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 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

One of Kia Nurse's dreams officially came true on Friday.

The University of Connecticut's junior guard will represent Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as announced by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canada Basketball. The Hamilton, Ontario native is the only NCAA athlete on Team Canada's 12-player roster.

"We're extremely proud of these 12 athletes and what they've sacrificed and accomplished to get to Rio," Team Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis said in a statement. "We're ready to take that passion and dedication to the world stage and continue to make Canada proud to support our team."

Nurse will be the first active UConn player to take part in the Olympics since Svetlana Abrosimova represented Russia in 2000. Rashidat Sadiq transferred into UConn the fall following the 2004 Games.

The 20-year-old's Nurse's selection is no surprise.

She first made her mark on Canada's senior national team when she made its 2014 club that competed in the FIBA world championships, finishing fifth.

Nurse led Team Canada to its first Pan American Games gold medal last July in Toronto, scoring 33 points in the final against Team USA-led UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart. A month later, Nurse was the Most Valuable Player as the FIBA Americas Championship as the Canadians' gold medal performance qualified them for the Olympics.

As a sophomore for the Huskies, Nurse averaged 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. The 2015 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and a 2016 all-league third-team pick has 753 career points in 77 games. She has started 74 games in her two seasons and UConn is 74-0 in them. She was the only player to start all 38 games a season ago.

Earlier this month it was reported that Nurse had surgery for a sports hernia, but Thomaidis believed her point guard would be fully recovered in time for the start of the Games.

Team Canada will take part in a tournament with the national teams of the United States, Australia, and France from July 27-31. Team USA and Team Canada will play in the round-robin event on July 29 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Team USA is coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and has five former Huskies on the squad -- Stewart, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.

Canada will face China in its first game in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 6. The Canadians and Americans will meet in pool play Aug. 12.

Also named were seven players who competed at the London 2012 Games: Natalie Achonwa, Miranda Ayim, Kim Gaucher, Lizanne Murphy, Michelle Plouffe, Shona Thorburn, and Tamara Tatham. First-time Olympians are Nurse, Nirra Fields, Miah-Marie Langlois, Katherine Plouffe, and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

Natalie Butler entered the NCAA tournament final against Syracuse on April 5 for the first time with 1:46 remaining, and she was on the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at the final buzzer when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team won its unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.

The Huskies will need to see much more of the 6-foot-5 junior center during the first 37 games if their drive for five is to succeed.

"I definitely think there is going to be an opportunity to play," Butler said. "I don't feel nervous. I feel at this point it has been two years, and honestly it feels like it has been two years without playing. I don't mean that in a sense that I'm bitter or anything like that. It's just that I'm very eager to play. I'm going to try to work myself in the position where I will have the opportunity to play."

It's been two years since the Fairfax Station, Virginia, native decided to leave Georgetown after averaging a double-double with the Hoyas and being named the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year.

She sat out the 2014-15 season at UConn due to NCAA transfer rules but got herself in great shape and appeared ready to make an impact when practice for the 2015-16 campaign began. But she tore ligaments in her left thumb and the surgery sidelined her for two months.

Every time there was light at the end of the tunnel on the comeback trail, it went dark.

"I think it really mentally messed with my head," Butler said. "Unfortunately I put back on weight, and it was very frustrating to go through that. I lifted as much as I could and worked out as much as possible, but it's not the same as playing.

"Just getting confidence back after an injury is important. It was just one thing after another last season, and I couldn't get things back on track. It was very difficult for me."

She made her UConn debut in Game 11 on Dec. 30 and had 11 points and eight rebounds in a win at Cincinnati. She matched those totals against Temple on Jan. 16 and had a season high 20 points against Central Florida the next game.

Her only start came on Feb. 17 against the Bearcats and she recorded her first and only double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes.

But with All-Americans Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck filling the post and Butler's own inconsistency, meaningful minutes were hard to come by. In nine postseason games, she averaged 2.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 6.9 minutes.

"I think it was a mixture of things," Butler said. "It was hard to come into an established team that had already been playing for half the season. Then not being able to strengthen my hand, having the extra weight, not being as physically strong as I was in the summer ... It was all frustrating. I wanted to be there and play. Having the aspiration to play and not being able to play at the level I wanted to just became more and more frustrating."

For the season, Butler averaged 5.6 points on 55.9 percent shooting from the floor and 4.0 rebounds in 12.0 minutes over 27 games.

With Stewart and Tuck now in the WNBA, Butler -- who has spent her offseason working with associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant Marisa Moseley -- knows her time is now.

"I feel a lot different," Butler said. "Coach (Geno Auriemma) told me it wasn't about my physical shape at all. It was more about me making the mental connection and stepping up to my abilities. Confidence is a huge part of your game and can actually help take you to the next level. I definitely feel that I'm coming into my own a little bit. I can just tell. I feel more confident in my skill development.

"Coming in to the No. 1 team in the nation can be a little intimidating. I've had all this adversity and it's like one thing after another where you can't get your feet on solid ground. Now it is finally like I know what to expect because I've been through this before. I've handled all these different obstacles and now it is like, 'OK, let's move forward.' I am very, very excited to play and very hungry to play. I really want to do something special with this team."

UConn will take a 75-game winning streak into the 2016-17 season opener at Florida State Nov. 14. Three days later, the Huskies host Baylor, which may have the most talented collection of post players in the country. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Maryland, DePaul, and South Carolina figure to give UConn stern tests during the non-league portion of the schedule.

Temple and South Florida hope they have closed the gap on the Huskies in American Athletic Conference play.

Looking far down the road, the 2017 NCAA Final Four is in Dallas. To get there, Butler -- whose father, Vernon, played alongside Hall-of-Famer David Robinson at the United States Naval Academy in the 1980s -- will need to come up big.

"It's a team effort," Butler said. "The coaching staff here has given me lots of positive feedback and things that I can work on. It's great to know they have my back and it's the same with my teammates. They have always been incredibly supportive. "My dad has always said that confidence has to come from within. They can only do so much for me. At some point I have to sort of say, 'OK, this is on me. This is my turn. If I want it I have to go get it.' "

LISTER JOINS WEST-COAST HUSKIES

Jasmine Lister, who served as a graduate assistant coach for UConn's last two national championship teams, has been named an assistant coach at the University of Washington.

"You don't have to look too deeply into Jasmine Lister's basketball journey to find excellence," Washington coach Mike Neighbors said in a statement. "One doesn't start every game of her career at Vanderbilt, play more minutes than anyone in the history of the program, earn All-SEC accolades on the court and in the classroom, play in the WNBA, then win two consecutive NCAA championships with UConn without having excellence. Now that she's a Husky, we're excited for her to have the opportunity to mentor our student-athletes and share how she was able to be successful at a high level -- through hard work and sacrifice."

Lister came to UConn after helping Vanderbilt to four straight NCAA tournament appearances. She played for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks for part of last summer and was in their training camp this spring. In May, she finished her masters degree in sports management at UConn.

At Washington, Lister will work alongside second-year assistant coach Morgan Valley, a three-time national champion at UConn. After reaching the Final Four for the first time, Washington assistants Adia Barnes (Arizona) and Fred Castro (Eastern Michigan) took head coaching jobs.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

Mikayla Coombs won't step onto the University of Connecticut campus for the first time until this fall. But she's already sure she wants to spend four years in Storrs.

Coombs, a 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, became the third player from the Class of 2017 -- joining Andra Espinoza-Hunter (5-11 guard, Ossining, New York) and Lexi Gordon (6-0 wing, Fort Worth, Texas) -- to make an oral commitment to UConn, as she announced her decision Thursday.

"I haven't seen the campus, but that's not important to me," Coombs said Friday night. "What's important to me are the people there. I've built a good relationship with the coaching staff and I have good relationships with the players in my recruiting class, Andi and Lexi. I sent them a text before I put out on Twitter that I had committed to let them know what I was doing and they were very excited. I'm really looking forward to playing with them." 

Coombs said she will take her official recruiting visit in September. She'll sign her letter of intent in November.

Calling the opportunity to attend UConn a dream come true, Coombs informed coach Geno Auriemma of her decision two weeks ago. She kept it quiet until she had informed all the other coaches recruiting her of her choice. She had also considered Georgia, Penn State, Stanford and Virginia.

"There were so many great opportunities for me, as well, at Stanford, Penn State, or Virginia," Coombs said. "That's what made it such a hard decision. It was hard telling the coaches that I had made a decision and it was not them.

"But I chose Connecticut because of my relationship with Coach Auriemma and the coaching staff. They started recruiting me when I was a freshman and they stayed with me and were so supportive through the times that I dealt with my knee injury. That meant so much to me. It showed what kind of people they are. They don't just care about you as a player. They care about you as a person. I believe, at Connecticut, they can help me become the best player and the best person that I can be."

She added that academics were an important factor in her decision. An honor roll student in each of her three years in high school, she plans to major in sports broadcast journalism.

"ESPN isn't far away. Hopefully at some point I can get an internship there," Coombs said.

Coombs averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a junior to lead Wesleyan School to the Georgia Class AA state tournament final. She missed almost all of her sophomore year after tearing the ACL in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game.

She was one of 35 players invited to the United States U-17 National Team trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May. A total of 139 players, including applicant candidates that paid their own way, started on May 26.

She was not among the last 40 that made it to the final day of the trials on May 29. It was her first USA Basketball trials. Coombs was invited to the 2015 U-16 trials, but could not attend after suffering the ACL tear.

UConn's first recruit from Georgia since Brianna Banks in 2011 returned to her AAU team (FBC Motton) this summer better for the experience.

"I feel great," Coombs said. "I feel like I'm all the way back. They told me it would take awhile after the surgery for me to get back to being myself. It has. But I think I'm there again."

She competed in AAU tournaments in Emerson, Georgia, and in Nashville, Tennessee, and members of the Huskies' coaching staff were at both events to watch her.

They will see her again in September and Coombs will see the campus and meet the rest of her future teammates for the first time.

"It's a relief," Coombs said of the end of her recruiting process. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the summer and having a fun senior year."

With Coombs' commitment, UConn has two scholarships remaining for the Class of 2017.
 

Espinoza-Hunter Comes Full Circle
Espinoza-Hunter announced on Twitter Friday that she will finish her high school career where it began.

"Extremely excited to say that I'll attending my senior year of high school back home in Ossining," Espinoza-Hunter wrote.

Espinoza-Hunter, who committed to UConn on Dec. 29, 2014, played varsity basketball at Ossining High in seventh and eighth grade and was a teammate of current UConn senior Saniya Chong. She totaled 478 points in her two seasons with the Pride and, as an eighth grader, helped Ossining to its first state championship.

She then transferred to Blair Academy and helped Blair to three conference and New Jersey Prep A state tournament titles. As a junior she averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Chong will be gone when Espinoza-Hunter gets to Storrs next year, but there will be a familiar face there for her. Batouly Camara, who transferred to UConn from Kentucky in May, was Espinoza-Hunter's teammate at Blair Academy for two seasons.

Tags: Carl Adamec

UConn's Kentan Facey saves the ball in last year's 79-76 loss to Syracuse in the Bahamas. (Kevin Jairaj)
UConn's Kentan Facey saves the ball in last year's 79-76 loss to Syracuse in the Bahamas. (Kevin Jairaj)

Former Big East rivals Syracuse and Georgetown are again on the UConn men's basketball schedule for the 2016-17 season.

The Huskies will play the Orange Dec. 5 at Madison Square Garden, the site of many of their classic Big East tournament matchups. The teams met last season in the Bahamas, with Syracuse winning, 79-76. UConn plays the Hoyas Jan. 14 in Washington; Georgetown visited Hartford last season.

The Huskies will play 12 non-conference games, plus two exhibitions, in addition to 18 games in the American Athletic Conference. UConn will defend its AAC tournament title at the XL Center in March.

UConn opens the season Nov. 11 against Wagner, which won the Northeast Conference regular-season title last season. Three days later the Huskies host Northeastern.

On Nov. 17, the Huskes travel west to face Loyola-Marymount in Los Angeles From there, it's off to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational Nov. 21-23. The field includes North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Georgetown and Chaminade. The bracket has not been set.

UConn is 8-1 in the Maui Invitational and won the event in 2005 and 2010.

Following its return home, UConn hosts Boston University. Nov. 30. After the Syracuse game in New York Dec. 5, the Huskies travel to Columbus, Ohio, to meet Big Ten contender Ohio State Dec. 10..

After the exam break, the Huskies host North Florida Dec. 18 and Auburn Dec. 23. UConn athletic director David Benedict came to Storrs from Auburn.

UConn will play exhibitions against New Haven Oct. 30 and Southern Connecticut Nov. 5.

The dates of conference games, as well as game times and home venues, will be announced in the coming weeks.

UCONN MEN'S BASKETBALL 2016-17 NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Sun., Oct. 30 - New Haven (exhib.)

Sat., Nov. 5 - Southern Connecticut (exhib.)

Fri., Nov. 11 --- Wagner   

Mon., Nov. 14 --- Northeastern

Thurs., Nov. 17 --- at Loyola Marymount

Mon., Nov. 21 - at Maui Invitational

Tues., Nov. 22 --- at Maui Invitational

Wed., Nov. 23 --- at Maui Invitational

Wed., Nov. 30 --- Boston University

Mon., Dec. 5 --- vs. Syracuse (Madison Square Garden)

Sat., Dec. 10 --- at Ohio State

Sun., Dec. 18 --- North Florida

Fri., Dec. 23 --- Auburn

Sat., Jan. 14 --- at Georgetown  


Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

Mikayla Coombs knew what she was looking for in a college when she was attending the United States U-17 national team trials in May.

"I want a coach that will make me better every day and want to work with a coaching staff I feel comfortable with and feel I can go to with anything," Coombs said. "I want to be at a place where I can improve my character. And academics are a big part to me. I want to major in broadcast journalism so I'll be looking at that."

She found what she was looking for at the University of Connecticut.

Coombs, a 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, announced her decision on Twitter Thursday to commit to UConn. She is the third player from the Class of 2017 to commit to UConn, joining Andra Espinoza-Hunter (5-10 guard, Ossining, New York) and Lexi Gordon (6-0 wing, Fort Worth, Texas).

She had also considered Georgia, Penn State, Stanford, and Virginia.

Coombs averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a junior to lead Wesleyan School to the Georgia Class AA state final. She missed most of her sophomore year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the season opener.

"The first part of the season, my shooting was there but my first step really wasn't," Coombs said. "In January I felt like everything was coming into place. Then we got into the postseason and I had a triple-double in a game and I felt really back again."

Her father, Stephen, was a member of Jamaica's national soccer team.

With Coombs' commitment, UConn has two scholarships remaining for the Class of 2017.


Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse (11) reacts after her basket against the Duquesne Dukes during the first half in the second round of the 2016 women's NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse (11) reacts after her basket against the Duquesne Dukes during the first half in the second round of the 2016 women's NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)

Kia Nurse has not missed a game in her two years with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team and was the only player to start all 38 games a season ago as the Huskies won their unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.

Offseason surgery will not keep the junior guard from reaching another one of her goals - playing for Team Canada in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A report by Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press says Nurse is recovering from a sports hernia that required surgery, adding that coach Lisa Thomaidis believes her point guard will be fully recovered in time for the start of the Games Rio Olympics next month.

"Timeline is she's 100 percent by Tuesday, and cleared for everything," Thomaidis said in Ewing's story. "We're confident she'll be good to go when we get together in Toronto."

Team Canada hosts China in three exhibition games at Edmonton's Saville Centre Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Nurse will join the team next Thursday in Toronto.

The Canadians will also take part in a tournament with the national teams of the United States, Australia, and France July 27-31. Team USA and Team Canada will play in the round-robin event on July 29 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Canada will face China in its first game in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 6.

According to the report, doctors discovered the sports hernia shortly after Nurse's sophomore season at UConn. She attended Team Canada's camp in Edmonton.

"It wasn't something she could work through and play through this summer, it was a necessity," Thomaidis said.

"That's a tremendous luxury that she's been with us this entire quad, she can just jump in. What they do at UConn is something similar in terms of systems, and she was here for the first few days of camp, she got to see some of the things that we're doing that are new. And she's a very intelligent basketball player, it won't take long for her to get up to speed."

Nurse led Team Canada to its first gold medal at last July's Pan American Games, scoring 33 points in the final against Team USA-led UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart. A month later, Nurse was the Most Valuable Player as the FIBA Americas Championship as the Canadians' gold medal performance qualified them for the Olympics.

The Hamilton, Ontario, native averaged 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists as a sophomore for the Huskies, who capped a 38-0 season with a rout of Syracuse in the national championship game. She has 753 career points in 77 games. She has started 74 games in her two seasons and UConn is 74-0 in them.

She joins UConn's walking wounded. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson is working her way back from a broken bone in her left foot suffered in the national semifinals on April 3. Sophomore Napheesa Collier (in April) and freshman Crystal Dangerfield (in June) had hip surgery. Freshman Kyla Irwin has a cast on her broken right hand. All are expected to be ready for the start of the 2016-17 season at Florida State Nov. 14.

Stewart, Charles honored

Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm was named the WNBA Rookie of the Month Thursday for games played in June. She won the honor for the second month in a row.

The top pick in the 2016 Draft out of UConn led all rookies in scoring, rebounds, and blocked shots while ranking second in assists in 11 June games. Overall, Stewart is seventh in the league in scoring (18.7), first in rebounds (9.8) and minutes played (35.0), and third in blocked shots (1.9).

Tina Charles of the New York Liberty was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for June, the second straight month she has been so honored.

The top pick in the 2010 Draft out of UConn led the WNBA in scoring and was second in rebounds and assists during the month. Overall, Moore tops the league in scoring (22.8), is second in rebounds (9.6) and minutes played (34.9), and tied for 10th in assists (4.1).

Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks was the Western Conference Players of the Month.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Kevin Ollie has filled the vacant spot on his coaching staff. (Jessica Hill)
Kevin Ollie has filled the vacant spot on his coaching staff. (Jessica Hill)

UConn has hired Temple assistant men's basketball coach Dwayne Killings to fill a similar role with the Huskies.

The 35-year-old is a native of Amherst, Massachusetts, and played at the University of Massachusetts for two years before transferring to Hampton University and earning a degree in Sports Management.

He spent the past five seasons at Temple, where he had previously served as an assistant director of basketball operations. He also has worked at Boston University, for the NBA's Developmental League and for the Charlotte Bobcats.

>> Read more from SNY.tv


Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma speaks to the media after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma speaks to the media after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock)

Geno Auriemma has coached the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to win 11 national championships, including the last four, and 17 NCAA Final Fours. The 2006 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame has the highest percentage of any coach in his sport's history.

He admits that running his own team is tough enough. So when he hears another coach comment about he should do it, he does not take it that well.

Auriemma responded briefly to comments by Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie in a question-and-answer session with the school newspaper The Chronicle, published Friday. In it, she questioned Auriemma and his motives in accepting a pair of transfers, including former Blue Devil Azura Stevens.

"The coach at Duke should coach the kids at Duke and let the rest of us worry about our own programs," Auriemma said.

After Duke failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994, Stevens - a 6-foot-6 wing and two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick - and guard Angela Salvadores announced their decisions to leave the school.

Salvadores signed a professional contract in her native Spain. Stevens opted to move on to UConn after also looking at a pair of California schools. She will sit out the 2016-17 season and have two years of eligibility remaining. She will be eligible for the 2018 WNBA Draft, but Stevens said Monday that she is taking things "day by day" and has not even considered looking that far ahead.

The Huskies have also welcomed Batouly Camara, a 6-foot-2 forward, who played at Kentucky last season.

"When have you known Connecticut to take transfers?" McCallie told The Chronicle. "They took two this year. Make sure you look at this stuff from a deep point of view, because why is he [Auriemma] doing that? You know why he's doing that? Because talent is down. And he wants to continue to win. Obviously, they're great.

"But really? Is that what we're about now, I'm going to take transfers? That was the neat thing they used to have. Connecticut wasn't a transfer school. Now, even if they win it, who cares? I can't even understand it because he's such a good coach and it's such a great program."

In Auriemma's 31 seasons, he has taken a seven transfers from four-year schools: Renee Najarian (from South Carolina), Sarah Northway (from Arizona), Christine Rigby (from Santa Clara), Brittany Hunter (from Duke), Natalie Butler (from Georgetown), Stevens, and Camara.

Duke accepted former Maryland guard Lexie Brown as a transfer a year ago and she will be eligible this season.

After the season, Duke conducted an evaluation of its women's basketball program, though McCallie kept her job.

"It might be a good program for other students and players, but it wasn't what I was looking for," Stevens said.

Stevens, who had a team high 16 points against UConn in an 83-52 loss to the Huskies at the XL Center on Dec. 29, 2014, played for South Carolina coach Dawn Staley a summer ago and helped Team USA win the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championships. Her teammates included UConn sophomore Napheesa Collier and freshman Crystal Dangerfield.

"I think she came back from USA a different player and a different person a little bit with her thoughts about things," McCallie said. "I knew all season that she was struggling. This was no surprise. Very devastating, but no surprise."

Stevens missed seven games late in her sophomore season with a foot injury and Duke struggled without her.

"She played well at times, then she had the injury with the plantar fascia," McCallie said. "That was extremely distressing for her to have that. I just think that Azurá made that decision to go to Connecticut. She told us, she told her teammates that, 'I want a guaranteed national championship.' That became something more important than a Duke education. It was really sad."

UConn has won an unprecedented four consecutive national championships. The Huskies' run of nine NCAA Final Four appearances in a row is also a record, and they've reached the Sweet 16 in 23 straight seasons. Their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament bids is 28.

McCallie was hired by Duke from Michigan State in 2007 after Gail Goestenkors, who guided the Blue Devils to four Final Fours in her last nine seasons, left for Texas.

While McCallie did lead the Spartans to the 2005 Final Four, losing to Baylor in the national championship game, it hasn't happened for her at Duke. In her nine seasons the Blue Devils are 0-4 in Elite Eight games, including a 75-40 rout by UConn in 2011 in Philadelphia.

Under McCallie, Duke is 0-8 against the Huskies with an average margin of defeat of 28.6 points. The closest game was 16 in 2012. McCallie decided to not renew the series after the December 2014 meeting.

McCallie is 1-10 against the Huskies overall with the win coming when she was at Michigan State.

"Do you know how hard it is to coach at Duke?" Auriemma said facetiously to the Hartford Courant. "It's really challenging. It's an impossible job. She's tried so hard to get to a Final Four with all the disadvantages there. So I suggest she try a little harder and let us try to be respectable."

Back in 2002 when Hunter chose Duke over his school, Auriemma had some fun at the Blue Devils' expense, noting there were just as many Duke graduates waiting tables as UConn graduates. A few months later when the Huskies faced Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Cameron Crazies were all over Auriemma, chanting "Luigi" (his given name), among other things during UConn's win.

Fourteen years later, thanks to McCallie, the fun is out of it.

Camara undergoes shoulder surgery

Camara joined UConn's walking wounded Friday as she underwent a successful surgical procedure to repair a pre-existing injury to her right shoulder. 

She is expected to be fully recovered in time for preseason practice in October. 

Camara is the third UConn player to have surgery since the Huskies won the national championship in April. Collier had hip surgery for a torn labrum in her hip in late April while Dangerfield had a similar surgery three weeks ago. Freshman Kyla Irwin broke her right hand during a pick-up game and had a cast out on it last Monday.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (C) celebrates with his team after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Thomas J. Russo)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma (C) celebrates with his team after defeating the Syracuse Orange 82-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Thomas J. Russo)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team already has a connection to the National Hockey League. Junior guard Kia Nurse's older brother, Darnell, is a defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers.

Could there be another connection for the Huskies in the future?

UConn hockey standout Joseph Masonius was taken by the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round (181st overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft last Saturday. The rising sophomore defenseman's mother, Ellen Clark, served as an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma for two seasons (1987-89) after wrapping up her playing career at Saint Joseph's University. She was on the staff when the Huskies won their first Big East regular season and tournament championships in 1989 and made the first of what is now 28 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

"Joe's a really great kid, a heck of a player, and a great talent," Auriemma said. "I don't profess to know a whole lot about hockey, but I know that Joe has the makeup and he certainly has the talent. If he's as tough and as competitive as his mom, then he's going to have a long career in the NHL. But first he has to finish up at UConn."

Masonius led the Huskies' defensemen as a freshman with 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) and was third on the team in blocked shots with 42.

He was one of two UConn players taken in the draft. Classmate Tage Thompson became the first Husky in program history to be selected in the first round when he was chosen No. 26 by the St. Louis Blues.


UConn finished 11-21-4 overall and 6-12-4 in Hockey East a season ago. The Huskies will open the 2016-17 regular season with a two-game series against Alabama-Huntsville Oct. 7-8 at the XL Center in Hartford.

WNBA talk
Auriemma was at Madison Square Garden last Sunday as the Phoenix Mercury topped the New York Liberty 102-97 in overtime. Diana Taurasi sank three free throws with 7.8 seconds left to force the extra session.

"Zero. Zero. There's never any doubt," Auriemma said when asked if he thought there was a chance the former three-time All-American might miss one of the free throws.

Auriemma was also at Breanna Stewart's first professional game in Connecticut on June 10. On Tuesday night, the Seattle Storm rookie had a season-high 38 points in a win over Atlanta. Stewart's career best at UConn was 37 at Temple on Jan. 28, 2014. The three-time National Player of the Year with the Huskies followed up with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots in a loss to Dallas Thursday night.

Stewart, who led UConn to four straight national championships, is tied for fifth with former UConn star Maya Moore in the WNBA in scoring (18.8), second in rebounds (9.3), tied for 16th in assists (3.3), tied for third with former Huskies teammate Kiah Stokes in blocked shots (2.0), and second in minutes played (34.9).

"I think the three best players in the WNBA right now are Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, and Nneka Ogwumike," Auriemma said. "Those three, right now, seem to be head and shoulders above everyone else. I'm biased, but Stewie is having a pretty good year. When you're a rookie and you're just about leading the league in rebounds and minutes played, that's pretty good."

Charles, who will join Taurasi and Stewart on Auriemma's United States Olympic team, missed the Liberty's 95-92 overtime win at Minnesota Wednesday as she recovers from a reduction procedure on a broken nose suffered a week earlier. It's the first game she has sat out in her three years with the Liberty.

 

The 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player with the Connecticut Sun is having that kind of season again. She leads the league in scoring (22.3), rebounds (9.9) and minutes played (35.1) while ranking sixth in assists (4.5).

"Tina's shot selection is way better," Auriemma said. "And you look at her assists and they're way up. Before she might not have had enough trust in her teammates. Look at her now, she has a lot of confidence in passing the ball and that will be huge for her going forward in the playoffs."

Ogwumike had 38 points (13-for-14 shooting from the floor, 12-for-14 shooting from the foul line) and 11 rebounds in the Los Angeles Sparks' win over Atlanta Thursday. UConn graduate Tiffany Hayes of the Dream had her career high of 32 points in the contest. 

USA basketball update
The United States' run of gold medals at the FIBA U-17 World Championships is over.

Jazmin Shelley had 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists Friday as Australia defeated Team USA 73-60 in a semifinal game in Zaragoza, Spain.

The Americans had won gold in the three previous U-17 competitions.

Australia never trailed, breaking the last tie with a 10-1 run to take a 14-5 lead. It was 36-27 at halftime. Team USA scored the first four points of the third quarter but Australia pulled away again to take a 59-46 advantage to the fourth quarter. Australia stretched it out to 66-50 before an Olivia Nelson-Ododa basket capped a 6-0 spurt and made it a 10-point game with 3:49 left. But Shelley answered for Australia and its edge stayed in double figures the rest of the way.

Nelson-Ododa led the Americans with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Aquira DeCosta added 12 points and eight rebounds and Janelle Bailey 10 points and 11 rebounds. The trio combined to shoot 14-for-24 from the floor while the remainder of the squad was 9-for-51.

Australia will meet Italy for the gold medal Saturday. Team USA will take on China for the bronze medal the same day. Italy defeated China in Friday's other semifinal 62-51.

The United States U-18 national team returns to Colorado Springs Saturday for a six-day training camp before heading to Valdivia, Chile for the FIBA U-18 Americas Championship set for July 13-17. Team USA will face Guatemala in its group play opener on July 13.

UConn freshman point guard Crystal Dangerfield was named to the U-18 team on May 30 after trials at the United States Olympic Training Center, but was forced to withdraw after having hip surgery on June 17.


USA basketball athlete Sue Bird poses for a portrait during the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at Beverly Hilton. (Robert Hanashiro)
USA basketball athlete Sue Bird poses for a portrait during the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at Beverly Hilton. (Robert Hanashiro)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Molly Bent has wanted to meet Sue Bird for as long as she can remember. The recent visit by Bird and the WNBA's Seattle Storm to Connecticut gave the UConn women's basketball team's freshman the long-awaited opportunity.

Prior to facing the Connecticut Sun June 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Storm held a practice at the Werth Family Champions Center in Storrs. Bent, already on campus taking summer classes, made her way over. It wasn't only to do some Bird watching, though. She also had a question for the three-time Olympic gold medalist and future Hall of Fame point guard.

Bent wore uniform No. 10 at Tabor Academy and wanted to keep it. No one has worn it at UConn since Bird graduated following her 2002 national Player of the Year season.

After hearing from associate head coach Chris Dailey, Bent made her move.

"When they practiced at Werth I had to ask Sue if I could wear it," Bent said. "CD texted me and said, 'It's tradition. You have to ask.' And Sue was really nice about it. I was a little nervous. She told CD afterwards that my face was red but I don't think it was. So I asked and she said to, 'Wear it proudly and do it proud.' It was nice."

So when the Huskies open their regular season at Florida State Nov. 14, coach Geno Auriemma will have a No. 10 available.

"It's not like I'm trying to be Sue Bird, obviously," Bent said. "But I've always had No. 10 and I didn't really want to change that up. And it did actually give me the chance to talk to her."

Fellow freshmen Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin have decided what numbers they will wear. Dangerfield is taking No. 5 while Irwin will keep the No. 25 she wore at State College High in Pennsylvania.

Bent, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Centerville, Massachusetts, arrived at UConn on May 30, the day she graduated from Tabor Academy. She attended her first college class the next day.

"That was hectic," Bent said. "But since things have calmed down and I could not be happier. I have learned so much in these five weeks. I'm looking forward to going home for a little while but I can't wait to get back here.

"I've learned little things, like footwork, But it's more the sense of how hard you have to work to play here. They did switch up my footwork on my jump shot, which made it feel a lot better and push my release higher. But I took the opportunity to watch how hard everyone worked. They never let you quit."

She learned that quickly.

"We'll play in pick-up games and no one ever will say, 'Let's finish up early,' " Bent said. "We play hard and if you don't someone will say something or you won't be on the court. At the same time, it's a lot of fun. It's fun to play with them and compete.

"And I've seen that in individual workouts. Say you're in a drill and you have to make a certain amount of shots in a certain amount of time. You make that many shots and it doesn't matter how tired you are, you keep going until you do it. You have to do it, and they don't let you stop. If you don't finish, that's not an option. You get it done."

Bent was a three-time New England Prep School Class A all-star and was nominated for the 2016 McDonald's All-America game.

A straight-A student at Tabor Academy, Bent had been looking at Ivy League schools Brown and Princeton before receiving interest from higher-profile programs during her junior year. Auriemma and assistant coaches Marisa Moseley and Shea Ralph watched her play in an AAU tournament. She made an unofficial visit to UConn 13 months ago and accepted Auriemma's scholarship offer.

"It seems like yesterday I sat there with Marisa and Shea watching her play in North Carolina," Auriemma said. "I said, 'Look, you guys better get her on campus, and we probably better recruit her. If we don't, don't be surprised if we're in the Sweet 16 or Final Eight and playing some mid-major and she is kicking our guards' butts just like Dayton did. I don't want to say, I told you so.'

"Molly has a pretty good sense, a good feel for the game. Every kid you talk to says she is an incredibly hard worker Her motor just never stops. We have won a lot of games with kids like her."

With Moriah Jefferson having graduated and now in the WNBA with the San Antonio Stars and Dangerfield sidelined until well into the fall following hip surgery on June 17, Bent will get the chance to make an early impression in her bid to make an immediate impact.

She'll spend the rest of the summer on Cape Cod, but it will be a working vacation.

"I want to continue to do the things I've done here and gain more confidence in my shot," Bent said. "I want to come back to practice and knock out down my shots and be confident with it. Then I have to get stronger with and without the ball."

Bird will be back in Connecticut on July 29 when Auriemma's United States Olympic team takes on Kia Nurse and Canada at Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard Courtney Ekmark (22) brings the ball up court against the Chattanooga Lady Mocs during the second half at McKenzie Arena. (Jim Brown)
Connecticut Huskies guard Courtney Ekmark (22) brings the ball up court against the Chattanooga Lady Mocs during the second half at McKenzie Arena. (Jim Brown)

Courtney Ekmark will spend the final two seasons of her college basketball career near home.

UConn announced Wednesday that Ekmark, a 6-foot junior guard from Phoenix, will transfer to Arizona State. She will sit out the 2016-17 campaign and have two years of eligibility.

"Courtney is a great kid and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know her and her family," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Everyone at UConn misses her already and we wish her nothing but the best in the future."

Ekmark committed to UConn at the end of her sophomore year at St. Mary's High in Phoenix. Playing for her father, Curtis, she led St. Mary's to three state championships and an 87-3 record before being home schooled for her senior year. She was the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year following a junior season in which she averaged 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals. In the 2013 state tournament, she averaged 21.5 points in helping lead the Knights to the title. In the 49-37 championship game win over Pinnacle, Ekmark had a game-high 14 points to become the first Arizona player to be the top scorer in three consecutive championship games. She was also the No. 1-ranked student in her class.

She played in 61 games off the bench at UConn and averaged 2.0 points per game and was a Dean's List student.

"I feel incredibly blessed to have been a UConn Husky for the past two years but I am really looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life at Arizona State," Ekmark said. "I want to thank the coaching staff and my UConn teammates for everything over the last two years and I can't wait to start playing for Coach Charli here in Tempe."

Arizona State is coached by Charli Turner Thorne and won a share of the Pac 12 regular season championship a season ago. The Sun Devils were beaten by Tennessee in the NCAA tournament second round.

"I've know Courtney since she was nine years old and it is so exciting to welcome her home," Turner Thorne said. "She was one of the greatest high school players ever to come out of the state of Arizona and we are ecstatic beyond words that she is joining our program.

"Courtney is a player who can do it all and she will have an incredible impact in every part of the game. For those that don't know Courtney, her competitive spirit and work ethic are simply in the 99th percentile among college basketball players. Complementing her exceptional talent and toughness is Courtney's giving and passionate nature that will fit perfectly into our culture. She comes from an amazing family that we are very grateful is now part of our Sun Devil family."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) warms up before the start of the game against the Duquesne Dukes in the second round of the 2016 women's NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) warms up before the start of the game against the Duquesne Dukes in the second round of the 2016 women's NCAA Tournament at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Kyla Irwin made her way to the University of Connecticut campus during Memorial Day weekend and it's taken her just four weeks to fit right in with her women's basketball teammates.

The freshman forward arrived at coach Geno Auriemma's Fore the Kids charity tournament at the Hartford Golf Club Monday with a newly-fitted cast on her right hand and a walking boot on her left foot.

Another day, another addition to the injury report for the four-time reigning national champion Huskies.

There was fellow freshman Crystal Dangerfield on crutches after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in her right hip on June 17. Sophomore forward Napheesa Coillier is still slowed to a walk since having similar hip surgery on April 22. Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson can wear two sneakers again but she's still recovering after breaking a bone in her left foot in the Final Four semifinal game against Oregon State on April 3.

Does Auriemma's three-day hospital stay in mid-April count?

"Luckily it's summer and it's all happening now," Samuelson said. "Everyone will be back by the start of the season."

Irwin, a native of State College, Pennsylvania, was the latest casualty. She was hurt in a collision, but, ever the good teammate, declined to identify the player that she had run into.

"We bumped into each other, just bad timing," Irwin said. "It was a total accident. It's not so bad."

The walking boot, she said, was on her foot as a precautionary measure.

Dangerfield said she originally injured the hip when she slipped and fell last June. The guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, still managed to help the United States national team to a gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championships last summer. Last winter as a senior at Blackman High, she averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 steals in leading the Lady Blaze to a 27-4 record. She was the Morgan Wootten Award winner as the national Player of the Year and picked up her third consecutive Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year honor.

"I got a cortisone shot and played my senior year because I wanted to win that third straight state championship," Dangerfield said. "Then it got worse. It was a little surprise. I was here for a week and a half and they took me to the doctor and took x-rays and an MRI. Next thing I knew they were telling me I needed surgery. There was no other option."

The injury forced her to withdraw from the USA U-18 team that was to play in the FIBA Americas Championship next month.

"I want to get back in basketball shape to be ready for the start of the season," Dangerfield said. "Maybe this is God's way of telling me that I needed a break."

Collier played in all 38 games as a rookie at UConn. She averaged 6.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor and 91.7 percent shooting from the foul line, along with 5.2 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game. Her 1.2 blocked shots ranked sixth in the American Athletic Conference. She was named to the AAC all-freshman team in March.

All this as she battled hip issues. She is not allowed to jog yet but hopes to be back in action come August.

"The labrum tore in the preseason, but it's been an on-going thing for a couple of years," Collier said. "It wasn't actually that painful when I was playing. It was bothersome more away from the court, when I would sit in certain positions or turn a certain way.

"I didn't learn anything new about myself, really, because I know anyone here would have done the same thing. They would have played. There are always going to be obstacles put in your way and you have to work your way past them. That's what I did."

Samuelson broke the bone in her left foot on a drive to the basket to open the scoring in the Huskies' 80-51 win over Oregon State.

The AAC all-freshman and all-tournament team selection actually played one of her best all-around halves of the season. The Huntington Beach, California, native had seven points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal, and her rebound hoop gave UConn a 47-26 halftime lead.

"Well, I think the reason I was able to play the whole half was due to adrenaline," Samuelson said. "The reason I played well was because I was thinking about my foot. I didn't know it was broken but it was bothering me. I wasn't over-thinking anything. I do better when I don't think."

Samuelson asked athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle for a pad at halftime to soften the impact on her foot when she ran. But Ragle decided that Samuelson should have x-rays and the break was found.

She missed UConn's championship game win over Syracuse. Samuelson admitted she would have liked to try and play but was told she could make the injury much worse. In 37 games, she averaged 11.0 points on 49.3 percent shooting from the floor and 83.7 shooting from the foul line, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.

"I've had to focus on getting better," Samuelson said. "I'm not trying to push anything too far. There's no point or need.

"I feel like I can go. If I needed to be out there going 100 percent, I would be. I have a long season ahead so there's no reason to rush."

Auriemma said on Monday that Janelle Francisco, who has worked with UConn's baseball team, would replace Ragle as his team's athletic trainer. Ragle has joined the staff of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and is working as the athletic trainer for the WNBA's New York Liberty.

STEWART WINS HONDA CUP

UConn Class of 2016 graduate Breanna Stewart was named the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and presented with the prestigious Honda Cup on Monday in Los Angeles.

Joining Stewart as the top three finalists were senior softball player Sierra Romero of Michigan and senior soccer player Raquel Rodriguez from Penn State. The "Top Three" were selected by a voting of nearly 1,000 NCAA member schools and the Honda Cup winner was chosen by the Board of Directors of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) program.

Stewart is the fifth Honda Cup winner from UConn, giving the Huskies the most Honda Cup winners overall in the 40-year history of the awards program. All four previous Honda Cup winners from UConn have come in the sport of basketball: Maya Moore (2010 and 2011), Jennifer Rizzotti (1996) and Rebecca Lobo (1995).

"On this special 40th year milestone for the CWSA we congratulate Breanna and welcome her into the elite company of those who have held the Honda Cup for the past 39 years -- truly the best of the best in collegiate athletics," CSWA executive director Chris Voelz said in a statement.

Stewart led her team to an unprecedented fourth straight national championship and is the first player in history to earn four Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.

The North Syracuse, New York, native swept the 2016 national Player of the Year honors in leading UConn to a perfect 38-0 record and an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship. She became the first player to be named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four four times after leading the Huskies past Syracuse in the title game.

She was taken with the overall No. 1 pick by the Seattle Storm in April's WNBA Draft and will represent the United States at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Geno Auriemma on Pat Summitt 00:02:29
UConn Women's head basketball coach Geno Auriemma chats with SNY's Justine Ward about the legacy of Pat Summitt.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team was holding its one-hour workout at the Pepsi Center in Denver a day prior to its 2012 NCAA Final Four semifinal game with Notre Dame.

But it was Pat Summitt who owned the floor.

Summitt had coached her final game with the University of Tennessee days earlier when she came to the arena to watch Lady Vols' senior Glory Johnson get honored as a WBCA All-American.

Her arrival coincided with the Huskies' practice.

Summitt took a seat near the front row to wait for the WBCA ceremony that followed UConn's workout. All seemed normal, though she had announced the previous August that she had been diagnosed with early on-set dementia. Fans flocked to her and she signed autographs and posed with pictures, all with a smile.

Soon UConn coach Geno Auriemma made his way over to see her. The two hugged and talked as the fans in the arena cheered their approval, regardless of allegiance.

"The conversation I had in Denver was maybe the second to last time that I remember speaking to her," Auriemma said Monday at his Fore the Kids charity golf tournament at Hartford Golf Club. "The way that this thing has played out, the thing that I appreciate the most is the way it evolved, like with Dean Smith, you know. There really wasn't a whole lot of information out there and it was very private. That is probably the way it needs to be. My conversations were through other people, people who were close to her who her who would go see her on a regular basis. I talked to them and told them what I thought. I had them relay it. I don't think anybody should be getting involved in those kid of things."

Summitt, the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history who uplifted the women's game from obscurity to national prominence during her 38-year career at Tennessee, died Tuesday morning in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was 64.

Her son, Tyler Summitt, issued a statement Tuesday morning saying his mother died peacefully at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most.

"Since 2011, my mother has battled her toughest opponent, early onset dementia, 'Alzheimer's Type,' and she did so with bravely fierce determination just as she did with every opponent she ever faced," Tyler said. "Even though it's incredibly difficult to come to terms that she is no longer with us, we can all find peace in knowing she no longer carries the heavy burden of this disease."

Summitt helped grow women's college basketball and her Lady Vols dominated the sport in the late 1980s and 1990s. She compiled a 1,098-208 record in 38 seasons, with eight national championships, the last coming when Tennessee went back to back in 2008, and a record 18 NCAA Final Four appearances.

She won 16 Southeastern Conference regular season titles, as well as 16 conference tournament titles. She was an eight-time SEC Coach of the Year and seven-time national Coach of the Year. She also coached the United States to an Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

"We don't have a long history, women's basketball, you know," Auriemma said. "The history before Tennessee and before Pat Summitt was kind of checkered because there wasn't a lot of media attention. There wasn't a lot of interest in the game. There wasn't a lot of support from universities. So it is a short history.

"And during that short history, there's one person for a long time, nobody else was even in that category. A lot of times there is competition among a lot of coaches. For the longest time, there was only Pat Summitt. Nobody else. I mean other people took their turn at getting their 15 minutes of fame. But when people talked about women's college basketball in America, it was Pat Summitt and Tennessee. When you get on the cover of Time Magazine … When is the last time a women's team coach got on the cover of Time Magazine? It doesn't happen. So for that to happen, it's saying a lot. Our sport is synonymous with Pat Summitt and Pat Summitt is synonymous with women's basketball."

Summitt was a tough taskmaster yet enjoyed such an intimate relationship with her players that they called her "Pat."

Summitt never had a losing record and her teams made the NCAA Tournament every season. She began her coaching career at Tennessee in the 1974-75 season, when her team finished 16-8.

With a 75-54 victory against Purdue on March 22, 2005, she earned her 880th victory, moving her past North Carolina's Smith as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history. She earned her 1,000th career win with a 73-43 victory against Georgia on Feb. 5, 2009.

The Lady Vols began a series with UConn on Jan. 16, 1995. It would become the best the game has had to offer.

In 13 seasons, the teams met 22 times with UConn winning 13. The Huskies won all four national championship game showdowns (1995, 2000, 2003, 2004) and held a 5-2 edge in postseason play.

"It certainly was unique," Auriemma said. "There certainly wasn't anything like it before that and there hasn't been anything since. Notre Dame is the closest thing that has evolved for us.

"The rivalry only lasted 12 years. That's not a long time, but we played 22 times in 12 years. That's what made the rivalry what it was, and it seemed like, what was really to me the most fun about it, that every single game we played against them there seemed to be something at stake -- either an NCAA Tournament game, a national championship or just in the minds of a lot of people, something was at stake. I don't even know how many times we were either No. 1 or No. 2 in the country when we played.

"Suffice to say, there were never any meaningless games between us and Tennessee."

By the time Summitt ended the series in 2007 after a recruiting dispute with UConn, much of it involving Maya Moore, it had become as much Pat vs. Geno as it was UConn vs. Tennessee.

"I knew we made it big," Auriemma said, "when they asked a bunch of coaches one year at the NCAA Tournament, 'Who do you think is going to win the tournament?' and they said, 'I really don't care as long as it is not Tennessee or Connecticut.' That is when I thought, 'You know what, we've got something special going on here.

"I remember saying something to her at the Final Four. I walked up before one of the semifinal games and said, 'You guys need to win and we need to win and we need to play each other, because we have a pretty good thing going on here, and we don't need anyone else breaking into this party.' She just kind of got a little chuckle out of it."

Summitt was inducted as part of the inaugural class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. She made the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame a year later in her first year of eligibility. In 2013, she also was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

She was born June 14, 1952, in Henrietta, Tennessee, and graduated from Cheatham County Central High School, just west of Nashville. She played college basketball at the University of Tennessee at Martin where she received her bachelor's degree in physical education. She was the co-captain of the 1976 United States Olympic team, which won the silver medal.

After playing at UT Martin, she was hired as a graduate assistant at Tennessee and took over when the previous head coach left.

She wrote a motivational book "Reach for the Summitt" in 1998. Additionally, she worked with Sally Jenkins on "Raise the Roof," a book about the 1997-98 championship season, and also detailed her battle with dementia in a memoir, "Sum It Up," released in March 2013 and also co-written with Jenkins.

"It's hard to pinpoint the exact day that I first noticed something wrong," Summitt wrote. "Over the course of a year, from 2010 to 2011, I began to experience a troubling series of lapses. I had to ask people to remind me of the same things, over and over. I'd ask three times in the space of an hour, 'What time is my meeting again?' -- and then be late."

Summitt started a foundation in her name to fight Alzheimer's in 2011 that has raised millions of dollars.

After she retired, Summitt was given the title head coach emeritus at Tennessee. She had been cutting back her public appearances over the past few years. She came to a handful of Tennessee games this past season and occasionally also traveled to watch her son Tyler coach at Louisiana Tech the last two years. Earlier this year, Summitt moved out of her home into an upscale retirement resort when her regular home underwent renovations.

She is survived by her son, Tyler.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags: Carl Adamec

GEICO SportsNite: Geno Auriemma 00:00:58
Justine Ward discusses the upcoming UConn women's basketball season with head coach Geno Auriemma at his "Fore the Kids" golf tournament.

Azura Stevens (Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports Images)
Azura Stevens (Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports Images)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- When Azura Stevens was given the chance to join the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in the spring, she turned to someone who was familiar with the Huskies for advice.

Her sister, Da'Shena Stevens, played against UConn during her outstanding four-year career at St. John's. The 2009 Big East Freshman of the Year helped the Red Storm end a 27-game losing streak to UConn and snap the Huskies' NCAA-record 99-game home winning streak as a senior. The Stamford, Connecticut, native is now an assistant coach at her alma mater.

"I've been in communication with her especially since I got to Duke because she's been through all this before," Azura said. "She was aware I was going to make this move and she tried to give me the best advice that she could. She threw in, 'Could I come to St. John's?' but obviously she knew. She helped me try to make the most of the opportunity that I had and this is a great opportunity for me."

Stevens and Batouly Camara met the Connecticut media for the first time as Huskies on Monday as they joined their new teammates at coach Geno Auriemma's Fore the Kids charity golf tournament at the Hartford Golf Club. 

The pair will sit out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Stevens, a 6-foot-6 wing from Raleigh, North Carolina, who played her first two seasons at Duke, will have two years of eligibility remaining. Camara, a 6-foot-2 forward from New York City, played last season at Kentucky and will have three years of eligibility left.

"Me and Azura talk all the time," Camara said. "We talk about our experiences and playing against her last year at Rupp Arena, it's funny to be on the other side. Now we're here today and she's been a huge help in terms of having that stability and learning the ropes. Being here is not comparable to where we were. It's so different and we're so happy to be here."

Stevens was an honorable mention AP All-American as a sophomore at Duke as she averaged 18.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals. Her scoring average ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while her rebounds and 14 double-doubles led the league. She was a two-time all-ACC selection.

"I know what it takes to play on the collegiate level but I'm learning now how to play on the UConn level," Stevens said. "I know what it's like to get through a season, and a tough season at that. When you go through a hard season you learn a lot about perseverance and things like that. Whatever the team needs me to bring, I'll do it."

Stevens played against the Huskies on Dec. 29, 2014, and scored a team-high 16 points in an 83-52 loss.

She was a teammate of UConn sophomore Napheesa Collier and freshman Crystal Dangerfield on USA Basketball's U-19 national team a summer ago that won the gold medal at the FIBA world championships.

"It's been an adjustment being in a different program but I love it here and I'm glad to be here," Stevens said. "It's been great to get to know my new teammates and new coaches and getting used to Connecticut.

"I knew what I was looking for. I was looking for a place to improve my own game to help me get to that next level. I want to make the most of my last two years."

Stevens called her final year at Duke "difficult." She missed seven games due to a torn plantar fascia in her left foot. The Blue Devils would go 4-6 down the stretch and at 20-12, missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.

After the season, Duke conducted an evaluation of its women's basketball program, though it resulted in coach Joanne P. McCallie keeping her job.

"It might be a good program for other students and players, but it wasn't what I was looking for," Stevens said.

Her look was all smiles on Monday.

"The feeling here was great," Stevens said. "I love the team and really like the coaches. Having an opportunity to be a part of a dynasty program was awesome. The opportunity to play here was cool.

"It's surreal. Just to see all their success and camaraderie, to see the alums come back and the family here, to be a part of the family is really amazing."

UConn recruited Camara out of Blair Academy in New Jersey. She chose Kentucky over the Huskies but had built a relationship with the coaches. Her former high school teammate, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, will sign her letter of intent with UConn in November.

She also looked at Penn State before choosing the Huskies,

"Connecticut offered me in high school so I already had those connections," Camara said. "Being closer to home was something that I wanted to do. All that went into the process. I knew there were great people here and this was a stable place full of tradition. It was something that I wanted to be a part of so the decision was easy. I just had to make it.

"Second time around it was really about who was I going to be surrounded by. I played with Azura at USA Basketball trials and I grew up playing with Crystal and Andra. The coaches are amazing and every place has their gives and takes. There's just a lot to offer here. There's the tradition, being able to talk to the alumni and having them come back to us. Those were important to me"

She averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor during her freshman season at Kentucky, which advanced to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 before falling to Washington.

Her best game was in a loss at South Carolina when she had a career-high 14 points to go with nine rebounds against the Gamecocks' talented frontline that includes All-American A'ja Wilson.

But Camara was one of several players that left the Wildcats after the season and left coach Matthew Mitchell searching for answers.

"Last year was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything," Camara said. "But I'm so excited to move forward and learn from Coach Auriemma and his staff. 

"I've learned so much about myself and I've learned that college basketball is an experience and you have to take everything for what it is. You want to be pushed and have so much to offer. Why not take what it gives?"

The Huskies' coaches and players have already been impressed by the energy that Camara brings to pick-up games and workouts.

"You have to have that voice and be that kind of player, especially at this level of basketball," Camara said. "I try not to be tired. I try to think about my teammates and what we have to accomplish. I would not want to be a setback to them. I'm going to come to practice every day ready and energetic.

"Something they've mentioned (I need to work on) is my 15-footer, so I definitely need to be a consistent shooter. Everything I was trying to work on last year, and growing my game to become a better player and learn the system. I'm here to do whatever they need me to do this year."

Stevens and Camara are the sixth and seventh transfers from a four-year college to join UConn since Auriemma took over in 1985.

They agreed that not being able to play in games during the Huskies' drive for five straight national championships will not be easy. But they have a lot to look forward to.

"We'll learn the system," Stevens said, "and be ready to go next year."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

Mikayla Coombs isn't bitter that her bid last month to make the United States U-17 national team came up short.

The 5-foot-8 senior guard from Buford, Georgia, is determined to get better from it.

"Everyone wants to make the team, but for me it was still a great experience," Coombs said. "Going against the talent level that was out there every day made me realize that I have to be more aggressive and work even harder."

Coombs was one of 35 players invited to the U-17 trials at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. A total of 140 players, including applicant candidates that paid their own way, started on May 26. She was not among the last 40 that made it to the final day of the trials on May 29.

It was her first USA Basketball trials. Coombs was invited to the 2015 U-16 trials, but could not attend after tearing the ACL in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game of her sophomore season at Wesleyan School.

"I thought that I played pretty well," Coombs said. "I tried to play hard on every possession and tried to be a good teammate, but you're not quite sure what (the selection committee) is looking for. Maybe they had something else in mind or maybe they saw players that they thought were better."

Coombs, who averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a junior as Wesleyan advanced to the Georgia Class AA state tournament final, has spent the last month getting ready for her final year of AAU ball.

"This summer is my last with my team so that's sad in a way," Coombs said. "We've been together since sixth grade so we want to make this summer as good as possible."

Another part of her summer will involve the recruiting process. Coombs has taken official recruiting visits to Penn State and Virginia, and is still working to schedule visits to UConn and Stanford. She said she is also looking at taking an unofficial visit to Georgia, as the Athens campus is 30 minutes from her home.

She has been in contact with UConn coach Geno Auriemma about setting up a visit to Storrs. She said she wasn't sure if it could be fit in before Auriemma begins his duties with the United States Olympic team in July or if it will be right after the Games in Rio de Janeiro. Another option is for her to make her visit for UConn's annual First Night program in October, a popular recruiting weekend for the Huskies.

"Once I see the school and campus, I'll be able to make a decision," said Coombs, who is looking to major in broadcast journalism. "If we can fit it in this summer, we will."

UConn has commitments senior guards Andra Espinoza-Hunter of Ossining, New York, and Lexi Gordon of Fort Worth, Texas. The Huskies have two scholarships available for the Class of 2017.

Team USA U-17 update

Team USA, which went 3-0 in Group C play at the FIBA U-17 world championships, plays its Round of 16 game Monday against Brazil in Zaragoza, Spain, with a 12:15 p.m. ET start.

The Americans defeated South Korea (104-45), the Czech Republic (72-63), and Italy (59-55) in group play as they bid for their fourth straight gold medal in the event.

The quarterfinals are Wednesday with the semifinals on Friday and gold-medal game Saturday. If Team USA wins Monday, it would face the winner of the Japan-France game.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a 6-foot-4 center, is averaging a double-double for the Americans at 12.7 points and 12.0 rebounds. Guard Christyn Williams (12) and forward Charli Collier (11) are also scoring in double figures, while Aquira DeCosta is the top rebounder at 15 per game. Nelson-Ododa, Williams, Collier and DeCosta are members of the Class of 2018.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Daniel Hamilton decided to leave UConn after his sophomore season. (Charlie Neibergal/AP)
Daniel Hamilton decided to leave UConn after his sophomore season. (Charlie Neibergal/AP)

Former UConn wing Daniel Hamilton was selected by Denver with the 56th overall pick in the second round of Thursday's NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-7 Hamilton decided in the spring that he would hire an agent and not return to Storrs for his junior season.  He averaged 12.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists last season for UConn, which went 25-11 and lost to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after winning the AAC tournament.

One of Hamilton's three brothers, Jordan, was a first-round NBA Draft pick in 2011 and currently plays for the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

 


United States forward Swin Cash (l), guard Diana Taurasi (12), and guard Sue Bird (6) clap from the sidelines during USA women's team training at Bender Arena on the campus of American University. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)
United States forward Swin Cash (l), guard Diana Taurasi (12), and guard Sue Bird (6) clap from the sidelines during USA women's team training at Bender Arena on the campus of American University. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)

The University of Connecticut has left its mark on the WNBA's 20@20, which was announced Tuesday.

Among the 20 players honored as the most influential on the league's 20th anniversary are former Huskies standouts Sue Bird (Class of 2002) of the Seattle Storm, Swin Cash (Class of 2002) of the New York Liberty, Maya Moore (Class of 2011) of the Minnesota Lynx, and Diana Taurasi (Class of 2004) of the Phoenix Mercury. All are members of the Huskies of Honor program.

Bird was named to the all-decade team in 2006 and was chosen as one of the 15 greatest players in WNBA history at the league's 15th anniversary celebration in 2011. She is a nine-time all-star and has been selected to the league's all-first team four times. The No. 1 pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft has played her entire career with the Storm and led them to two championships. She was the first player in WNBA history to score 5,000 career points and record 2,000 assists.

She is one of nine players worldwide to have won Olympic gold (2004, 2008, 2012), FIBA world championship gold (2002, 2010, 2014), a WNBA title (2004, 2010), and NCAA title (2000, 2002).

At UConn, she was the consensus national Player of the Year in 2002 and a three-time winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard.

"To be included among the top 20 players in this league's history is a huge honor," Bird said in a statement. "Watching the level of competition rise over the years has been incredible and I am excited to see where the league goes in the next 20."

Cash, in her 15th and final season in the league, is a four-time all-star selection and has twice been named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. The No. 2 pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock became the second player in league history with 5,000 points, 2000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists, reaching the plateau last Thursday against the Connecticut Sun in what was likely her final game in Connecticut.

She is one of nine players worldwide to have won Olympic gold (2004, 2012), FIBA world championship gold (2010), a WNBA title (2003 and 2006 with Detroit, 2010 with Seattle), and NCAA title (2000, 2002).

At UConn, she was an All-American and the Most Outstanding Plyer of the Final Four as a senior in 2002.

Moore was the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2011 and Most Valuable Player in 2014, an all-league second-team pick in 2012, and a first-team choice 2013-15. She was the WNBA Finals MVP in 2013. The No. 1 overall pick by Minnesota in the 2011 WNBA Draft is the single-season franchise record holder for points (812) and has led the Lynx to three WNBA titles in five years.

She is one of nine players worldwide to have won Olympic gold (2012), FIBA world championship gold (2010, 2014), a WNBA title (2011, 2013, 2015), and NCAA title (2009-10).

At UConn, she is the program's only four-time All-American and along with Breanna Stewart a three-time national Player of the Year. She is the Huskies' all-time leading scorer (3,036) and ranks second in rebounds (1,276), ninth in assists (544), fourth in steals (310), and seventh in blocked shots (204). She was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 Final Four and a four-time NCAA tournament regional MOP.

"I grew up watching the WNBA, and to be in a class of athletes of the caliber that this league has produced over the past 20 years is a huge honor," Moore said in a statement. "It's definitely a dream come true. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to compete at the highest levels and develop my talent to the point that I was even in consideration for this honor."

Taurasi was named one the 15 greatest players in WNBA history during the league's 15th anniversary celebration in 2011. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft by Phoenix, she is seven-time all-WNBA first team pick and was the 2004 Rookie of the Year, the 2009 Most Valuable Player, and the Finals MVP in 2009 and 2014. She's led the league in scoring five times including four straight years in one stretch (2008-11), and is the Mercury's all-time franchise leader in 16 categories.

She is one of nine players worldwide to have won Olympic gold (2004, 2008, 2012), FIBA world championship gold (2010, 2014), a WNBA title (2007, 2009, 2014), and NCAA title (2002-04). She is a three-time USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.

At UConn, she was a three-time All-American and two-time Naismith Trophy winner as national Player of the Year. She is seventh on the Huskies' all-time scoring list (2,156) and second in assists (648), having been past in April by Moriah Jefferson. She was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 and 2004 Final Fours and a two-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner.

The other 20@20 selections were Seimone Augustus, Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Yolanda Griffith, Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, Deanna Nolan, Candace Parker, Ticha Penicheiro, Cappie Pondexter, Katie Smith, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Lindsay Whalen, and Teresa Weatherspoon.


Connecticut Huskies head coach Bob Diaco watches from the sideline against the East Carolina Pirates in the second half at Rentschler Field. (David Butler II)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Bob Diaco watches from the sideline against the East Carolina Pirates in the second half at Rentschler Field. (David Butler II)

UConn football coach Bob Diaco and his wife Julia have announced they are donating $250,000 toward the construction of several new athletic facilities on campus.

The school says the donation from the Diacos to the UConn Foundation will be put toward new soccer, baseball and softball facilities.

UConn has estimated those fields will cost $46 million to build, and is hoping to raise $25 million of that through private donations.

The difference would be made up through a planned surcharge on basketball and football tickets.

Diaco last month signed a contract extension with the school designed to pay him $9.5 million over the next five seasons.

He says the school's football complex is among the best in the nation and he wants other coaches to enjoy the same caliber of facilities.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press


Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)
Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson was doing what she does best -- finding a way to lead her basketball team to victory.

The San Antonio Stars' rookie had just made the first of two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to pull the Stars within two points of the Connecticut Sun Sunday. With San Antonio out of time outs, the two-time All-American and Nancy Lieberman Award winner as the nation's top point guard at UConn knew she now needed to miss and have someone on her team grab the rebound for it to have a chance to tie or win.

She got the miss, but the ball also missed the rim when it went off the backboard giving the Sun possession. Alex Bentley's free throw a second later capped a 29-point performance and Connecticut topped the Stars 93-90 before an announced crowd of 5,596 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"It was the first time I've had to do that," Jefferson said. "I should have gotten it off of the back rim instead trying to get it off to the side."

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft is experiencing something else for the first time, just like her Huskies' Class of 2016 teammates Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck.

Since Jefferson started competing in eighth grade for the Texas Home Educators Sports Association and later moved on to UConn, her teams have never lost the last game of their season. That may happen with the Stars, but it would be by beating the Phoenix Mercury in their regular season finale on Sept. 18. The Stars don't look like a playoff team at this point, let alone a title contender, as they are a league worst 2-9.

"I'm having fun, surprisingly," Jefferson said. "If you've seen any of our games it's not like we're getting blown out. If we fix small things, we could have won a lot of them. I love my team and I enjoy playing with them.

"It's very annoying because you know if you fix just two or three minutes in a game it can go a different way. For us, it's about starting faster. We always have to fight back in the second half and by the time the fourth quarter comes around we run out of gas. Today we came back from down 10 and got up 12 in the third quarter and then we'd not get a rebound, commit a turnover, have a breakdown defensively ... That has to stop."

It was also San Antonio's second loss this season to the Sun, who are 1-10 -- a win over Stewart and the Seattle Storm -- against the rest of the league.

"Nobody likes to lose," Jefferson said. "If you say that you do, you're obviously lying. It's about mentally staying focused and not letting this low part of the season define who we are. We have to keep fighting in every game to get a win. We're a young team so it's going to be tough.

"The whole process is definitely hard. The losing is the hardest thing, not being focused on the last game and keep pushing forward. Every game is a new game and you have to be prepared."

Jefferson's experience at UConn, where she helped the Huskies go 151-5 with the unprecedented four consecutive national championships, did not prepare her for losing but did have her ready to compete at the next level.

The Glenn Heights, Texas, native is averaging 9.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game. She is tied for sixth in the league in assists (4.4), eighth in steals (1.6), and third in 3-point shooting percentage (45.5). She had eight of her 13 points in the first quarter Sunday and added six assists to just one turnover. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is a plus-2.27.

"My assist-to-turnover ratio has carried over well," Jefferson said. "There have been a couple of games that I've had too many turnovers but for the most part I've been having more assists. I was struggling a lot at the beginning of the season shooting from 2-point range but that's coming along. I've been shooting it pretty well from the 3.

"I've been adjusting. (Assistant coach Vickie Johnson) has been working a lot with me on stop and go. It's been working for me, getting into small creases in the defense and finishing or even getting the ball to my teammates. It's a lot more physical but I've adjusted to it."

And facing some of the players that she's looked up to through high school and college has been an adjustment.

On June 9, the Stars took on Phoenix and Diana Taurasi for the first time this season. Jefferson broke Taurasi's UConn career assists record in the Final Four semifinals against Oregon State in April. Last Tuesday, San Antonio met Seattle meaning Jefferson was matched up with three-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird. Jefferson, Taurasi, Bird, and former Notre Dame standout Skylar Diggins are the only multiple winners of the Nancy Lieberman Award.

"It's the night before that gets me," Jefferson said, "when I sit there and think about, 'I really have to guard Diana Taurasi tomorrow?' It's the night before that it hits me that I'm really living out my dream and playing against the best players in the world. But once you get on the court you have to put that behind you and just play."

The road doesn't get any easier for San Antonio.

The Stars travel to Chicago to face league MVP Elena Delle Donne and the Sky on Tuesday followed by a visit to Diggins and the Dallas Wings on Thursday. Following a quick stop at home for a matchup with the Atlanta Dream on Saturday, it's a trip to the nation's capital to face the Washington Mystics on June 29 followed by back-to-back road games against 2015 WNBA Finals participants Indiana and Minnesota on July 1-2.

Jefferson, who said she has yet to sign with a team overseas to play for in the WNBA offseason, will keep searching for winning formulas.  

"It's just another challenge," Jefferson said. "We went through a lot of challenges at UConn getting us ready for this. I'm trying to stay focused and be ready every night to do my best."

DANGERFIELD TO MISS U-18 EVENT

USA Basketball announced Monday that UConn freshman Crystal Dangerfield will not take part in the 2016 FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile, due to a hip injury.

According to UConn, the point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, underwent a successful surgical procedure on her hip to repair a preexisting injury last Friday. She is expected to be fully recovered for the 2016-17 preseason.

Dangerfield, who was hoping for a third gold medal in international play, has been replaced on the 12-player U-18 squad by Dana Evans, a 5-foot-6 guard from West Side Leadership Academy in Gary, Indiana.

"Dana will be a great addition to our team," USA coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "From what we saw, she is a tremendous point guard. She is very quick, athletic and can create her own shot or can create for her teammates, can disrupt the other team defensively and make things happen. That allows us to play at an up-tempo pace with her on the floor.

"Unfortunately for Crystal Dangerfield, we are disappointed that she won't be a part of our team. I just hope she has a full recovery, because she is a great player with a great future."

Dangerfield made the U-18 team in trials in Colorado Springs last month. She previously won gold with Team USA at the 2013 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship and the 2015 FIBA U-19 world championships. The U-18 team will start training camp July 2 for the event in Chile July 13-17.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Chicago Sky guard Swin Cash (8) shoots during the 2014 NBA All Star Shooting Stars competition. (Derick Hingle)
Chicago Sky guard Swin Cash (8) shoots during the 2014 NBA All Star Shooting Stars competition. (Derick Hingle)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Swin Cash has spent half of her life playing the game she loves in front of the passionate basketball fans of Connecticut.

There was no need to remind the former University of Connecticut All-American and New York Liberty forward that unless the Connecticut Sun can turn things around this summer and qualify for the WNBA Playoffs, her performance at Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday night would be her last in the state.

"I know. That's real," Cash said with a smile. "I'm just taking in all in. I hope to see the fans here, some that have watched me from when my baby years in '98 at UConn."

Cash, as most UConn graduates do, received a warm reception during the pregame introductions. But when she buried a 17-foot jumper over fellow Huskies of Honor member Morgan Tuck in the game's first minute, it drew silence. When she came out for good with 2:54 left, the announced crowd of 4,786 was more interested in the outcome to be decided with likely few realizing they had missed the chance to say goodbye.

The 6-foot-2 forward out of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, announced on June 7 that her 15th year in the league would be her last. She turns 37 on Sept. 22.

"It's been very interesting," Cash said. "Different people, different walks of life, you don't realize how many people you cross paths with until you make an announcement like this. It's been a little weird to have players come up to me before a game and go, 'Congratulations on your retirement.' I'm trying to stay in the moment but also appreciate everything that's happened."

Cash scored seven points to reach a milestone and the Liberty used a 10-2 run in the final 2:13 to beat the Sun 80-72.

Even the milestone went unnoticed in front of the road crowd. When Cash finished a drive to the basket midway through the first quarter for her second hoop, she became the 14th member of the WNBA's 5,000-point club, and joined the Indiana Fever's Tamika Catchings as the only players in WNBA history to have 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

It was a memorable moment for her, one of too many to count over the years.

"I don't think there's one favorite one in particular," Cash said. "There will be so many different moments, so many different players, teams that I've been on, things we've done in the community, just a whole package. Obviously people will remember the championships that you won but I'm going to remember things like being on a bus and having something happen or an inside joke with teammates."

Cash helped UConn win two national championships and finished with 1,583 points, 910 rebounds, and 130 blocked shots, all still in the top 20 at the school all time. As a senior in 2002, she was named to the WBCA All-America team and was the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four in San Antonio as the Huskies capped a 39-0 season with a win over Oklahoma at the Alamodome.

Her official recruiting visit in the fall of her senior year at McKeesport High was her first trip to Connecticut.

"I spent most of the weekend with my mom," Cash said. "I remember coming on campus and seeing the cows to my left and milk farms and everything. But if you drive onto campus now you wouldn't see the same things. I go back and look around and I'm like, 'Where did all this come from?'

"It's nice to see how the university has really grown and all of the things that they have there. I'm happy to say that maybe our sports teams have been able to give them a little national recognition and helped build Connecticut to what is, I believe, one of the top public colleges in the country."

Cash was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock and won three league titles -- two with Detroit (2003, 2006) and one with the Seattle Storm (2010). She's a four-time all-star and twice was named the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. She also owns two Olympic gold medals (2004, 2012) and a gold medal from the FIBA world championships (2010).

It's been a run that UConn coach Geno Auriemma believes will end for her with a spot in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"If you think about those people that are in the Hall there, Swin, when you take her college career and what she's done since she's been a pro, how many championships she's been a part of, she's had an unbelievable career," Auriemma said.

Her impending retirement also means that Seattle's Sue Bird will be the last of the TASSK Force recruiting class from 18 years ago to still be playing.

"She's going to play for a couple of more years," Cash said. "She has it in her. She's a point guard, she doesn't have to bang inside or anything. She has time."

Time figures to be kind to Cash and her classmates at UConn. There are nine players worldwide that have won NCAA and WNBA titles as well as Olympic and world championship gold medals. Three -- Bird, Cash, and Asjha Jones -- are from the Huskies' Class of 2002.

They left quite the legacy.

"But legacies aren't defined until careers are finished and they go on to other things," Cash said. "I would think we put ourselves into a conversation, not only for what we accomplished at UConn but what we accomplished in women's basketball."

A communications major at UConn, Cash's future will likely include television work, which she already does for Madison Square Garden and CBS Sports Network.

She played 26 minutes Thursday night but it was her teammates that got the Liberty (7-4) over the top down the stretch.

The Sun (2-10) trailed by as many as 11 in the third quarter but came back to tie it at 70 on an Alex Bentley 3-pointer with 2:35 left. But Shavonte Zellous was fouled while rebounding her own miss and hit two free throws 22 seconds later to put New York back in front. A jumper by Sugar Rodgers and a Zellous layup off a pass from Tina Charles made it 76-70 with 27 seconds to go. Jasmine Thomas scored for the Sun but two free throws each by Tanisha Wright and Kiah Stokes iced it and sent the hosts to their third straight loss and ninth in 10 games.

Charles, the national Player of the Year at UConn in 2010, matched her career high of 32 points for New York. Stokes, a three-time national champion with the Huskies, had 10 points, nine rebounds, and a pair of blocked shots off the bench.

The Sun and Liberty have two more meetings in the regular season but both will be played at Madison Square Garden. If Thursday night's game was indeed her last in Connecticut, and the Sun's playoff hopes are already fading fast one-third into the season, Cash went out the same way as she did at UConn -- as a winner.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks to his team during the second half against the Temple Owls at McGonigle Hall. The Connecticut Huskies won 85-60. (Derik Hamilton)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks to his team during the second half against the Temple Owls at McGonigle Hall. The Connecticut Huskies won 85-60. (Derik Hamilton)

By the time the University of Connecticut women's basketball team begins its run at a fifth straight national championship next March, it will likely have faced most of the top contenders.

The Huskies released their 13-game non-conference schedule Tuesday and it should be one of their most challenging and entertaining.

UConn, which will start the regular season with a 75-game winning streak, will face 10 teams that played in the 2016 NCAA tournament and two more that received WNIT bids. The non-conference schedule has three teams each from the Big Ten and Big 12, two apiece from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference, and one each from the Atlantic 10, Big East, and Southern Conference.

Sites of the home games and times will be announced later.

The Huskies start on the road for the third straight season as they visit Florida State, which advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 a season ago. It is a return game for UConn, which defeated the Seminoles 73-49 at Mohegan Sun Arena last Dec. 11.

It's the first time UConn has opened a season in the Sunshine State since 1986-87, when it lost to U.S. International in the Lady Sunshine Classic in Lake Mary.

The Huskies' home opener is against Baylor on Nov. 17, the start of a two-game series with the Bears. Baylor is expected to be ranked among the top five teams in the country in the preseason. The Big 12 champions return four starters and welcome one of the nation's top freshman classes, led by No. 1 recruit Lauren Cox.

UConn then heads back on the road Nov. 20 to complete a home-and-home series with LSU, the only opponent that didn't take part in the 2016 postseason. The Huskies defeated the Tigers 80-46 in Hartford last Dec. 21.

Dayton begins a four-game homestand for the Huskies on Nov. 22. It's a rematch of the 2015 NCAA Albany Regional final that the Flyers led by one at halftime before falling and the opening of a three-game series between the schools. Southern Conference champion Chattanooga, coached by Jim Foster -- who gave UConn's Geno Auriemma his first college coaching job -- will come to UConn on Nov. 29 to wrap a home-and-home deal. The Huskies won in Chattanooga 79-31 last Nov. 30.

On Dec. 1, UConn's series with Big East regular season champion DePaul, coached by Auriemma's national team assistant Doug Bruno, continues. UConn won at DePaul 86-70 last Dec. 2. The homestand wraps up on Dec. 4 when the Huskies take on Texas in the Hall of Fame Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena. It's the start of a two-game series with the Longhorns, who reached the Elite Eight in Bridgeport last March before falling to UConn.

The Huskies continue their rivalry at Notre Dame on Dec. 7 in the first game of a four-year contract . The ACC champions, who were upset by Stanford in the Sweet 16 last March, may be ranked No. 1 in at least some preseason polls as they return three starters led by All-American Brianna Turner. UConn has won five straight meetings from the Irish, including the 2014 and 2015 national championship games and last season's 91-81 decision at Gampel Pavilion. UConn then goes to Kansas State on Dec. 11 to complete a two-game series with the Wildcats, who lost in Hartford 97-57 last Nov. 23.

After a break for fall semester final exams, the Huskies return home Dec. 19 to face Ohio State. UConn opened last season with a 100-56 win in Columbus.

The Huskies continue with the Big Ten portion of their schedule with games at Nebraska on Dec. 21 and at league champion Maryland Dec. 29. It will be UConn's first trip to Lincoln since the 2014 NCAA Regionals there and it wraps up a two-game series with the school. UConn won last season at Hartford 88-46. The Huskies' visit to Maryland is game two of a three-game series with the Terrapins traveling to Connecticut in 2017-18. UConn held off Maryland in the teams' last meeting in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden 83-73 last Dec. 28.

The final non-conference game will have UConn hosting SEC champion South Carolina on Feb. 13. It's the start of a new four-game deal with the Gamecocks, who will again be a national contender led by All-American A'ja Wilson. UConn defeated South Carolina in Columbia 66-54 last Feb. 8.

It is the first time since 1994-95 that none of the previous season's Final Four teams appear on the regular season schedule. UConn was the only No. 1 seed to reach the national semifinals in 2016 and was joined in Indianapolis by Syracuse, Oregon State and Washington.

The Huskies will play a 16-game American Athletic Conference schedule -- home and home with East Carolina, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, and Tulsa, home with Houston and Memphis, and away against Central Florida and Cincinnati -- with dates and times to be announced.

UCONN 2016-17 NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE (home games in CAPS)

NOVEMBER

14 - at Florida State  

17 - BAYLOR

20 - at LSU

22 - DAYTON

29 - CHATTANOOGA

DECEMBER

1 - DEPAUL

4 - Texas (Hall of Fame Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut)

7 - at Notre Dame

11 - at Kansas State

19 - OHIO STATE

21 - at Nebraska 

29 - at Maryland

FEBRUARY

13 - SOUTH CAROLINA


Connecticut Huskies forward Steven Enoch (13) dunks during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at USF Sun Dome. UConn defeated South Florida 81-51. (Kim Klement)
Connecticut Huskies forward Steven Enoch (13) dunks during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at USF Sun Dome. UConn defeated South Florida 81-51. (Kim Klement)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn center Steven Enoch has never been to Armenia, or anywhere overseas for that matter.

But next month, the 6-foot-11 sophomore from Norwalk will travel to Greece to play for the U-20 Armenian national team at the Division B European Championships.

"This will be a completely new experience for me," he said. "I think the farthest I've been out is the Bahamas when we (UConn) played there last season. So this will be fun."

The 18-year-old Enoch has no Armenian ancestry, but he's getting the necessary paperwork to receive dual citizenship.

Once he plays for Armenia, he won't be allowed to play for USA Basketball or any other country. Under international rules, players can suit up for only one country after they turn 17, except under special circumstances, such when their participation might benefit the advancement of basketball in the country for which they wish to play.

But there are no rules preventing a player who has never visited a country from playing for that nation, as long as they obtain a passport from that nation. Each nation gets one slot per team for a dual-citizenship player. << Read more...


Lefthander Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y. -- who attended the same high school as the Mets' Steven Matz -- led UConn to the NCAA baseball tournament. (Courtesy UConn Athletics)
Lefthander Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y. -- who attended the same high school as the Mets' Steven Matz -- led UConn to the NCAA baseball tournament. (Courtesy UConn Athletics)

Three players on the UConn baseball team, OF Jack Sundberg, RHP Patrick Ruotolo and 1B Bobby Melley and one incoming recruit, Matt Hearn, were selected on the third day of the MLB Draft. 

Hearn was taken in the 24th round (No. 709 overall) by the Braves, Sundberg in 26th round (No. 784 overall) by the Nationals, Ruotolo in the 28th round (No. 815 overall) by the Giants and Melley in the 34th round (No. 1,020 overall) by the Rays. 

Sundberg hit .258 with a .375 OBP and stole 17 bases in his final season with UConn, earning a American Athletic Conference All-Second Team selection. He finished his career with 82 steals, second most in program history. 

Ruotolo finished the 2016 season with a 2.25 ERA, 12 saves and 47 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched. 

Melley was second on the team this year with a .313 batting average and is third in UConn history with 290 career hits. 

Overall, four players from this year's team were taken in the draft, as the Mets selected pitcher Anthony Kay with the 31st overall pick. 

 


Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) shoots the ball past Oregon State Beavers guard Katie McWilliams (10) during the second quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) shoots the ball past Oregon State Beavers guard Katie McWilliams (10) during the second quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (Brian Spurlock)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Geno Auriemma looked good and felt good as he spent an hour signing autographs at Mohegan Sun on Friday before going in to watch five of his former University of Connecticut women's basketball players in action as the Connecticut Sun hosted the Seattle Storm.

The Huskies' Hall of Fame coach was hospitalized for three days earlier this spring after dealing with flu-like symptoms and shortness of breath.

Now that he's healthy, he wants the same for his players and that means in particular sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.

"Nothing has changed, really," Auriemma said. "Lou's doing some stuff. Pheesa's doing some stuff. Neither of them are playing full court yet and there's no need to at this point. Pheesa is going to take a little longer, but Lou is doing all right."

Collier had surgery on April 22 at the UConn Health Center in Farmington to repair a torn labrum in her right hip. The injury originally occurred during individual workouts in the preseason.

The 6-foot-1 forward from St. Peters, Missouri played in all 38 games as a rookie. She averaged 6.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor and 91.7 percent shooting from the foul line, along with 5.2 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game. Her 1.2 blocked shots ranked sixth in the American Athletic Conference. She was named to the AAC All-Freshman Team in March. In the National Championship Game on April 5 against Syracuse in Indianapolis, she had six points -- including two baskets to stymie an Orange rally late in the third quarter -- and five rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench of an 82-51 win that gave the Huskies their unprecedented fourth straight NCAA title.

Samuelson suffered a broken bone in her left foot on a move to the basket that opened the scoring in UConn's 80-51 rout of Oregon State in the national semifinals on April 3. While dealing with the pain, the Huntington Beach, California native played maybe one of her best all-around halves of the season, finishing with seven points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal, and her rebound hoop gave UConn a 47-26 halftime lead.

In 37 games, the 6-foot-3 wing averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Her 49.3 percent shooting from the floor was seventh in the AAC and her 39.4 percent shooting from 3-point land was fifth. She also shot 83.7 percent at the foul line. She was named to the AAC All-Freshman and All-Tournament teams.

With five months to go until the 2016-17 season opener, there's no rush.

"It's hard keeping them off the court," Auriemma said. "Lou missed out on the biggest game of her life so she's anxious to get on the court. Pheesa really wants to play. Both of those guys are great competitors, so it's hard to hold them back. But it's a long summer, it's a long season. They both have their careers ahead of them so nobody is in a hurry to push these guys."


Talking Transfers
In his first 28 seasons at UConn, Auriemma accepted four transfers from four-year colleges: Renee Najarian (from South Carolina), Sarah Northway (from Arizona), Christine Rigby (from Santa Clara) and Brittany Hunter (from Duke). Then, two years ago, Natalie Butler joined the Huskies after being the 2014 Big East Freshman of the Year at Georgetown.

So it seemed almost out of character in a way that Auriemma helped fill UConn's need for size by taking in Duke transfer Azura Stevens and Kentucky transfer Batouly Camara in a three-week span. Stevens, a 6-foot-6 forward and a teammate of Collier and freshman Crystal Dangerfield on the 2015 United States U-19 National Team, has two years of eligibility left. Camara, a 6-foot-2 forward and high school teammate of UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter at Blair Academy, has three years of eligibility remaining.

"It might be a sign of the times. It might just be circumstances, just the right people, the right time," Auriemma said. "Sometimes there's just no need. They just don't fit or they're not the right positions. This time it just happened to be right for whatever reason. They're kids that we know, kids that play a position that there doesn't seem to be a lot of them coming out of high school. So all the elements were there and it worked out. I think we're fortunate to have them."

Both Stevens and Camara decided on UConn about a month after announcing their decisions to transfer. Auriemma admitted that's not a lot of time to build a relationship with a player.

"We were involved with Batouly coming out of high school so we know about her moreso than we would somebody else," Auriemma said. "With Azura, it's more with I got a chance to see her a little bit during last summer with USA Basketball. Crystal played on that team with her. Sometimes you can tell. We recruited Svetlana (Abrosimova) over the phone, and sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and hope you're right. In this instance it was all good. It's the same thing recruiting a high school kid. You think you do everything right and you still cross your fingers and hope it works."

Stevens and Camara have been on campus since the start of the first summer session on May 31 along with freshmen Dangerfield, Molly Bent, and Kyla Irwin.

 
Surprise Sales
Auriemma has said for more than a decade now that the former player he was most surprised went into coaching was Tufts' Carla Berube, who has led the Jumbos to three straight Division III Final Fours and the 2016 National Championship Game.

That changed Monday when Central Florida announced that 1998 UConn graduate and eight-time WNBA All-Star Nykesha Sales would serve as an assistant to first-year head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.

"That was a shocker. That was a shocker," Auriemma said. "She called me and said, 'I want to get into the business.' At first she said she wanted to get her feet wet like with basketball operations, just kind of behind the scenes. Then Katie got the job at Central Florida and told Kesha to try it and talk to her about it.

"When I heard she got hired full time as an assistant, I was like ... But I've not met too many people as good as Kesha. She's a unique individual. I would trust her with anything. She's going to do a great job."

UConn and UCF will play only once during the regular season in Orlando at a date and time to be announced.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Lefthander Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y. -- who attended the same high school as the Mets' Steven Matz -- led UConn to the NCAA baseball tournament. (Courtesy UConn Athletics)
Lefthander Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y. -- who attended the same high school as the Mets' Steven Matz -- led UConn to the NCAA baseball tournament. (Courtesy UConn Athletics)

The Mets took UConn junior lefthander Anthony Kay with the 31st overall pick in the first round Thursday's MLB draft, after taking Boston College righty Justin Dunn with the 19th overall pick.

Kay, from Stony Brook, N.Y., went to Ward Melville High, the same Long Island school as the Mets' Steven Matz. It's the second time the Mets have drafted Kay, who chose to go to UConn after being taken in the 29th round three years ago.

Kay, the American Athletic Conference pitcher of the year, has a 93-95 mph fastball. Kay was 9-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 starts. Kay's 263 strikeouts broke UConn's career record, previously held by Matt Barnes, now with the Red Sox.

Having pitched 119 innings this season, Kay (6 feet, 187 pounds) may not see much action this summer in the minors.

"I'm very excited," Kay told Newsday. "(I was) surrounded by 30 of my family and friends at my house here in Stony Brook. I knew the Mets were high on me. I thought I had a shot at the 19th overall pick. When it didn't happen, we thought another team might pick me before the 31st pick. This is awesome."

It's the third time in four years the Mets have drafted a UConn player, including second baseman LJ Mazzillli in 2013 and second baseman Vinny Siena in 2015.

"Anthony gave his coaches and teammates everything he had over the last three years at UConn," UConn coach Jim Penders said. "He came to compete at the highest level of college baseball and to develop into a high draft pick. He believed in himself and his school and realized his potential in blue and white. I'm so proud of him and can't wait to see him pitch for the Mets. He will be there fast."

 


 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

The Seattle Storm start a weeklong road trip Friday.

For rookie Breanna Stewart, the journey is a homecoming.

The four-time national champion and three-time Player of the Year at UConn will play her first professional game in Connecticut Friday when the Seattle Storm take on her college teammate Morgan Tuck and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena.

On Sunday, the Storm face the Indiana Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where Stewart played her final game with the Huskies on April 5 when she led them to an NCAA title game win over Syracuse. Then on Tuesday, Seattle visits another of Stewart's college classmates, Moriah Jefferson, and the San Antonio Stars. The trip wraps up June 16 in Dallas.

But the North Syracuse, New York, native has always been one to take things a day at a time. So her focus is on the struggling Sun.

"It's gonna be a really fun night," Stewart said. "I'm looking forward to coming back. My friends, my family are coming. UConn, the team is coming. The coaches should be there, I believe. I know that the fans are excited to see us, too. It will just be an exciting night. First time coming back to Connecticut, this was my home away from home basically."

Stewart, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft in April, figures to get a warm reception in pregame introductions. But Sun fans usually aren't UConn fans following the opening tip.

It should be the largest crowd of the season at Mohegan Sun Arena. Connecticut has averaged just 5,169 for its first four home games.

"The one thing with the Connecticut fan base is they love watching sports and they're very loyal," Stewart said. "They're loyal to UConn players, and also to the Connecticut Sun. It will just show what kind of fans we have, what kind of fans are in our state. Hopefully they'll be cheering for the Storm, as well, just because we have some UConn alums on our team now too."

Seattle's starting point guard is Sue Bird, the first pick of the 2002 WNBA Draft out of UConn. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the third overall pick by the Storm in the 2015 draft, comes off the bench.

Through eight games, Stewart ranks ninth in the league in scoring (16.4), third in rebounds (9.9), tied for 13th in assists (3.0), and tied for fourth in blocked shots (2.0).

The Storm (3-5) are tied for third place in the Western Conference with the Dallas Wings. But the five losses do equal the total amount of losses Stewart endured at UConn (151-5 with 122 wins in the last 123 games).

"Obviously this is a whole different level, playing against the best players in the world every single night," Stewart said. "And you can't always win. I would love it if I didn't lose any more games this season, but I know that's a hefty goal."

It could be worse. Jefferson and the Stars are 1-5. The Sun's current losing streak of six is more than Tuck lost at UConn. Connecticut's 1-7 start is the worst in franchise history.

Bird, who will also be Stewart's teammate with the United States Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro this summer, knows what the 21-year-old is going through. But by her third year, she and fellow star Lauren Jackson led Seattle to the first of its two WNBA championships.

"I look up to her," Stewart said. "Sue's one of the best players in the league, the best point guard in this league. What she's been able to do throughout her career is what I want to do. The impact she's made, that kind of thing. She's helped me adapt to this league and what's going on as fast as possible. Coming from UConn definitely helps because I knew her before I got drafted. She came back to UConn a lot, we played on the national team a few times. So having that relationship prior to the Seattle Storm helps."

Another player Stewart knew well before heading west was Jewell Loyd, the first overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft out of Notre Dame. They played against each other in the 2013 Final Four semifinals and the 2014 and 2015 national championship games.

"It's been a lot of fun," Stewart said. "We both have versatile styles where we can do a lot of things on the court.

"I think the one thing, and I'm not sure you can make the transition any faster, is just creating that chemistry with the new team, new teammates," Stewart added. "I played at UConn for four years, and got a pretty good understanding of what people like and don't like. When you play on a new team you kind of have to start all over with that. We didn't have a lot of time here for practice or training camp because the season started earlier due to the Olympic break. So I think we've been rolling with the punches and getting better every day."

The Storm are coming off an 86-78 loss to the New York Liberty in Seattle Sunday.

With the Storm trying to mount a late rally, Stewart used a head fake to drive around fellow UConn alum Tina Charles. But Stewart's former teammate, Kiah Stokes, came over to send her layup bid out of bounds and preserve the Liberty's lead.

"I was waiting for this to come up," Stewart said with a laugh. "I told her she didn't need to block me like that. But in all seriousness, it was a nice play on her part. Usually I'm on the same team as Kiah, so she's doing that to other people. You can't be too upset. It was a great basketball play. To be able to see what she's done, and the success that she's had in the WNBA and even overseas, you can't not be happy for her."

On Friday, she'll see Tuck, who is averaging 5.8 points and 3.0 rebounds.

"I think it's gonna be fun to be able to square off against someone you're really, really close friends with and you've done a lot together in basketball," Stewart said. "You know what kind of player she is. You know what she's trying to do with her team. We'll be competitive when the game starts, but then after the game's over, we're back to being friends."

The Storm defeated the Sun 93-81 on May 28. The teams will play for a third and final time this season in Seattle on June 24.

TEAM USA COMING TO BRIDGEPORT, MSG

The United States Olympic team will host the national teams of Australia, Canada, and France in a four-team tournament from July 27-31 with games in Newark (Delaware), Bridgeport (Connecticut), and New York's Madison Square Garden.

"This tournament with Australia, Canada and France, three of the top teams in the world, is an incredible opportunity for our team to prepare for Rio," USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "I think each of these games will be competitive and be a really, really good preview of what you'll see in August at the Olympics. Two years ago we were able to play games at Delaware and Bridgeport, and the fan support at both of those games was tremendous. Then when you add Madison Square Garden into the mix, what better way to give our team a final send-off before Rio? I'm excited about getting our team together. We haven't had a chance to practice yet with just these 12 players, but they've all played together and I think they will show the fans something special in each of these three games."

The USA Basketball Showcase tips off at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center on July 27 with Australia-Canada, followed by USA-France. Team USA and Chicago Sky standout Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player, starred at Delaware and led the Blue Hens to the 2013 NCAA tournament Sweet 16.

The squads move on to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on July 29. The doubleheader begins at 4:30 p.m. with a game between Australia and France, followed by Team USA against Canada at 7 p.m. The Americans will feature five UConn graduates -- Bird, Stewart, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi. Team Canada will be led by Huskies' junior guard and two-time national champion Kia Nurse, the star of the Canadians' run to gold at the 2015 Pan American Games and FIBA Americas tourney that qualified them for the Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The tourney will wrap up July 31 at Madison Square Garden as Canada and France tip off at 1:30 p.m. followed by Team USA and Australia.

From there, Team USA will travel to Houston for United States Olympic Team processing and a final practice on Aug. 2, prior to traveling to Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. will open pool play against Senegal on Aug. 7.

UCONN HIRES GOETZ

Beth Goetz, who was the interim athletic director at the University of Minnesota during the 2015-16 school year, has been named the UConn athletic department's Chief Operating Officer and senior woman administrator, the school announced.

She comes to UConn after three years at Minnesota. Goetz will oversee all internal departments in the UConn division of athletics, serve as a key member on the division's leadership team and will serve as sport administrator for football.

"The opportunity to add Beth to our team at UConn is like winning the administrative national championship or signing the number one prospect in the recruiting class," UConn athletic director David Benedict said in a statement. "Beth is a consummate professional and brings a diverse skill set to Storrs and I know she will have a profound impact on our student-athletes, coaches and staff."

Said UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma: "The hiring of Beth is great news for UConn and presents a great opportunity for college women's basketball. Our sport is at a crossroads in many ways and UConn needs to be a leader in the continued development and promotion of the game. Beth's national experience combined with the reputation of our program will give her the opportunity to make a positive impact on the future of the game."

At Minnesota, Goetz oversaw student-athlete development, athletic medicine and strength and conditioning and was the department liaison to academic services and compliance. She was also the sport administrator for women's basketball, baseball, rowing and volleyball. Goetz also served on the Big Ten's Administrators Council and was a member of the conference's Sports Management Committee.

She worked at Butler as an associate athletic director and SWA from 2008-13. Prior to Butler, she spent 12 years at Missouri-St. Louis and was an assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator for her final eight years and was the women's soccer head coach for 11 years.

Goetz was an All-American soccer player at Brevard College in North Carolina and then played two years at Clemson. She received her Associate of Arts degree from Brevard in 1994, a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Clemson in 1996, and a masters degree from UMSL in 2000.


 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team has compiled a 63-0 record against American Athletic Conference rivals since league play began in the 2013-14 season.

The Huskies learned their AAC opponents for 2016-17 as the conference announced the matchups that will make up their 16-game schedule.

UConn will play home-and-home series with six schools (East Carolina, SMU, South Florida, Temple, Tulane, and Tulsa) while playing four (hosting Memphis and Houston, visiting Central Florida and Cincinnati) just once.

The 2017 AAC tournament will return to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, for the fourth straight year March 3-6.

The Huskies have gone 18-0 in all three AAC regular seasons and then went on to capture three wins in taking three tournament titles.

In 2013-14, UConn played each of the other nine AAC teams twice. But when Louisville and Rutgers left, with East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa, coming in, the Huskies played home and home with eight schools while facing Houston and UCF just once the following two seasons.

UConn's 13-game non-league schedule is set. The Huskies will host Baylor, Chattanooga, Dayton, DePaul, Ohio State, South Carolina, and Texas (at Mohegan Sun Arena), while visiting Florida State, Kansas State, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska, and Notre Dame.

The complete schedule with dates and times will be announced later.


UCF HIRES SALES
The branches on UConn coach Geno Auriemma's coaching tree became a little longer Monday.

UCF announced that 1998 UConn graduate Nykesha Sales will serve as an assistant to first-year head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.

"I am very excited to be a part of the UCF Knights family," Sales said in a statement. "This position is an amazing opportunity to help build, encourage and empower our talented team. I want to thank Coach Abe for leading me here and I look forward to the success ahead."

Sales, a native of Bloomfield, Connecticut, has lived in Orlando for the past 14 years since starting her professional career with the Orlando Miracle, who went on to become the Connecticut Sun.

She graduated as the Huskies' all-time leader in points (2,178) and is still No. 1 in steals (447). She was among the first group of players inducted into the Huskies of Honor in 2006.

An eight-time WNBA all-star with the Miracle/Sun from 1999-2007, Sales led the Connecticut Sun to two WNBA Finals and still reigns as the franchise's all-time leading scorer (3,955 points). She also played professionally in Europe during WNBA offseasons in the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Prague, Turkey and Bosnia.

From 2013-16, she worked with the Connecticut Sun as a community liaison.

"Nykesha is a winner and a proven champion in every aspect of her life," Abrahamson-Henderson said. "Clearly, her resume speaks volumes in terms of her basketball career. Nykesha will be a great teacher of the game, and her experience will add to the skill development of our players, especially the wings and small forwards. Her personality and ability to relate and connect with people will definitely be a positive addition to our program with recruiting top notch players around the country and internationally."


Carla Berube (USA Basketball)
Carla Berube (USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Coach Carla Berube reached the 100-, 200- and 300-win plateaus with the Tufts University women's basketball team in fewer games than her college coach, Geno Auriemma, did in his Hall of Fame career at the University of Connecticut.

But Berube, whose two free throws secured the Huskies' 70-64 win over Tennessee in the 1995 NCAA final in Minneapolis, would trade those marks in a second for Auriemma's perfect record (11-0) in national championship games.

Tufts reached its first Division III final in 2016. But Thomas More broke a tie with a 14-2 run over the final 6:00 to defeat the Jumbos 63-51 on April 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and cap an unbeaten season.

"We're right there," Berube said. "It's three times now that we've made it to the Final Four. That experience means a lot to play on that stage. We went up against a really tough Thomas More team, two-time national champion. I was excited for and proud of my team. But I'm excited for next season. We have a lot of players coming back. I want them to taste the sweetness of a national championship."

Berube took time out this weekend from her duties at Tufts to work as a court coach at USA Basketball's national team U-17 trials at the United States Olympic Training Center. It was her first assignment as a coach for USA Basketball, though she did win a bronze medal while playing at the 1994 United States Olympic Festival following her freshman year at UConn.

The trials started last Thursday with 139 players. Eighteen finalists were named on Monday and the 12-player roster that will go the FIBA U-17 world championships set for June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain, is expected to be announced on Friday.

"It's been awesome and I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work with these great young players," Berube said.

Tufts advanced to the national championship for the first time by defeating Wartburg 63-50 on March 19.

It gave the Jumbos a chance to be part of another first as the NCAA held the Division I, II, and III championship games in the same city. A crowd of 6,403 came out to watch the doubleheader featuring Tufts vs. Thomas More and Lubbock Christian against Alaska-Anchorage.

"It was unbelievable. If we could that every year, I would," Berube said. "There was a two-week gap between the semifinal and final, but it was amazing. We were treated like we were a Division I team from the police escorts, the media attention, playing in front of 6,000 fans ... I won't forget it and I know my team won't forget it. I do hope the NCAA decides to do it again, that it's not just a one-time thing. It was an amazing experience. I think there are a lot of fans in Division II and Division III and I think people enjoy seeing us play. I hope it's us next time, but it would be great for other teams to have the opportunity to experience what we were able to."

But one experience few others besides the Jumbos would have is getting the support from the UConn family. The day before the Huskies faced Syracuse seeking their unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship, their players and coaches came out to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to rally behind the Jumbos and one of their own.

"It was amazing, awesome," Berube said. "Of course, I didn't see them there until afterwards. But it means the world that the coaches, the players, the alums -- even the ones that I didn't play with, were there supporting us knowing a fellow Husky was on the sidelines. I know they were cheering really hard for us. Our Husky blood runs pretty deep. We root for each other. When I watch a UConn game or a WNBA game they play in, I cheer for them. It's a great big family and it speaks volumes to what Coach Auriemma and CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) have built there."

While Berube (300-85 in 14 seasons) and Tufts came up short in their first try, they're optimistic they could get another title shot. Four players that started against Thomas More, including All-American Michela North and second-leading scorer Melissa Baptista, are set to return.

They know that the road is long.

"We've done it now a couple of years," Berube said. "They have a chip on their shoulder. They're hungry. Getting to the end and not coming away with a championship stings. Hopefully they're working out now to get ready for next season because they know what it takes."

Dangerfield named to U-18 squad

Crystal Dangerfield smiled when asked at the U-18 national team trials that basketball and school are taking up much of her summer vacation.

"It turned into business," Dangerfield said. "Basketball has always been a big part of my life, and you get used to it."

The Huskies incoming freshman is scheduled to arrive in Storrs on Tuesday for a five-week summer school session. Much of her July calendar was filled up on Monday when she was named to USA Basketball's U-18 club that will play in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship that will take place July 13-17 in Valdivia, Chile.

It's the third national team appearance for the 5-foot-5 point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She has won gold medals with the 2013 U-16 team and the 2015 U-19 team.

Also selected was UConn Class of 2017 recruiting target Megan Walker. The 6-foot-1 wing from Chesterfield, Virginia, arrived in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Monday to take part in the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships that starts on Wednesday.

Rounding out the squad are incoming freshmen Jeannie Boehm (Harvard), Lauren Cox (Baylor), Tyasha Harris (South Carolina), Ruthy Hebard (Oregon), Valerie Higgins (USC) and Amber Ramirez (TCU), and Class of 2017 players Rellah Boothe, Chennedy Carter, Sidney Cooks and Evina Westbrook.

Go-go Gomez

The differences between a top Division I team and top Division II team came out in the preseason when UConn defeated Lubbock Christian, 95-39, in an exhibition game at XL Center in Hartford on Nov. 2.

There are differences in the postseason, too. While the Huskies got to visit the White House and President Obama after finishing off an unbeaten 38-0 national championship season by defeating Syracuse on April 5, the Lady Chaps haven't even made it to see Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after completing a perfect national championship season by holding off Alaska-Anchorage 78-73 in the Division II final on April 4.

"We saw UConn go to Washington and we kind of vicariously live through them," LCU coach Steve Gomez said with a laugh. "I don't think that's in the cards for us. We've received proclamations and honors, but no invitations from Austin."

That doesn't mean it hasn't been a crazy time for Gomez and the Lady Chaps the past two months since winning the Division II title in their first year of tournament eligibility after competing at the NAIA level. They also are the first Heartland Conference member to claim a national title in women's basketball.

Gomez did take a bit of a break this weekend to work as a court coach at USA Basketball's national team U-17 trials.

"It's been a whirlwind of excitement and activity, and I don't know if I slowed down enough to absorb all that's going on," Gomez said. "From the time that I've gotten back there's been appearances and different engagements to go to or speak at. In Lubbock, it was a big deal. Backing up the season a month later than normal backs everything else up. We haven't even started our summer rest yet. But it's been great and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

"There are times I sit down and think. But I still don't know if I've taken the time and thought, 'That was so rare to have that chance.' I don't know if I've come down to earth or have absorbed everything that went on. Over the next couple of weeks, it will sink in."

What will also sink in is that Gomez will have to replace four starters -- including first-team All-American Nicole Hampton, who led the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals -- and five of the seven players that took the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against Alaska-Anchorage.

The good news is that the one starter who does return, Tess Bruffey, was an honorable mention All-American as a sophomore.

"You can't repeat that," Gomez said. "UConn repeats that. For us, it's so rare to happen. We do want to try and be great again. But it's hard."

Gomez, the 2016 Division II Coach of the Year, agrees with Tuft's Berube in he'd like to see the NCAA hold the Division I, II and III championship games in the same city. The 2017 Division I Final Four will be held in Dallas, about a 350-mile ride from Lubbock.

"We've never been a part the other way so this is all we know," Gomez said. "To imagine doing it another way is hard. But I think that everyone loved it. I'm sure the NCAA is thinking that it's hard to do and it costs a lot of money. But for the experience for the players and fans, you can't duplicate it. It was great."

And it capped a perfect season that started with a 56-point loss to a UConn team that featured Player of the Year Breanna Stewart and All-Americans Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, the top three selections in the 2016 WNBA Draft. If it would make the Lady Chaps feel better, UConn defeated four opponents, including NCAA Sweet 16 opponent and Southeastern Conference tournament runnerup Mississippi State, by larger margins.

And if Gomez gets the chance, he'd enjoy getting a rematch with the Huskies.

"I would love to have a chance to take a team up there again," Gomez said. "I'm sure they have people pulling on their purse strings looking for stuff. But I would love to go there, play in front of those fans again, and it's a great way to start our season and really set the tone for a lot of things for us."

But first ... How about an invitation to the mansion in Austin, Gov. Abbott?

Tags: Carl Adamec

Lefthander Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y. -- who attended the same high school as the Mets' Steven Matz -- led UConn to the NCAA baseball tournament. (Courtesy UConn Athletics)
Lefthander Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y. -- who attended the same high school as the Mets' Steven Matz -- led UConn to the NCAA baseball tournament. (Courtesy UConn Athletics)

After winning the American Athletic Conference tournament title Sunday behind Anthony Kay of Stony Brook, N.Y., UConn was matched against Georgia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Division I baseball tournament starting Friday in Gainesville, Fla.

The tournament begins Friday at 16 regional sites. The 64-team field was announced Monday.

The four-team Gainesville Regional is being hosted by No. 1 overall seed Florida (47-13), which faces Bethune-Cookman in the other first-round game of the double-elimination event at 6 p.m. UConn (37-23) faces Georgia Tech at 1 p.m.

The SEC has four of the eight top seeds. The others are No. 4 Texas A&M (41-16), No. 6 Mississippi State (41-16-1) and No. 8 LSU (42-18). Florida has been ranked No. 1 most of the season but lost to A&M in the SEC tournament over the weekend.

UConn (37-23) beat Houston 7-2 in the AAC championship game Sunday in Clearwater, Fla., behind junior lefthander Kay, who was named the tournament's Most Oustanding Player.

Kay went to Warde Melville High, the same school as the Mets' Steven Matz. On Sunday, he went six innings and struck out five, allowing six hits and two runs in a start that was interrupted by a one-hour, three-minute lightning delay. Kay was the winning pitcher in the Huskies' tournament-opening win against Memphis Wednesday.

Kay (9-2, 2.46 ERA) is the No. 33 prospect in the country for next month's amateur draft according to Baseball America. ESPN's Keith Law has Kay going to the Orioles with the 27th pick in a recent mock draft.


 (USA Basketball )
(USA Basketball )

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Crystal Dangerfield's journey with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is about to begin.

The 5-foot-5 point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, took a long detour this weekend on the way.

Dangerfield arrived here Saturday at 3 a.m., just 10 hours before the first session of USA Basketball's U-18 national team trials. After a second session Saturday, two more Sunday, and a final one Monday morning, her fate has gone to the selection committee. On Tuesday, it will be off to Storrs to join her Huskies' teammates for summer school.

"One flight is like three and a half hours and the second one is like two hours," Dangerfield said. "If I don't make it and then to have to make that trip, that's going to hurt a little bit."

Dangerfield has won gold medals with the 2013 U-16 team at the FIBA Americas Championship and with the 2015 U-19 team at the FIBA world championships.

But she also knows what it's like to come up short, as she did at the 2014 U-17 trials.

"I did a lot of training and just tried to pick out little things in my game that I needed to work on," Dangerfield said. "Defense is big here and so is being a leader. I'm trying to do the things they're looking for.

"And I'm hungry because the actual title of being a UConn player is on my back now. Yes, I have two gold medals around my neck. But having this opportunity, or thinking that it will just be given to me, I don't take that granted."

Dangerfield wrapped up an outstanding career at Blackman High this winter, finishing as the school's all-time leader in points (2,186) and assists (503). She was Tennessee's Gatorade Player of the Year three times.

As a senior she averaged 23.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 steals in leading the Lady Blaze to a 27-4 record. She was the Morgan Wootten Award winner as the national Player of the Year. The lone downside was Blackman's bid for a third straight state title fell short.

"It was special, probably my best year," Dangerfield said. "Even without winning another state title, I was able to take on a position as a leader and do different things. It wasn't about what I did on the court, it was about what I did off the court."

That included graduating with honors earlier this month.

"My goal from the first day I stepped into the high school was to graduate decorated," Dangerfield said. "Our tassels were gold and everyone else's were blue and orange. To leave with honors was special."

When she gets to UConn, she'll take two courses -- a speech class and sociology. She'll also join the Huskies for workouts and pick-up games as the 11-time NCAA title holders look to make more history.

And like UConn's departing seniors did, or any elite player coming into college dreams of, she wants to win four national championships, too.

"I want us to build team chemistry, get stronger, and I'm looking forward to being around my teammates and proving to the coaches that they can trust me," Dangerfield said. "The season starts when we all get up there."

Dangerfield will wear uniform No. 5 with the Huskies, passing up the No. 32 she wore in high school and the No. 4 she's worn playing for USA Basketball.

She also has no problem passing up a good portion of her summer vacation. If she makes the U-18 team, she'll return here shortly after the end of the summer session for training camp. The FIBA Americas U-18 Championship will take place July 13-17 in Valdivia, Chile.

"It turned into business," Dangerfield said with a smile. "Basketball has always been a big part of my life, and you get used to it."

Then again, Dangerfield did pass up an opportunity to play in the United States U-18 3x3 national tournament in order to attend her senior prom.

Dangerfield will be joined by fellow incoming freshmen Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin at UConn. She's already been a USA teammate of sophomores Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier. And there will be another familiar face when she arrives as Duke transfer Azura Stevens, who played with Dangerfield on the 2015 U-19 team, makes her way to campus.

"She'll add versatility, being able to get into the post but also being able to move out on the wing," Dangerfield said. "She has a nice shot from the outside and she can cause all kinds of matchup problems. It's almost like bringing in another Breanna Stewart. It's huge that Azura is coming to UConn."

And another reason that Dangerfield can't wait to get there.

U-17 finalists named

UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter was not among 18 players named Monday as finalists for USA Basketball's U-17 national team that will take part in the FIBA U-17 world championships in Spain next month.

Espinoza-Hunter, a 5-11 guard from Ossining, New York, and Blair Academy in New Jersey, played on the 2015 U-16 national team and was its second-leading scorer and leader in minutes played as the Americans won the bronze medal at the FIBA U-16 Americas Championship.

Only three of the 12 players from the U-16 team -- center Sedona Prince, forward Aquira DeCosta, and guard Lexi Morris -- are U-17 finalists.

The finalists are guards Morris, Jenna Brown, Destanni Henderson, Taylor Mikesell, Abby Prohaska, Christyn Williams, and Zoe Young; forwards DeCosta, Rellah Boothe, Aliyah Boston, Samantha Brunelle, Charli Collier, Maya Dodson, and Madison Williams; and centers Prince, Janelle Bailey, Nazahrah Hillmon, and Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

There are four finalists from the Class of 2017, 12 from the Class of 2018, and two from the Class of 2019.

The finalists will stay at the USOTC with the 12-player national team being announced on Friday.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Charli Collier (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
Charli Collier (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Charli Collier is talented and athletic enough that she can play all five positions for her Barbers Hills (Texas) High girls basketball team.

But when it comes to her bid to make the United States U-17 team, the 6-foot-4 forward doesn't have to be Magic Johnson; just perform some magic around the rim.

"I'm a post player, but at my high school I can shoot from the perimeter," Collier said. "My coach allows me to dribble the ball and play the point a little bit. But here with USA I understand I'm going to be solely in the post. When it comes down to it, I know I need to be down low in the post."

Forty-one players, including Collier, took part in the final day of the trials Sunday at the United States Olympic Training Center. The finalists for the squad will be chosen Monday with the 12-player roster that will go the FIBA U-17 world championships set for June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain, expected to be announced on Thursday.

Collier made it to the final cut a year ago before coming up short in her attempt to make the 2015 U-16 team. She believes she's doing what is needed in what's been strong competition between the post players in camp to take the final step.

"I'm really happy with the way that I'm playing," Collier said. "I'm not satisfied because I'm never satisfied. I always want to get better. But I think I've been physical and more powerful in the paint. That was the missing piece for me last year. As we go on here I have to continue to bring that. My parents, coaches pushed so I would be prepared."

While her play has been strong, what's also been an inspiration to those watching Collier is that she has remained strong and focused as she mourns the loss of her father, Elliot, who passed away on April 4.

Collier averaged 24.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots as a sophomore to lead Barbers Hill to a 27-8 record and the Texas Class 5A regional semifinals. She reached the 1,000-point plateau.

She is the top-ranked player in the Class of 2018 by ESPN Hoopgurlz and is receiving interest from schools all around the country.

"I haven't narrowed it down at all," Collier said. "I'm open to any school. I have talked to UConn, Notre Dame, Baylor, Duke, Tennessee, etc. No decisions right now, though. I'll come up with a top 10 by the end of my junior year and go from there."

Collier attended UConn's game at Houston last Jan. 7.

New England flavor

Of the 41 players that advanced to Sunday's sessions, 15 were applicant candidates who paid their own way to take part in the trials.

One of two New England players to make the trip here is still alive. Aliyah Boston, a 6-foot-3 forward who recently finished her freshman year at Worcester Academy, took the challenge and has taken it on with enthusiasm.

"I wanted to see how my skill level compared to older and bigger players from around the country," Boston said. "I think I've been playing up to my expectations and actually I think I could be playing a little better.

"What I'm going to take from this, no matter what happens from now on, is I'm seeing how much work I need to put in to get to where I want to be. This has been a great experience. Anyone that can do it, they should take advantage of it."

Janai Crooms, a 5-8 sophomore guard from St. Andrew's in Cranston, Rhode Island, was cut on Saturday.

Boston, a native of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, moved to Worcester two years ago. She helped Worcester Academy to a 24-5 record and the semifinals of the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class A tournament. She was named the USA Today all-Massachusetts second team.

During the season she played against Tabor Academy and UConn incoming freshman Molly Bent.

"Molly is a special player," Boston said. "She's a good shooter and her ballhandling is really good. She caused problems for us when we played Tabor."

Even if Boston isn't among the U-17 finalists, the 14-year-old may have set herself up for an invitation from USA Basketball for the 2017 U-16 trials. Regardless, she already has made plans for a late May weekend next year.

"I will be here," Boston said with a smile.

Free throws

Eleven of the 12 players from the 2015 U-16 national team, including UConn Class of 2017 commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter, are still in the running for U-17 spots. The only cut was Bexley Wallace, a center from Pickerington, Ohio. ... UConn Class of 2017 commit Lexi Gordon was cut prior to Sunday's sessions. She made it to the final day as an applicant candidate a year ago. ... A breakdown of the 41 players left: 15 from the Class of 2017, 20 from the Class of 2018, five from the Class of 2019 and one -- Sydney Parrish, a forward from Fishers, Indiana -- from the Class of 2020.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Sam Brunelle, entering her sophomore year of high school this fall, is already attracting plenty attention from women's college basketball coaches. (USA Basketball)
Sam Brunelle, entering her sophomore year of high school this fall, is already attracting plenty attention from women's college basketball coaches. (USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A year ago, an important event in Sam Brunelle's life could have been a junior high dance.

But after a record-breaking freshman season at William Monroe High that saw her earn All-State honors and an invitation to USA Basketball's U-17 national team trials, it's already obvious the 6-foot-2 forward from Ruckersville, Virginia, will dance all the way to the college of her choice to play the game she loves.

"It's very humbling," said Brunelle, who is a UConn recruiting target. "There aren't many girls that get the opportunities that I've been receiving. I try to make the best decisions I can. When it comes time to make a decision in a few years, hopefully I will make the best one."

But Brunelle takes things one day at a time. On Sunday she'll continue her bid at the United States Olympic Training Center to represent her country for the first time. A total of 139 players started the trials Thursday night. Forty-one are left.

The finalists for the squad will be chosen Monday. The 12-player roster that will go the FIBA U-17 world championships set for June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain, is expected to be announced on Thursday.

"I like competing against the best of the best, that's why everyone is out here," Brunelle said. "They want to prove they're the best and make the team. Competing against them is fun. Not many people get invited to these trials and it was an honor for me to be invited.

"A lot of the girls that played on the team last year have been very nice to me and we've become friends. The experience on the court has been good, too."

One of four players from the Class of 2019 to be invited here by USA Basketball, it took no time for Brunelle to show she belonged going against some of the top high school juniors and sophomores in the country. She's shown an ability to score inside and on the perimeter and a willingness to defend. Her effort has been consistent, proving she was well prepared to deal with the pace and the altitude here.

"I trained with an altitude mask and did lot of conditioning and agility work to improve my quickness," Brunelle said. "I worked hard on my game. "A friend of mine, Chloe Chapman, came out here as an eighth-grader last year and I talked to her a lot about what it was like here. I have another a friend who I met through an Elena Delle Donne Camp who was here last year and she recommended using the mask to help prepare."

Chapman was also invited to the U-17 trials. Brunelle averaged 25 points and 17.3 rebounds in leading William Monroe High to a 20-6 record and the Conference 28 and district titles. Its season ended with a loss to John Marshall in the Class 3A East Region quarterfinals despite 22 points and 17 rebounds from its rookie star. Her 650 points on the season gave her the Virginia freshman record.

"I had a pretty good season," Brunelle said. "It could have always been better and I'm looking forward to improving on it."

She was never better than when she had 52 points (including a 28-for-28 at the free-throw line) and a league-record 28 rebounds in a 77-46 win over Rappahannock County on Jan. 28.

"The game plan was for me to start on the inside because their team wasn't really that big," Brunelle said. "But they were really aggressive. I started hitting shots early from the inside and I just got into a rhythm the rest of the night. "I didn't know what the numbers were (until she was told after the game). Stats are not anything I concentrate on. I just play."

And she does it well. Her father, Rod, was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and played in their minor league system for several years. Her mother, Katie, played at William Monroe and coached at Orange County High School before moving into administration.

"She had players move on to Division I," Brunelle said. "I've heard some of the stories from them about how my mom inspired them to do greater things. She coached me earlier and inspired me to get better. If I want to be best, I can't stop working. She gets in the gym with me all the time and helps me with my game." And when she was in fifth grade, Brunelle beat her mother in a game of one-on-one for the first time.

Four years later, her basketball idol is Delle Donne, a 2016 Olympian and the 2015 WNBA Most Valuable Player. "Her skill set is unbelievable," Brunelle said. "You don't see many players 6-foot-5 that can do what she can do. I would like to model, kind of, my game after hers. She's a role model off and on the court for me."

For college coaches hoping to get Brunelle to commit, it doesn't figure to happen anytime soon. She said she doesn't have any kind of list and that her game plan is to not make any kind of decision until after her junior year. "I want to get to know every college that I'm interested in and I want to get to know them well," said Brunelle, who had a 4.25 grade-point average her freshman year.

Time is on her side. And right now she's having the time of her life.


 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Name any of the top women's college basketball coaches in the country and chances are they've been in contact with or have seen Sedona Prince play. The 6-foot-7 sophomore center from Liberty Hill, Texas, is considered among the top post players nationally in the Class of 2018.

But while about all of the remaining players at USA Basketball's U-17 national team trials, which continue Sunday at the United States Olympic Training Center, are going through the recruiting process, Prince has someone in her ear only a precious few have -- University of Connecticut Class of 2017 commit Lexi Gordon.

"It's crazy," Prince said with a laugh. "Lexi's so amazing. We're good friends. I'm getting used to it. It's funny because you have coaches recruiting you and you have AAU coaches that are interested in what you're doing. I have Lexi. She's the best at it because you can always talk to her."

And Prince is also listening. Gordon, who committed to the Huskies in February, is planning on taking her official recruiting visit to UConn in October, the weekend of the annual First Night program at Gampel Pavilion. What's also in the plan is to have Prince make the trip to Storrs with her for what would be an unofficial visit.

Prince admits her list of five is subject to change but is currently at UConn, Notre Dame, Oregon State, SMU and Texas. Prince, who turned 16 on May 12, did give the Longhorns a commitment in June, 2014 -- two months before she started high school -- but reopened the recruiting process just over a year later. Note again that Texas is still one of her top five.

"I was recruited in seventh and eighth grade," Prince said. "Then, I don't think I really knew what I wanted in a college. As I get older, knowing what I want, knowing what the process is like, that will help me moving forward."

It is also Prince's second time around at a national team trials here.

Last year she made the U-16 club and averaged 5.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots in 13.6 minutes as Team USA won the bronze medal at the FIBA Americas U-16 Championships and qualified for the 2016 FIBA U-17 world championships.

"It gives me a boost of confidence having made it last year and a perspective of just how good the players here are," Prince said. "The caliber of player here is different than at most high schools. Knowing I can play with them is big for my confidence.

"Last year I was here just to have fun and really didn't understand how big it was. This year I have to attack more. I have to be a post presence and a presence in the paint. It's a totally different approach. I'm much more focused and determined to make a difference every play."

The post players from around the country are challenging the USA Basketball selection committee as a number of them, including Prince, are playing at a high level. The finalists for the squad will be chosen Monday with the 12-player roster that will go the world championships set for June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain, expected to be announced on Thursday.

"It would mean a lot to me. To be on this team would be an honor," Prince said. "I want to get a gold medal because I know last year we never should have lost."

Prince played her first high school season at Faith Academy before moving on to Liberty Hill High. In her two years she is already over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and could pass 1,000 blocked shots her junior campaign, As a sophomore she averaged 16.4 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 7.2 blocked shots as her team advanced to state 3A tournament semifinals before falling to eventual champion Argyle.

Liberty Hill's final record was 46-4. Yes, it played 50 games.

"It's rough and it's a long season and your body does start to break down," Prince said. "There are things that happen within a team during a long season like that. But it was fun and our team really bonded and became much closer. Next year our intention is to win the state title."

Prince's favorite player is Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. Her favorite Olympian is newly-minted 2016 Team USA member Breanna Stewart. She likes their calm, quiet presence on the court as well as their ability to do the intangibles. She has not seen Durant or Stewart play in person but Stewart will visit Texas three times during her rookie season with the Seattle Storm -- at San Antonio June 14 and July 8 and at Dallas on June 16.

And if Prince can't make it to any those games, she'll at least see Stewart's name and number in the Huskies of Honor and the national championship banners she helped bring to UConn in October.


UConn recruiting target Megan Walker is making at least one international trip this summer with USA Basketball. (Photo courtesy USA Basketball)
UConn recruiting target Megan Walker is making at least one international trip this summer with USA Basketball. (Photo courtesy USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The United States Olympic Training Center here has become like a second home for Megan Walker the past month.

"I've been here a lot," Walker said with a smile on Saturday. "The 3-on-3 tournament and practices really helped us get used to the area and the altitude. We come here for workouts and we're going hard while everyone else gets tired."

But Walker will be on the move Sunday. The UConn recruiting target will join TCU signee Amber Ramirez, California signee Jaelyn Brown, and Sidney Cooks on a late-afternoon flight to start their journey to Astana, Kazakhstan, for the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships that starts on Wednesday. The group qualified for the event by winning the United States tournament gold medal here on May 1.

Before she leaves Colorado, Walker -- a 6-foot-1 junior wing from Chesterfield, Virginia, and the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017 -- will wrap up tryouts for the United States national team that will play in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship July 13-17 in Valdivia, Chile.

Ramirez and Cooks are also candidates for the U-18 squad.

"We have to play our best," Walker said. "We have to show the selection committee and have them know that we're good enough and we can contribute to the team."

Also attending the U-18 trials is incoming UConn freshman Crystal Dangerfield, who is seeking her third national team spot in four attempts.

Walker led Monacan High to a 29-1 record and second straight Virginia Class 4A state title as a junior, averaging 21.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.2 steals. She had a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds in a 93-56 win over William Fleming in the state championship March 9.

She reached the 1,000-point plateau during the season with a career-best of 50 points on Feb. 5 against Cosby, which went on to successfully defend its Class 6A state crown.

Walker, who has a 3.65 grade-point average, was Virginia's Gatorade Player of the Year and the Class 4A Player of the Year.

The United States tourney was the first 3-on-3 event in which she had played.

"It definitely was different," Walker said. "At first we had to get the strategy down but once we figured it out everything started clicking and we fed off of each other and we won."

She did get to spend some time at home after wrapping up the 3-on-3 training camp but made her way back to the USOTC on Friday.

It's her second bid to make a USA Basketball national team. She was among the final cuts at the 2014 U-17 trials.

."While I'm here I want to show that I can make the right pass, take good shots, and play good defense," Walker said. "Getting cut, that's extra motivation now. But being there, I learned what they are looking for."

What she'll be looking for, and turning her focus to, later this summer is the college that she'll attend in the fall of 2017.

Her list is down to four -- UConn, Notre Dame, Texas, and Virginia. Walker is still lining up her schedule for her official visits but will likely take all four in August and September. With UConn's Geno Auriemma coaching Team USA at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, Walker said her visit with the Huskies may come in late August/early September.

Walker has made two unofficial visits to UConn. She attended the 2014 First Night program at Gampel Pavilion. Then, while playing a weekend AAU tournament in New York last month, she took a side trip to Storrs and spent a day on campus. She attended the final team dinner for the 2016 national champions as senior All-Americans Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm), Moriah Jefferson (San Antonio Stars), and Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun) left to join their WNBA teams after being the top three players taken in the draft the night before.

"It was so good," Walker said. "It got emotional at the end because the seniors were leaving to go play professionally and they had to say goodbye. They appreciated what Coach Geno did for them and they absolutely loved it there.

"It made me think about the things that I want."

UConn has commitments from high school juniors Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon -- who are here taking part in the U-17 national team trials -- and added transfers Azura Stevens (Duke) and Batouly Camara (Kentucky) this month. The Huskies have two scholarships left for the Class of 2017.
  


Christyn Williams (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
Christyn Williams (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Christyn Williams calls being an alternate to USA Basketball's 2015 U-16 national team her biggest accomplishment to date in the sport.

It's also her biggest motivation.

"It just lit a fire under me," Williams said. "I never got cut before. You can't dwell on it because then you don't grow from it. I was an applicant candidate so I knew that the odds were against me. But, still. ...

"After the trials last year, they told me I could call them and ask what I needed to work on. They said I needed to get stronger, improve my 3-point shot, and work on moving after my first step. I did that. I've worked on leadership, communicating, and being a good teammate. Those are the things that will help me going forward here."

Williams was invited back to the United States Olympic Training Center for the U-17 national team trials that will determine the Team USA roster that will go the 2016 FIBA U-17 World Championship set for June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain.

Williams, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, is considered one of the top players in the Class of 2018.

In her two seasons at Central Arkansas Christian School, she totalled 1,678 points, 650 rebounds and 150 steals. She started all 37 of her team's games as a sophomore and averaged 29.3 points and 11.0 rebounds. Her single-game best is 47 points, and she led her team to the state tournament final.

"We lost by six to an unbeaten team," Williams said. "I think we should have beaten them. We played them tough, but we'll get them next year. It's just more motivation."

For her efforts, she was named Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year.

"I guess I did something right," Williams said with a laugh. "I'm not trying to be cocky, but I worked my butt off for it. It wasn't like it was just given to me. I was honored to get it. It meant a lot and I feel good about it."

Many of the top programs have noticed her. A National Honor Society student with a 3.6 grade point average, she has received scholarship offers from national powers such as Baylor and Tennessee and is hoping to hear from Notre Dame and South Carolina.

And during an unofficial visit last January, she received a scholarship from coach Geno Auriemma and UConn, the 11-time national champion.

"It was a great feeling and I don't even know how to explain it," Williams said. "It's a girl's dream to get an offer from UConn. I felt blessed and it was very humbling."

Williams made the trip to Storrs with AAU teammate Lexi Gordon. After also receiving a scholarship offer, Gordon announced her commitment to the Huskies a month later.

But don't expect a decision from Williams soon.

"It was great trip and it's a fabulous campus," Williams said. "Lexi and I became friends here a year ago and we're AAU teammates now. We're like best friends and we decided to take the trip to UConn together. She actually committed. She is definitely trying to recruit me, but it's fun and games at this point. The difference with me is I'm not looking to commit anytime soon. I'm a year behind Lexi.

"I've been thinking about some visits during the football season coming up so I can get on more campuses and get a better feel for some of the schools that I'm looking at."

This weekend she is giving USA Basketball's selection committee to look at. The improvements in her game have shown in the first part of the trials. Finalists will be announced Monday with the 12-player club being finalized after three more days of camp.

It could become her biggest achievement.

Tags: Carl Adamec

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Andra Espinoza-Hunter made her mark as one of the top players in her age group a year ago.

The University of Connecticut Class of 2017 commit was the No. 2 scorer and among the leaders in rebounds and assists on USA Basketball's U-16 national team that won a bronze medal at the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship and qualified Team USA for next month's FIBA U-17 world championships.

But this is a new year and a new team that she's trying to make and she's going up against some new players for those coveted positions. 

And she's taking nothing for granted. She arrived at the United States Olympic Training Center for the U-17 trials in the best shape of her life and playing her best ball.

"This is a bigger court than I'm used to and we're at a higher altitude," Espinoza-Hunter said. "Last year I wasn't in the best shape that I could have been in. Even during the winter I wasn't in the condition that I wanted to be in. Wanting to make this team has inspired me. My coaches really pushed me to get into the best condition I can be. Now that I'm where I want to be, it's to my advantage."

It's already paying dividends for the 5-foot-11 junior guard from Ossining, New York, and Blair Academy in New Jersey. The first cut from the original field of 139 that started Thursday night took place Saturday morning. The finalists will be announced Monday morning and the 12-player team that will go to the world championships will be announced after three more days of training.

Representing the United States for the first time in 2015, Espinoza-Hunter averaged 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in five games at the FIBA Americas U-16 Championship in Puebla, Mexico. The Americans swept their pool-play games to clinch a spot in the final four and a spot in the 2016 U-17 world championships but were knocked off by Brazil in the semifinals. They rebounded to capture the bronze medal with a rout of Mexico.

She led Team USA in minutes played by a wide margin and it may have played a role in her struggles shooting. She made just 29 percent from the floor, 28 percent from 3-point land, and 52 percent from the foul line -- not exactly the kind of numbers expected from a player considered among the best high school shooters in the country.

"My endurance now is much better and I feel much stronger," Espinoza-Hunter said. "I can go out and play for long stretches and I think I play better for those stretches since I can go longer without feeling tired. That's a great feeling to have."

She is also feeling good coming off a championship junior season at Blair Academy.  

Espinoza-Hunter averaged 25 points, eight rebounds, and four assists as Blair Academy struggled through an injury-plagued regular season. One of the key injuries was to guard Honesty Scott-Grayson, who was also Espinoza-Hunter teammate on the U-16 team last year and is competing for a slot on the U-17 team here.

But in the postseason, Blair went a perfect 5-0 and defended its MPAL and New Jersey Prep A state tournament titles.

"We lost some games, and it was hard to with the injuries," Espinoza-Hunter said. "I had to step up and be more of a leader and scorer. It's hard to go unbeaten, but we won at the end so it was a successful season."

Now she's looking for success at the international level. The FIBA U-17 world championships are set for June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain.

"I'm in the kind of condition I want to be in," Espinoza-Hunter said. "Another thing I'm focused on is doing more things when I'm on the court. If I just wanted to play to my strengths as a shooter, I would go out and take 500 shots every day and that would be it. But as I'm getting older and the level of play increases, I know I have to work on my game and on my weaknesses. Whether that's ballhandling, shooting off the dribble, finishing through contact, or playing defense, I have to get better.

"I think I am more versatile as I look at my game from last year until now. But there's a long way to go as I look to the future."

It was on Dec. 29, 2014, after UConn defeated Duke at the XL Center in Hartford, that Espinoza-Hunter made her oral commitment to the Huskies. She had been coming to UConn games since seventh grade when she was a teammate of UConn guard Saniya Chong at Ossining High.

Chong will be gone when Espinoza-Hunter gets on campus next year, but there will be a familiar face from Blair Academy there for her. Batouly Camara, who announced earlier this week she would transfer to UConn from Kentucky, was Espinoza-Hunter's teammate for two seasons.

"When I heard the news I was extremely excited," Espinoza-Hunter said. "Batouly is someone I look up to and I consider her my mentor. That I'm going to be able to spend three more years playing with her is amazing.

"We're getting an amazing player. She's vocal, maybe one of the loudest persons I know when she is on the court and I love that about her. Her defense is amazing. She doesn't care who is on the court. She'll guard the other team's best player regardless of position. She'll always give her all. Offensively, she has a nice touch around the rim. She's a great teammate. When you need support, Batouly is there for you. She's always involved and has great energy. She's just a great addition to Connecticut."

Espinoza-Hunter will be eventually as well. For now, she'll settle for adding another Team USA berth and her first gold medal.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
Georgia recruit Mikayla Coombs has committed to UConn for 2017. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Mikayla Coombs was going to do whatever she needed to do to be prepared for her first USA Basketball national team trials.

If that meant waking up at 4:30 a.m. to get in shooting drills before heading to school, well, that's what she'd do.

"It's just a great experience and a different level of competition, you get to compete against the best here," Coombs said Friday. "It's so exciting. I did a bunch of workouts to prepare. I would do them with my coach before school. I'd do more after school. I wanted to make sure I was ready."

The 5-foot-8 junior guard from Buford, Georgia was one of 35 players invited to the U-17 trials at the United States Olympic Training Center. A total of 143 players, including applicant candidates that paid their own way, started Thursday night. The first cut will be made Saturday morning, and the 12-player team that will represent Team USA at the FIBA U-17 world championships to be held June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain will be announced Monday.

"I need to show the character that I have and that I'm a team player," Coombs said. "I need to make good decisions."

Coombs was actually invited to the 2015 U-16 trials in Colorado, but could not attend after tearing the ACL in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game of her sophomore season at Wesleyan School.

"I was going up for a layup and my left knee just buckled," Coombs said. "The trainer told me I was fine so I went back in and the knee buckled again. No one thought it was an ACL. But I went to the doctor the next day and they found it.

"I wasn't upset because I believe that everything happens for a reason. That really helped me get through the rehab. I had a great experience. There was no pain after my surgery or during rehab. I was fortunate."

She returned for her junior year and played in all 32 games, averaging 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists as Wesleyan returned to the Georgia Class AA state final.

It wasn't until January, though, that she felt she was all the way back.

"The first part of the season, my shooting was there but my first step really wasn't," Coombs said. "In January I felt like everything was coming into place. Then we got into the postseason and I had a triple-double in a game and I felt really back again."

In the final against Holy Innocents' at Macon Coliseum, Wesleyan fell into an 11-point hole in the third quarter but rallied to force overtime. The defending champions scored the first four points of the extra session before Holy Innocents' closed on a 7-1 run to win 66-64.

After the tournament, the Georgia High School Association released a statement admitting that the basketball goals were not placed far enough into the playing area but decided that none of the results of the championship games would be altered.

"It was very frustrating to lose, in overtime, by two, at the buzzer basically," said Coombs, who had 12 points in the final. "But there's next year and we're looking forward to coming back strong. It's certainly motivation."

Coombs' senior year will also include a return to the soccer field. She played growing up but gave it up in eighth grade.

Her father, Stephen, was a member of Jamaica's national soccer team.

"I'm going back to play just to please him," Coombs said with a laugh.

In November, there will be a college coach who will be pleased after Coombs, whose favorite player is Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, signs her letter of intent.

She has taken official recruiting visits to Penn State and Virginia and is scheduling visits to Connecticut and Stanford this summer. She said she was "pretty sure" her final visit would be to Georgia, as the Athens campus is 30 minutes from her home. The timing of her UConn visit will depend on whether or not she makes the U-17 team.

"I want a coach that will make me better every day and want to work with a coaching staff I feel comfortable with and feel I can go to with anything," Coombs said. "I want to be at a place where I can improve my character. And academics [are] a big part to me. I want to major in broadcast journalism so I'll be looking at that."

This week she'll be looking to represent her country for the first time and bring home a gold medal.

"Making this team would mean the world to me," Coombs said. "This is something I've really looked forward to. I got the invite last year but I was hurt and couldn't attend and that made an impact on me. When they invited me again it made up for all the pain I felt last year. I want to take advantage of the opportunity."

Tags: Carl Adamec

UConn recruit Lexi Gordon (Courtesy of USA Basketball)
UConn recruit Lexi Gordon (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Lexi Gordon made a good impression at her first USA Basketball training camp a year ago. It earned her a second chance with an invitation to this weekend's United States U-17 national team trials at the United States Olympic Training Center.

Now making an impression isn't good enough for the University of Connecticut's Class of 2017 commit. The 6-foot-1 guard from Fort Watch, Texas, has a goal of making the team that will represent her country at the FIBA U-17 world championships this summer.

"That invitation meant I had to come back ready to play," Gordon said Thursday night. "I got cut last year. This year, it's not going to be easier to make this team. It motivated me. It hurt bad, but not for long because I knew that I couldn't dwell on it. I had to get back in the gym and work harder to get better. I knew I would be back here for this.

"I felt like I performed well but I didn't do the intangibles they look for. I've worked hard to get ready for this. I've tried to get in great shape. I have a lot of energy. I'm representing not only myself and USA Basketball, but my future school in UConn. I want to make a good impression."

A total of 143 players are taking part in the trials, which began Thursday. The 12-player team that will go to the world championships being held June 22-July 2 in Zaragoza, Spain, will be announced on Monday.

Gordon was an applicant candidate for the U-16 trials a year ago and was among the final cuts. This year, she is one of the 35 invited candidates.

She set an aggressive tone for herself Thursday night, directing players to be in the right places for drills, getting the action started and being vocal.

"They want good teammates," Gordon said.

Ironically, Gordon was included in a group of about 12 players that worked with former UConn player Carla Berube, who is serving as a court coach here after leading Tufts University to the Division III national championship game.

Gordon wasn't born yet when Berube sank the two free throws that clinched UConn's 70-64 win over Tennessee in the 1995 title game in Minneapolis. But if Gordon can do the little things that Berube did throughout her sparkling career in Storrs (1993-97), Gordon's stock should rise among the selection committee.

"They're looking for people that are going to do the intangibles and not just shoot and not just score all of the time," Gordon said. "When you try to make your team look better, you make yourself look better and the people evaluating you will notice.

"Being a good teammate means being a leader, bringing a lot of energy, picking up your teammates when they're down, and giving 100 percent all of the time. Maybe I'm not the most athletic or most skilled in the building, but I know there are a lot of other things that I can bring to the court."

She did those things this past winter for L.D. Bell High as she averaged 24.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals for a 20-11 squad. A three-year starter, she'll enter her senior season with 1,985 points and 760 rebounds.

On Feb. 19, she announced her decision to attend UConn and followed the Huskies on television as they won an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.

"I was happy," Gordon said. "I'm so happy I'm going to be a part of that program and I want to help keep the winning tradition going. I'd watch them play and would try to put myself into positions that I would possibly be in. It's hard right now because I still have another year of high school. But the more I think about coming to UConn, the more excited I get."

She will be the second Texan to play for UConn coach Geno Auriemma. The first was former All-American point guard and two-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner Moriah Jefferson.

If Gordon has her way, there will be more. There are 25 players here from Texas alone, including Gordon's younger sister, Myra. While the Huskies have only two scholarships left for the Class of 2017, there's plenty of talent in the sophomore and freshmen classes. Gordon and fellow U-17 candidate Christyn Williams, a 5-10 sophomore guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, made unofficial visits to UConn the same weekend last January.  

"I work on everyone, everyone on their list," Gordon said with a smile. "I feel like I'm a good recruiter. I'm energetic and I think that people like to be around me and I know I like to be around people. I think they know that I'm a good teammate. I feel like I can get some of my friends to come along with me."

But, for Gordon, this weekend is about playing -- for Team USA. She's thrilled to have a second chance to do it.

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

Kyla Irwin's summer vacation will last a long weekend.

It's the moment the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's incoming freshman has waited for since she committed to play for the Huskies 19 months ago.

"It will be hard," Irwin said with a laugh. "I've had senioritis here so going from my senior year in high school and three days later starting college means I'll have to change my mindset quickly. Everything is just flying by and I'm trying to take it all in."

Irwin won't actually graduate from State College High in Pennsylvania until June 11. But she is wrapping up her final exams this week and will spend part of her weekend with her mother's family in Branford, Connecticut, before moving to Storrs on Monday. Summer classes begin on Tuesday.

The pick-up games and workouts with her new teammates will soon follow.

"I want to find our team chemistry and really build relationships with the team," Irwin said. "Chemistry determines how successful you are. When a team gets along well it makes playing basketball so much easier and so much more fun.

"I'm going to work as hard as I can every day. I don't want to let my teammates down and I want to help them reach all our goals. I feel like I can never be prepared enough. But between my mom, brothers, and sisters, they've played sports in college and they have told me how hard it's going to be and how hard I have to work. But I want that challenge and I know it will be a learning experience."

Irwin finished her four-year high school career as State College's all-time leader in points (2.032) and rebounds (1,188) while ranking second in blocked shots (175), third in steals (203), and seventh in assists (244).

She was a four-time District 6 Player of the Year, a three-time All-State selection, and was a finalist for Miss Pennsylvania Basketball as a junior and senior. She was nominated to play in the McDonald's All American Game.

UConn assistant coach Marisa Moseley was in attendance when Irwin had 43 points, 14 rebounds, and nine steals in a regular season win over Hollidaysburg.

"The one thing, from the first time I saw her play, is that Kyla is high energy and she runs the floor harder than most college players do," Moseley said. "She is more excited for other people's success than her own. She doesn't really miss layups and is a pretty good passer. She can hit outside shots and is comfortable stepping out to the 3-point line, so she's versatile there. She's not a super-big kid, about Morgan Tuck's height, but I think she'll be skilled around the basket. She finishes with both hands really well.

"Because she works so hard, she'll always be able to get better and better and better. If you have a mindset that you want to put in the work, and obviously high school to college is going to be a huge jump, you'll improve. Her attitude, her personality, her approach to everything is, 'I want to work hard. I want to get better. I want to do this. I'm coachable. I will listen.' "

As a senior, Irwin averaged 26.5 points, shooting 57.6 percent from the floor and 84.5 percent from the foul line, along with 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.

She led State College (20-4) into the PIAA playoffs against Penn Hills. With her team down 10, Irwin scored 16 of her 31 points in the fourth quarter and her 3-pointer brought State College within 59-58. Irwin got one final chance and she tried to power through a pair of defenders to at least draw a foul. But there was no call and the game ended with her losing control of the ball.

She doesn't second-guess herself.

"I really don't think about that specific play," Irwin said. "Maybe it's, 'Why did I go in the middle? Why didn't I go this way or that way?' But we fought so hard the entire game that I couldn't be upset with how we played or one play. We didn't get the call we wanted, and losing by one points is hard. But everything happens for a reason. I couldn't have been more proud of our team and my teammates.

"We made history. We won 20 games. I got to play for my mom and play with my best friends every day. I grew up in that gym."

And the time has come for the four-year high honor roll student to move on.

She'll be joined on campus by fellow Class of 2016 recruits Crystal Dangerfield - who will be in Colorado Springs this weekend for the United States U-18 national team trials - and Molly Bent for the five-week summer session.

"Kyla will need to be able to consistently make outside shots," Moseley said. "She's good in the lane. But to play here, one of our things is that our big guys can shoot and they're good passers. Of course, how can you work on passing by yourself? But you can make a lot of shots. So if she can do that from the 15-foot, 17-foot range, that will help her. And she needs to get in the best shape of her life. We're going to take it to another level and we know you can only prepare so much for college. But if she can make shots and she can be in great shape when she gets here, that will give her a big head start with those five weeks that we can work with her."

After the summer session ends, Irwin, who will keep her high school uniform number of 25 at UConn, will be able to get back together with her family.

But when late August comes around, she'll get to work as the Huskies prepare to bid for a record fifth consecutive national championship.

"It's been my dream to wear a UConn uniform," Irwin said. "I'm really, really excited about what's to come. This chapter of my life at State College is coming to an end and I had a great time. It's time for a new chapter."


 (Logan Bowles)
(Logan Bowles)

Batouly Camara had a second chance to join the University of Connecticut women's basketball team and she took advantage of it.

Camara, who left the University of Kentucky earlier this spring, will transfer to UConn, the school announced Tuesday. The 6-foot-2 forward from New York City, who chose the Wildcats over the Huskies while in high school at Blair Academy in New Jersey, will sit out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules and will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2017-18 campaign.

"We developed a great relationship with Batouly during the recruiting process a couple years ago so we already knew what a great kid she is," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "She comes from a great family, is an incredibly hard worker and has outstanding ability. I can't wait for her get to Storrs."

Camara's interest in UConn was first reported by the Hartford Courant.

She averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor during her freshman season at Kentucky, which advanced to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 before falling to Washington.

Her best game was in a loss at South Carolina when had a career-high 14 points to go with nine rebounds against the Gamecocks' talented frontline that includes All-American A'ja Wilson.

"I am extremely excited and thankful for the opportunity to join the UConn family, Camara said. "This is an incredible opportunity that I do not take lightly. I can't wait to get to campus this summer to meet my new teammates and create lasting relationships on and off the court."

For most of his three decades, Auriemma has not been involved much with transfers. But Camara is the third he has taken in the last 24 months, including the second this month. Former Duke forward Azura Stevens announced her decision to transfer to UConn on May 2.

Overall, Camara is the seventh transfer from a four-year college since Auriemma took over, joining Renee Najarian (from South Carolina), Sarah Northway (from Arizona), Christine Rigby (from Santa Clara), Brittany Hunter (from Duke), Natalie Butler (from Georgetown), and Stevens.

While at Blair Academy, Camara played with Class of 2017 UConn commit Andra Espinoza-Hunter.

With the additions of Stevens and Camara, and having already received commitments from Class of 2017 standouts Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon, UConn has two scholarships remaining to give to the Class of 2017.

PENN STATE ADDS WILLIAMS-JETER TO STAFF

On the same day UConn announced that Camara would transfer in, one of her former coaches at Kentucky got a new job.

Former UConn player Tamika Williams-Jeter, who was an assistant with the Wildcats the past two seasons, was named to a similar position at Penn State Tuesday.

"Tamika is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff and to our women's basketball program," Penn State coach Coquese Washington. "Her accomplishments and experiences on both the college and professional level are truly impressive. In addition, her tireless work ethic and her commitment to excellence in the area of community service make her an excellent fit for our program and the Penn State community overall."

Williams-Jeter was part of two national championship teams (2000, 2002) at UConn and holds the top four single-season marks for field-goal percentage. She shot 70.3 percent from the floor and finished with 1,402 points and 763 rebounds in 132 career games.

She was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx and played in the league for seven years.

Her coaching resume includes six seasons at Ohio State (2003-08), two at Kansas (2009-10) and two at Kentucky (2015-16), all as an assistant coach. At Penn State, she'll be responsible for coaching the post players.


 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

Bob Diaco was doing his best to get the crowded bar on the East Side of Manhattan fired up about Connecticut football, running down all the reasons to be hopeful about the Huskies taking another step forward.

Ten returning starters on offense. Another eight on defense. An offensive line that averages 307 pounds across.

"We're going to knock `em over. We're going to run `em over," Diaco said and the crowd responded with a UConn! Huskies!" cheer.

After four seasons of deterioration since coach Randy Edsall left UConn for Maryland, the Huskies appear to be on the upswing.

UConn went 6-7 in 2015, losing the St. Petersburg Bowl to 16-10 to Marshall after winning 15 games total the previous four seasons.

"Very satisfied. It was an appropriate next step for us," Diaco said during a brief break from schmoozing with fans during a UConn event in New York City. >> Read more


 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 2016-17 schedule is still months away from being finalized but two dates from its 13-game non-league schedule have trickled out.

The Huskies announced Tuesday that they will take on Texas in the 2016 Jimmy V Women's Classic hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 4 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The game will be televised by ESPN.

Earlier this month, Kansas State announced it will host the four-time reigning national champions on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 1 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. The contest will conclude a two-game home and home series between the schools.

It will be UConn's sixth straight appearance in the Jimmy V Classic and ninth overall. The last two years, the Huskies faced Notre Dame. In the 2015 event, the Huskies topped Notre Dame, 91-81, at Gampel Pavilion.

"Being a part of the Jimmy V Classic is always very special and enjoyable," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "For several years now, this game has become part of the ESPN college basketball landscape and to be associated with it says something about your program and how it's viewed nationally. More importantly, being a part of the Jimmy V Classic gives us the opportunity to teach this year's group of players a little about Jimmy, what he stood for and how important the cause of curing cancer is. Playing in this game never gets old."

The early-season event is part of ESPN's Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research, which is held each year in early December, across all domestic ESPN platforms to drive awareness of and donations to The V Foundation for Cancer Research. In 2015, Jimmy V Week raised a record $3.2 million, bringing the nine-year total of contributions to more than $13.7 million. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will be a first-time host of the 2016 Jimmy V Women's Classic. It will also be held at Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time.

UConn is 7-0 against Texas, including wins in the 2015 and 2016 NCAA tournaments. Last March 28 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Morgan Tuck had 22 points and regional Most Outstanding Player Breanna Stewart had 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Huskies advanced to the Final Four for a record ninth straight season with an 86-65 win over the Longhorns.

The game is part of a home-and-home deal, with UConn expected to play in Austin during the 2017-18 season.

Tickets go on sale Friday, Sept. 9.

The Huskies defeated Kansas State, 97-57, last Nov. 23 at the XL Center in Hartford. It will be UConn's first game in the state of Kansas.

"It's great to get this game finalized for our fans and to bring this game to Manhattan," K-State coach Jeff Mittie said. "We will begin a huge season ticket push this summer and this game will be one of the many highlights of our home schedule."

The Wildcats will return nine letter-winners from a team that received an NCAA tournament at-large bid. They defeated George Washington in the first round before falling to host South Carolina.

UConn will play a 16-game American Athletic Conference schedule to be announced. The Huskies' non-league slate will include home games with Baylor, Chattanooga, Dayton, DePaul, Ohio State, South Carolina, and Texas, and road games with Florida State, Kansas State, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska, and Notre Dame.

SAMUELSON TO BE HONORED

Mater Dei High girls basketball coach Kevin Kiernan announced last week that UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson will have her uniform number 33 retired in a ceremony at the school Wednesday.

Samuelson was the 2015 consensus national high school Player of the Year as a senior, averaging 29.4 points and 8.5 rebounds in leading Mater Dei to the state championship game. She transferred to Mater Dei after playing her freshman season at Edison High. In three years with the Monarchs, she compiled 2,244 points and 760 rebounds along with making 297 three-pointers, all second on the school's all-time list to former UConn All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

As a freshman at UConn, Samuelson averaged 11.0 points and 3.4 rebounds. She missed the national championship game against Syracuse after breaking a bone in her foot in the semifinal win over Oregon State. She was named to the AAC all-freshman and all-tournament teams and had her season high of 22 points in the Huskies' NCAA first-round win over Robert Morris. The Huntington Beach, California, native would add 21 points in the Sweet 16 win over Mississippi State.

Samuelson's older sister, Bonnie, had her uniform number 41 retired at Edison High in 2011. Bonnie Samuelson went on to play at Stanford, graduating in 2015.

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Bob Diaco has agreed to a two-year extension to remain UConn's head football coach through the 2020 season, a school spokesman told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Diaco will earn $2 million in 2019 and $2.1 million in 2020. The head coach will also receive raises of $100,000, $150,000, and $200,000 in the three remaining seasons of his previous contract. His total compensation will be $1.7 million this season, $1.8 million in 2017, and $1.9 million in 2018. His base salary will be $400,000, with the additional money being paid as bonuses and in appearance fees.

In his first season at UConn, Diaco led the Huskies to a 2-10 season. Last year the team improved to 6-6 in the regular season before losing to Marshall 16-10 in the St. Petersberg Bowl.

Prior to being named the head coach at UConn, Diaco was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame from 2010-2013.


 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- It's been a whirlwind six weeks for Morgan Tuck.

After helping the University of Connecticut women's basketball team win an unprecedented fourth straight national championship on April 5, Tuck had her name and uniform number inducted into the Huskies of Honor, took part in the victory parade in Hartford, saw her name called with the No. 3 selection of the WNBA Draft by the host Connecticut Sun, chose an agent and signed up an endorsement deal with adidas, was among a group of WNBA representatives that took part in ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, got her bachelor's degree, and joined her UConn teammates for a ceremony honoring them at the White House.

"It was super-crazy, just so much to do in a short amount of time," Tuck said. "That was the busiest I've been in my life. But I was setting up the start of my career. Basketball is my job, now."

Work officially gets underway Saturday when the Sun open the regular season against the Chicago Sky at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, about a 45-minute drive from where Tuck grew up in Bolingbrook.

"The adjustment hasn't been too difficult," Tuck said. "I think the biggest thing is just getting used to playing with a different group of people. You get used to playing with your college team so you have to get used to new players. It was the same coming from high school to college. It just takes a little bit of time to get used to that and playing a different system."

Tuck played in two of the Sun's three exhibition games, missing the third at Dallas last Sunday so she could be in Storrs for her graduation ceremony.

The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds, including a 16-point effort against former UConn teammate Moriah Jefferson and the San Antonio Stars.

"I'm taking it one day at a time, focusing on what we're learning that day and making sure I know it and have it down," Tuck said. "I don't want to be the one they have to keep correcting because I can't remember a play. I'm paying attention to what the coaches are saying. If there's something I don't understand, I ask them, they'll answer, and I'll go do things right."

Tuck also has teammates that understand what she's going through because, well, they've been there.

The two teammates she seems to seek out first are guard Kelly Faris, Tuck's teammate at UConn on the 2013 national championship club, and forward Chiney Ogwumike, the 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year who faced off against Tuck during her All-America career at Stanford.

"I'll ask Kelly about everything, basketball or not," Tuck said. "I came to training camp a few days early and Chiney let me tag along with her. I did workouts with her and she was able to show me the ropes. She really helped me out.

"It's been great, definitely different than college. It's good to be out here with different people, weird actually. The system here is similar though, so that helps."

But the Sun have made changes. The team brought in Curt Miller as the coach to replace Anne Donovan. After coming within one win of the WNBA Finals in 2012 under Mike Thibault, the Sun missed the playoffs in all three of Donovan's seasons.

Along with Tuck, Connecticut chose Minnesota guard Rachel Banham with the fourth pick and made a draft day trade with the Los Angeles Sparks to get George Washington's Jonquel Jones, the sixth selection.

Another change for Tuck will be her uniform number. With veteran Kelsey Bone owning the No. 3 she wore at UConn, Tuck opted for No. 33.

"Thirty-three was my first number in travel basketball with the Bolingbrook Panthers," Tuck said. "We had these purple, silky uniforms so I went back to those roots. Plus my dad wore 33 when he played."

And she has a different look with her athletic apparel as she has signed an endorsement deal with adidas. UConn is a Nike school. Also, Banham, Jones, and Breanna Stewart signed with Nike.

"When I talked to adidas, the things that they were telling me and the things that they were offered I just could not turn down," Tuck said. "I know that a lot of people were surprised that I didn't go with Nike, and I love Nike. But I also love adidas. They have a lot of great things."

After facing Chicago, the Sun go to San Antonio to face the Stars Thursday and play their home opener on May 21 against the Washington Mystics at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tuck and the Sun will welcome Jefferson back to Connecticut on June 19. The Sun will face Stewart and the Seattle Storm three times, going on the road May 28 and June 24, with the Storm coming here June 10.

"It's going to be weird playing against them, especially because I played with them for the last four years at school and before that with USA Basketball," Tuck said with a smile. "But I'll get used to it. It's just going to take a little time."

And right now Tuck is having the time of her life.

Tags: Carl Adamec

GEICO SportsNite: UConn 00:01:50
SNY insider Kerith Burke reports from the White House, where the UConn Women's team visited after another NCAA championship.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team visited Barack Obama for the final time Tuesday.

After six trips to the White House in his eight years in office, the 44th President of the United States may be ready to return the favor once his term runs out next January.

Noting that he received a rocking chair as well as the traditional basketball and jersey from the 2016 national champions, Obama said, "I'm not taking this as an insult. I'm assuming it was meant with love.

"But I'm not going out to pasture here," he added. "In fact, I might be able to come to one of your games live. Don't think you're getting rid of me that easily."

UConn's trip to Washington, D.C., to be honored at the White House was its 10th. The Huskies also met with Bill Clinton in 1995 and with George W. Bush three times from 2002 to 2004. The 2000 national champions did not make the trip due to scheduling conflicts.

All 12 players and coaches Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey, Shea Ralph, and Marisa Moseley were at Tuesday's event in the East Room.

The Huskies won an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship and record 11th overall by defeating Syracuse 82-51 on April 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. At 38-0, it was also their sixth perfect season. Afterwards, Auriemma spoke with Obama.

"I don't know if you've ever gotten a phone call from the President," Auriemma said. "But my phone rings and I look at the phone and it's just lines and says, 'Unknown caller.' I'm like, 'I'm not answering this.' I don't know who it is. So the next day, 'Unknown call.' I put it away. The third say it said, 'You better answer this.' I picked up and he's on the phone.

"I'm going to miss the relationship. I'm going to miss coming down here. I'm going to miss his support that we have. But if you have been paying attention and see what's going on in the media these last six, seven months, as time goes by we're probably going to miss him more than he misses us."

Obama was presented UConn jersey No. 11 and a basketball by All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck.

The Class of 2016 finished with a record of 151-5, the most wins in a four-year span in NCAA history, and won 122 of its last 123 games. Along with the four national championships, the seniors helped the Huskies push their record streak of consecutive Final Four appearances to nine. They also brought home three American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles.

"When she was a freshman, Breanna said she came to UConn to win four national championships," Obama said. "I'm sure Coach was thinking, 'Don't put so much pressure on yourself.' But if you've got it, if you can back it up, you're not being cocky but just being accurate. And this team embraced the challenge."

Stewart, Jefferson, and Tuck became the first teammates to be chosen 1-2-3 in the WNBA Draft when they were selected by the Seattle Storm, the San Antonio Stars, and the Connecticut Sun respectively last month.

The three each missed one exhibition game to take part in their graduation Sunday and the White House ceremony. They will make their regular season debuts this weekend. On Saturday, Tuck and the Sun are at Chicago, while Jefferson and the Stars play host to Atlanta. On Sunday, Stewart and the Storm visit Los Angeles.

UConn will take a 75-game winning streak into next season.

"There's an old saying that you can't win all the time," Obama said. "Except this team seems to consistently bust that cliche.

"When I called Coach Geno to congratulate him for winning the title -- again, I told him that we have his room ready for him for when he gets here. It's a small room with a cot. He doesn't get the Lincoln bedroom. But he doesn't seem to spend an awful lot of time here. What an extraordinary record."

Obama also looked ahead to Auriemma's next assignment with the United States national team.

"All of us, even Huskies' rivals, are going to be cheering him on when he takes Team USA to the women's basketball gold medals at the Olympics," he said. "Bring home the gold."

The Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 5-21.


UConn coach Kevin Ollie now has a spot available in his recruiting class for 2017.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie now has a spot available in his recruiting class for 2017.

UConn and Zach Brown, a 7-foot-2, 265-pound Class of 2017 center from Miami, have parted ways, Brown's guardian, Michael Lipman, confirmed to SNY.tv.

Sources said South Carolina now figures to be a major player for Brown.

Lipman said Brown will now "reevaluate his options." He added that Brown's basketball focus is now on winning the Peach Jam in July with his Nike South Beach AAU team.

The Brown news was first reported by Evan Daniels of Scout.com.

Brown committed to UConn Jan. 20 and enrolled at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut soon after, with speculation he might try to re-classify into the class of 2016.

But his time at Putnam was brief. The Hartford Courant reported Brown was involved in a postgame fight in Rhode Island and left the school in mid-February. In December, Brown was suspended by the Florida High School Athletic Association after a fight Dec. 21 while playing for Miami High.

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Duke Blue Devils guard/forward Azura Stevens (11) dribbles the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. The Blue Devils won 70-48. (Charles LeClaire)
Duke Blue Devils guard/forward Azura Stevens (11) dribbles the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. The Blue Devils won 70-48. (Charles LeClaire)

When Azura Stevens announced on April 1 that she was going to leave the Duke University women's basketball team, she said, "I feel it would be best for my basketball career to go in a different direction."

She was not fooling around. And that direction has taken her north to the home of the four-time reigning national champions.

UConn announced Saturday that Stevens, a 6-foot-6 wing from Raleigh, North Carolina, will transfer to the school. She will sit out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules and have two years of eligibility remaining, starting in 2017-18.

"Words can't express how excited I am to have this opportunity to be part of the UConn family," Stevens said in a statement. "I appreciate the hospitality that my teammates and coaches showed to me this weekend. I am eager to start my new journey with the Huskies and can't wait to get back up to Storrs this summer! Go Huskies!"

She is the second transfer coach Geno Auriemma has accepted in the last 24 months. Center Natalie Butler came to UConn from Georgetown two years ago.

"We don't usually get involved in transfer situations but this particular one was intriguing," Auriemma said. "Getting the chance to speak with Azura and having her on campus to meet with the coaches and the players really convinced us and her that this was the right place for her going forward. We are excited and anxious to get Azura up here and start summer school and look forward to her being a part of our team."

As an honorable mention AP All-American as a sophomore, Stevens averaged 18.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals on the season. Her scoring average ranked second in the ACC, while her rebounds and 14 double-doubles led the league. She was also a two-time all-ACC selection.

The Stevens decision means UConn has three scholarships remaining for the high school recruiting Class of 2017.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies guard Kelly Faris celebrates after cutting the net after the championship game in the 2013 NCAA women's Final Four. (Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Kelly Faris celebrates after cutting the net after the championship game in the 2013 NCAA women's Final Four. (Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- There were 30 former University of Connecticut women's basketball players on the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 5 celebrating the Huskies' latest national championship with the current squad.

Kelly Faris, who grew up about 10 minutes away in the Indianapolis suburb of Plainfield, was not one of them. She was away playing for her club team in Austria.

So close, yet so far.

In a way, it's been the story of Faris' life since she left UConn in 2013 for the WNBA. After winning the final game of her season six times in eight tries in high school and college, including two NCAA titles with the Huskies, the 25-year-old guard has not seen the postseason in her first three years with the Connecticut Sun.

"It's been different and very frustrating to say the least," Faris said Thursday during the Sun's media day at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I was pretty fortunate before. But it gives us something to work for. We're going to take it a day at a time, a game at a time. Hopefully, we've made some good changes that are going to get us there."

The biggest change is at the top as Curt Miller has replaced Anne Donovan's as the Sun's coach. Connecticut also picked up three of the top six players taken in the 2016 draft, including Faris' former teammate Morgan Tuck.

The Sun open the preseason schedule next Wednesday against the Chicago Sky here and the regular season at Chicago on May 14.

"There's always a little bit of pressure, but if you over-think, well, that's the end," Faris said. "You never know what's will happen but you have to just come out and play."

Faris, the Sun's first-round draft pick in 2013, averaged 2.9 points on 31.0 percent shooting from the floor and 1.7 rebounds in 14.5 minutes over 32 games with nine starts a summer ago. She had a career-high of 12 points at Chicago on July 12.

But Connecticut finished 15-19, three games out of playoff spot. After the season, Donovan resigned after three straight years without a postseason berth in her tenure.

"It wasn't what I wanted it to be," Faris said of her 2015 campaign. "I wanted to contribute more than I did the past three seasons, really. But I look at it as a challenge every single year. I'm not going to dwell on it and think. 'Oh, poor me.' It's up to me to give whoever it is coaching me the feeling that they have to have me on the floor. That's my challenge."

That will be Miller, a former college coach at Bowling Green and Indiana who served as an assistant to Brian Agler with the Los Angeles Sparks a year ago.

"He's an Indiana guy, too, so I met with him before I went overseas," Faris said. "We spoke a little. It's an adjustment, an adjustment for us and an adjustment for him. Everything is new. It's all good so far."

Faris spent just over three months playing for Post SV Wien in Austria, arriving back in the United States just 10 days ago before heading here for training camp.

"Our team was the 'Flying Foxes.' That was great," Faris said with a laugh.

"But it was a good opportunity to work on a lot of different things. I've been trying to work on my offensive game and my ballhandling and I still have a long way to go. I want to make sure I'm comfortable with the ball under pressure and also when I have it to make the right decisions as far as shot selection and being willing to take shots."

The Sun list 17 players on their training camp roster and that group must be down to 12 by opening day. Among the newcomers Faris could be battling with for a spot are second-round draft choice Jamie Weisner out of Oregon State, third-round pick Aliyyah Handford out of St. John's, and free-agent addition Jennifer O'Neill out of Kentucky.

It won't be easy, but Faris believes she's a better player now than went the Sun went their separate ways after last season.

"I have more confidence to take certain shots and to be willing to take those shots," Faris said. "That's what people are looking for from me."

And while Faris wasn't in Indianapolis on April 5, she was watching her alma mater and former coach Geno Auriemma and teammates Tuck, Breanna Stewart, and Moriah Jefferson make history from Austria.

The Huskies defeated Syracuse 82-51 for an unprecedented fourth straight national championship and record 11th overall.

"I stayed up until 5 in the morning to watch it until the very end," Faris said. "It's so fun to watch them. I miss it, every time I watch them I miss it. But I was so happy for them and for the seniors, who were freshmen my senior year. They deserved it and they got what they set out to get."

Faris will now work to be sure another Sun season doesn't set before the playoffs.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Breanna Stewart (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)
Breanna Stewart (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)

Breanna Stewart helped the University of Connecticut women's basketball team capture an unprecedented four straight national championships.

Now Stewart can help a pair of fellow former Huskies match an Olympic record in the sport with four gold medals.

Stewart, who reached her goal of winning four NCAA titles earlier this month, was named Wednesday morning to the United States Olympic Team that will compete in the Games set for Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. The 21-year-old forward is the youngest player on the roster and one of five ex-Huskies on the 12-player squad. Women's national team director Carol Callan informed the players of their inclusion prior to the announcement.

"When I saw that Carol was calling, I had a mini-heart attack," Stewart said. "I'm like, 'What's going to happen? I don't know. I don't know.' Then I answered it and when she congratulated me, it was, I was speechless. I did not know what to say. I was so excited about the opportunity to play this summer in Rio."

Joining Stewart on the team's Connecticut connections are guards Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who will each be seeking their record-tying fourth gold medal, along with forwards Tina Charles and Maya Moore, who will be going for their second Olympic gold. Team USA will be coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma.

Rounding out the club, which is seeking the Americans' sixth consecutive gold medal, are guard Lindsay Whalen, forwards Seimone Augustus, Tamika Catchings, Elena Delle Donne, and Angel McCoughtry, and centers Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner.

The one surprising omission was former Tennessee star and two-time WNBA Most Valuable Player Candace Parker, who was a member 2008 and 2012 teams. Former UConn All-American center Stefanie Dolson was also a finalist.

"Obviously it's always incredibly difficult to try to identify 12 players from a group of so many great players," Auriemma said. "The committee had a really difficult job this year because it's the first time in a long time that a lot more than 12 players could easily have been named to the team. But the 12 that were named are a great combination of Olympic gold-medal experience, multiple gold medal winners and great leaders.

"There is also an influx of young players, which not only is going to be a great benefit to us this year, but I think it will set the stage going forward in two years for the world championships and then in four years in Tokyo. They will be the future of the USA Basketball women's national team."

Stewart was the No. 1 pick overall by the Seattle Storm in this month's WNBA Draft. Coincidentally, the other UConn Olympians were also taken with the first selection of the draft -- Bird (2002, Seattle), Taurasi (2004, Phoenix Mercury), Charles (2010, Connecticut Sun), and Moore (2011, Minnesota Lynx).

The North Syracuse, New York, native averaged 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists with a plus-2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio, and 3.4 blocked shots as a senior in sweeping Player of the Year honors for the third straight year, leading the Huskies (38-0) to the program's record 11th national championship overall. She was the first player to be the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four four times.

She's won five gold medals with USA Basketball youth teams starting in 2009, another gold at the 2014 FIBA world championships, and a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games.

"It's kind of crazy to think that I've been able to play for USA Basketball every single summer since, or at some point during the year, from when I was 14 till now," Stewart said. "I'm not sure when I actually knew when I might have a chance at this, but I would say probably when I was just getting done with high school. I was a senior in high school and began to realize that this is something that I wanted to make a part of my summer every single year and I want to continue that. As I grew as a player I wanted to continue to grow at the highest levels."

Bird, who will be 36 in October, is making her fourth straight Olympic appearance. She already owns the record for most world championship medals.

She and Taurasi, as well as Catchings, could tie the mark shared by Naismith Hall of Famers Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards of four Olympic golds.

"This means a lot. In some ways it has even more meaning than the first three," Bird said. "Mainly I think it's because that when you are young the tendency is to take things for granted and you just think these things are going to happen year after year or every four years. But now that I am older I see that I am really lucky, really lucky to be here, and I'm really excited and honored. I'm just looking forward to it."

Like Stewart, Taurasi -- who will be 34 in June -- was named to her first Olympic team the same year she wrapped up her career in Storrs.

"It's always a great time whenever we are on the same team," Bird said. "And the same for Coach Auriemma. It's not often that you get to play for your college coach again. It's the biggest stage, so it's pretty exciting to be with both of them."

Charles, a former WNBA MVP with the Sun and entering her third season with the New York Liberty, has been a national team mainstay since leaving UConn in 2010.

"It's a blessing to be one of the 12," Charles said. "I don't take anything for granted. I respect all of the finalists who were in the pool. There's a lot of great talent, and it could've gone either way.

"I know Coach Auriemma's system and what he expects out of his players. I know what is expected of me. I'll try to do that to the best of my ability."

Moore has led Minnesota to three WNBA titles in five years since leaving UConn. She is also a former WNBA MVP and played for the senior national team for the first time when she was still with the Huskies.

Bird, Taurasi, and Moore are among nine players to own NCAA and WNBA titles as well as world championships and Olympic gold medals.

Stewart will go for the third leg of that grand slam with Team USA and will team with Bird and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to take a shot at a WNBA title in Seattle.

She's on quite a run.

"It's definitely been a great year," Stewart said. "I've had a lot of great things happen throughout my career. But when you look at this and when you look at the opportunity to be able to go to the Olympics, that was my biggest goal in basketball. So much has happened - winning a fourth national championship, getting drafted, going to the Storm, and now this - it's really amazing. I can't wait to get going and see what happens."

UConn sophomore guard Kia Nurse is expected to take part in the Games with Team Canada. The Hamilton, Ontario, native was the MVP of the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament that clinched the Canadians' spot in Rio.

Tags: Carl Adamec
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