The University of Connecticut women's basketball team has had its share of transfers during Geno Auriemma's tenure as coach, even during the Huskies' current run of three straight national championships.
Brianna Banks left UConn after the Huskies won the 2014 title and will use her final year of eligibility this season at Penn State. Sadie Edwards departed Storrs after seven games last season for the University of Southern California and will be eligible for the Pac-12 school at the end of the Fall 2015 semester.
But the number of highly-regarded players from around the country -- including Maryland All-American Lexie Brown and three from North Carolina -- who have opted to transfer since UConn walked off the court at Amalie Arena with its 10th national championship in April seems somewhat staggering.
"I'm sure we're as susceptible as anyone else," Auriemma said Monday at Hartford Golf Club during his "Fore the Kids" charity event that benefits the Connecticut Children's Medical Center. "That's why I laugh when people talk about the kids who have transferred from our place like it's the end of the world. I don't begrudge anybody if they go to another school and say, 'Hey look, I made a mistake.' That's not a negative. We make mistakes in recruiting. Kids make mistakes in picking schools.
"What has happened is we have a little bit more access to these kids earlier. One of the results of that is that kids commit earlier, and maybe the coaches and the players haven't gotten a chance to know each other very well during the recruiting process. And maybe some promises were made along the way, and then you can't deliver on those promises. Then it all kind of comes to a head. I'm not there so I don't know."
Banks did start eight games for the Huskies during the 2013-14 season when Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was out with an elbow injury. She averaged 14.2 minutes per game for the season but totaled just five minutes in UConn's last four NCAA tournament games. Edwards was averaging 4.8 minutes when she announced her decision six months ago.
Samarie Walker was averaging 18.8 minutes with one start as a freshman during the 2011-12 season when she left for Kentucky. Kennitra Johnson averaged 17.9 minutes with three starts as a sophomore in 2000-01 before leaving for Purdue. One player who started her final game at UConn and then departed during the offseason was Marci Glenney, who went to Clemson in 1999 after her sophomore year. She started the final seven games at point guard after injuries to Sue Bird and Keirsten Walters. Bird returned the next season and would win the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard three straight years.
"I'm proud of the fact that in the 30 years that we have been doing this, very, very, very few kids that start and play 30 minutes decide that this isn't the place for them," Auriemma said. "I'm kind of crossing my fingers and hoping that trend continues."
North Carolina, which could be facing NCAA sanctions due to an academic scandal at the school, has lost its top two scorers from last season -- Stephanie Mavunga and Allisha Gray -- and reserve guard Jessica Washington. Gray has already enrolled at South Carolina. The three along with Diamond DeShields, who transferred a to Tennessee a year ago, made up the nation's top recruiting class in 2013.
South Carolina has also picked up Georgia Tech transfer Kaela Davis. Sarah Imovbioh, the top rebounder in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season at Virginia, will use her final year of eligibility with the Gamecocks this season after graduating in Charlottesville. Brown ended up at Duke after going to the Final Four twice with Maryland. Florida State picked up former Baylor starting guard Imani Wright Wednesday. North Carolina did add Vanderbilt's point guard Paris Kea. UCLA's Recee Caldwell, a one-time UConn recruiting target, left Westwood.
And these are only some examples.
"You look at it on the men's side, and it has been an epidemic," Auriemma said. “I think something like 700 players transferred on the men's side, and there are only 365 Division I schools. Now on the women's side, we're mirroring that. You're starting to see it happen. I think it's just a reflection of our society that we live in.
"Kids play AAU basketball, and if they don't like the team they're on because they're not getting the ball enough or not getting the recognition they want, they change AAU teams. Then they go to college, and for whatever reason, they decide they're not getting what they want and they change. What can I tell you?"
USA U-16s roll in openerIt was a rough start for Andra Espinoza-Hunter at the FIBA Americas U-16 Championship in Puebla, Mexico, Wednesday. The UConn Class of 2017 commit had her first shot blocked 25 seconds in and missed all five of her shots from the floor and both her free throws in the first quarter.
But the 5-foot-11 guard from Ossining, New York, got going a bit in the second quarter and came alive in the second half. She shared game honors with 16 points while adding five rebounds in a team-high 30 minutes as the United States downed Argentina 80-48 in Group A pool play.
"The first couple of minutes we struggled because of first-game jitters," Espinoza-Hunter said. "I think as a team, we each had them. Myself, I was a little nervous. After the first half ended, we were able to come together and we told ourselves that we were going to come out with energy and win the game."
Espinoza-Hunter finished 4-for-14 from the floor, including 3-for-6 from 3-point land, and 5-for-8 from the foul line.
Alexis Morris had 16 points, three steals and three assists. Her 10 points in the second quarter helped Team USA build a 38-19 halftime lead. Honesty Scott-Grayson, Espinoza-Hunter's teammate next season at Blair Academy, added 10 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
"I was actually really happy with how we played, despite little bursts where we didn't as well as we wanted to," Espinoza-Hunter said. "But overall, at the end of the game, I walked of the court with a smile on my face.
"We need to improve on not fouling as much, our 3-point shooting and trying to get to the rim a lot more. Our shots were falling as much as we would like, so going the opposite direction as in driving to the basket, is what we should focus on."
Team USA faces Honduras, which fell to host Mexico 74-45 on Wednesday, in Group A play Thursday at 3 p.m.
(U-16 quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)