UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Bria Hartley is living the good life.
The two-time All-American and national champion with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is in her fifth season in the WNBA and second with her hometown New York Liberty. She has an 18-month-old son, Bryson. While the Liberty's 6-14 record isn't appealing, Hartley left Mohegan Sun Arena Wednesday with a smile after Shavonte Zellous' 3-point bank shot at the buzzer gave New York a 79-76 win over the Connecticut Sun.
While she has a lot to look forward to, Hartley has never lost her appreciation for the people who helped her get to UConn and to the WNBA. To that end she has founded an AAU basketball program - Bria Hartley Elite - as a way to give back to her community and sport.
"I worked on it while I was overseas (in Turkey) and this is the first summer that we've competed," Hartley said. "We have one team right now with eight players so we can grow that.
"I've always wanted to have my own AAU program just to be able to give young kids an opportunity to play. I want to be able to help, whether it's with money, my time, whatever. I grew up playing with a lot of city kids and they didn't always have opportunities or didn't have the resources to travel. So this will help those kind of kids to get out there and get the exposure that they need."
Hartley, who will turn 26 on September 30, grew up in North Babylon, New York, and was a consensus high school All-American in 2010.
But she didn't explode onto the recruiting scene until she started playing for coach Apache Paschall and the Exodus AAU program out of New York City.
"I probably would not have ended up at UConn if I didn't play for Coach Apache and his program," Hartley said. "Prior to joining them I wasn't playing on a big stage, I wasn't playing against top teams, I wasn't playing in front of top coaches. When I think of that, I certainly appreciate all the things people did for me while I was growing up."
The 5-foot-8 guard became the third player in UConn history to finish her career with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists, joining Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. She was a WBCA All-American in 2012 and 2014 and her uniform No. 14 is part of the Huskies of Honor program. She was a key component of UConn's 2013 and 2014 national championship teams.
She was a first-round pick by the Seattle Storm in the 2014 WNBA Draft but was traded to the Washington Mystics about an hour after being selected. She was traded to the Liberty in 2017, at about the time she gave birth to her son.
Her dream is to expand the focus of Bria Hartley Elite.
"I'd like to be able to start a foundation, a non-profit, to raise money for things like autism, cancer ... I know a lot of people have those things but I want to do my part," Hartley said. "It's a step-by-step process. When I'm overseas I'm able to getting things like that done.
"Giving back means a lot to me. It isn't all that much yet, but it is a little bit. I hope to grow it, build it, for it to be more than it is now."
For now, Hartley is balancing basketball and motherhood.
She had just five points in Wednesday's win but did hit a 3 with 3:06 left to cut a five-point deficit to two. In 20 games, she is averaging 8.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists.
"I think that I could be more consistent," Hartley said. "I think that I could be more aggressive at times. I just have to be the best that I can be when I'm out there. That's all anyone can ask for."
Former UConn standout Tina Charles led the Liberty with 19 points and 11 rebounds. New York's other ex-Huskies, Kia Nurse and Kiah Stokes, had two points each.
Even with the win, they are four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot -- held by Connecticut -- with 14 games remaining.
"We've got to get other people scoring outside of Tina, have more people be more of a threat," Hartley said. "The thing that we have to do now is stay positive, stick to our game plans, and go out there and play as hard as we can."
But no matter what happens, Hartley gets to go home to her biggest fan -- her son, who was at Wednesday's game.
"He's doing well," Hartley said with a smile. "He's getting big. He'll be 18 months ago in a couple of days. We're getting ready for potty training and for him to start talking a little bit. I'm just trying to figure things out as I go along. I think that I'm doing a pretty good job. Basketball has always been a big part of my life, and now Bryson is an even bigger part of my life. So I'm going to find a way to make my life work well for both."
Bryson's father is former UConn football player Shakim Phillips, who, according to Hartley, is at a veterans combine with the hope of getting an invitation to an NFL training camp.
So sports figure to be in young Bryson's future.
"He can move. He gets around all over the place," Hartley said with a laugh.
On deck for the Liberty is a home game with the Chicago Sky on Sunday. They return to Mohegan Sun Arena on Aug. 1 in a game that could have playoff implications and will decide the tiebreaker between the two clubs.
For Hartley, life is good.