Kyla Irwin looked like a student as she sat in UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma's office 13 months ago.
But with notebook in hand, it was the high school player from State College, Pennsylvania - not the Hall of Famer - that would be asking the questions.
"She just had a lot of confidence about her," Auriemma recalled. "It was like, 'Here's my chance in Coach's office and I want to let him know that I have a pretty good idea of what I want, and I'm going to see where we connect, me and him.' There's a lot to be said for that rather than just sitting there giving you one-word answers. She turned the interview. She flipped it and interviewed me. It was a great conversation. It was almost like she was doing a term paper and somebody said, 'Go interview this person and tell me about his job.' I tried really hard to give her answers where she would have to go, 'Huh?' "
By the end of that October 2014 weekend, Irwin gave her oral commitment to UConn. It was announced just two days after Crystal Dangerfield became the first player from Tennessee to commit to Auriemma. About seven months later, they would be joined in the Huskies' recruiting Class of 2016 by Molly Bent.
The trio made it official Wednesday by signing their letters of intent, which arrived at UConn's office Wednesday night. The school announced the class in a press release Thursday.
"They really wanted to come to Connecticut," Auriemma said. "That's the No. 1 thing. These are kids that understand what we have here and they want to be a part of it. They are all the kind of kids we have been getting for the last 30 years. It's a great day for us, because we're getting the kind of kids and the kind of players that are hopefully going to keep us at the level we have come to expect.
"They're talented, they're very unselfish, they work really hard and they aren't locked into one position on the floor. They are really good kids who are really good basketball players."
Dangerfield is the best known of the three. The 5-foot-5 point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is rated the No. 3 recruit overall and the top guard in the Class of 2016 by ESPN HoopGurlz and the Blue Star Report. She is a two-time Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and in her three seasons has led Blackman High to a 92-8 record and the 2014 and 2015 state 3A championships, compiling 1,468 points, 351 rebounds, 358 assist and 286 steals. She averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals as a junior as Blackman (32-2) successfully defended its state, district, and regional titles.
A member of the honor roll and Honors Program at Blackman, Dangerfield has also won two gold medals with USA Basketball playing with UConn freshmen Katie Lou Samuelson and De'Janae Boykin on the 2013 U-16 national team and playing with Huskies' freshman Napheesa Collier on the 2015 U-19 team. At the 2015 FIBA U-19 world championships in Chekhov, Russia, last summer, Dangerfield averaged 6.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 steals in seven games as Team USA finished unbeaten.
"Crystal is smaller than Moriah Jefferson, if that's possible. When Crystal visited, Moriah was like ecstatic because there was finally somebody on campus or on our team that she could post up," Auriemma said with a smile. "Now, Crystal will tell you that's not happening, and she will point to her biceps and say, 'Look how strong I am.' She is a different kind of player than Moriah. Hopefully they have the same career, but in a different way. She has had more opportunities to play in different environments than Moriah did. Like her playing USA Basketball this summer really helped her. And Crystal's high school coach was really good. This kid played at a high level with really good coaches."
Irwin, a 6-2 forward, is rated among the top 50 players in the Class of 2016 by the Blue Star Report and has made the honor roll in every quarter of her first three years at State College High.
She enters her senior season third on State College's all-time scoring list with 1,397 points. A three-year starter playing for her mother, Bethany - a former player at Penn State and native of Branford, Connecticut - she averaged 20.0 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.3 blocked shots as a junior and became State College's first All-Stare player in 13 years. She is also an All-State volleyball player.
"Kyla has great energy," Auriemma said. "She has a tremendous work ethic. She really understands the game. She's very versatile and can play more than one position. She's just an energy provider. That is the best way I can describe her, more so than most kids you see. She has an energy about her. When you talk about our players, they have that for the most part."
Bent, a 5-9 guard from Centerville, Massachusetts, played three seasons starting in eighth grade for at Barnstable High and scored 1,001 points before transferring to Tabor Academy. She repeated her sophomore year at Tabor and in both her seasons she's been named to the New England Prep School Class A All-Star team and Tabor reached the New England Class A tournament final in 2014 and 2015. She was also the high scorer on the soccer team and led it to the 2013 New England Prep School Class B championship.
She's been a high honors student in all of her semesters at Tabor and last year won the Physics and Creative Writing Award along with the Wickenden Award, which is the highest honor for a Tabor junior. She was also a straight-A student in her two years at Barnstable High. She was looking at a number of Ivy League schools before visiting and committing to UConn last June.
"There's a certain amount of prestige associated with being recruited by an Ivy League school," Auriemma said. "It means a lot. It means you're at a certain level academically. And look at what Princeton did last year. They're not just any program. They're a national program that can compete with most people around the country. I'm thrilled that Molly decided, 'This to me is important.' I don't think she said no to the Ivy League. She said yes to Connecticut. There's a big difference there."
While Auriemma does not and would not compare them, he believes Bent has some of the qualities that former UConn star Sue Bird brought to the table.
"People don't realize that Sue was one of the best athletes we ever had at Connecticut," Auriemma said. "People don't think that way about her. So when you look at Molly you think, 'Oh, she must be your typical smart point guard.' She goes right by guys where you think, 'How did she go by that guy?' I'm telling you, the kid is tough."
Auriemma has no concerns that neither Bent nor Irwin is rated that high by most recruiting services.
"It's not our philosophy to go, 'Who are the top 10, top 20 players in the country? Let's go recruit them,' " Auriemma said. "We like who we like. If other people like them a lot, that's great. If other people don't like them, well, we will find out four years from now who was right. Like Molly Bent is the kind of kid that has helped us become who we are. When you see her play next year for UConn, you'll understand why."
If the Huskies do not sign anymore players from the Class of 2016, they will have five scholarships available for the Class of 2017, with one already going to guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter from Ossining, New York.