STORRS, Conn. -- Tierney Lawlor isn't hard to find on the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's bench.
She often finds herself in a crouch, much in the way coach Geno Auriemma did in his much younger days. She calls out the offense or defense in the blink of an eye after Auriemma does, though with 144 games on the Huskies' sideline she probably knows what the calls will be before the hall-of-fame coach makes them official.
When the Huskies huddle after the starting lineups are introduced, she -- the soft-spoken one -- is the one doing all the talking.
Lawlor has watched history unfold from one of the best seats in the house in her time at UConn. Saturday afternoon, she'll be a part of it like never before.
The former walk-on will make her first start when the top-ranked Huskies entertain American Athletic Conference foe Memphis on Senior Day at Gampel Pavilion (SNY, 4 p.m.).
"Not to say I didn't have any expectations, but I didn't know what to expect," Lawlor said. "I kind of just went with the flow. It's been great. I wouldn't change anything. I have enjoyed it, the experiences, the people ... It's been amazing, and I've been very fortunate for the opportunity I was given."
It was an opportunity she took advantage of when she arrived on campus in the fall of 2013. She grabbed it, embraced it with her heart, and ran with it.
She owns more national championship rings (three) than games UConn has lost in her career here (one). Lawlor and classmate Saniya Chong could compile the most wins in a four-year span in NCAA history. If the Huskies (27-0 overall, 14-0 AAC) beat the Tigers (13-14, 6-8 AAC) Saturday and South Florida on Monday, they'll be assured of having the best winning percentage of any class.
All because she answered a call when Breanna Stewart sent out a tweet that the Huskies were looking for walk-ons.
"I've always said it takes a lot of courage for a kid who wasn't recruited to come here and say, 'Hey, I want to try out for the team,' " Auriemma said. "To go through preseason conditioning and show up Oct. 15 and then still be able to hang in there and have the right mindset and have the right attitude and be able to function out here and be a great teammate, that's not easy to do. If you're capable of doing all those things then that person should be rewarded.
"That's exactly what Tee did. I'm glad four years later she's still here. I'm excited for her on Saturday for her to experience something like that. For a high school kid from Connecticut to be able to do that, what's better than that?"
Lawlor grew up in the Connecticut high school football hotbed of Ansonia and was a three-sport athlete for the Chargers. Her father, John, played football at UConn in the 1980s.
So the toughness was inside of her before she took on the challenge of joining the reigning national champions.
Why did she decide to do it?
"I have no idea to tell you the truth," Lawlor said. "I just love the game. I watched UConn since I was little. I talked to my parents and we thought it was a good idea.
"It was kind of scary. You have Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley and all these big names, and I'm a tiny guard who can barely keep up. But I figured it out, and here I am so something worked. I put my head down and kept going. That's all you can really do."
She's played in 115 games and has totaled 56 points, 33 rebounds, 17 assists and 10 steals. She recorded her only blocked shot on Nov. 29 when she got a piece of the ball on a 3-point try by Chattanooga's Molly Melton.
Her most memorable moment came her freshman season against California in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden. She knocked down a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left that brought the pro-UConn crowd up to its feet.
As a sophomore, at the direction of former star Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Lawlor began to address the team huddle following the introductions of the starting lineup. What she's said has worked 102 consecutive times.
"She's creative," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "She throws in random stuff sometimes, and we're like, 'Oh yeah, that's very relevant to what we've been talking about all week.' When I first got here it shocked me, but now knowing Tee and who she is and knowing how selfless of a person she is and how much she loves being her and being a part of this team, it's no longer a surprise."
Lawlor won't discuss particular messages -- "What's said in the huddle, stays in the huddle," she says -- but admits that not much time goes in to preparing them.
"I definitely do not rehearse it," Lawlor said. "I usually think about it during starting introductions. It is more a get-them-fired-up, have-some-fun kind of thing. I'm just pulling it out cloud nine."
Auriemma had her on cloud nine in a meeting following her sophomore season.
Lawlor didn't know what to expect going in. She left with a scholarship for her final two years at school.
"We were talking and he told me," Lawlor said. "I said thank you. There isn't really any words to describe how grateful I am."
She shows it by her actions every day.
At every time out, Lawlor races onto the floor to greet the players coming off and then turns to grab Auriemma's clipboard for him. Then it's time to for her to get a little bit animated on the sidelines.
"I'm on my knee, because I usually can't see around Coach," Lawlor said with a smile.
Auriemma believes Lawlor would have a bright future in coaching if she decided to take that track but that's not the case.
"She might be coaching farm animals or some stuff out of the ground, but that's it," he said. "I'm looking for a farm to buy her."
Lawlor, a Dean's List student, has an individualized major -- sustainable farm and ranch management -- and will receive her bachelor's degree in May.
She hopes to eventually own a farm, perhaps out west or down south.
"I don't really have a set plan yet," Lawlor said. "But I like to be outside, I like to get my hands dirty, and I love animals. Those are three things you need to be a farmer so I'm pretty excited."
The folks in the Naugatuck Valley are excited for today as Lawlor will have strong support from family, friends, and fans at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies have already wrapped up the AAC regular season title and No. 1 seed for the league tournament. They'll look to build more momentum Saturday with the beginning of the postseason a week away.
For Lawlor, she hopes it's a start of a fantastic finish. It's already been quite a ride.
"Tee's work ethic is a great example for the other kids," Auriemma said. "She's got an incredibly difficult major that requires a lot of time and hours. Kids come to respect that. She knows she's not going to play. Everybody else knows she's not going to play and yet she comes out here and has to endure everything everyone else does. That's a lesson right there for a lot of people."