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 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck made their debuts with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in an exhibition game against Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012.

Coach Geno Auriemma's four-time reigning national champion Huskies will play their first game without their graduated Big Three on Nov. 1 and once again IUP will be the opponent.

The Crimson Hawks will be the first of two preseason Division II opponents for UConn in 2016-17. The Huskies will also take on Pace University at a date and time to be determined.

IUP's website has its game with UConn being played in Storrs. The Huskies have traditionally played one exhibition on campus and one at the XL Center in Hartford.

"We're really excited and it'll be a lot of fun to compete against arguably the best women's basketball program in history, and arguably the greatest coach," IUP coach Tom McConnell said. "They're the gold standard in our game. We're thankful to Coach Auriemma and the program for the opportunity to go up and compete."

UConn defeated IUP in exhibition play 105-28 on Nov. 2, 2012, at Gampel Pavilion. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 23 points while Stewart (15), Tuck (15), and Jefferson (10) all reached double figures.

The Big Three led the Huskies to a four-year record of 151-5 and an unprecedented four consecutive national championships. Nine days after UConn defeated Syracuse, 82-51, in April for the program's 11th NCAA title, Stewart (Seattle Storm), Jefferson (San Antonio Stars), and Tuck (Connecticut Sun) made more history as UConn became the first school to have the top three selections in the WNBA Draft.

IUP, part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, finished 21-9 a season ago and advanced to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Championships. The Crimson Hawks will also face Pittsburgh in an exhibition on Nov. 6.

"The players absolutely love it," McConnell said. "When you go against the best and are challenged like that, you're exposed to what it takes to win at the highest level."

Pace, out of the Northeast 10 Conference, finished 11-17 a season ago. The Setters and Huskies played on Nov. 9, 2011 in Hartford with Tiffany Hayes leading UConn to an 85-35 victory.

The Huskies will take a 75-game winning streak into their regular season opener Nov. 14 at Florida State.

A PERFECT 10

UConn freshman point guard Molly Bent admitted earlier this summer that she was nervous about asking Sue Bird if she could have the No. 10 uniform Bird wore during her career at UConn. No one had requested the number since Bird graduated after her national championship/Player of the Year senior season in 2002.

Bird admitted during Team USA's run to the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro that she was touched by Bent's gesture, which happened in June after a Seattle Storm practice at the Werth Champions Center a day after a loss to the Connecticut Sun.

"We happened to be in town and the next day after the game we needed a place to practice," Bird said. "Logistics, sometimes, not always being the best, we had to practice at UConn. That was a fun for a lot of us and the UConn team came to watch us."

By that point, Bent had received a text message from UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey that it was "tradition" that Bent ask to wear Bird's number. Hayes did so when she wanted Diana Taurasi's No. 3 in 2008, and Mosqueda-Lewis did so when she wanted Maya Moore's No. 23 in 2011.

"Practice ended and Molly came over," Bird said. "I saw in the locker room that she was wearing No. 10, the first person to wear it since I left, which is cool. So I knew. She came over and asked for permission. It wasn't necessary, but it was very cute and very appreciated."

Bent said Bird told her to, "Wear it proudly and do it proud."

The 15-year gap isn't the longest a member of the Huskies of Honor hasn't had her uniform number worn. No one has had Rebecca Lobo's No. 50 since she graduated in 1995, no one has had Kara Wolters' No. 52 since she graduated in 1997, and no one has Nykesha Sales' No. 42 since she graduated in 1998.

MAKING THE GRADE

Stewart was named the American Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award winner for women's basketball, commissioner Mike Aresco announced earlier this month.

Stewart was one of two 2016 UConn graduates so honored. The other was Tolland, Connecticut, native Emily Howard, who won the award in women's cross country. Howard helped UConn cross country finish in second place at the 2014 AAC championship. A top 10 student in her Tolland High graduating class, she received her degree in biology in May.

The AAC selected a student-athlete for each of its sports based on academic credentials, athletic accolades and volunteer service to the community, and need a minimum 3.0 GPA to be eligible.

Also this month, eight members of the 2015-16 women's basketball team -- Stewart, Jefferson, Tuck, Briana Pulido, Natalie Butler, Tierney Lawlor, Kia Nurse and Courtney Ekmark -- were named to the AAC all-academic team.

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies head coach Bob Diaco talks with defensive lineman Kenton Adeyemi (95) against the Marshall Thundering Herd during the second half at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Bob Diaco talks with defensive lineman Kenton Adeyemi (95) against the Marshall Thundering Herd during the second half at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement)

UConn, one of several programs being mentioned as a potential candidate for expansion by the Big 12 Conference, is dealing with something new in Bob Diaco's third season as its head coach: higher expectations.

The Huskies, who went 2-10 in 2014, improved to 6-7 last season. They also handed Houston its only regular-season loss before falling to Marshall 16-10 in the St. Petersburg Bowl - UConn's first bowl game in five years.

The team returns 15 starters this season and fans are hoping the Huskies can make a statement loud enough to be heard by those making the expansion decisions in Texas. Diaco said he's not paying attention to what is being said outside the program but embraces the enthusiasm.

"If you can't get excited about people really wanting you to achieve, then you're in the wrong business, you're in the wrong game," Diaco said. "It's the best. I love that."

The Huskies ranked just 117th in the nation in total offense last season, but return four starters from its offensive line, and will get back center Ryan Crozier, who missed last season with a knee injury.

Junior quarterback Bryant Shirreffs threw for 2,078 yards and nine touchdowns, and ran for 503 yards, a year ago. He is back and so is his top target, Noel Thomas, who caught 54 passes for 719 yards and three TDs.

Diaco said Shirreffs isn't a lock to be the team's starting quarterback and is being pushed by senior Garrett Anderson, a junior-college transfer who played some receiver last year.

The defense, which gave up just 19.5 points per game, is expected to be the team's strength, led by safety Obi Melifonwu.

"We have a base, a foundation and a building," said linebacker Matt Walsh. "Now we're just putting a whole other floor on it." >> Read more...


Diana Taurasi, left, and Sue Bird, right, pose for a picture with Team USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the victory over Spain the gold medal game Saturday. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Diana Taurasi, left, and Sue Bird, right, pose for a picture with Team USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the victory over Spain the gold medal game Saturday. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

If the days of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi playing basketball together are history, at least they went out making history.

Taurasi had 17 points as she, Bird, and Tamika Catchings tied an Olympic women's basketball record by winning their fourth gold medal thanks to Team USA's 101-72 rout of Spain in Saturday's final in Rio de Janeiro.

"It's just special," Team USA forward Maya Moore said. "It's one thing to do something unexpected, but it's another thing to do what you're expected to do -- year after year, game after game, quarter after quarter. And, this team didn't get complacent. "I think that's a sign of a true champion, someone who loves the game and plays for the right reasons. Every quarter that we stepped on the court, we respected the game, we respected each other and we did everything we needed to do to deserve this gold."

The gold medal was the sixth straight for Team USA and its Olympic winning streak is now 49 dating to a semifinal loss in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992, two years before first-time Olympian Breanna Stewart was born. The last two titles and 16 wins have come under coach Geno Auriemma.

Taurasi and Bird, who combined to lead UConn to the 2002 national championship, made their Olympic debut in 2004, as did Catchings. The trio drew even with USA legends Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie with the four gold medals. Edwards also has a bronze from 1992.

Will any of them make a drive for five? Catchings, 37, has already announced she is retiring from the WNBA this season. Bird would be three months shy of her 40th birthday when the Tokyo Games begin in 2000 while Taurasi would be 38

"I'm just really happy," Bird said. "We just did something that's pretty incredible. When you get together as a team and you know you only have a month to do something, it's remarkable in so many ways that we were able to put this together and do it in a fashion that leaves no question marks. This put us on the map as arguably one of the best teams, and we had fun doing it.

"Not only that, you can talk about the 100-point games or the margin of victory, but we played our butts off. We really did. I don't think I've ever been around a group that's this talented and also played this hard. I'm proud of my teammates. I'm proud I'm part of this group. I'm happy for Coach Auriemma and the rest of the staff. It's just a really fun day today."

The gold medal was the first for Stewart, Brittney Griner, and Elena Delle Donne. Griner became the 10th player to win NCAA (with Baylor in 2012) and WNBA (with the Phoenix Mercury in 2014) titles along with FIBA world championship (2014) and Olympic (2016) gold medals. She joins Taurasi, Bird, Catchings, Moore, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Kara Wolters, Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes in that club. Stewart, who turns 22 in a week, and Charles only need the WNBA championship to add their names to the list.

Stewart is UConn's ninth gold medalist. Rebecca Lobo was the first in 1996.

"This is in a league of its own," said Stewart, who in April led UConn to an unprecedented fourth straight national championship. "This is a different kind of toughness to be able to win gold medal just because you come together with 11 other great players, the best players in the world, and we had two weeks to prepare really. Then we got here and played well and acted like we'd been playing with each together for the entire year."

Team USA placed five players in double figures Saturday. Lindsay Whalen came off the bench for 17 points, four rebounds, and six assists, while Moore had 14 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Reserves Stewart and Delle Donne added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Bird, who sprained her right knee capsule in the quarterfinals Tuesday against Japan and sat out Thursday's semifinals against France, started and played 17 minutes. She had three points -- a trey that opened the second-quarter scoring -- two rebounds, an assist, and two steals.

Team USA, which pounded Spain 103-63 in Group B pool play on Aug. 8, scored the final seven points of the period to take a 21-17 lead after one quarter. At 27-24 and with the five UConn graduates on the floor together, the Americans used a 14-2 run to put some distance between themselves and Spain.

Stewart got it started with two free throws and Taurasi followed with back-to-back 3-pointers. A Stewart layup was answered by Spain but two Moore hoops made it 41-26. Whalen's layup right before the buzzer -- the first points of the period not scored by a UConn graduate -- gave Team USA its biggest lead of the half at 49-32.

Spain got no closer as Team USA had third-quarter runs of 10-2 and 11-0 to lead 81-49 heading to the fourth quarter. A Stewart 3-pointer put the Americans in triple figures for the sixth time in eight Olympic games. Charles finished with eight points and seven rebounds for Team USA.

"You play these eight games and you want to win so bad," Taurasi said. "The one thing we didn't do is we didn't take any possessions off. We played every single game like it a gold medal game and that's why I think you see everyone is emotionally and physically spent right now. And that takes a certain character team and individuals. I've never been a part of anything like this."

Alba Torrens, a third-round pick by the WNBA's Connecticut Sun in 2009, had 10 in the first quarter but was held in check the rest of the way in finishing with 18 for Spain, which picked up its first Olympic medal. Spain also won the silver as the 2014 FIBA world championships, losing to Team USA, It will host the 2018 world championships.

Taurasi led Team USA in scoring (15.6), shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and 57.9 percent from 3-point land. She is now the USA Olympic single-tournament and all-time leader in 3-point baskets. Moore was second on the team in scoring (12.6) and assists (4.3), while ranking first in rebounds (5.6) and steals (2.0). Charles averaged 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, while Stewart checked in at 8.1 points on 73.3 percent shooting from the floor and 2.3 rebounds.Bird averaged 3.7 points and 4.4 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.75-to-1.

Serbia defeated France 70-63 for the bronze, meaning that the three medalists came out of Group B pool play.

"Obviously, it was an incredible tournament for us," Auriemma said. "From the very first game that we played to today, with very few exceptions, I thought we played basketball at a really high level. I can't say enough about our players, how quickly they've come together, how much they've been able to accomplish in less than a month that we've been together. It wasn't as easy as sometimes it looked.

"These last two games especially with France and today against Spain, these are very good teams that we're playing and you could see that it wasn't just a cakewalk and that it was a struggle. Then finally, because of our depth and because of the experience on our team, we were able to separate ourselves. "But the way we played, we respected our opponents and we respected the game itself. We earned a lot of respect from a lot of people around the world, and I'm really proud of that."

(Quotes courtesy USA Basketball)

More coverage at SNY.tv. . . .

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

She's just 17, but Lexi Gordon already knows how quickly four years can go by. The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's commit begins her senior year at L.D. Bell High on Monday.

"It's crazy," Gordon said. "They tell you it goes fast but you can't believe how fast."

When told that her four years of college will go even faster, the 6-foot-1 wing from Fort Worth, Texas, laughed. While she's looking forward to getting to Storrs and joining the 11-time national champions, she's trying to stay in the moment.

She has some goals, like competing for and winning a state championship, she'd like to reach first. As a junior at L.D. Bell, she averaged 24.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals for a team that finished 20-11. A three-year starter, she'll enter her senior season with 1,985 points and 760 rebounds.

In the six months since she announced her commitment to the Huskies, she's played her final AAU summer with Texas United and took part in the United States national team U-17 trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"It was fun and I think I've become a better player," Gordon said. "It was my first year with Texas United and it was crazy. We were a lot better at the end than when we started, though we didn't finish how we wanted.

"One of the things that I had to do was guard a lot of big girls. That taught me to use my body better and made me work at boxing out and defending in the post. It was hard guarding them, but they also had to guard me and that gave a lot of advantages."

Gordon's visit to the United States Olympic Training Center for the U-17 trials was her second. As an applicant candidate in 2015, she was among the final cuts for the U-16 team.

Her effort earned her an invitation to the U-17 trials and her plan was to be a leader, a good teammate, and take care of the intangibles. But at times she got away from her strength, which is shooting the ball. At the end it wasn't enough and she was cut before the final day of the trials.

"I think the experience still helped me get better and I hope I have another opportunity to go back there," Gordon said. "But, honestly, I didn't perform how I wanted to. I understand that and I understand that there's nothing I can do about it now. I wasn't going to sit around and be sad all summer because of it. I'm not that type of person.

"My last high school season is coming up and I'm going to be ready for it. You can't dwell on the past, you move forward."

While she's on pace to accomplish personal goals of 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds (she also owns a 3.8 grade point average and is ranked in the top 15 percent of her class academically), Gordon's final year at L.D. Bell will be a family affair.

She'll be joined on the team by her younger sister, Myra, a freshman point guard and Division I prospect. She was one of three players from the Class of 2020 to attend the U-17 trials as an applicant candidate and made it through a pair of cuts. She already owns a scholarship offer from her parents' alma mater TCU.

"Myra's getting offers even earlier than I did," Gordon said. "I'm so proud and so happy for her to see that her hard work is paying off and she'll keep working hard. She's an incredible player and it's crazy to see how good she is even though she's just 14. I can't wait to watch her grow.

"We're completely different players and we're comfortable playing together. I'm a scoring guard and she's an amazing point guard who sees the floor so well. We're close, and I love her, and I know she'll help our team a lot."

Gordon, who lists Breanna Stewart as her favorite player and Maya Moore as her favorite Olympian, has been following them -- and her future coach, Geno Auriemma -- during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. One of her future teammates, Kia Nurse, represented Canada, which was eliminated by France in the quarterfinals. Team USA will face France in Thursday's semifinals.

Next month, Gordon -- along with fellow Class of 2017 commits Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Mikayla Coombs -- will make their official recruiting visits to UConn. They will be joined in Storrs by Megan Walker, the top-ranked player in the class who is choosing between UConn, Notre Dame, and Texas. Gordon made an unofficial visit to UConn in January, a month before committing.

"I'm excited to go visit and see the coaches and my future teammates again," Gordon said.

She'll be at UConn for a four-year stay in no time at all.

GOING CAMPING

Moore, UConn's only four-time All-American and a three-time Wade Trophy winner, will hold the "Maya Moore Basketball ProCamp" on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m.-noon at East Granby (Connecticut) High.

"It's definitely going to be fun and I'm so looking forward to coming back and spending time in Connecticut," Moore said during the USA Basketball Showcase. "I consider it one of my homes and I want to make sure that I stay connected to it. This is a great opportunity for me, especially being able to work with the youth and help them learn the game."

The camp is open to boys and girls Grade 1-12 with Moore and camp coaches offering tips and instruction. Campers will be placed in small groups by age. The price is $99 per player, but rates are available for teams and schools, or group of friends. Each camper will receive an autograph from Moore, a Maya Moore Basketball ProCamp t-shirt, and a camp team photo with Moore. For more information, contact Hallie at hkantor@procamps.com.

SUE BIRD UPDATE

Former UConn star Sue Bird suffered a right knee capsule sprain, a MRI revealed Wednesday according to USA Basketball. Team USA's veteran point guard left Tuesday's game against Japan with 6:33 left in the first half with the injury and did not return.

She is listed as day-to-day.

"Obviously I felt a huge relief," Bird said in a statement. "The hardest part is waiting and not knowing. So, to finally get the thumbs-up from the doc that everything was OK was incredibly relieving and exciting, and obviously I'm very happy."

The 35-year-old Bird, who is seeking her record-tying fourth Olympic gold medal, is averaging 3.8 points on 43 percent shooting from the floor, 2.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in six games for Team USA. She has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 10-to-1.

Bird tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in December, 1998, after eight games of her freshman season with the Huskies. She would miss the rest of the year but had no issues with the knee the rest of her college career, which ended with her being part of two national championship teams and being the consensus national Player of the Year in 2002.

Team USA takes on France in a rematch of the 2012 gold-medal game in the Olympic semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m. Serbia and Spain meet in the first semifinal at 2 p.m. The bronze and gold-medal games are set for Saturday. The Americans are seeking their sixth consecutive gold medal and have won 47 straight games in Olympic competition.


 (Geoff Burke)
(Geoff Burke)

It's one thing to stay close to the United States national team for a half, as Japan did when the teams met in the Olympic quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.

It's something else to be in a position at the end to upset the Americans with their superior depth, as Japan found out.

Former UConn stars Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi had 19 points each to pace seven players in double figures as Team USA pulled away in the final 18 minutes to rout Japan, 110-64 and move within two wins of its sixth straight gold medal.

"I think it's just a matter of us wearing teams down," Moore said. "We play at a high level. We try to play at a high level for 40 minutes. It's not going to happen perfectly. We just tried to do our best to stay with our game plan and be aggressive, and our defense really kick started our offense in the second half where we were able to get a lot of stops in a row and had stifling runs that we were trying to make."

Team USA, which has won 47 straight games in Olympic competition, will take on France on Thursday. France rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit to eliminate Canada, 68-63, on Tuesday. Serbia, which upset Australia Tuesday, and Spain will meet in the other semifinal. The gold and bronze medal games are Saturday.

Reserves Angel McCoughtry (13) and Elena Delle Donne (11) were also in double figures, while Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Sylvia Fowles came off the bench for 10 points each.

The one downside was former UConn standout Sue Bird left the game with 6:33 left in the first half after an apparent knee injury. She did not return and watched the final 26 minutes from the end of the Americans' bench. The point guard averaged 6.0 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 10-to-1 in five group games.

"She turned around to go chase the kid on that pass, and she just said she felt something (in her knee)," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "Ed, our athletic trainer, and the doctors just said, 'Let's just let it go for the rest of the half and then look at it tonight and tomorrow morning and see what happens.'"

Team USA led 30-23 after one quarter and by as many as 12 in the second quarter. Japan (3-3) pulled back within two, but a McCoughtry free throw, a Taurasi three-pointer, and two hoops by Augustus made it 56-46 at halftime.

Japan netted the first two baskets of the third quarter before Team USA turned the intensity up to another level.

"In the first half and the beginning of the third, I know they were making us work," Taurasi said. "They were making us uncomfortable. The way they run their offense puts a lot of pressure on you in a lot of places. I don't think we dealt with that necessarily in the best way. But we switched a couple things up and went to a more of a switching on the pick-and-roll defenses and kind of used our length and athleticism, and I think that's when we kind of pulled away a little bit.

"Some games you've got to give a little bit more emotionally. Some games you stay calm, which is not my strong suit. So, I just let it all hang out. I knew if we were going to go, we were going to go out with it all hanging out. I'm just proud of this team. You look at the score, and you think it was an easy game, but Japan is one of the toughest teams -- you ask anyone -- in this tournament to play against."

Moore scored the first five points and Taurasi added five more in 14-1 run that made it 70-51 with 4:16 left in the period. Tamika Catchings' 3-pointer made it 81-59. Team USA scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter to lead by 34 and an Augustus jumper with 4:15 to go put the Americans into triple figures for the fifth time in six games.

"This isn't necessarily like college where you can make your players do what you want them to do just by yelling at them," Auriemma said. "With these guys, it's more of they understand. So, we just said look, this is how we're going to play defense, this is where we're going to go with the ball, this is how we're going to attack them. We're going to take away this, this and that, and then let's run with it, and then they did the rest.

"They were unbelievable in the second half. Remember, we were up 10. They cut it to six in the first three minutes, so in the last 17 minutes of the game, was pretty amazing. That was pretty amazing brand of basketball in that 17 minutes against a really, really good team."

Former UConn stars Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart had four and two points respectively for Team USA. Bird did not score in her limited minutes.

The Americans shot 65.3 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from behind the arc. They out-rebounded Japan 50-26 with Brittney Griner grabbing seven. The former Baylor standout also had three blocked shots, all in the second half.

"There were a couple timeouts and a couple huddles where we were like, 'We got to pick this up. This team is playing really well,' " Taurasi said. "They're making us uncomfortable. That says a lot about this group. We're older. We have a lot of experience. We didn't panic and we just found a way to keep grinding it out, and it worked out for us.

"There is no being tired now. Every team has played six games. Every team has played big minutes. Right now, it's more your mind. It's mind over matter. It's are you willing to do the little things, are you willing to really concentrate in the rotations and make the extra pass. If I take anything away from my teammates, it's everyone is always focused, everyone is always ready to go. That's infectious amongst all of us."

QUARTERFINALS TUESDAY

Serbia 73, Australia 71

Spain 64, Turkey 62

United States 110, Japan 64

France 68, Canada 63

SEMIFINALS THURSDAY (times TBA)

United States vs. France, 

Spain vs. Serbia

SATURDAY BRONZE-MEDAL GAME

Semifinal losers, 10:30 a.m.

GOLD-MEDAL GAME

Semifinal winners, 2:30 p.m.

(Quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)

Tags: Carl Adamec

Former UConn players Tina Charles, left, and Diana Taurasi helped Team USA finish Olympic pool play with an unbeaten record. (John David Mercer)
Former UConn players Tina Charles, left, and Diana Taurasi helped Team USA finish Olympic pool play with an unbeaten record. (John David Mercer)

The preliminaries are over for the United States national team and the other seven remaining contenders for the Olympic gold medal. From here on, it's one and done.

Tina Charles had 18 points while Maya Moore made a run at a triple-double -- finishing with nine points, eight rebounds, and eight assists -- as Team USA wrapped up Group B pool play with a 105-62 rout of China in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

Team USA (5-0) will face Japan (3-2), the No. 4 seed out of Group A, Tuesday in the quarterfinals as the event enters the single-elimination stage.

"I actually saw Japan play Australia earlier this week and I thought they looked amazing," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "They're big, they're talented, they're tough. Every game they've played has been a tough game. In the past, if I remember coaching against them, not much has changed in how well they move you and how well they spread the floor and try to create mismatches. They're a lot like Serbia in that they can really make you look silly on defense. And it's going to be hard, because they're really, really good. It's the quarterfinals of the Olympics, and it's supposed to be hard."

Spain (4-1), Canada (3-2), and Serbia (2-3) also advanced out of Group B, while Australia (5-0), France (3-2), Turkey (3-2), and Japan are the representatives out of Group A. Brittney Griner had a double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds) for Team USA.

Among the other former UConn players, Sue Bird chipped in seven points and five assists, Diana Taurasi had six points and six assists, and Breanna Stewart added six points and three assists. The Americans recorded a team Olympic-record 40 assists on their 46 baskets.

"There's been a lot of things I've been happy with with them," Auriemma said. "But when it kind of comes together like this and the ball's moving and everybody's getting into the mix ... We're not relying on one individual to make it happen for us. Obviously they're close to me, but when you get Sue and D out there together and the other team decides that they want to start trapping them, then we're going to get a lot of layups. That's exactly what happened."

After China took a 3-2 lead, Griner's bucket with 1:09 gone put Team USA in front to stay and started a 20-0 run. Charles had eight points in the spurt that was capped off by consecutive baskets by Seimone Augustus. It was 32-9 after one quarter and 60-26 at halftime. The record-breaking assist came with 4:14 remaining when Lindsay Whalen, who finished with six assists, dished to Moore for a 3-pointer. A Whalen drive pushed Team USA into triple figures for the fourth time in five games.

"We were really determined after playing so well in the first half to continue that pace starting the second half," Moore said. "Our first six, seven baskets were assisted and we just continued on that pace. It's just a really fun atmosphere when we're all moving the ball like that. To be part of history like that is really special, especially for this team because we enjoy it so much.

"Every game we have an opportunity to do something a little bit better, be a little bit tighter here, to communicate a little bit better and to compete. Every team that's going forward at this point is here for a reason. We can't relax, lose our focus at all. We want to play great basketball. Our days together are limited. We're getting toward the end here. We want to enjoy and take advantage of every time we are on the court together."

The Americans shot 62.2 percent from the floor and got 47 points from their bench, while holding China (1-4) to 33.8 percent shooting.

"This is game five, and we try to use these games to try to build some momentum moving forward," Auriemma said. "This team's played a total of nine games together up to now. So each and every one we've gotten a little bit better at something. We knew kind of what we wanted to do today, and I think in every single area that we had marked down that we wanted to get accomplished, we got accomplished.

"When you have 40 assists in a basketball game, and I talked to the team about it, there can't be anything better in the game of basketball then when you get an assist. You can get rebounds, blocked shots, whatever, all that's great. You get a bucket, but when you know you made it possible to help one of your teammates get an easy basket, that to me, that's basketball. You can't play it any better than we played it in the first half. That was really fun to watch."

Also Sunday, Spain earned the No. 2 seed out of Group B by defeating Canada 73-60. Spain led by just two before opening the fourth quarter with 11 unanswered points. UConn junior guard Kia Nurse had eight points (1-for-8 from the floor, 6-for-7 at the foul line) and two assists in 25 minutes. The loss puts the Canadians in the Americans' half of the draw, setting up a potential meeting in the semifinals Thursday.

QUARTERFINALS

TUESDAY (times TBA): Game 1: United States vs. Japan; Game 2: France vs. Canada; Game 3. Australia vs. Serbia Game 4: Spain vs. Turkey.

SEMIFINALS

THURSDAY (times TBA): Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner; Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner

SATURDAY

BRONZE-MEDAL GAME: Semifinal losers, 10:30 a.m.
GOLD-MEDAL GAME: Semifinal winners, 2:30 p.m.

(Quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)

 


United States forward Maya Moore (7) dribbles the ball as Canada forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (7) defends during the women's team preliminary in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. (Matt Kryger)
United States forward Maya Moore (7) dribbles the ball as Canada forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (7) defends during the women's team preliminary in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. (Matt Kryger)

The United States national team averaged 111.3 points in its first three games at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Team Canada wasn't going to let the Americans just run up the score Friday and it slowed down the pace. But Team USA can also grind it out as well as anyone.

Maya Moore had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists as Team USA clinched the top seed out of Group B with an 81-51 win over Canada, its 45th straight in Olympic play.

"If you're placed on this team, it's because you understand that the game is played on both ends of the floor," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said, according to USA Basketball. "The only thing we have to do is make sure that we're in the right defenses, and not get too complicated, not get too tricky, do things that don't take a lot of time. We tweak it each game a little bit here and there, and the rest is, 'How bad do they want to play?'

"The beauty of having 12 players like this is you say, 'Look, here's the deal. If you play defense, if you play hard, you'll all get minutes.' But how many minutes and the quality of minutes is going to depend on how hard you play on the defensive end. And they all want to play."

The Americans wrap up pool play on Sunday against China at 11:15 a.m ET. They will then face the No. 4 seed out of Group A in Tuesday's quarterfinals.  

Team USA struggled through the first quarter that ended with it leading 18-16. The Americans then turned to their defense to build their advantage.

Team Canada managed only one second-quarter field goal -- a three-point play by Nirra Fields with 39.4 seconds left in the period. Moore had eight points and a Diana Taurasi 3-pointer capped a 15-2 run that gave Team USA a 14-point lead. Taurasi then answered Fields' hoop with her second straight trey to make it 36-22 at halftime.

"They are a disciplined team with what they are trying to do on offense," Moore said, according to USA Basketball. "They cut a lot, they move a lot, so you have to constantly be on your toes. We had our hands full when we were playing them in the half court. We were just trying to communicate and use our athleticism and our versatility to make some of their offenses a little bit harder to run."

Tamara Tatham's 3-pointer brought Team Canada to within 12, but back-to-back threes by Taurasi and a Brittney Griner hoop pushed the Americans' lead to 20 at 47-27.

It was 60-36 after three quarters and Team USA's biggest lead was 34.

Taurasi matched Moore's 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point land. Tina Charles chipped in 10 points and five rebounds while Breanna Stewart had five points off the bench. Sue Bird did not score but had nine assists, matching the second-highest total in U.S. Olympic history.

"I think we played really hard on defense," Bird said, according to USA Basketball. "I think people fall in love with points at times, but it's our defense that's been the most consistent. Tonight was a good example of that. It wasn't that we couldn't score, we just weren't scoring at the rate that you saw the first three games. It was our defense that was there for us to rely on. And it's not easy, especially against a team like Canada. They make you work. We worked hard."

Miranda Ayim had eight points for Team Canada.

UConn junior guard Kia Nurse had just three points -- a first-quarter free throw and a third-quarter layup -- on 1-for-9 shooting and a pair of rebounds. The Hamilton, Ontario native still leads the Canadians in scoring (11.8 points) coming off the bench.

"For such a young player, what an experience," Auriemma said. "You haven't even started your junior year in college, and you're playing in the Olympics against players she probably watched growing up. I think she's done an amazing job. She's fun to coach. There were a bunch of times this year when she'd do something goofy - throw the ball away, commit a dumb foul or do something and I'd (joke to her), 'I can't wait until we play you guys in the Olympics.' And she'll just roll her eyes. 

"She's one of the toughest competitors I've ever been around. That kid is tough, physically tough. She's just an unbelievable kid."

Team Canada faces Spain Sunday with the winner taking the No. 2 seed out of Group B.

Taurasi tops Team USA in scoring (16.3) and is shooting 62.1 percent from behind the arc. She tied her own single-game American Olympic record with five treys in the opener against Senegal last Sunday and broke the mark with six treys against Serbia Wednesday.

Olympic rookie Stewart is averaging 11.5 points, shooting 77.8 percent from the floor and 80.0 percent from the foul line, along with 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals. Charles checks in at 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, while Moore's numbers are 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Bird, who is seeking her fourth Olympic gold medal as are Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, is scoring at a 4.0 clip but is averaging 6.3 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 8.3-to-1.

GROUP B STANDINGS (x-clinched berth in quarterfinals): x-United States 4-0, x-Canada 3-1, x-Spain 3-1, Serbia 1-3, China 1-3, Senegal 0-4 

Tags: Carl Adamec

Geno Auriemma, who is coaching former UConn players Sue Bird, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart in the Olympics, isn't apologizing for Team USA's success. (Geoff Burke)
Geno Auriemma, who is coaching former UConn players Sue Bird, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart in the Olympics, isn't apologizing for Team USA's success. (Geoff Burke)

Geno Auriemma has guided the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to four of the five longest winning streaks in NCAA history, including its record 90-game run (2001-03) and its current 75-game unbeaten stretch.

The Hall of Fame coach has also led the United States to the last 11 of its current 44-game Olympic winning streak. The Americans put that streak on the line against Canada in Group B pool play on Friday.

But Team USA's domination is leading to the same questions the Huskies have dealt with: Are they bad for the game?

"We live in that Trumpian era where it's OK to be sexist and degrade people that are good, just because they're the opposite sex. We are what we are," Auriemma said after Team USA's win over Serbia Wednesday. "We're never going to apologize for being that good. We're never going to apologize for setting a standard that other people aspire to achieve. We got a guy in the pool with a USA swim cap on (Michael Phelps) who nobody can beat. And if he wasn't in swimming, there would be a lot of other guys with gold medals.

"So, it is what it is. The world needs times when such great, great teams or great individuals are doing great things, that other people can talk about and other people say, 'Wow, wouldn't it be great to be at that level?' These are Olympians. They're supposed to play at a high level. They're professionals, they're supposed to put on a show, they're supposed to entertain. So, what are we supposed to do? Just go out there and win by a little?

"We're not bad for women's basketball. Just like I say at UConn, 'We're not bad for women's basketball. What's bad for women's basketball is when nobody's great because then you could say, 'You know what? I don't think anybody really knows how to play this game.' I think people will say that there are some really good teams out here and when you see them play each other, they're great games. Serbia was up 20 the other day and lost to Canada. These are great games. We just happen to be somewhere else right now. That's OK. I don't mind."

Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to win a sixth straight gold medal. On Monday, it won by 40 over Spain, the third-ranked team in the world and 2014 FIBA world championship silver medalist. Australia, which clinched the top seed out of Group A with a come-from-behind win over Japan on Thursday, is seen as the Americans' top threat. If Team USA wins Friday, it would not play Australia until the gold-medal game.

UConn has dealt with the same question, particularly in the Huskies' current run that has seen them win four straight national championships and lose just once in their last 123 games. In six NCAA tournament games last March/April, they trailed for 1:44 (all in the first quarter against Duquesne in the second round) out of a possible 240 minutes. Their margins of victory were 52 (Robert Morris), 46 (Duquesne), 60 (Mississippi State), 21 (Texas), 29 (Oregon State), and 31 (Syracuse).

Senior All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck -- who were the top three picks in the WNBA Draft -- won a record 151 games.

"They've created an amount of excitement that the game has not seen in a long, long time, if ever," Auriemma said on April 5 after the final win over Syracuse. "And they've left an imprint on this game that's going to last a really long time. And I think it's a blueprint for kids coming after them that if you want to know how to do it, they showed everybody how to do it. And they did it the right way. And they did it together and they did it with people that they love."

The question of whether UConn was bad for women's basketball came up during the United States U-17 national team trials in May.

"They work hard at what they do," said Mikayla Coombs, a guard from Buford, Georgia, who would make a verbal commitment to the Huskies in July. "I've talked to Coach Auriemma and he said their practices are 10 times harder than games. They're working hard to do the things they need to do. It's not necessarily time for someone else. Everyone needs to up the level of what they're doing and match them."

"It's not bad," said Christyn Williams, a guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, and a UConn recruiting target. "It's like people will ask me what it's like to be the top player in my state. I worked hard for that. The UConn players have worked hard to get where they're at. Nothing was given to them. I actually went on a Snapchat rant about this because people are saying it's bad. The other schools need to get better, do the things that they're doing."

"I have different sides to it," said Sam Brunelle, a forward from Ruckersville, Virginia, and also a UConn recruiting target. "If you're that good, keep getting even better. UConn has done that. It's fun to watch their style of basketball. It would be nice to see other people win, but that takes nothing away from what UConn does and how they play."

UConn will put its winning streak on the line in its regular season opener Nov. 14 at Florida State.

Team USA (3-0) can wrap up the top seed out of Group B with a win over Canada (3-0) Friday. The Americans close pool play against China (1-2) Sunday while the Canadians face Spain (2-1) the same day. Both Team USA and Canada have clinched berths in the quarterfinals. The top four teams in each of the two six-team groups advance.

Former UConn star Diana Taurasi tops Team USA in scoring (17.7) and is shooting 58.3 percent from 3-point land. She tied her own single-game American Olympic record with five treys in the opener against Senegal and broke the mark with six treys against Serbia Wednesday.

Olympic rookie Stewart is averaging 13.7 points on 75.0 percent shooting from the floor, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.7 steals. Tina Charles checks in at 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Maya Moore's numbers are 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds. Sue Bird is averaging 5.3 points and 5.3 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 16-to-1.

Kia Nurse, a UConn junior guard, leads Team Canada and is averaging 14.7 points, 3.0 assists, and 1.7 steals.

The USA and Canada met in an exhibition game on July 29 in Bridgeport, with the Americans rolling to an 83-43 victory.

(Auriemma quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)

 

Tags: Carl Adamec

Connecticut Huskies logo prior to the game between the Chattanooga Lady Mocs and the Connecticut Huskies at McKenzie Arena. (Jim Brown)
Connecticut Huskies logo prior to the game between the Chattanooga Lady Mocs and the Connecticut Huskies at McKenzie Arena. (Jim Brown)

Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Lexi Gordon and Mikayla Coombs got to spend some time together while attending the United States U-17 national team trials in Colorado Springs in May.

The three University of Connecticut women's basketball team Class of 2017 commits will have a reunion in Storrs next month. And they'll have some company.

Espinoza-Hunter, Gordon and Coombs will make their official recruiting visits to UConn the weekend of Sept. 16. Megan Walker, the top-ranked player in the Class of 2017, will join them then. Walker has narrowed her choices to UConn, Notre Dame and Texas. ESPNW reported that Walker will visit the Longhorns Sept. 2-5 and the Irish Sept. 23-25, as well as being the first to report her trip to Storrs.

"I can't wait to go back to Connecticut," said Gordon, who made an unofficial visit in January and made her verbal commitment a month later. "I loved it there earlier this year, just the good feelings and the good vibes. It will be exciting to see my future teammates again and see Andi and Mikayla. It won't be the same without Moriah [Jefferson], Morgan [Tuck] and Stewie [Breanna Stewart], but it will still be fun because all of the girls get along so well.

"I met Megan last year at a Maryland camp and we've talked since," Gordon added. "If she wants to come to UConn, too, I would love it because she's such a good person and good player."

Walker (6-foot-1 wing, Chesterfield, Virginia) was her state's 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year after leading led Monacan High to a 29-1 record and a second straight Virginia Class 4A state title.

She picked up her first two medals with USA Basketball this summer. She earned all-tournament honors as she teamed with TCU signee Amber Ramirez, California signee Jaelyn Brown and Sidney Cooks to win silver at the FIBA U-18 3x3 world championships in Astana, Kazakhstan.

She then averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals as she helped Team USA capture gold at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile.

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

Espinoza-Hunter (5-11 guard, Ossining, New York) was the first player in the Class of 2017 to commit to UConn on Dec. 30, 2014. She averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists as a junior to lead Blair Academy to a successful defense of its MPAL and New Jersey Prep A state tournament titles.

She will play her senior year at Ossining High, where she started her high school career. As a seventh and eighth grader, she was a teammate of UConn senior Saniya Chong with the Pride.

Gordon (6-1 guard, Fort Worth, Texas) announced her commitment last Feb. 19. As a junior at L.D. Bell High 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. She'll be joined at L.D. Bell this year by her younger sister, Myra, a point guard and Division I prospect who already holds a scholarship offer from her parents' alma mater TCU.

Coombs (5-8 guard, Buford, Georgia) announced her decision to attend UConn on July 14. She 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 almost all of her sophomore year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game.

"Mikayla is a great kid from a great family and such a good basketball player," Gordon said.

In Class of 2018 recruiting news, four players in the ESPN HoopGurlz top 10, all members of the USA bronze-medal winning team at the 2016 FIBA U-17 world championships, have released college lists and all have UConn on them.

Charli Collier (6-4 forward, Baytown, Texas) is ranked No. 1 in the class. Her list of 12 has Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, Houston, Louisville, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and USC. Collier averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 7.7 minutes per game for the U-17 squad. She took in the Huskies' game at Houston last January.

Christyn Williams (5-10 guard, Little Rock, Arkansas) is ranked No.2 in the class and has narrowed her list to eight: Arkansas, Baylor, Connecticut, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and UCLA. She averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals in a team high 30.9 minutes at the U-17 championships. Williams took an unofficial visit to UConn the same weekend as Gordon last January.

Sedona Prince (6-7 center, Liberty Hill, Texas) is ranked No. 5 in the class. Her final six are Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Texas and TCU. She averaged 1.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 6.2 minutes for the U-17 team. She also won a bronze medal with the 2015 U-16 club at the FIBA Americas Championship.

Aquira DeCosta (6-1 forward, Stockton, California) is ranked No. 6 in the class and has a lengthy list of 20 that includes perennial powers Connecticut, Baylor, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Maryland, along with seven Pac-12 Conference schools. She averaged 6.6 points and team highs of 10.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots in 19.3 minutes at the U-17 event. She, like Prince, won a bronze medal with the 2015 U-16 club at the FIBA Americas Championship.


Taurasi sets USA mark; Nurse leads Canada
Former UConn star Diana Taurasi scored 25 points and broke her own United States Olympic record with six 3-point baskets, as Team USA downed Serbia 110-84 in Group B pool play Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro.

With the win, Team USA (3-0) wrapped up a spot in the quarterfinals -- the top four teams in Group A and in Group B advance -- and can now clinch the top seed in its group by beating Canada (3-0) on Friday. Tip off is at 2:30 p.m. Team Canada stayed perfect as UConn junior guard Kia Nurse had 14 points in a 68-58 win over Senegal Wednesday.

Taurasi was 7-for-12 from the floor and 6-for-10 from 3-point land. Her previous record for treys was five, which she matched in the Olympic opener against Senegal. She made her sixth three just 1:17 into the third quarter. The Chino, California native also had six assists.

"Usually Diana doesn't assert herself like she has in the first three games," Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said, according to USA Basketball. "She's usually waiting for the game to come to her, get everybody else involved. And these first three games of the tournament, she's just come out and taken over right from the beginning.

"Why is that? You know, that's a good question. I talked with her yesterday during our off day. We talked about a lot of things that she and I have been through in the past, we talked about where we are right now, we talked about whether there's a future at all at the Olympics. I said, 'If this is going to be your last,' ... I don't know if it is or not, it looks like she can play until she's 50. But I said, 'Let's go out in a bang.' This reminds me of her in college and she's doing whatever she wanted. She's doing it against the best players in the world."

Three other former Huskies were in double figures for the Americans. Stewart had 17 points (5-for-8 from the floor) and five rebounds. Tina Charles chipped in 15 points (4-for-8 from the floor) with eight rebounds and four assists. Maya Moore finished with 10 points (4-for-9 from the floor) to go with six rebounds and four assists.

Angel McCoughtry also had 13 points for Team USA, which shot 54 percent from the floor (38-for-71) and made all 26 of its free throws.

Serbia (0-3) led 17-16 before Taurasi hit a trio of 3-pointers and a Stewart layup capped a 13-2 run that put Team USA in front to stay. At 40-30, treys by Taurasi and Moore started an 11-2 spurt that broke it open as the Americans reached triple figures for the third straight game.

Nurse, who had 25 points in Canada's come-from-behind win over Serbia Monday, was 4-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the foul line in 27 minutes in the win over Senegal (0-3). She also had a pair of steals. The victory assured the Canadians a spot in the quarterfinals. 

"She's something else, isn't she?" Auriemma said, according to USA Basketball. "Kia's finally healthy. She struggled most of the season and she got it taken care of at the end. She's playing with a lot of confidence because they had great success last summer in the Pan Am Games, in FIBA Americas.

"If you remember the last Olympics, the Olympics before that, nobody was saying that Canada was a possible medal team. Well, they're talking about them now. That's a good thing, right? More good teams, more good players, and Kia's just one of a handful of young players who are going to be great."

Group B Standings (top four advance to quarterfinals): United States 3-0, Canada 3-0, Spain 2-1, China 1-2, Serbia 0-3, Senegal 0-3).

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (Matt Kryger)
(Matt Kryger)

University of Connecticut and United States national team coach Geno Auriemma thought Kia Nurse looked "pretty good" as she played her first game for Team Canada on July 27 in the USA Basketball Showcase following sports hernia surgery in the spring.

The road to recovery hasn't been easy for the Hamilton, Ontario, native, however, particularly on the offensive end of the floor.

But the Huskies' junior guard, who made a lasting impression on the Canadians during the 2015 Pan American Games and the FIBA America Championships, made her first mark for Team Canada on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Nurse had 25 points off the bench Monday as Canada rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Serbia 71-67 in Group B action. It's the first time the Canadians have been 2-0 in Olympic play.

"It was just a complete team effort," Nurse said. "After the first half we said, 'Let's get it done on the defensive end,' and that's what we did. We came down with some boards, got out in transition and made them run and executed extremely well in the second half."

Serbia led 40-32 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run to take the 18-point lead. Team Canada responded with 11 unanswered points, seven by Nurse, to pull back within seven, though Serbia was able to stretch its lead back to 57-45 at the end of the period.

The Canadians' second 11-0 run of the half cut it to one and they took their first lead at 63-61 on Kim Gaucher's 3-pointer with 2:46 to go. A three-point play off an offensive rebound by Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe with 48 seconds left gave Canada the lead for good at 68-67. A 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining and the shot clock expiring by Miah-Marie Langlois iced it.

"The pressure was huge," Team Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis. "Being able to bring in Nirra off the bench to cause some problems, Nayo was tremendous, and Kia had a huge effort tonight. It was amazing what she was able to do, she was a game-changer and she wanted the ball when the game was close and caused a lot of turnovers with her pressure."

Nurse played 29:36. She was 7-for-11 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point land, and 8-for-10 from the foul line. The Hamilton, Ontario, native added five assists to three turnovers and a pair of steals.

Team Canada faces Senegal Wednesday before taking on Team USA Friday.

Also Monday, the Americans improved to 2-0 in Group B play with a 103-63 rout of Spain.

Spain, which lost to Team USA in the gold medal game of the 2014 FIBA world championships by 13, is ranked third in the world behind the Americans and Australia.

"I'm sure it's tough (playing against us)," Team USA guard and UConn graduate Sue Bird said. "I just got interviewed out there and the way the reporter phrased the question was, 'I just finished talking to one of the Spanish players who said it's impossible to beat the U.S.' I haven't been on very many underdog teams in my career, in Seattle a little bit the last couple of years, so I do have an awareness of what it's like to feel like no matter what you do you have no chance and it's not a good feeling. But on the flip side, there's also that opportunity to upset, there's also that opportunity to make history that I'm sure is in the back of all their minds and that's what we're guarding against. So would I want to be in their shoes? Probably not. I mean they're trying to make history, too, by beating us, so there is a plus side to it."

Team USA has won 43 straight Olympic contest since losing in the 1992 semifinals in Barcelona, Spain.

Diana Taurasi led the Americans with 13 points. Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles added 12 each while Brittney Griner had 10. Bird and Breanna Stewart chipped in nine points apiece while Maya Moore and Tina Charles had eight points each.

It was the first time since 2004 that the United States recorded consecutive 100-point games in Olympic play after setting an Olympic scoring record with a 121-56 blow out of Senegal Sunday.

"I think it would probably just be our depth that's making that happen," Bird said. "I think a lot of Olympic teams that I've been on have had offensive power, but now we go all the way down to the 12th player and the minute you sub there's no let off, that person who comes in can do just as much offensively as the next. And also, we have our foot on the gas pedal. We're trying to get better with every single game and you can't relax. I know the score, it is what it is, but we don't relax regardless."

Spain led 8-6 early, but seven straight points gave the Americans the advantage for good. Three-pointers by Taurasi and Delle Donne and four points by Fowles fueled a 10-0 run that put the Americans up 29-14 at the end of the first quarter.

It was 54-37 at halftime and 74-51 after three quarters. A free throw by Stewart got Team USA to the century mark.

"We talk about it all the time. We know we can score points, we know we've got a lot of good offensive players," Auriemma said. "But I think it's the work that we're going to do at the other end that's really going to determine things because I think as you get into the medal games, all the teams you play are pretty good offensively. But that's the pressure we can put on teams is that everybody we bring in off the bench can score and can make a play. It's fun to watch. For as little time as we've had together, we do a lot of really nice things out there which is nice to see."

Team USA faces Serbia on Wednesday.

Group B standings (top four advance to quarterfinals): USA 2-0, Canada 2-0, Spain 1-1, China 0-1, Senegal 0-1, Serbia 0-2.

(Quotes courtesy Canada Basketball and USA Basketball)


UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma has won 11 NCAA titles. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma has won 11 NCAA titles. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

DePaul University coach Doug Bruno refers to it as the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's "little secret." While the Huskies' have had many of the best offensive players in winning 11 national championships, Bruno believes it is their work on the defensive end that separates them.

Bruno is now serving a second term as an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma with the United States national team. But some things are still the same during the summer for Team USA as they are in the winner on the NCAA circuit. While the Americans have some of the best offensive players in the world with them in Rio de Janeiro, it will be their defense that separates them in their bid for a sixth consecutive gold medal.

Team USA begins Group B pool play Sunday at 11 a.m. against Senegal.

"Once you play with the U.S. team you are not worried about shots," Team USA guard Diana Taurasi said during the USA Basketball Showcase tour. "You aren't worried about touches. You are worried about other things that you probably don't worry about on your WNBA team like denying the wing, bumping the cutter, making sure you box out. All those things are what is going to keep you on the court, because we all can score. It's those things that are going to take us to the next level, and it has always been that way since I have been with the team since 2004 with Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes and Dawn Staley."

Team USA features three players who have combined to win the last seven WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards: Tamika Catchings (2009-10, 2012), Sylvia Fowles (2011, 2013), and Brittney Griner (2014-15).
Of course, the Americans also have five of the last seven WNBA Most Valuable Players: Taurasi (2009), Catchings (2011), Tina Charles (2012), Maya Moore (2014), and Elena Delle Donne (2015).

"I'm sure when the team was being picked, I don't know that they said, 'You know what? These two guys are really great defensive players and that is why they're on the team.' " Auriemma said. "The fact that they are such great offensive players and they want to play defense, that's a unique combination to be able to have players that can score and want to make that commitment on the defensive end.

"Certainly when you look at how many WNBA MVPs we have in Maya and Tina and Diana and Catch and Elena last year, when you have that many great players, it's just a matter of getting them committed to the defensive end. And they are for sure. You have to be, because the teams we are playing against are good. They are good offensively."

Nine of the players -- Taurasi, Moore, Charles, fellow former Husky Sue Bird, Catchings, Fowles, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Angel McCoughtry -- won gold at the 2012 Games in London. The three newcomers are Delle Donne, Griner, and Breanna Stewart, who just four months ago led UConn to its unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.

Bird, Taurasi, and Catchings are seeking their fourth gold medal, which would tie Leslie and Teresa Edwards for the most in Olympic women's basketball history. A gold medal victory would make Griner the 10th player to win NCAA (with Baylor in 2012) and WNBA (with Phoenix in 2014) titles along with FIBA world championship (in 2014) and Olympic gold medals.

Catchings is retiring at the end of the WNBA season. Bird and Taurasi admit this is likely their last Olympic run.

Bird, who owns the record for most world championship medals (three gold, one bronze), turns 36 in October. She is enjoying a solid summer with her WNBA team, the Seattle Storm.

"If Sue was old and played old and thought old and acted old, she wouldn't have made this team," Auriemma said. "But Sue, at her age, thinks quicker, moves quicker and makes more plays for other people than any other guard in the league. Her feet are almost as quick. And her mind is exactly the way it was when she was in college or even more so because of her experiences. I'm not privy to all the huddles out there, but I'm sure Stewie will tell you that when there is a huddle there is only one person talking and everybody is nodding their head."

Taurasi, who turned 34 in June, is also playing at a high level. If she's not the best player in the world, she's on the very short list.

"Diana wants to win," Moore said. "She wants to be great. She wants to seize the moment of whatever opportunity she has in front of her. Most of the time she is going to be in a position to be a championship contender because that is the leadership and the competitiveness that she brings. She has that level of confidence to her. And the plays she makes are so heart-breaking, because she will make a dagger of a three or she will make a great pass and make tough plays."

Of course, there is a strong UConn flavor to the team with Auriemma and five of his former Huskies. For anyone that questions the legitimacy of the players selected, Taurasi has the answer.

"Just look at the resumes," she said. "I mean, when people say that, just look at the resumes."

After facing Senegal, Team USA continues Group B play Monday against Spain at 11 a.m. It takes on Serbia Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., Canada and UConn junior guard Kia Nurse Friday at 2:30 p.m., and China on Aug. 14 at 11:15 a.m. The top four teams in Group A and Group B advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 16. The semifinals are Aug. 18 with the bronze and gold medal games Aug. 20.

Team USA has not lost an Olympic game since the semifinals in 1992, two years before Stewart was born.

Canada opened Group B play with a 90-68 win over China Saturday. Nurse had five points (0-for-6 from the floor, 5-for-6 from the foul line), two rebounds, four assists, and a steal in 17 minutes as she continues to work her way back from sports hernia surgery. Tamara Tatham led four Team Canada players in double figures with 20 points.


 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- Breanna Stewart didn't notice as coach Geno Auriemma gave his final instructions in the United States national team's locker room prior to its USA Basketball Showcase exhibition against Canada Friday night.

Then the introductions came and it was impossible to miss. Playing in the state where they became college legends, Auriemma started his five former UConn players -- Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Stewart. It wasn't unusual for the Hall of Fame coach. In the exhibition against France at the University of Delaware on Wednesday night, he started local favorite and former Blue Hens' All-American Elena Delle Donne.

"That was really cool," Stewart said. "I didn't really realize it until they called out the starters. You heard the fans get louder and louder and louder. Coach obviously has his reason for that. It was cool to see everyone's reaction from it."

The fans were loudest when Stewart, who led the Huskies to their unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship four months ago, had her name called. They roared again when the North Syracuse, New York native addressed the crowd of 6,371 at Webster Bank Arena before the opening tip. She was also successful off the court Friday. Red USA t-shirts with Stewart's name and number 9 were sold out at a pair of concession stands.

The veterans noticed the reception.

"She did (get the biggest ovation), she did. But she'll become old news some day," Taurasi said with her biggest and best smile.

It was April 5 that Stewart shared a final hug with Auriemma and teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck with 1:46 left of UConn's historic 82-51 rout of Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament final at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Olympian Stewart is hardly the same.

"We played France in 2014 in Turkey," Taurasi said. "Stewie ran down the court and she got hit in the chest and she stopped. [Wednesday night] the first possession she was in she got hit again by them and she ran right through it. That tells you the difference, one play like that. That's all you need to know."

Stewart is the youngest player on Auriemma's squad that will head to Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday for the 2016 Games. By the time she turns 22 on Aug. 27, she hopes to have added Olympic gold to her 2014 FIBA world championships gold and her unmatched college career.

The Americans begin pool play in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 7 against Senegal. Team USA has not lost a game at the Olympics since 1992, two years before Stewart was born. 

"Stewie's completely different, completely different," Auriemma said. "She's one of them. She was in college before so I think she always felt that she had something to prove. The way she carries herself now, the way that she plays, the way that she practices, she walks around like she feels, 'I'm not only one of them, I'm better than some of them.' "

Stewart had five points in 15 minutes Friday night, making both of her shots from the floor after being limited by two early fouls as the Americans defeated Team Canada 83-43.

"There's a slight difference and it's the experience of knowing, having played with and against these players on this team and some we'll be playing against," Stewart said. "At UConn, I couldn't prepare as well as I could for that. I wasn't facing that every day."

She is facing it every day in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm.

Stewart is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors and is putting Most Valuable Player-type numbers as the Storm contend for a playoff berth. The 6-foot-4 forward is fifth in the league in scoring (19.2), second in rebounds (9.3), third in blocked shots (2.1) and tops in minutes played (35.2).

"My comfort level with the Storm is getting better and better," Stewart said. "Having the opportunity to be on the court through the good and the bad helps. Knowing that the coaches and players have confidence in what I'm trying to do also helps."

On July 17, Stewart led a Seattle rally against the Chicago Sky from a 25-point deficit midway through the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Sue Bird with 18.9 seconds left tied it and the Storm were in position to pull off the greatest comeback in WNBA history. But Chicago now had the ball.

And the Sky have Delle Donne. The reigning WNBA MVP got the ball near the top of the key and Stewart had the defensive assignment.

"We had the opportunity to go to overtime or win the game," Stewart said. "Obviously the ball was going to her. They ran a set for her and there were 10 seconds left. I was trying to make her shoot the toughest shot she could possibly take. She takes a step-back 3 and she makes it. I was like, 'Aaahh.' All the work we did to come back and she knocks down this shot."

Welcome to the bigs.

Delle Donne and Stewart are teammates for the next four weeks as they and Brittney Griner are the first-time Olympians on the 2016 club. They are fitting in.

"Each day we're getting better and better," Stewart said. "I think that off the court, it definitely comes faster than on the court. People's personalities seem to just fit together. And with our limited court time, seeing what players like to do, what they don't like to do ... Some of us have played together on other national team tours in the fall, or world championships and that kind of thing.

"The biggest piece of advice has been to enjoy this and not taking it for granted. You don't know if it's going to happen again. On the court, almost everybody has been in this situation and they know the ropes."

After a slow start Friday night, the Americans broke it open with a 23-2 run. Lindsay Whalen had seven points and Delle Donne six off of the bench. Team Canada shot just 2-for-16 in the first quarter and the visitors needed almost four minutes to score in the second quarter as Team USA took a 28-6 lead.

It was 44-20 at halftime and the Canadians got no closer over the final 20 minutes.

"We wanted to get better than we were against France Wednesday night and we were," Auriemma said. "We were as good defensively as we could be with the amount of work that we've been able to put in. When you're good defensively, it leads to a lot of other things."

Delle Donne (12) and Whalen (11) joined Taurasi in double figures for Team USA. All 12 Americans hit the scoring column.

UConn junior guard Kia Nurse, who had 33 points against a USA team made up of collegians -- including Stewart and Jefferson -- at the 2015 Pan American Games final, was scoreless in 25 minutes Friday night with Taurasi doing a lot of the work against her on the defensive end. It was her second game since sports hernia surgery in the spring.

"They put pressure on you all over the floor and defensively they really get after it," said Nurse, who also received a loud ovation when announced in Team Canada's starting lineup. "They have such a good lineup that they're able to do that.

"Today was not a good day but we'll be better next time."

The Americans will wrap up play in the Showcase against Australia on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Australia is also 2-0 in the event following its 76-67 win over France here Friday night. 

Stewart, who won five gold medals with USA Basketball youth teams (ages 16-19), hopes to continue her winning ways in Brazil.

"I do try to be there to give her little advice here and there," Bird said. "But Stewie will have her own path."


 (Kyle Terada)
(Kyle Terada)

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- If it seems like Diana Taurasi has played basketball for coach Geno Auriemma for half her life, it's only because she just about has.

Taurasi had just turned 18 years old when she was selected to her first USA Basketball squad, the Auriemma-coached junior national (U-18) team, in 2000. The previous November, she had signed a letter of intent to play for Auriemma at the University of Connecticut. She would get an early education to what she was getting into.

Team USA had given up a fast-break layup during a training camp scrimmage in Colorado Springs against three players from the Colorado College men's team, their friends, and former Old Dominion player Natalie Diaz. Auriemma stopped the scrimmage and expressed his displeasure to, and with Taurasi: "You just jogged back on defense," he said. "Why did you jog back? That's unbelievable." He benched her for the last 14 minutes of the first half.

"I think he said that I had one too many burritos and this is not an all-star game," Taurasi said Thursday after the United States Olympic team wrapped up practice here. "Then I watched for two hours. That gave me some insight of what it was going to be like when I got to school at UConn. It was."

Taurasi would lead the Huskies to three national championships in her four years in Storrs before moving on to the professional ranks. She and Auriemma were reunited in 2009 when the Hall of Fame coach was selected to guide the national team and they've combined for two FIBA world championship gold medals and an Olympic gold.

The Chino, California, native hopes to make some history at next month's Games in Rio de Janeiro as she, Sue Bird, and Tamika Catchings seek to match the USA's Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards as four-time Olympic gold medalists. The preparations continue Friday night when Team USA faces Team Canada in the USA Basketball Showcase at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

And barking instructions at the 34-year-old from the sideline will be Auriemma, the first person to coach two United States Olympic teams.

"It is much different now. Our relationship has grown to a different level," Taurasi said. "When he's in the building, when I'm talking to him or he's talking to me, I still have a sense of being that kid who walked into Storrs as an 18-year-old. That's a good thing.

"As you get older, as your career moves on, you lose some of that where the players have so much control. When Coach Auriemma says something, when he is in the gym, you want to do everything right for him. It's an interesting feeling for me when I come back and play USA Basketball."

The brashness and confidence Taurasi has is still there, perhaps more than ever. So is the talent. If she isn't the best guard or best player in the world, the Phoenix Mercury star is on the short list.

She still has a lot of kid in her -- she recently served a one-game suspension from the WNBA for receiving seven technical fouls. For every two she gets for the remainder of the season, she'll have to sit out another game. But she has grown up.

"I can talk to her like a normal person, like a normal human being now," Auriemma said with a laugh. "I can actually have a conversation with her about basketball and she would nod her head and actually agree with me. Since 2008, I'm confident that I'm going to say something that she agrees with. But other than that, it's the same. She's a way better player now, but in some ways she is exactly the same person she was. Her experiences have added a lot to her personality and who she is. But I still see the same things on the court that were evident when she was 18.

"I don't really have to coach her anymore. I don't really have to direct her. You have to manage her frustration level sometimes because she wants everybody to be on her level and that's not always possible."

Taurasi also has a long history with Bird. They played two seasons together at UConn before teaming up with USA Basketball for the last 12 years.

Her intensity carries over to her teammates.

"D is a very strong-willed person and she's got a strong-willed personality," Auriemma said. "She affects people. When she walks into a room, the entire room reacts to her. You have to understand that. She is really, really good at getting people onto the same page and getting them to do what she wants them to do. That's what great leaders do and she is that."

Taurasi had 10 points as Team USA defeated France, 84-62, in the first game of the Showcase Wednesday night at the University of Delaware. The event wraps up Sunday when the Americans take on Australia at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Team Canada, which lost to Australia in its opener, is led by UConn junior guard Kia Nurse. The last time Nurse played against an American team, she had 33 points as the Canadians won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. But that USA squad was made up of collegians, including Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson.

"This is a different team," Stewart said. "They (Taurasi and Bird) probably know her. But I'll tell them she's a hard-nosed player and really a workhorse and she won't let up the whole time she's out there."

For Team USA, it's another chance to prepare for what's ahead.

"There's always pressure, but every team goes down there with pressure to win," Taurasi said. "Australia has it, the home team has it, we have it because we have that legacy. But all those other games mean nothing going to the next Olympics. They don't carry over. There might be old faces, new faces, but it's a different makeup. We're still trying to find the identity of this team."

For Taurasi, it may be her Olympic swan song. Even though her conditioning is strong and she has been able to stay relatively healthy in recent years, she would be 38 years old when the 2020 Games arrive.

It's never smart to bet against her, though. She'll take it a day at a time.

"It's weird. 12 years ago was my first one," Taurasi said. "When I see Dawn Staley coaching us ... Dawn had a great line when we were in Athens in 2004. We had been practicing for about an hour and she told Van Chancellor, 'I have alarm clocks on these sneakers. They went off and practice is over.' I looked at her today and said, 'I have the alarm clocks now.' It tells you where I'm at.

"I'm going to treat this one like my first one. I'm going to really enjoy it. But I'm a realist, it is probably going to be my last one. I'm going to go for it."

Tags: Carl Adamec

Maya Moore, right, has won three WNBA titles with Minnesota. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
Maya Moore, right, has won three WNBA titles with Minnesota. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- They say that time flies when you're having fun.

When it comes to winning basketball games, no one has been living the good life more than Maya Moore. She won won three Georgia state titles at Collins Hill High, two national championships at the University of Connecticut, three WNBA crowns with the Minnesota Lynx, and two FIBA world championship and one Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball.

How fast can time fly? It's been 10 years since Moore announced her decision to attend UConn.

"It's unbelievable, isn't it?" UConn and Team USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "She's accomplished a lot, even for someone as confident and self-assured as Maya. To think when you're 17 that you're going to accomplish everything that she already has done is a stretch. She's had a magical career, at UConn, overseas. WNBA, with USA Basketball ... It's been one magic carpet ride for her and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon."

Moore hopes to add a second Olympic gold medal at the Games next month in Rio de Janeiro. The Americans continued preparations at the New York Liberty practice facility here Thursday and they will face Canada in the USA Basketball Showcase Friday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

She's a veteran now, though she's still just 27. But even if she was told a decade ago this is where she'd be in her life today, she would have had a tough time believing it.

"I would have said, 'You're sweet. That's nice of you,' " Moore said with a smile. "That's a lot to think about. There's no way I could have imagined back in 2006 I would have the opportunities that I've had. I was a junior in high school. It's hard to think because I have been going so fast for so long that I haven't been able to stop and think for a lot of it. But when I do get the moments to reflect, I know I've had blessing and blessing and I'm trying to squeeze the life out of every opportunity and work my hardest to accomplish what I can on whatever team I'm on."

Where Moore has gone, success has gone with her.

She was a two-time Naismith Trophy winner as the high school player of the year and is UConn's only four-time All-American and three-time Wade Trophy winner. She was the 2014 WNBA Most Valuable Player and the MVP of the 2015 Finals.

A month after her 23rd birthday, she joined the exclusive club -- now at nine players -- to have won NCAA and WNBA titles, and Olympic and world championship gold medals.

Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings are the acknowledged leaders of the 2016 Olympic team. But Moore wants to be one her teammates can look to.

"I'm a little more comfortable knowing what to expect not being the baby, the youngest, on the team anymore," Moore said. "It's fun to be able to still want to learn from the best and being appreciative of them, but also being able to show the way to our younger players. It's a fun place to be in and I'm still trying to find my way this year on this team.

"You're, hopefully, never lacking for voices. Most of the players are used to being vocal on their teams. I'm more the cheerleader. That's what I enjoy the most. Even before the shot goes in I'm already cheering for the player to keep their energy and celebration going. I'm just focusing on little details. I love being back in this environment. Here you're a player on an awesome team. My role is still the same, trying to do a little bit of everything. And continue to learn and push myself to be a better player."

Nine players from the 2012 team in London will be going to Rio. Three are Lynx teammates -- Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, and Sylvia Fowles. Moore played three years at UConn with Tina Charles.

Of course, being with the national team gives her a chance to reunite with her Hall of Fame college coach.

"It's really cool," Moore said. "I feel like I'm in college sometimes, doing the things that he's been teaching before I even got to UConn. It's cool to see that basketball is still basketball. I love the way he keeps it simple for us and puts us in positions to make plays. You've never mastered the game and there's always something that you can get better at. It's the opportunity to do it here with the best players in the world.

"It's fun to realize how much he's influenced the way I think about the game. I can hear him in my head when I'm doing things on the court still. Even before he tells me something I know what he's going to say. It's just fun. But the tone he tells me things now is a lot better. I appreciate that more than anything. He's a lot less angry when I'm out there."

Moore had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals in 26 minutes of Team USA's 84-62 win over France at the University of Delaware Wednesday night.

After facing Canada Friday, the USA Basketball Showcase wraps up Sunday with the Americans taking on Australia at New York's Madison Square Garden.

"I'm so appreciative of the history this part of the country has with basketball," Moore said. "Be it Delaware, Connecticut, New York, they appreciate their basketball and we're going to be embraced. We don't take it granted. We appreciate it, and we show it by coming out and playing as hard as we can."

After the Olympics, Moore will head back to Minnesota. The Lynx are 21-4 and trail the Los Angeles Sparks (21-3) by one-half game for the best record in the WNBA. The teams have split two meetings with one more set for the Staples Center on Sept. 6. While Minnesota has won three titles in Moore's five seasons, it has never done so back to back.

The way she's going, there may be no stopping her, maybe for another decade.

"What she'll be able to accomplish in the next 10 years is a record number of championships that no one will be able to beat," Auriemma said. "I'd like to add up all the championship that Maya, D, and Sue have won. Then go, 'OK. I'll put that number up against any other three that have ever played.' "

Moore is a bit more philosophical.

"The next 10 years? Hopefully have a family and be transitioning from basketball ... We'll see," Moore said. "I have no idea how long I'm going to play. I want to be able to continue to do things in my community, trying to share what I've been given whether that's knowledge or philantrophy. I hope I'll be doing something that I enjoy doing."

Time does fly when you're having fun.
 


 (Brian Spurlock)
(Brian Spurlock)

NEWARK, Del. -- If the best thing about a women's college basketball freshman is that they become a sophomore, is the first two-time Olympic women's basketball coach better prepared the second time around?

After leading Team USA to gold in London in 2012, University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma accepted the challenge of trying to do it again. The Americans will seek their sixth consecutive Olympic gold at the Games next month in Rio de Janeiro.

"I've got a feeling when we get down there that it's going to be torture for me," Auriemma said Wednesday night after Team USA defeated France 84-62 in the USA Basketball Showcase at the Bob Carpenter Center. "I want it to be easier. I want to be able to enjoy it more. I want all of those things. But by my nature, I worry about everything. I'm nervous about everything. Now I know what the pitfalls are, so in some ways ...

"The first time I went in with a sense of 'Of course, we're going to win.' Now it's, 'Oh my God. This team is really good that team is really good.' Like you saw today, everyone is really good. Everyone can do real good things. Let's put it this way, when August 22 comes around, I want to be sitting there with a gold medal and relax and let out a deep breath."

Auriemma is already the first coach to guide Team USA to two gold medals at the FIBA world championships.

Nine of the 12 players on the 2016 Olympic roster -- including former Huskies Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi -- were with him when the Americans swept the competition four years ago. The Americans held off Australia 86-73 in the semifinals before routing France 86-50 in the finale.

"I don't know what I learned four years ago other than it's hard and it's grueling," Auriemma said. "I have incredible players. I have an incredible team. I've been with them, a lot of them, for eight years. They know me and I know them and I think that I know what to expect. I hope they know what to expect. I just want to make sure that I'm doing what I need to do to help them. The sense of responsibility is greater the second time around."

Of course, he has three players that want to win gold for the first time -- Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Breanna Stewart. Griner could become the 10th player to win NCAA and WNBA titles along with FIBA world championships and Olympic gold.

Delle Donne is the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player. Stewart completed a histroic career at UConn in April, leading the Huskies to four straight national championships while being named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four each time.

Team USA will continue play in the USA Basketball Showcase Friday when it takes on Kia Nurse and Team Canada at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Showcase concludes Sunday at Madison Square Garden with the Americans facing Australia.

They open pool play in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 7 against Senegal.

After the 2012 Games, Auriemma was quiet about the possibility about coming back a second time. It wasn't until September of 2013 that he accepted the position for another term.

Would he be interested in keeping the job through 2020? He would be 66 years old.

"Let's put it this way," Auriemma said with a smile. "I hope that when we get back that I'm in a position that they really, really want me to do it and it's my choice. I don't want to go down there and come back and it's not my choice because we lost. We'll worry about all of that down the road."

HOMECOMING DAY

Elena Delle Donne has been playing games at "The Bob" since she was an eighth grader at Ursuline Academy in nearby Wilmington. But this was the first game the former University of Delaware All-American has played on campus as an Olympian.

The sellout crowd of 4,711 was a testament to her.

"It was awesome for her to come home and the support for us and for her was amazing," Taurasi said.

Delle Donne received the loudest ovation from the crowd in pregame introductions as the one-time UConn signee joined former Huskies Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, and Maya Moore in the starting lineup. She also addressed the crowd and thanked them for that support.

"This has been by far the most special night that I've ever played here, and there's been a lot of special nights on this court," Delle Donne said. "This being a dream come true for me and for a lot of Delaware fans as well, to see a Delawarean heading to the Olympics to compete for a gold medal. I'm not here to just represent myself, or the team, we're really representing everybody, trying to make this dream come true for everyone."

Delle Donne finished with 10 points against France and was one of four Americans in double figures.

FOUL SHOTS

A source said Wednesday that UConn is no longer recruiting Chantel Horvat, a 6-foot-2 forward from Australia. The Huskies had learned about Horvat from Australia Olympian and Phoenix Mercury standout Penny Taylor ... UConn received the American Athletic Conference academic excellence award in women's basketball. The national champions were the only UConn team honored ... Team USA needed a Moore jumper to take a 32-31 halftime lead against France. Charles opened the third quarter with a bucket and Moore followed with a 3-pointer to push the advantage to six. At 51-44, the Americans used a 12-0 run to blow it open. Sylvia Fowles had all seven of her points in the 2:50 stretch while Taurasi buried a three-pointer that brought a roar from the crowd. France got no closer than 15 and the biggest lead was 26. Charles led Team USA with 17 points.

Tags: Carl Adamec

UConn guared Kia Nurse (11) looks to pass against Temple in a February game. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
UConn guared Kia Nurse (11) looks to pass against Temple in a February game. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

NEWARK, Del. -- Kia Nurse had been going nonstop even before she arrived in Storrs to play for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team in 2014.

That summer, the guard led Team Canada to its best finish in the world championships in 28 years. As a freshman at UConn, she helped the Huskies win the third of four consecutive national titles. Last summer, she led Canada to gold-medal wins in the Pan American Games and FIBA Americas Championships, the latter giving Canada a spot in next month's Rio Olympics.

But coming off UConn's fourth straight NCAA title win in April, Nurse is working her way back to where she needs to be with the start of the Olympics 10 days away after surgery for a sports hernia following the college season.

"It's a matter of just kind of listening to it," Nurse said Wednesday. "Sometimes you don't want to because you're an athlete and competitor and you want to be out there every second. At the same time, if there are two practices in a day I'll do one of them and maybe 20 minutes of the other. If it starts to hurt, you have to take it back a notch and step out. You have to manage it depending how you feel."

Nurse returned to the court for Team Canada last weekend. She saw her first game action since April on Wednesday, scoring seven points with three rebounds in 22 minutes of Canada's 80-67 loss to Australia in the USA Basketball Showcase at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center.

"I'm getting the kinks out now," Nurse said. "It was fun. I felt a lot better than I thought I would."

Nurse has not missed a game in her two seasons at UConn. 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 April 5 in Indianapolis.

She said she wasn't sure when the injury occured, but nothing was going to stop her from helping UConn's senior class of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck make history.

"It just happened over time," Nurse said. "I've been playing a lot of basketball for a long time and it was probably a progression-type thing. Obviously we're dealing with a lot of different things throughout the year. We had our follow-up meetings and it was right after the follow up when my MRI came back. So we made the decision to have surgery.

"I had an eight-week period of pretty much doing nothing other than the bike, treadmill, some water stuff. I got back on the court and started training camp with these guys four days ago."

Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis played Nurse in spurts Wednesday. She was 2-for-7 from the floor and made both of her free throws.

She seemed to get more comfortable as her minutes increased, though she obviously was not sharp.

"Pretty damn close," Nurse said with a smile when asked how close to 100 percent she was. "The doctors here and the trainers at school did a fantastic job getting me ready for this."

It was a year ago that Nurse led Canada to its first Pan Am gold medal in Toronto, scoring 33 points in the final against Team USA-led Jefferson and Stewart. A month later, Nurse was the Most Valuable Player in the FIBA Americas Championship.

It was obviously no surprise that Nurse was included on the 12-player Olympic roster when Team Canada was introduced last Friday.

"It is a dream come true, obviously," Nurse said. "When I with the cadet team I would watch our veterans play in the Olympics. To kind of be with them and with people that worked hard to bring Canada to where we are now, I feel fortunate and proud to be a part of it."

Also named were seven players who competed at the 2012 London Games for Canada: 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.

Canada will face China in its first game in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 6. The Canadians and Team USA meet in pool play Aug. 12. The Americans are coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma and have five former Huskies on the squad -- Stewart, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi.

Team USA is the favorite for the gold but Nurse believes Canada has what it takes to medal.

"We have to peak at the right time and go and play good basketball," Nurse said. "It sounds easy, but it's not."

Team Canada will continue play in the USA Basketball Showcase Friday when it faces Team USA at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The Canadianstake on France Sunday at New York's Madison Square Garden before heading to Rio.

"I love playing against the USA, obviously it's a lot of fun," Nurse said. "You get to see some of your friends and coaches and those things. It's a great test for us before the Olympics.

"Every game is a chance to get better."

For Team Canada, and for Nurse as well.

Tags: Carl Adamec

 (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.

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Mar 19, 2016; Des Moines, IA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie talks to guard Daniel Hamilton (5) in the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports (Jeffrey Becker)
Mar 19, 2016; Des Moines, IA, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie talks to guard Daniel Hamilton (5) in the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports (Jeffrey Becker)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- UConn's new athletic director says he's waiting to hear from the Big 12 about its interest level in the school before reaching out with an official pitch to join the conference.

The Big 12's school presidents on Tuesday moved closer to expansion, directing Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin evaluating schools interested in joining.

UConn's David Benedict, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Friday, acknowledged the Huskies are interested in being evaluated.

"At this point in time the Power Five conferences certainly are looked to as the most competitive conferences," he said. "They derive the most money from their multi-media agreements, their television agreements. And therefore, certainly we aspire to be in those conferences and compete at that level."

UConn currently competes in most sports in the American Athletic Conference.

Benedict was hired in March to succeed Warde Manuel after he left for Michigan. Benedict said of all possible candidates, UConn is the most similar to the Power Five schools, with $71 million athletic budget.

He noted it was one of three division one schools this past year to send its football, baseball and men's and women's basketball teams to the postseason. And since 1995, UConn has won 11 women's national basketball championships, four men's basketball titles, two in field hockey and one in men's soccer. The school's football program also has been to six bowl games.

But Benedict said he has no plans to pick up the phone and call Bowlsby or head to Texas with a PowerPoint presentation.

He said it's his understanding that the Big 12 will reach out to those it knows have an interest.

"I don't think circumventing that process is the way to go," he said. "But I don't think there is a question as to whether or not the Big 12 is aware that we would have an interest if they are interested in us."

Benedict said if the school does join the Big 12, he believes it would eventually need to expand its 40,000-seat football stadium in East Hartford. But he said they can't do that until Husky fans consistently sell out the building.

He said the school is currently concentrating its efforts on raising private donations to upgrade its baseball, softball, soccer and hockey facilities. There is still no timetable for construction, but Benedict said the school has about $14 million committed to the project, with a goal of raising another $11 million.

"That's a priority for us, because it also sends out the message that we are going to invest in facilities that are up to (Power Five) standard," he said

Benedict said an intact American Conference is still a viable alternative should the Huskies be passed over by the Power Five. But he said the idea that UConn would consider rejoining the Big East for sports other than football is not currently on the table.

"Everybody is jockeying for position," he said. "Part of my role and responsibility is making sure we're looking at all options, keeping all options open to make sure we put ourselves as a university and an athletics program in the best possible position to compete."

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 (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.

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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.

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