(David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

Katie Lou Samuelson and her University of Connecticut women's basketball teammates have had just over six months to think about their loss to Mississippi State in the NCAA Final Four semifinals in Dallas. If the junior All-American had her way, she would have been working and playing days later. She wasn't. The saying is, "Wait till next year," after all.

"One of the biggest things after the way the season ended was that we needed to get back into it and we were able to do that earlier than usual because of the trip to Italy," Samuelson said. "We're ready to go. This team is ahead of where the others were since I've been here because we've had more time together and we know what we need to get done to get better."

The Huskies open practice officially Thursday with a workout at the Werth Family Champions Center, exactly one month before they begin the regular season against Stanford in the Countdown to Columbus at Nationwide Arena.

For the first time in five years, they are not the reigning national champion. Their 111-game winning streak now belongs to the record and history books. In fact, the first streak they'll deal with to start the new campaign is avoiding back-to-back losses for the first time in 886 games.

Still with what they have coming back and what they have added, they figure to be ranked the No. 1 team in the country when the preseason polls come out.

"I think that we have a lot to look forward to," UConn junior All-American Napheesa Collier said. UConn returns four starters -- All-Americans Samuelson, Collier, and senior Gabby Williams, along with all-conference performer and four-year starter Kia Nurse.

Samuelson and Collier recently took part in their first United States senior national team camp while Nurse led Team Canada to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in August. Also back from last season are sophomores Crystal Dangerfield, Molly Bent, and Kyla Irwin. Redshirt junior Azura Stevens and redshirt sophomore Batouly Camara are eligible after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Freshmen Mikayla Coombs, Lexi Gordon, Andra Espinoza-Hunter, and Megan Walker were rated among the top three recruiting classes in the country coming out of high school.

While much of the cast is the same, there is plenty that's different.

"I actually felt most prepared my freshman year because I didn't have to do anything because of the seniors we had then," Samuelson said. "This year I have more responsibility and it's important for me to lead and set a good example. Almost half of our team hasn't played a game at Connecticut before. I'm really looking forward to the challenges that we'll have."

The Huskies did get a head start in August as they took a 10-day tour of Italy that included four exhibition games.

"The trip was so good for us," Collier said. "We got to practice before we left and the games in Italy showed us a lot of things and exposed a lot of things we're going to need to work on. It was a big advantage for us and it's helping us going forward."

UConn finished 3-1 in Italy losing the finale to Slovenian and Adriatic League champion Celje. Coach Geno Auriemma said the basketball portion of the trip was just what he was hoping for.

"We got to see some things that we already assumed," Auriemma said. "We were able to point out to some of our players, 'This is how good we can be and this is how much better some of you need to get if you want to contribute.' We already knew we had four of the best players in the country. Now we wanted to find out how many more than four that we have and how many more than four can we think are going to be solid enough that they're going to enhance these other four.

"People want to talk about, 'How are you going to make sure what happened last year doesn't happen again? How are you going to do that? How are you going to make sure you don't lose a game in overtime in the Final Four? How are you going to make sure you go more than 36-1?' You don't make sure that that doesn't happen. What you try to do is make everyone better. You try to make everyone on your team a little bit better and see what happens."

UConn must replace starting guard Saniya Chong, who graduated and moved on to the WNBA's Dallas Wings. Auriemma has options but a source within the program said that Dangerfield -- who is the first to tell you that she had an up-and-down season as a freshman -- has the inside track on that final starting spot as practice begins. The point guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, earned rave reviews for her play this summer with USA Basketball and with the Huskies. Her effort has remained strong in the fall and the source said she's the most improved player on the club.

Stevens at 6-foot-6 and Camara at 6-foot-2 add size, though Stevens is also solid on the perimeter. The freshman class will add depth and many eyes will be on Walker, who swept most of the 2017 national high school Player of the Year honors.

UConn will see where it stands early as it opens with games against Final Four participant Stanford, the Cardinal's Pac-12 archrival California, and Sweet 16 teams Maryland and UCLA. The game against the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion will come just two days after the Huskies face the Terrapins in Hartford.

There will be December games against Notre Dame, DePaul, and Oklahoma. If UConn wins its first eight games, Auriemma will go for his 1,000th career win against the Sooners and coach Sherri Coale at Mohegan Sun Arena Dec. 19. The Huskies' 16-game American Athletic Conference schedule will be broken up by non-league games at Texas, at South Carolina, and home with Louisville.

The 2018 Final Four will be at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

"I'm excited and ready to go," Collier said. "We all are."

Tags: Crystal Dangerfield, Gabby Williams, Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Molly Bent, Napheesa Collier, Carl Adamec

Morgan Tuck (45) Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Morgan Tuck (45) Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Morgan Tuck was a fixture on USA Basketball's youth teams while in high school and in her first year at the University of Connecticut. It was then she set a goal -- to someday play for the United States Olympic Team.

But knee injuries with the Huskies and at the start of her career with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun had her wondering if she'd ever had a chance. She had also seen contemporaries like USA and UConn teammate Breanna Stewart emerge to stardom.

Even with her issues, though, she was named to the 2017-20 national team pool a year ago and her first healthy season with the Sun followed. Following two weeks of camp, the 24-year-old was named Wednesday to her first senior national team that will take part in the FIBA World Cup starting Saturday in Tenerife, Spain.

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

Aubrey Griffin admits that the University of Connecticut is her dream school to continue her basketball and academic careers.

But reality is that she wants to be sure the biggest decision for her to date is the right one. That's why the 6-foot senior guard/forward from Ossining, New York, plans on taking four official visits - including this weekend's trip to Storrs - before making her call.

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma speaks during a press conference before a regional semifinal game against Duke in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's 2018-19 schedule -- featuring 14 non-league games and 16 American Athletic Conference contests -- is out.

The Huskies, who will return three starters from last season's 36-1 club that advanced to the NCAA Final Four for a record 11th consecutive year, will face nine teams that played in the NCAA tournament, including national champion Notre Dame, Final Four participant Louisville, Elite Eight representative and 2017 national champion South Carolina, and AAC rival South Florida.

Six games will be played at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs with five -- including South Carolina -- being played at the XL Center in Hartford. Vanderbilt will face UConn at Mohegan Sun Arena.

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 (Mandatory Credit: USA Basketball)
(Mandatory Credit: USA Basketball)

Over the last five years, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team has sent as many players to the WNBA (11) as it has on its current roster. Ten were first-round selections, with Saniya Chong spending a little more than a season with the Dallas Wings after being chosen in the third round in 2017.

The Huskies figure to add to that total next April when senior All-Americans Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier head to the next level.

Coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey have been able to keep UConn among the elite for a quarter-century. The Huskies own six of the last 10 national championships (11 total) and have made 11 consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances to take the all-time lead with 19. No one else has made more than five straight trips to the national semifinals.

But are those graduation losses finally going to add up? The feeling is that Auriemma must a bring in a strong recruiting class this fall if the Huskies are to stay a threat on the national stage heading into the next decade.

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 (David Butler II )
(David Butler II )

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) David Pindell threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 137 yards and two more as UConn outscored Rhode Island 56-49 on Saturday.

Pindell outdueled Rhode Island quarterback JuJuan Lawson, who threw for 351 yards and four scores and ran for 85 yards and two TDs for the Rams.

The teams combined for 1,123 yards of offense.

The Huskies (1-2), who had three touchdowns in their first two games, got into the end zone on all six of their drives in the first half, including a 74-yard strike from Pindell to freshman Heron Maurisseau who found himself wide open in the middle of the field for his first collegiate score. They led 42-28 at the break.

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Sep 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) poses with MVP and Championship trophy after defeating the Washington Mystics after the game in game three of the WNBA Finals at Eagle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Sep 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) poses with MVP and Championship trophy after defeating the Washington Mystics after the game in game three of the WNBA Finals at Eagle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Winning basketball teams, as the saying goes, have had a way of following Breanna Stewart around. They've done so from her high school days at Cicero-North Syracuse High in New York, to the University of Connecticut, out to Seattle with the WNBA's Storm, and in between with USA Basketball.

The former Huskies' great added to her resume Wednesday night when she and the Storm finished off a three-game sweep of the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals with a 98-82 road victory.

The triumph made Stewart the 11th player to win NCAA and WNBA titles and Olympic and FIBA world championship gold medals. The 6-foot-4 forward won four national championships at UConn, Olympic gold in 2016, and world championship gold in 2014 -- all on teams coached by Geno Auriemma.

The WNBA crown came in the Storm's first season under veteran Dan Hughes.

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Sep 10, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Detail view of logo on court before an international exhibition basketball game game between the United States and Japan at the Charles E. Smith Center at George Washington University. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Sep 10, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Detail view of logo on court before an international exhibition basketball game game between the United States and Japan at the Charles E. Smith Center at George Washington University. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Jennifer Rizzotti was right at home when the United States women's national team hosted Japan at George Washington University's Charles E. Smith Center Monday night. The Team USA assistant coach is about to start her third season as George Washington's head coach.

But her real homecoming was Saturday when Team USA traveled to Bridgeport's Webster Bank Arena. The New Fairfield native was back in the state where she made a name for herself as a player at the University of Connecticut and as a coach at the University of Hartford.

"Do I miss Connecticut? Yes, of course, I miss Connecticut," Rizzotti said. "I miss not only my family, but Connecticut was always my family, the people here. It's good to be back and hear them cheering in the crowd for us. The people here will always have a special place in my heart."

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Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier attempts to control the ball as Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay and guard Edel Thornton defend in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier attempts to control the ball as Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay and guard Edel Thornton defend in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- As the United States women's national team faced an eight-point deficit against Canada at the start of the fourth quarter Saturday, coach Dawn Staley had two former WNBA MVP winners and six other WNBA first-round draft picks on the bench.

Napheesa Collier had re-entered the game midway through the third quarter, and with the University of Connecticut senior forward on the floor, the Americans began to finally show some life. So Staley stayed with what was working and she was rewarded for her faith.

Collier was here, there, and everywhere down the stretch, contributing a key rebound basket and two free throws in a game-closing 22-6 run as Team USA defeated Canada 74-68 in an exhibition game before a crowd of 3,258 at Webster Bank Arena.

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Boise State Broncos wide receiver John Hightower runs for a touchdown during first half against the Connecticut Huskies at Albertsons Stadium. (Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports)
Boise State Broncos wide receiver John Hightower runs for a touchdown during first half against the Connecticut Huskies at Albertsons Stadium. (Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports)

The UConn football team gave up 818 total yards, including 400 yards on the ground, in Saturday's 62-7 loss to No. 20 Boise State at Albertsons Stadium.

The Huskies allowed 24 points in the first quarter and trailed 41-0 at halftime. They were outgained 818-193 in starting the season 0-2.

The Broncos' Alexander Mattison ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while John Hightower had a 67-yard touchdown catch and a 55-yard touchdown run in the first half.

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Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier (24) shoots against Temple Owls guard Tanaya Atkinson (22) in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier (24) shoots against Temple Owls guard Tanaya Atkinson (22) in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

Napheesa Collier has enjoyed success in her two trips to South Carolina with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, including a strong all-around effort in the Huskies' rout of the Gamecocks last Feb. 1.

The senior forward is about to face a much more difficult test as she heads back to Columbia this weekend for the start of the United States women's senior national team training camp Monday as it begins preparations for the 2018 FIBA World Cup later this month.

But the coach who guided Team USA to the world championships gold medal the last two tournaments in 2010 and 2014 -- who is also Collier's coach at UConn -- had some simple advice for his All-American before her departure.

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Diana Taurasi, left, and Sue Bird, right, pose for a picture with Team USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the victory over Spain the gold medal game Saturday. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Diana Taurasi, left, and Sue Bird, right, pose for a picture with Team USA and UConn coach Geno Auriemma after the victory over Spain the gold medal game Saturday. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

When midnight struck on the east coast late Tuesday, Geno Auriemma wasn't about to call it a day.

No one would have blamed him, though. With the Seattle Storm holding a nine-point lead on the Phoenix Mercury with two minutes to go in Game 2 of the best-of-five WNBA semifinals, it would have been easy for the University of Connecticut women's basketball coach to turn off the television.

Surely, the Storm would finish the job with veteran point guard Sue Bird and league MVP Breanna Stewart guiding them. But the Mercury had the third former Huskies' star on the KeyArena floor late, Diana Taurasi, and you know the rest of the line.

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Jim Calhoun watches the final seconds in his last game on the sidelines, a loss to Iowa State in this year's NCAA tournament. (AP)
Jim Calhoun watches the final seconds in his last game on the sidelines, a loss to Iowa State in this year's NCAA tournament. (AP)

Former University of Connecticut men's basketball head coach Jim Calhoun is coming out of retirement to coach Division III St. Joseph Connecticut, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

The University of St. Joseph is located in West Hartford, and is a private school comprised of fewer than 3,000 students.

So why did Calhoun decide to come out of retirment? He told USA Today he missed everything about coaching and couldn't resist the offer...

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Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)
Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)

Breanna Stewart has always known that team success will lead to individual honors. It was true at the University of Connecticut and now in the WNBA.

Stewart, in her third season with the Seattle Storm, was named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player on Sunday. She is the fourth former UConn star to win the honor joining Diana Taurasi (2009), Tina Charles (2012), and Maya Moore (2014). Only Southern California and Tennessee has had as many as two winners.

The 6-foor-4 forward from North Syracuse, New York, received 33 of 39 first-place votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters and totaled 372 points. Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage finished second with 231 points with four first-place votes. Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne received the other two first-place votes and was third with 206 points. Players were awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for a second-place vote, five points for a third-place vote, three points for a fourth-place vote, and one point for a fifth-place vote.

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Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23) celebrates after the game against the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Williams Arena. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23) celebrates after the game against the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Williams Arena. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Maya Moore could be upset. Maya Moore should be upset.

But that's just not Maya Moore.

When the University of Connecticut and Tennessee women's basketball teams sent out press releases Tuesday announcing that they would resume their rivalry that saw them play 22 times in 12 years, it was hard not to think of the Huskies' only four-time All-American and three-time Wade Trophy winner. It was her successful recruitment by UConn and coach Geno Auriemma that was the No. 1 reason Tennessee coach Pat Summitt unilaterally ended the series in 2007, about two months before Moore was to start her freshman year and six months or so before the teams were going to play in Knoxville...

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Feb 7, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights guard Zakiya Saunders (3) and Connecticut Huskies forward Azura Stevens (23) reach for the rebound during the first quarter at CFE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)
Feb 7, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights guard Zakiya Saunders (3) and Connecticut Huskies forward Azura Stevens (23) reach for the rebound during the first quarter at CFE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (Reinhold Matay)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Pat Summitt, Tennessee's Hall of Fame women's basketball coach, ended the rivalry between the Lady Vols and the University of Connecticut after 12 years and 22 games in 2007. She retired as the sport's winningest coach (1,098) in 2012 after announcing in August of 2011 she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Glory Johnson was on her last four teams in Knoxville. As a senior in 2012, Johnson was named to the WBCA All-America team. Summitt made her way to the Pepsi Center in Denver, the site of the NCAA Final Four, for the announcement even as she struggled with the illness that would take her life four years later at age 64.

A few hours after Tuesday's announcement that UConn and Tennessee would renew the rivalry in January 2020, Johnson, now a member of the WNBA's Dallas Wings, recalled Summitt's spirit with the belief the resumption would be something that she would want now.

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Jan 18, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Mikayla Coombs (4) from the sideline as they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Jan 18, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Mikayla Coombs (4) from the sideline as they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

From 1995 through 2007, it was the best rivalry in women's college basketball. More than a decade later the University of Connecticut and University of Tennessee have found each other again.

UConn and Tennessee women's will resume their series beginning in 2019-20, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Tuesday.
 
As part of the two-year deal, UConn will host Tennessee during the 2019-20 season with a portion of proceeds benefitting the Pat Summitt Foundation, named after the late legendary Tennessee coach, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In the 2020-21 season, the Lady Vols will host the Huskies in Knoxville, with a portion of proceeds again benefitting the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams drives the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks center Alaina Coates in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)
Connecticut Huskies guard Gabby Williams drives the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks center Alaina Coates in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- It's been a season of change for Gabby Williams -- just from spring to summer.

The two-time All-American and national champion at the University of Connecticut helped the Huskies to an in-state record of 80-0 during her four years at UConn, including 16-0 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Heck, the Huskies didn't lose a game in regulation time in her college career.

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 (USA BASKETBALL)
(USA BASKETBALL)

Christyn Williams was familiar with the struggles players around her age group have had representing USA Basketball in international competition.

The 2015 U-16 team settled for the bronze medal in the FIBA Americas tournament as did the 2016 U-17 team in the FIBA world championships. A year ago, the U-19 team that included Williams won a silver medal at the FIBA World Cup.

So the University of Connecticut freshman guard was hoping for a turnaround when Team USA arrived in Mexico City for the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship, an event the Americans have dominated for almost two decades.

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Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)
Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson admits that it's going to take more time to get back to being the player she can be. But the Las Vegas Aces' point guard knows time is running out on her team's chase for a spot in the WNBA playoffs.

"It's just about getting back in a rhythm, getting back to where I was before and trying to get better," Jefferson said Sunday prior to the start of the Aces' game with the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I would say that I'm pretty close. We have a few games left and I'm going to do my best to keep progressing each game."

Las Vegas' playoff hopes took a hit Sunday with its 109-88 loss to Connecticut. The Aces (12-15) are 1 1/2 games behind the Dallas Wings (14-14) for the eighth and final playoff spot. Dallas owns the tiebreaker against Las Vegas.

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September 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the second half in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports (Gary A. Vasquez)
September 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; during the second half in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports (Gary A. Vasquez)

Renee Montgomery was part of two WNBA championship teams in the three seasons of her second tour with the Minnesota Lynx.

But when she became an unrestricted free agent after 2017 campaign, the former University of Connecticut two-time All-American was looking to move on. That the stop would be the Atlanta Dream, who won just 12 games and missed the playoffs a year ago, seemed unlikely.

"I knew we had talent," Montgomery said. "The main thing for us was putting it together. It takes time. Like when LeBron James went to Miami, everyone thought it would be instantly amazing. It doesn't work like that, no matter how much talent there is.

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Jordan Horston (USA Basketball)
Jordan Horston (USA Basketball)

It was 3 a.m. Monday in Minsk, Belarus, as Jordan Horston spoke on the phone at the airport while waiting for the first of her flights that would eventually get her home to Columbus, Ohio.

There was no time for sleep, just celebrating the FIBA U-17 World Cup coming back with her to the United States.

"I am not tired at all," Horston said with a laugh. "I'm still on a high, Cloud 9. I think our whole team is. I'm just so happy and excited to be with them and for us to win the gold."

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Christyn Williams won't play her first game for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team for four more months, but there's no doubt she is part of the Huskies' family.

The 5-foot-11 freshman guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, raised some eyebrows a month ago at coach Geno Auriemma's charity golf tournament when she predicted that UConn would win the 2019 national championship. The Huskies have seen their last two bids for a 12th NCAA title end in overtime of the Final Four semifinals.

"I was hurt. It was devastating," Williams said. "But we're going to get it back. Mark my words, guys, we're going to get it back. We're going to get that championship. People are going to feel UConn. We're going to win the national championship."

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Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (Matt Eisenberg)
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (Matt Eisenberg)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Sue Bird set the WNBA mark for games played on Sunday and will play in a record 11th WNBA All-Star Game this Saturday in Minneapolis. With every assist, the Seattle Storm point guard adds to her all-time league-leading total. 

This fall, she'll likely look to collect a fifth FIBA world championship medal with the United States national team. She is already to only player with four (three gold, one bronze).

But the former University of Connecticut star didn't accomplish all this via her work over the last week or month. Bird's commitment to take care of herself and her body has been going on for years. It has allowed her, two months shy of her 38th birthday, to be playing some of the best basketball in a career that will include her induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame once she is eligible.

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Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)
Aug 7, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; United States forward/center Breanna Stewart (9) leads the team back on to the court against Senegal during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Youth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports (Geoff Burke)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - With a month to go in the WNBA regular season, Breanna Stewart may be the leading candidate to be the league's Most Valuable Player.

Her most valuable work over the past year may have been done off the court.

"I don't know if I'm playing my best basketball because hopefully I can play better," Stewart said after wrapping up practice with the Seattle Storm here Thursday. "I think I'm in a good place on the court. It's Year 3 so another year of being comfortable at the professional level and knowing what I want to do and what this team wants to do...

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Credit: USA Basketball (USA BASKETBALL)
Credit: USA Basketball (USA BASKETBALL)

It was less than two months ago that Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa left Colorado Springs, Colorado, after being named to USA Basketball's U-18 national team.

As the two University of Connecticut freshmen return to the United States Olympic Training Center to begin final preparations on Friday for the 2018 FIBA Americas Championship that will be played Aug. 1-7 in Mexico City, they are different players now from what they were in May. It will be the first chance to see the progress they made during the five-week summer session they spent in Storrs.

"There was an incredible difference to anything I've done," Nelson-Ododa said. "There's this expectation at UConn to perform at a certain level and it's more than I've ever done. There are so many things I've had to learn. It was an incredible experience."

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Aug 20, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; USA guard Diana Taurasi (12) shoots the ball against Spain in the women's basketball gold medal match during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports (Jeffrey Swinger)
Aug 20, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; USA guard Diana Taurasi (12) shoots the ball against Spain in the women's basketball gold medal match during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports (Jeffrey Swinger)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Diana Taurasi was 21 going on 40 when she stepped on the court for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

Now at 36, the veteran Phoenix Mercury guard and WNBA all-time leading scorer plays like she's 26 with a bounce in her step, a joy for life, and a passion that does not waver.

"I actually feel like I can do more this year than in the past," Taurasi said Thursday after the Mercury practiced ahead of Friday night's game against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. "Physically, I feel great. That time off ... People take for granted that playing year-round takes a toll on you mentally. The game of basketball is only great when you can be creative and clear-minded and play with a fun soul. Sometimes it becomes work. Right now, that's not there. It's fun."

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Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline as they take on the UCF Knights in the second half of the semifinals during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline as they take on the UCF Knights in the second half of the semifinals during the women's AAC Conference Tournament at Mohegun Sun Arena. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Bria Hartley is living the good life.

The two-time All-American and national champion with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is in her fifth season in the WNBA and second with her hometown New York Liberty. She has an 18-month-old son, Bryson. While the Liberty's 6-14 record isn't appealing, Hartley left Mohegan Sun Arena Wednesday with a smile after Shavonte Zellous' 3-point bank shot at the buzzer gave New York a 79-76 win over the Connecticut Sun.

While she has a lot to look forward to, Hartley has never lost her appreciation for the people who helped her get to UConn and to the WNBA. To that end she has founded an AAU basketball program - Bria Hartley Elite - as a way to give back to her community and sport.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Molly Bent brings the ball up court. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Molly Bent brings the ball up court. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

There's a sense of urgency in Molly Bent's voice as the junior guard talks about the start of the second half of her career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team.

She's been to the NCAA Final Four twice with the Huskies and the team's record is 72-2. But both times, UConn's bid for a 12th national championship ended with a last-second overtime loss in the national semifinals.

What's been even more difficult for the Centerville, Massachusetts, native to take, though, is that she has not put herself in a position where she could make a difference.

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She was on the floor with two All-Americans and two others that would be WNBA first-round draft picks. But when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's game at Texas last Jan. 15 came down to the final seconds, those four stars wanted Crystal Dangerfield to have the ball.

And why not? The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native was playing as well as any point guard in the country. Dangerfield capped her 40-minute effort by sinking two free throws with 8.3 seconds left to ice a 75-71 win over the Longhorns.

But the second half of the season proved to be a struggle in many ways as she dealt with shin splints. Her practice time was limited and she was held out of two games in February in an attempt to ease the discomfort. Still she was named to the all-American Athletic Conference second team and to a pair of postseason all-tournament teams.

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Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier attempts to control the ball as Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay and guard Edel Thornton defend in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies forward Napheesa Collier attempts to control the ball as Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Jen Fay and guard Edel Thornton defend in the first half of the women's NCAA tournament second round at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

If Napheesa Collier never takes another shot for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, she'd rank No. 3 on the school's all-time list in field-goal percentage at 61.8.

Of course, barring anything unforeseen, that's not going to happen. The Huskies' forward is looking forward to a big senior season in Storrs.

But though she could finish with numbers that would put her alongside some of UConn's greats, some of the things she's done have not been good enough in her mind.

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Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) and forward Azura Stevens (23) and guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and guard Kia Nurse (11) and forward Napheesa Collier (24) return to the court after a break in the action against the Temple Owls in the second half at XL Center. UConn defeated Temple 106-45. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Feb 18, 2018; Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Gabby Williams (15) and forward Azura Stevens (23) and guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) and guard Kia Nurse (11) and forward Napheesa Collier (24) return to the court after a break in the action against the Temple Owls in the second half at XL Center. UConn defeated Temple 106-45. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Yes, Napheesa Collier has watched the tape from that March 30 night, not that the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's All-American needed a reminder of how her junior season ended.

Arike Ogunbowale's jump shot from just inside the 3-point line over Collier's outstretched arm found nothing but net with 1.0 second left in overtime and gave Notre Dame a 91-89 win over UConn in the NCAA Final Four semifinals at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

"I could have been up on her a little more," Collier said on Monday. "I was worried about her driving past me so I gave her too much space and she pulled up. If I could do it again, I would have been closer to her."

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Jan 18, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Mikayla Coombs (4) from the sideline as they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)
Jan 18, 2018; Storrs, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma talks with guard Mikayla Coombs (4) from the sideline as they take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the first half at Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports (David Butler II)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Mikayla Coombs' freshman season with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team ended prematurely with the discovery of a blood clot in her leg in the week leading up to the Huskies' first NCAA tournament game.

Three months later, she is still waiting for a fresh start. She has been cleared for most activities but not for any contact.

"I feel good, still in the recovery process trying to get healthy," Coombs said on Monday. "I've been training with the team so that's been good. I'm able to do weight-room workouts and basketball workouts, just nothing like defensive drills where there is contact.

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Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson drives the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marina Mabrey in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson drives the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marina Mabrey in the first half at XL Center. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson leaned against a wall at CFE Arena in Orlando last Feb. 7 after playing all but the final 2:12 of an 18-point win over Central Florida.

The pain from her left ankle showed on her face. Her limp as she made her way around the area near the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's locker room was noticeable.

"Do you need surgery?" she was asked.

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Chris Dailey Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports (Steven Branscombe)
Chris Dailey Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports (Steven Branscombe)

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Chris Dailey was walking down the hallway in her hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee, two weeks ago when a door opened and out stepped Hall of Fame player Anne Donovan.

Donovan was in town for the induction of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018, which included Dailey, the University of Connecticut associate head coach, and Donovan's high school coach at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey, Rose Battaglia.

"We chatted for a good five minutes catching up," Dailey said Wednesday as she took part in the PGA Travelers Championship Celebrity Pro-Am. "One of her former high school friends, Jen Bednarek, was there who coached (2009 UConn graduate) Tahirah Williams. Just a New Jersey connection. Rose Battaglia made sure to share that. I think there are six people with New Jersey ties in the Hall of Fame and Anne is certainly the leader.

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Jan 13, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma coaches his team during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at H&PE Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports (John Glaser)
Jan 13, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma coaches his team during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at H&PE Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports (John Glaser)

STORRS, Conn. -- Jasmine Lister spent her basketball playing days as a point guard so she's accustomed to having to make quick decisions.

This decision, however, would be the biggest of her young coaching career.

Lister was in her office at DePaul, where she was a first-year assistant for coach Doug Bruno, and decided to go watch a players' workout.

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UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey reacts to her surprise induction into the Huskies of Honor. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey reacts to her surprise induction into the Huskies of Honor. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

STORRS, Conn. -- Chris Dailey has watched her college coach at Rutgers University, the head coach she's worked with for 33 years at the University of Connecticut, and three former Huskies be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Now, it's her turn.

"Who would have ever thought I'd be looking forward to visiting Knoxville?" Dailey said with a laugh. UConn's associate head coach is among seven who will take their place in the WBHOF during Saturday's enshrinement ceremony in Knoxville, Tennessee, and will become UConn's fifth representative. Coach Geno Auriemma was inducted in 2006 and has been joined by players Rebecca Lobo (2010), Jennifer Rizzotti (2013), and Kara Wolters (2017).

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Gelbs chats with Dan Hurley 00:04:16
SNY's Steve Gelbs chats with UConn men's head basketball coach Dan Hurley about joining the prestigious program.

SNY's Steve Gelbs chats with UConn men's head basketball coach Dan Hurley about joining the program.

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Christyn Williams (USA BASKETBALL)
Christyn Williams (USA BASKETBALL)

Christyn Williams used an oxygen mask getting ready for USA Basketball's U-18 national team trials to help her prepare for the altitude in Colorado Springs.

"It's still kicking my butt," Williams said with a smile of the altitude of 6,035 feet.

Don't count on her throwing that mask away. Williams and fellow University of Connecticut incoming freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa were selected Monday night to the 12-player squad that will take part in the FIBA U-18 Americas Championships. The team will return for a training camp on July 20 ahead of the tournament being held Aug. 1-7 at a site to be determined.

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 (Mandatory Credit: USA BASKETBALL)
(Mandatory Credit: USA BASKETBALL)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Olivia Nelson-Ododa graduated from high school Thursday, made the 1,500-mile trip here from Winder, Georgia, Friday, and was on the court Saturday morning for the start of USA Basketball's U-18 national team trials.

Her "down time" this weekend has been spent trying to earn a spot on the U-18 team. The finalists for the 12-player squad that will take part in the 2018 FIBA Americas U-18 Championship will be announced Monday night. Tuesday morning, she will be on a plane again alongside Christyn Williams to start their journey to Storrs and their first summer school session at the University of Connecticut as members of the women's basketball team.

"Well, at least I had a couple of weeks to get my things together and get ready," said Williams, who graduated from Central Arkansas Christian on May 13. "I'm excited with all that's to come."

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USA Basketball
USA Basketball

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Before joining Geno Auriemma's coaching staff at the University of Connecticut, Chris Dailey spent two seasons as an assistant at her alma mater Rutgers.

During her first year under Theresa Grentz, Dailey recruited a player from upstate New York named Michelle Bain, who would eventually turn down the Scarlet Knights.

Some 35 years later, Dailey is getting a second chance as the Huskies are recruiting Bain's daughter -- Cameron Brink.

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Hailey Van Lith wanted the ball.

A year earlier, with her unbeaten Cashmere (Washington) High girls basketball team down by a point to Mount Baker in the Class 1A state tournament final, Van Lith was unable to get out of a double team on the final possession and a last-second 3-point try by a teammate was blocked and Mount Baker took a 45-44 win.

So last March 3, with Cashmere down by two to Lynden Christian and five seconds remaining, the game and a state title was in the hands of the sophomore point guard, who had already scored a tournament single-game record 36 points.

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Aliyah Boston felt helpless, but never more determined to help.

Early last September, Hurricane Irma smacked the Virgin Islands and Boston's hometown of St. Thomas as a Category 5 storm with wind gusts as high as 225 miles per hour. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria -- another Category 5 storm -- hit the Virgin Islands with a storm surge followed by weeks of rain.

Boston, a junior at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, lost contact with her parents and desperately searched for news.

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 (USA Basketball)
(USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- After waiting a year for her opportunity, Caroline Ducharme knows she has only days to make an impression.

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 (Mandatory Credit: USA Basketball)
(Mandatory Credit: USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Haley Jones has persisted.

The 6-foot-1 guard/forward from Santa Cruz, California, is at the United States Olympic Training Center for her fourth USA Basketball national team trials this weekend as the club that will represent the United States at the FIBA U-17 World Cup in July is being chosen.

She is looking to make the cut for the first time.

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Jordan Horston (USA Basketball)
Jordan Horston (USA Basketball)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Perhaps Jordan Horston was destined to be a point guard, the quarterback of a basketball team's offense.

Hortson's great uncle is the late Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam, who was the first African-American quarterback to start a season opener (1974) after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

"I know he had a lot of adversity through his career so he's an inspiration," Horston said.

Horston, though, already has a lot of inspiration and motivation as USA Basketball's U-17 national team trials began Thursday at the United States Olympic Training Center.

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Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)
Moriah Jefferson (Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports Images)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Moriah Jefferson has caught the Vegas Golden Knights' fever.

"I went to the game (the opener of the second-round series with the San Jose Sharks) that they won 7-0 and it was incredible," Jefferson said on Sunday. "It was the first hockey game that I had ever been to and I got into it. I know nothing. I started learning a few rules, a few penalties. It was madness."

The expansion Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup finals Sunday by finishing off the Winnipeg Jets in five games of the best-of-seven Western Conference final. Jefferson's Las Vegas Aces, who are in their first season in Nevada after relocating from San Antonio, can only dream of similar success.

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 (David Butler II)
(David Butler II)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Natalie Butler had not been in Connecticut in a year.

With her receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut followed by a record-setting season as a graduate transfer with the George Mason women's basketball team, being drafted by the WNBA's Dallas Wings, and receiving her masters in global affairs, it's been quite a year.

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Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse and forward Azura Stevens dance in confetti following the championship game of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)
Connecticut Huskies guard Kia Nurse and forward Azura Stevens dance in confetti following the championship game of the Albany regional of the women's basketball 2018 NCAA tournament against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Times Union Center. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Kia Nurse loved everything about the University of Connecticut. But after four years, she was ready move on.

The basketball part of her college career ended on March 30 when the Huskies lost to Notre Dame in the national semifinals at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The school part concluded Saturday when the two-time academic All-American was awarded her bachelor's degree during graduation ceremonies in Storrs.

"Graduation was amazing and my parents were excited about it as well," Nurse said Monday. "For me, it was a big goal. I'm fortunate that I had the opportunity to come back for graduation and walk, but I'm really excited to get started with this."

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First-year Connecticut Sun athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle, left, worked with 10 national championship women's basketball teams during her 18 years at UConn. (Stephen Slade/UConn)
First-year Connecticut Sun athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle, left, worked with 10 national championship women's basketball teams during her 18 years at UConn. (Stephen Slade/UConn)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Rosemary Ragle grew up in Alabama and spent most of her professional life in Storrs, Connecticut.

And while she wouldn't trade her two years in New York City working at the Hospital for Special Surgery and serving as the athletic trainer for the WNBA's New York Liberty, when the opportunity came to return to Connecticut she couldn't pass it up.

Ragle, who was the athletic trainer for 10 national championship women's basketball teams at UConn, is back in a familiar place as the first-year athletic trainer for the Connecticut Sun.

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