Geno Auriemma still gets a chuckle when he hears or reads that the only reason his University of Connecticut women's basketball team wins as much as it does is because he gets all the best players.
So when the Huskies' coach was asked after Tuesday's 98-58 victory over host Tulsa at the Reynolds Center about UConn Class of 2017 recruits Megan Walker (6-foot-1 wing, Chesterfield, Virginia) and Mikayla Coombs (5-8 guard, Buford Georgia) being chosen to play in the McDonald's All-American Game, he acted surprised.
"That means 22 of them aren't coming? I mean, we're used to getting 20 out of the 24," Auriemma said in full sarcasm. "This year we're only getting two. Maybe we should be like everyone else and bemoan the fact that we don't have good players and somebody else has got them all."
The two 12-team rosters for the McDonald's Game were announced on Sunday. Walker and Coombs will be teammates with the East squad at the United Center in Chicago on March 29.
Tennessee had four of its recruits selected. UConn, Baylor, Louisville, Stanford, Texas, and USC each had two picked, while California, Duke, LSU, Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and UCLA had one chosen apiece.
While Walker -- who has been considered the No. 1 recruit in the class throughout her high school career -- was considered a virtual lock for the McDonald's Game. Coombs tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game of her sophomore year two years ago and had season-ending surgery.
"I am humbled and excited for this opportunity," Coombs said.
Her selection pleased Auriemma.
"Mikayla does work extremely hard at the game and it did take her time to come back from her injury," Auriemma said. "She overcame a lot, mentally and physically. She deserves it. Sometimes when they get hurt they go under the radar and people forget about them. But Mikayla has a great future ahead of her.
"Everyone expected Megan to make it. She's that good and I'm very, very happy for her. But I'm thrilled that Mikayla made it."
Four current Huskies -- Gabby Williams (2014), Katie Lou Samuelson (2015), Napheesa Collier (2015), and Crystal Dangerfield (2016) -- were McDonald's All-Americans. Williams did not play in the game after suffering a second tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
Collier's advice to Coombs and Walker is to enjoy the journey.
"I would tell them to take everything in, take pictures, and write down everything they experience because it is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," she said. "It is a great experience. It's important that they soak it all in."
In another note, Class of 2017 recruit Andra Espinoza-Hunter (5-foot-11 guard, Ossining, New York) scored her 1,000th career point for Ossining High in a win over Greeley Wednesday. Espinoza-Hunter, who was a McDonald's Game nominee, started her varsity career with the Pride as a seventh grader. She spent her freshman through junior years at Blair Academy in New Jersey and reached the 1,000-point plateau there.
Also, UConn Class of 2018 commit Charli Collier (6-foot-4 forward, Baytown, Texas) scored her 2,000th career point for Barbers Hill High during a game against Kingwood Park Tuesday night.
HALL OF FAME HONORS DEE ROWE
Former UConn men's basketball coach Dee Rowe has been selected by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massaschusetts, to receive the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award was instituted by the Board of Trustees of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1973 and is the most prestigious award presented by the Hall of Fame outside of enshrinement. Named in honor of Hall of Famer John W. Bunn (Class of 1964), the first chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame Committee who served from 1949-1964, the award honors coaches, players and contributors whose outstanding accomplishments have impacted the high school, college, professional or international game.
"There is no award existing today or that could be created that is going to do justice to what Dee has meant to the countless amount of people he has touched in his life and what he has meant to his family and the game of basketball," Auriemma, a 2006 inductee to the Hall of Fame, said in a statement. "But the John Bunn Award comes close. Dee is a man who I admire as much as anyone and he has been a tremendous ambassador of the game and of UConn for as long as I can remember.
"He has supported me since I arrived on campus as a young coach 32 years ago and he is still there for me now. I will be forever grateful for his guidance and I am thrilled that he is being recognized with this prestigious award. I know he is very proud and we are proud that he is ours."
Michael H. Goldberg, the long-time Executive Director of the National Basketball Coaches Association, will also be honored. It is the first in the history of the Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award that two individuals will be honored in the same year.
Rowe, who turned 88 years old on Friday, is a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, and played scholastically at Worcester Academy and collegiately at Middlebury College. From 1955-69, he was the athletic director and men's basketball and baseball coach at Worcester Academy.
He was hired at UConn in March of 1969 and compiled a 120-78 record in eight seasons. He was named New England Coach of the Year twice. He led UConn to a pair of NIT berths (1974, 1975) and guided the Huskies to the 1976 ECAC New England Championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16.
In 1980, Rowe was an assistant coach to Dave Gavitt for the 1980 United States Olympic team.
"Coach Dee Rowe is a true basketball lifer. Dee's world has always been, and will continue to be, about family and the game of basketball," former UConn men's coach and 2005 Hall of Fame inductee Jim Calhoun said in a statement. "In his own special New England region of Worcester, Massachusetts, the Cape Cod area and UConn, Dee Rowe has always been the ultimate ambassador. Through the years Dee has expanded his impact and influence nationally and around the globe as a superb teacher and mentor. But above all, we continue to pay him the highest honor by calling him, 'Coach.' "
After stepping down as the Huskies' coach, Rowe launched the fund-raising arm for UConn Athletics and for the next 13 years became a national leader in collegiate athletic fund-raising, generating millions of dollars to support the mission of UConn Athletics. For the past 25 years, since his official UConn retirement at the end of calendar year 1991, Rowe has remained actively involved at the school in his emeritus role as Special Adviser for Athletics.
Last month, he was listed as one of 29 nominees in the contributor category for consideration as an inductee to the Hall of Fame.
Rowe will receive the award at the Hall of Fame Family Reunion Dinner, that is part of the 2017 Hall of Fame induction weekend on Sept. 7-9.
Samuelson moved into sole possession of first place in the AAC scoring race as her career high 34-point effort against Tulsa raised her average to 21.4 points per game. She had shared the lead entering Tuesday with South Florida's Kitija Laksa. The 2016 AAC Freshman of the Year had 10 points Tuesday in a victory over Memphis at the Sun Dome which was No. 300 for Bulls' coach Jose Fernandez.
Napheesa Collier registered back-to-back double-doubles for the second time this season as she had 21 points and 13 rebounds against Tulsa. She increased her AAC-leading field-goal percentge to 65.9 percent thanks to 8-for-10 shooting. At 8.3 rebounds per game, she has closed to within 0.1 of team-leader Williams.
"I've been trying to get on the boards more and I'm glad that it's showed," said Collier, who has never had three straight double-doubles at UConn.
Collier is also third in the league in scoring (19.4), fifth in rebounds (8.3), seventh in steals (2.0), and second in blocked shots (1.6).
Saniya Chong regained her lead in the national statistics in assist-to-turnover ratio as she had seven assists to no turnovers versus the Golden Hurricane. The senior guard, who also chipped in 10 points and three steals, has a ratio of plus-4.15. New Hampshire's Kristen Anderson and Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen were at plus-3.61. Chong is eighth in the AAC in assists (3.6).
Samuelson (46.3), Chong (45.5) and Kia Nurse (43.0) are 1-2-3 in the league in 3-point shooting percentage.