STORRS, Conn. -- Things are bigger in Texas where Lexi Gordon grew up.
But freshmen find out early that the pace with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is faster.
The Fort Worth native knew exactly what she was getting into. She had followed the Huskies through high school and had watched them in action live before committing 20 months ago. Her short time here has already been a learning experience and her first regular season game is still two weeks away.
"When I got here, I learned quickly what was playing hard in my mind was a lot different than what playing hard in Coach's mind was," Gordon said Thursday following UConn's practice at the Werth Family Champions Center. "I've had to push myself to a different limit. I'm always trying to keep up and I want to be the best competitor that I can be."
The adjustment to college is a work in progress for the 6-foot wing. If her story sounds familiar, it is. Many freshmen here have told it over the last 33 seasons.
No one's said that playing for the Huskies and coach Geno Auriemma is easy.
But there's also a reason that 11 national championship banners hang inside Gampel Pavilion.
"He explained something about a screen on defense and I jumped the wrong way and he yelled at me," Gordon said. "It was just a bad, bad moment. But the next time I did it right. You can't mess up twice in a row. You listen to him, take what he says, and go out and perform."
And performing in practice will help her earn playing time in games.
Gordon graduated as the all-time leading scorer in L.D. Bell High history with more than 2,500 points and averaged 24.7 points and 9.5 rebounds as a senior. She was on the midseason list for the Naismith Trophy (eventually won by UConn classmate Megan Walker) and was selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic in New York alongside fellow rookies Walker and Mikayla Coombs.
She got a taste of college life on and off the court as she took summer classes in June and traveled with the Huskies to Italy in August.
"Lexi's a really, really smart kid and very instinctive," Auriemma said. "She knows how to play. She makes shots. She has all that, but she can't keep up right now. That's going to be an issue until she can play at this pace. Or we'll have to slow down just for her and we're not going to do that." The Huskies' first exhibition game is five days away and the season-opener against Stanford in the Countdown to Columbus is on Nov. 12. Practice is getting more intense.
For Gordon, it's exactly what she signed up for.
"Right now I'm just trying to keep up with the pace and pick up any slack," she said. "My goal is to make progress and I think that I'm progressing well. I'm not where I need to be but I'm miles from where I started."
ALL IN THE FAMILY
No UConn fan needs to be reminded that Mississippi State ended UConn's record 111-game winning streak and four-year reign as national champion with a 66-64 overtime victory in the NCAA Final Four semifinals in Dallas last March 31.
Though she was only in the American Airlines Center stands that night, the loss hit a little bit close to home for Lexi Gordon two weeks ago when her younger sister, Myra, took an unofficial recruiting visit to Mississippi State.
"She had a good time, she enjoyed herself," Lexi Gordon said. "The coaches were nice and the players were welcoming."
Myra Gordon, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard, is rated among the top 25 players in the Class of 2020 by Prospects Nation and was invited by USA Basketball to last May's U-16 national team trials. She left Starkville with a scholarship offer from Bulldogs' coach Vic Schaefer.
As far as Mississippi State's historic upset, what's said in Starkville stayed in Starkville between the sisters.
"I didn't ask anything about that," Lexi Gordon said with a laugh. "Yeah, that wasn't brought up in any conversation."
Kerith Burke, the former SNY sideline reporter for Huskies games, has taken her game to the next level. Earlier this month, Burke became the sideline reporter for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors for NBC Sports Bay Area. She replaces Ros Gold-Onwude, who is now working with TNT and NBA-TV on their coverage of the league.
Burke covered UConn's record run of four straight national championships from 2013-16 for SNY and she also covered Auriemma's gold-medal winning 2016 United States Olympic team during the Games in Rio de Janeiro for NBC.
Auriemma was asked if he had any advice for Golden State coach Steve Kerr for dealing with her. "From what I've seen, Kerith's very fortunate that she's working with the Warriors and not the Spurs," Auriemma said with a laugh. "For somebody in that job, she picked the right place and the right coach. It's a great opportunity. That is pretty cool and I'm really happy for her."
Former UConn center Natalie Butler, who transferred to George Mason for her final season of eligibility after receiving her bachelor's degree in May, has been named to the Atlantic-10 Conference preseason third team by the league coaches. Butler averaged 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in 15.9 minutes in 36 games off the Huskies' bench last season ... UConn's lone A-10 opponent this season, Duquesne, was picked to finish fourth. The Huskies and Dukes face off on Dec. 22 in Toronto, Canada, in a homecoming game for UConn senior guard Kia Nurse ... Fort Hays State, UConn's opponent in the exhibition opener Wednesday at the XL Center in Hartford, was selected to finish fifth in the MIAA preseason coaches poll. The Tigers return 10 players from last season's 22-8 club.