The University of Connecticut women's basketball team received its reward for winning the 2015 national championship with its visit to the White House and President Obama in Washington on Tuesday.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma -- noting the President's last full year in office is in 2016 -- took the opportunity to thank him while challenging his returning players.
"There's no better way for him to go out next year than to host us again," Auriemma said. "So we'll see you next year."
The Huskies' visit was their ninth to the White House (the 2000 team did not make it due to scheduling conflicts) and the fifth time they've been welcomed by President Obama.
The 10-time national champions also visited President Bill Clinton in 1995 and President George W. Bush 2002-2004.
"This is Coach's 10th championship," Obama said. "This is this team's third visit in a row. They are now certified to provide White House tours. I was telling folks, this is becoming like the annual Christmas tree lighting. We do this every year around this time."
Auriemma and his entire coaching staff were in attendance as were graduates Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes. Mosqueda-Lewis finished her rookie season with the Seattle Storm on Sunday while Stokes is getting ready for her first WNBA playoff game with the Eastern Conference regular season champion and overall top seed New York Liberty.
All the returning players -- seniors Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Briana Pulido, juniors Morgan Tuck, Saniya Chong, and Tierney Lawlor, and sophomores Kia Nurse, Courtney Ekmark, Gabby Williams, and Natalie Butler -- also made the trip.
"Breanna Stewart, the National Player of the Year two years in a row, she has game," Obama said. "She reminded everybody how hard this team works to be the best. She said, 'We make it look easier than it is, but it comes with a lot of hard work. We don't just step on the court and get the trophy. We have to get better. Each year, it seems there is someone else trying to test us and push us to our breaking point.'
"So Breanna may have been Player of the Year, but she was far from alone. This group of young women understand the concept of team. And this team was loaded. Kia Nurse. Morgan Tuck. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who I will not challenge in a H-O-R-S-E game. The Huskies point guard in the past two championships, Moriah Jefferson, who's got speed. After they won this last championship game, Moriah said, 'I think this one for me is by far the most exciting. It's definitely one of the ones that means the most because we had to fight so hard.'
"And so now, here they are. And like my daughters, they apparently like Beyoncé, and they are now running the world."
The President pointed out the Huskies received an academic honor from the American Athletic Conference and that every player that has completed her eligibility in Auriemma's 30 years has graduated. He also talked about their work in the community.
"I always say this -- but it bears repeating -- when I've got two daughters who are tall and gorgeous and athletic, for them to know that they've got a whole bunch of people ahead of them who are doing great stuff, it empowers them and it makes me feel very proud to be with these outstanding young women," Obama said.
UConn finished last season 38-1, with the only loss to Stanford. The Huskies captured their second straight AAC regular season and tournament titles and advanced to their record eighth straight NCAA Final Four. They then defeated Maryland and Notre Dame for a record 10th NCAA crown. Stewart was the consensus national Player of the Year and was joined as a consensus All-American by Jefferson and Mosqueda-Lewis. Auriemma won his 900th career game and Mosqueda-Lewis set a NCAA record for 3-point baskets.
The Huskies begin the 2015-16 season at Ohio State on Nov. 16. No women's team has won four straight NCAA titles.
"I don't want to jinx it," Obama said with a smile. "I'm just saying. You get here one more time, we might have to name the White House basketball court after you, or at least you can guide the tour."