Bria Hartley was working with the scout team last Saturday as the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team held its shoot-around prior to its Paradise Jam final-round game with Purdue in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
That the second-ranked Huskies have an All-American on their scout team says all you need to know about them. But the junior guard was still working her way back from the left ankle injury that sidelined her for the two games prior to the Paradise Jam.
During the workout, Hartley, a 1,000-point scorer, was guarded by UConn’s best defender, Kelly. Faris.
“Bria and Kelly were going at it and it was a real good battle,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Tuesday. “It was the best I’ve seen Bria look since Oct. 15. That’s when I thought, ‘She’s getting there. She’s getting close.’ ”
Hartley will make her first start of the season Wednesday when UConn plays host to Colgate at the XL Center in Hartford (7 p.m., SNY).
“Each game I’ve played I’ve felt better and with each practice it’s felt better,” Hartley said. “I’m about 90 percent, To me, it’s not an issue.”
Hartley will replace Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis as a starter Wednesday. Mosqueda-Lewis will not play after suffering a concussion against Purdue last Saturday night. She did not practice Monday or Tuesday It will be the first game that the sophomore has missed.
“It’s unfortunate because I thought up to this point Kaleena was probably our best player,” Auriemma said.
Hartley averaged 7.0 points on 72.7 percent shooting from the floor and 3.0 assists in 15.3 minutes per game in the wins over Wake Forest, Marist, and Purdue. She had 12 points in 18 minutes against the Boilermakers.
“I was just happy to be out there and playing,” Hartley said. “What was I out for, a month? I was happy with whatever minutes I got.
“At first it was frustrating because I couldn’t move as quickly as I wanted to or would have liked to. So I’m focusing on little things and knowing that I can’t get frustrated. And if I get frustrated I have to snap out of it quickly because I know that I’m an example to a lot of our younger guys.”
Hartley originally injured the ankle at the FIBA 3x3 world championships in Athens, Greece, in August. The games against College of Charleston and Texas A&M were the first she’s missed in her career.
Playing three games in three days helped convince her that the ankle is fine.
“I knew that it would be sore at certain times and when it was I would have to work through it,” Hartley said. “But it felt better as we went along.”
UConn (5-0) should be able to give Hartley as much work as it wants to give her against what should be overmatched Colgate (2-3). With games against No. 11 Maryland and sixth-ranked Penn State next week, the Huskies know they’ll need the North Babylon, N.Y., native in good form.