UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Stefanie Dolson has always been a unique individual but has never failed to be a team player.
After graduating from the University of Connecticut and winning her second national championship with the women's basketball team in 2014, the 6-foot-5 center from Port Jervis, New York joined the WNBA's Washington Mystics as the team's first-round draft pick. Part of her change to professional life was to dye her hair purple.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson has always been filled with positive energy.
Over nine seasons -- five years scholastically with THESA (Texas Homeschool Educators Sports Association) and four years in college with the University of Connecticut -- her teams never lost the final game of their postseason.
But in her second year with the WNBA's San Antonio Stars, she is being tested -- on and off the court -- like never before. The Stars Thursday night's home game with the Indiana Fever at 2-18, five games clear for the worst record in the league and seven games behind the final playoff spot with 14 games to play.
If University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma takes time out to watch the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday, he'll see his own version of a magnificent seven -- of his own players.
Former Huskies Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm and Stefanie Dolson of the Chicago Sky were named as reserves for the Western Conference and Eastern Conference respectively for the All-Star Game to be played at KeyArena in Seattle, giving UConn a record seven graduates in the contest. Last week, five ex-Huskies -- Seattle guard Sue Bird, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, and Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore for the West, and forward Tina Charles of the New York Liberty and guard Tiffany Hayes of the Atlanta Dream for the East -- were named as starters.
The University of Connecticut women's basketball team has had more than its share of top moments at the ESPYs over the past 25 years.
The Huskies, though, were on the other end during the annual awards in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Mississippi State's 66-64 overtime win at the NCAA Final Four semifinals on March 31 that ended UConn's 111-game winning streak and four-year reign as national champion won the ESPY as "Best Upset" of the past 12 months. The Bulldogs were considered about a 21-point underdog.
Of course, the ESPYs were far from the first time -- or the last time -- UConn will be reminded of that night at the American Airlines Center when guard Morgan William hit a shot at the buzzer to send Mississippi State to the title game against South Carolina.
In their first game as a starting backcourt, they combined for a pedestrian 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists in the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 36-point victory over Villanova at Gampel Pavilion.
Who knew on Feb. 4, 2001, that Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi would go on to be the best their sport has seen? Their then-college coach and later their coach for seven years with the United States national team had an idea.
"I have always said from back in 2002 that they'd be the best backcourt in the history of women's basketball -- college basketball, pro basketball, any kind of basketball -- and I said time will prove that," Geno Auriemma said last month. "It certainly has. You'll never find something like that ever again. It's too improbable for it to happen again. Those two are pretty special. There's nothing to compare them to. There really isn't."
On the second offensive possession of her career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, Molly Bent reached the center-court line and threw a perfect lead pass to a sprinting Napheesa Collier for a layup.
A national TV audience and a crowd of 4,753 inside the Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Florida, saw it. One soul missed it -- the person doing the game statistics at Florida State, who gave the assist to Saniya Chong.
In a way, it sums up Bent's freshman season. As UConn coach Geno Auriemma put it, never had he seen a player work so hard and get so little reward out of it.
As the 5-foot-9 guard prepares for second year with the Huskies, she has a foundation for success. But she knows she must build confidence in herself and trust with her coaches and teammates to get meaningful minutes on what could be UConn's deepest roster in years.
Sophomore point guard Crystal Dangerfield spent a part of June talking to her University of Connecticut women's basketball freshman teammates about her experiences from her first collegiate season.
"I tell them my stories from last year and I have a lot of them," Dangerfield said. "I think ... No, I know, it will be different for each of them and it is going to be hard. But I want them to know I'll be there to listen and to talk to them."
Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Carl Adamec
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- During her incredible basketball career at the University of Connecticut, Breanna Stewart spoke often about her goal of winning four national championships. At least that's what the three-time national Player of the Year was asked about the most.
Little did anyone know she had so much more to add. Fifteen months after stepping off the court for the final time as a Husky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and winning that historic fourth consecutive NCAA title, she's becoming known as much for her activism as for her skills on the floor.
"I wasn't asked about it at UConn. I wasn't asked about certain things that were happening in the world," Stewart said Thursday. "So it's you (media) guys' fault. I think I would have said the same things. CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) and I would have talked about it prior if it was something I wanted to do and was constantly asked about it.
"You don't think about it so much at UConn. There's so much going on. CD has you doing so many things. My first season at Seattle, there were things that needed to be talked about. When I was at the ESPYs last year, it seemed like there was a lot happening in our world and instead of having the generic 'Thank you very, thank you to my family, blah, blah, blah,' I wanted to make it about something really important, something that needed to be said and heard."
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Napheesa Collier has always let her actions speak for her, whether it was helping the University of Connecticut women's basketball team win a national championship in 2016 or earning consensus first-team All-America honors a season ago.
So when the junior forward was told Monday that the Huskies' freshman class has given itself the nickname of "Fantastic Four" months before its first official college practice, Collier chuckled, rolled her eyes a bit, and shook her head with a smile before staying in character with a brief comment.
"Oh my goodness. It's great that they have a name for themselves, I guess," Collier said.
For sure, UConn's Class of 2021 -- Mikayla Coombs, Lexi Gordon, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, and Megan Walker -- will get the opportunity to live up to their hype. Even with three All-Americans among their four returning starters and with transfers Azura Stevens and Batouly Camara now eligible, the Huskies will likely need their freshmen to contribute if they are to regain the national championship.
Could it have been anyone else?
Rebecca Lobo and Geno Auriemma are already linked together forever in University of Connecticut women's basketball history. The two will come together again in September when Lobo's place in hoop history becomes permanent.
Auriemma will serve as Lobo's presenter when she is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in a ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall on Sept. 8. A presenter must be a member of the Naismith Hall. Auriemma was inducted in his first year of eligibility in 2006.
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson was feeling her age Monday as she observed some of her teammates working at coach Geno Auriemma's Fore the Kids charity tournament at Hartford Golf Club.
The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior All-American turned 20 two weeks ago.
"We have more younger guys than older guys and it's weird that now I'm one of the older guys," Samuelson said. "We need to bring a certain level every day to help us get where we want to go."
Only two Huskies -- seniors Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse -- have played more minutes at the college level than the 6-foot-3 guard. And while they return four starters -- including three All-Americans -- from their 36-1 team that reached the NCAA Final Four for the 10th consecutive year, nine of the 13 on the roster will be playing their first or second seasons at UConn. That group includes transfers Azura Stevens and Batouly Camara and four freshmen who make up what is considered a top-three recruiting class nationally.
CROMWELL, Conn. -- For the first time in nine years, Geno Auriemma has a summer without United States women's national basketball team responsibilities.
The University of Connecticut's Hall of Fame coach has worked on his tan but not so much on his golf game, though that would be hard to believe after seeing his drive off the first tee at the Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am at TPC River Highlands Wednesday find the fairway.
"It's been busy," Auriemma said. "You don't realize that when you're doing the national team stuff, they leave you alone. The minute they think you don't have anything to do? It's been a lot. And there's a lot more to come. So this will be as busy a summer as I have ever had. I'm looking forward to it."
For almost two decades, one of the highlights of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's schedule was its annual nationally televised game played in January on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Starting with their memorable win over Tennessee in 1995 at Gampel Pavilion through 2013, the Huskies compiled a 15-4 record on the holiday against some of the best competition the Big East and the nation had to offer.
When UConn made its move four years ago to the American Athletic Conference, though, the schedule also changed. But as dates are being made public for the Huskies' 2017-18 season, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day game tradition is returning.
Texas will host UConn on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 15, at the Frank Erwin Center. The game is the second of a home-and-home series with the Longhorns. UConn defeated Texas 72-54 at Mohegan Sun Arena last Dec. 4. It will be the second holiday meeting between the Huskies and Longhorns. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2005, UConn posted a 73-57 victory in Hartford.
With UConn releasing the dates for its non-league home games Monday, the only date still to be announced on the Huskies' 13-game non-league slate is their trip to national champion South Carolina.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- From the night two years ago that the New York Liberty traded up into the first round of the WNBA Draft to select her, Kiah Stokes has been proving people wrong.
Yet it seems that the biggest challenge for the 2015 University of Connecticut honors graduate and third-year New York Liberty forward is proving to herself that she belongs at the highest level.
"I'm just trying to be more confident," Stokes said Wednesday. "That's always been my issue. My coaches mean a lot to me and my teammates mean a lot to me and I'm just trying to fill the role that is asked of me.
"It's not like I doubt myself. I want to do well and do what I can for my teammates."
Kara Wolters always dreamed big.
As she grew up in Holliston, Massachusetts, the daughter of former Boston College basketball star Willie Wolters picked up the game that helped her father reach his school's Hall of Fame. As she grew to 6-foot-7, maybe she could be the next Anne Donovan, an Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Fame center who would later be her coach with the WNBA's Indiana Fever.
Wolters became a star at Holliston High School and caught the eye of University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who offered her a scholarship that she accepted early in her senior year.
In the Fall of 1993 she arrived in Storrs. But instead of showing her stuff on the court at the start, the Olympic gold medalist she needed to emulate was someone more like Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Dan Rolfes looked forward to having the chance to watch his former player, Napheesa Collier, and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team play.
But throughout the 6-foot-1 forward's All-American sophomore season he kept having flashbacks to their time at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis when the Rolfes-coached Red Knights captured three straight Missouri Class 4A state championships.
"It's so amazing," Rolfes said during a break in the United States U-16 national team trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he served as a court coach. "I'd sit there and watch with my assistants and it's so much like Incarnate Word with the high-percentage shots, a lot of times defending the post because of her size, being able to guard a guard or guard a post. What I saw this year was what I saw at Incarnate.
Tags: Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Celeste Taylor took part in the United States U-16 national team trials in 2015. When she returned to the United States Olympic Training Center for this past weekend, she brought some company: Philadelphia Belles AAU teammates Maddie Burke and Kylee Watson.
"I told them that it's a great opportunity," Taylor said Sunday. "They've put so much into it."
The three have taken advantage of that opportunity. On Monday, Taylor, Burke, and Watson were among 18 players named as finalists for the U-16 team that will take part in the FIBA Americas Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 7-11.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- First there was a thunderous block. Then there was a steal followed by another steal and the players and spectators watching Sunday morning's session of the United States national team U-16 trials were buzzing.
All that was missing was a dunk, not that she can't do that.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Paige Bueckers plays basketball with a poise that belies her age.
The 5-foot-10 guard from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has already been part of two state championship games and has been named to the all-state tournament team twice. She is currently involved in USA Basketball's U-16 national team trials at the United States Olympic Training Center here. The final day of her freshman year at Hopkins High is, though she hopes she'll still be here for the U-16 training camp before the 12-player squad heads to Buenos Aries, Argentina, for the FIBA Americas Championships .
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Aliyah Boston's effort as an applicant candidate at the 2016 United States U-17 national team trials earned her an invitation from USA Basketball to this weekend's U-16 trials at the United States Olympic Training Center.
But the 6-foot-3 forward from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts knew that being a finalist for the U-17 team meant nothing as far making the U-16 team. So she used last year's bid that fell just short as motivation to represent her country for the first time.
"Being last year helped with my preparation because I saw what I needed to work on," Boston said on Friday. "I worked on all of that and the usual things I do to get better -- jump shots, free throws, post moves. I just kept working every day to get better. I wanted to be better running the floor and posting up strong every possession. I want to show that I have an outside game. And I want to show that I'm mentally tougher."
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Sam Brunelle -- a member of the Future Business Leaders of America chapter at William Monroe High in Standardsville, Virginia, -- considers this weekend's stay at the United States Olympic Training Center a business trip.
"And we're pushing for the gold," Brunelle said Friday.
"Last year here was a great experience to learn from all the older girls. Coming into this year I'll have more of a leadership role. I have the experience, I know what the trials will be like and what to expect."
The 6-foot-2 forward, considered the top player in the Class of 2019, was the youngest member of the 2016 United States national team that won a bronze medal at the FIBA U-17 world championships in Spain.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Carla Berube got a taste of what it would be like working with USA Basketball a year ago as a court coach at the U-17 national team trials.
The former University of Connecticut star and the 15-year Tufts University women's basketball coach now has a full plate in front of her. She is at the United States Olympic Training Center here as the head coach of the U-16 team that will take part in the 2017 FIBA Americas Championship June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"Carol Callan (USA Basketball women's national team director) gave me a call around Final Four time and asked if I would be interested in being the coach for this," Berube said Thursday night. "And when Carol Callan calls you, you jump at whatever she needs. The opportunity to represent your country and USA Basketball is amazing.
"Last year working here definitely piqued my interest, and certainly that experience was important for USA Basketball and the committee. I guess they liked what they saw. It was such an awesome experience last year."
Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker will have something to talk about with University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma when they get on campus next weekend to start summer session classes.
Maybe they can do it in Auriemma's native Italian, since Dangerfield and Walker will be spending a good portion of their summer in Italy.
"It would be good to know a few words," Dangerfield said with a laugh Sunday after she and Walker were named to the USA Basketball national team that will play in the FIBA U-19 World Cup to be held July 22-30 in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy.
Tags: Crystal Dangerfield
Mikayla Coombs and the Class of 2017 graduated from the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, Saturday morning.
But instead of wearing a cap and gown, Coombs was in her sneakers, shorts, and USA Basketball uniform shirt No. 36 at the U-19 national team trials at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For the 5-foot-8 guard from Buford, Georgia, making a run at representing her country beats walking across a stage to get a diploma anytime.
Charli Collier is a veteran of two USA Basketball national team trials and is used to facing older players, but her bid to make the 2017 U-19 squad this weekend has a different feel.
The 6-foot-4 forward and University of Connecticut Class of 2018 commit from Mont Belvieu, Texas, is one of three players at the trials with high school eligibility remaining. 23 of the 33 players invited to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently finished their freshman year of college, including UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield and seven others who played against the Huskies.
"I trained differently than I did a year ago for this age group because you have players that have college experience here," Collier said in a phone interview Friday. "They're stronger and faster and more physical and playing against them is going to be great for me going back to my high school team. Next year, I'll be a senior, I'll be 18 and headed to Connecticut, so this is a cool experience...
Sophomore Crystal Dangerfield and incoming freshmen Mikayla Coombs and Megan Walker will get to visit Italy with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team during its tour in August.
They'd also like to make the trip in July for the FIBA U-19 world championships with the United States national team.
Dangerfield, Coombs, and Walker are among 33 players who have accepted invitations to take part in the U-19 trials that will be held May 18-21 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Also headed to the trials are UConn Class of 2018 commit Charli Collier and 2018 recruiting target Christyn Williams.
Team USA will go for its seventh straight U-19 gold medal at the tournament to be held July 22-30 in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy. The Americans will be led by University of Pittsburgh coach Suzie McConnell-Serio...
Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Carl Adamec
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Bria Hartley may have had the most interesting offseason of any WNBA player.
Instead of going overseas to play like many or working on their game at home like some, the former University of Connecticut two-time All-American gave birth to her and longtime boyfriend Shakim Phillips' first child -- a boy, Bryson -- on Jan. 14. Two weeks later, Hartley was traded by the Washington Mystics to her hometown team, the New York Liberty.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Kelly Faris walked off the floor for the last time at New Orleans Arena with 2:04 remaining and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team well on its way to a win over Louisville in the 2013 NCAA championship game.
It would mark the sixth time in eight years -- four times at Heritage Christian in Indianapolis and twice at UConn -- her team would win its final contest of the season.
But the winning didn't follow her to the WNBA. In four seasons with the Connecticut Sun, the former first-round pick has not seen the postseason.
"It's been frustrating, very frustrating," Faris said. "I was fortunate enough to be on some great teams in high school and college. I'm going into my fifth year as a professional and I would love nothing more than to be in the playoffs."
The Oakland Raiders took UConn defensive back Obi Melifonwu in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Morgan Tuck was in the stands at the American Airlines Center in Dallas watching her old University of Connecticut women's basketball teammates struggle with Mississippi State in the NCAA Final Four semifinals on March 31, and the 2016 All-American was ready to start looking for her old No. 3 Huskies uniform.
When Natalie Butler arrived at the University of Connecticut after her Big East Freshman of the Year season at Georgetown in 2014, she seemed to be just what the Huskies needed.
With UConn losing WNBA first-round draft picks Stefanie Dolson in 2014 and Kiah Stokes in 2015, Butler was in the perfect spot to give the Huskies the post presence they'd need going forward.
The 6-foot-5 native of Fairfax Station, Virginia, impressed her teammates in the year she out due to NCAA transfer rules. But a thumb injury early in the 2015-16 campaign set her back and she never found the confidence she needed to be a consistent contributor in her two seasons.
UConn announced Wednesday that Butler has decided to transfer from UConn to her hometown school George Mason University.
Tags: Natalie Butler
The NCAA men's basketball tournament is returning to Hartford, Connecticut.
The NCAA announced Tuesday that the XL Center in Hartford will hold 2019 first- and second-round tournament games with the University of Connecticut as the host school. The dates are March 21 and 23.
Antwoine Anderson, a graduate transfer from Fordham University, will play at UConn next season, according to multiple media reports.
Saniya Chong was hoping to have a chance to play in the WNBA. The University of Connecticut senior guard will get that chance.
Chong was taken by the Dallas Wings with the second choice (No. 26 overall) in the third and final round of Thursday's WNBA Draft held in New York.
"I am truly blessed to be able to get this opportunity," Chong said in a statement released by UConn. "I am grateful and excited to start my new journey. Thank you to everyone out there that supported me."
Gabby Williams had seen the act before.
Five days before the University of Connecticut women's basketball team faced Mississippi State in the NCAA national semifinals at American Airlines Center in Dallas last Friday night she watched Morgan William and the Bulldogs stun Baylor in overtime to get to their first Final Four, earning the All-American junior forward's admiration and respect.
"It's what March is about," Williams said. "Teams are going to fight. Players are going to hit shots outside their comfort zone when it really matters. It goes to show it doesn't matter what your seed or anything is, it all depends on how you perform that night."
Truer words have never been spoken and last Friday night Williams saw it all happen again right in front of her. All that was left was to give props to the victors.
The University of Connecticut women's basketball team did not add to the Huskies of Honor on the wall at Gampel Pavilion this season.
That will change -- for the next two years.
Rebecca Lobo always enjoyed visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The former University of Connecticut star will now have a permanent spot there.
Lobo, a native of nearby Southwick, Massachusetts, will be part of the Hall's Class of 2017, it was announced Saturday. She will be inducted as a contributor.
DALLAS -- In an instant, it was over.
It took until the NCAA Final Four semifinals but the University of Connecticut women's basketball team finally learned what a difference a year can make.
For 36 games, when the Huskies needed a basket they got one. When they needed a defensive stop, they got one. When they needed a play, they made one.
DALLAS -- Napheesa Collier will be 21-years-old on Sept. 23.
Her coaches and teammates with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team may not be aware of the exact date. But there are 12 WNBA general managers that are. Since her 22nd birthday is during the 2018 calendar year, Collier will be eligible to enter the 2018 WNBA Draft.
But before Husky Nation begins to panic, the All-America forward said Thursday she has no plans to move on until her eligibility is done in 2019.
DALLAS -- Geno Auriemma wanted to prove a point to his University of Connecticut women's basketball team Thursday about the Huskies' 60-point win over Mississippi State in last year's NCAA Sweet 16 victory.
So the 2017 Coach of the Year was awake early and watched tape. Moriah Jefferson was here, Morgan Tuck there, and Breanna Stewart everywhere as UConn did a number on the Bulldogs in the most lopsided regional semifinal win in tournament history. His emphasis later in the day to the Huskies in the locker room and at their workout, though, was on what he did not see.
"There's nobody on our team right now that had anything other than, 'I was at that game,' to do with that score," Auriemma said. "If you watch that game, Stewie looked like an NBA player playing against high school kids. Moriah was so much better than anybody on the floor. And Tuck just dominated long stretches of the game. So the score was 32-4 at the end of the first quarter."
DALLAS -- Since 1989, Geno Auriemma's University of Connecticut women's basketball team has won at least 23 games on 28 occasions. The one miss came in 1993 when the Huskies finished 18-11.
The Big East Coach of the Year that season was Georgetown's Pat Knapp. The WBCA national Coach of the Year was Iowa's C. Vivian Stringer. Yet, some would still argue -- 11 national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, 40 league titles, and 24 years later -- that Auriemma may have done his best or one of his best coaching jobs just to get that team, which lost its last three games (the Huskies haven't lost two in a row since), into the NCAA tournament.
Whether Auriemma did his best job with his current club has entered the debate. After losing the top three picks of the 2016 WNBA Draft -- All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck -- the Huskies went unbeaten against the toughest non-league schedule in the country then swept through the American Athletic Conference for the fourth straight year. UConn will take a 36-0 record and 111-game winning streak into Friday night's Final Four semifinal game against Mississippi State at the American Airlines Center.
DALLAS -- It was a 45-second video, but it made the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's day.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant sent his best wishes via video and through Nike this week to the Huskies, who take on Mississippi State in a NCAA Final Four semifinal game Friday night at American Airlines Center.
"It was obviously really exciting and he's the GOAT so anytime you can have the GOAT talk to you it's a great day," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "He had a goal to win and that's what he was known for. So you look at someone of his caliber and the career that he had, that he took time out of his day to sit down and send us a video we are very grateful."
Stanford, which like UConn is affiliated with Nike, also received a video from Bryant. The Cardinal face South Carolina in the opener of Friday night's doubleheader.
DALLAS -- Kia Nurse won't be named an All-American during Final Four weekend. The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior guard is only playing like one during the NCAA tournament.
Nurse shot 75.8 percent from the floor and 76.9 percent from 3-point land while averaging 18.3 points during the Huskies' successful four-game run through the Bridgeport Regional. But when it was time to lift UConn into the Final Four for the 10th consecutive season Monday night, Nurse did what she does best -- play stifling defense -- to get the job done.
Nurse kept Oregon freshman guard Sabrina Ionescu under wraps while the game was being decided and the top-seeded Huskies built an insurmountable lead as they coasted to a 90-52 win over the No. 10 Ducks at Webster Bank Arena.