship, we'd be more cautious. There was nothing cautious tonight about either team; we were just playing. ... This was women's basketball at its best tonight."

Lesson learned

What do we come away with after UConn really made Oklahoma, the fifth-ranked team in the nation, look like it is light years away?

First, what the participants have to say:

Sooners coach Sherri Coale:
“I thought Connecticut was fabulous. I told Geno (Auriemma) after the game that if you play like that and you shoot like that, you might win the men’s national championship. We didn’t particularly defend well but we didn’t play that poorly either. There were 16 turnovers in the game. It was just a beautiful women’s basketball game. They shot the ball extraordinarily well. We didn’t contest well; we gave them too many open three’s. Maya Moore is an animal.”

In response, UConn's Geno Auriemma quipped of his good friend:
“That’s why she’s such a good recruiter, because she just makes stuff up and says stuff that people want to hear. I just think that we are a good team that played a really good team and we played exceptionally well. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess. The goal is to play another game just like this Wednesday and then after that and after that and after that. We can put together a string of games like this and make this a standard by which we are going to play we’ll be all right. We’ll be as good as anybody, and I mean anybody that we play against, not those other guys. I didn’t expect this tonight, I’ll be honest with you.”

OK, so he didn't expect this blow out, Neither did anyone else. Coale was asked about UConn compared to North Carolina, a program known for its ability to run and that beat Oklahoma a week a by a point. She said UNC isn't even close to UConn, that the Huskies are in another class. Between exams and time, it's not until UConn visits UNC in January that the Huckies should go without a challenge.

What we -- fans, media, etc. -- should feel is that there may not be another team to compete with the Huskies. We saw what Renee Montgomery can do (30 pts, 13 asists, 6 rebounds, 2 turnovers). We also saw Maya Moore play a game where she seemed unstopable. We also saw that at least on this night, Tina Charles is better than Courtney Paris.

I really liked what Auriemma had to say about Montgomery. Saying that maybe with the exception of Kerry Bascom and Diana Taurasi. But he also said this, which speaks volumes of just how much he appreciates the floor general.

“Everybody has Maya Moore on their All-America team,” Auriemma said. “Everybody in America knows Maya Moore is the best player in the country. I think Renee is trying to make sure she’s not the best player on our team.”

And a video

video