DALLAS -- It was a 45-second video, but it made the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's day.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant sent his best wishes via video and through Nike this week to the Huskies, who take on Mississippi State in a NCAA Final Four semifinal game Friday night at American Airlines Center.
"It was obviously really exciting and he's the GOAT so anytime you can have the GOAT talk to you it's a great day," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "He had a goal to win and that's what he was known for. So you look at someone of his caliber and the career that he had, that he took time out of his day to sit down and send us a video we are very grateful."
Stanford, which like UConn is affiliated with Nike, also received a video from Bryant. The Cardinal face South Carolina in the opener of Friday night's doubleheader.
In his video to UConn, Bryant said: "Coach Geno, I know you're feeling right at home here going after your 12th championship. But I know 12 isn't the magic number. The magic number is one. Dealing with the pressure having 100-plus consecutive wins, now being on that magical stage, can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. But you guys know the message -- get better every single day and you have done that. So now it's time to go out and trust the process. Don't worry about the expectations. Don't worry about the hype. Focus on the play in front of you and execute the way that UConn does. Look forward to seeing you hang that 12th banner. 'Mamba' out."
The Huskies were impressed.
"That was pretty cool," UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "Afterwards, Coach Auriemma face-timed so we we talked to him and said thank you. It left me speechless."
"That was amazing. I can't even think of another word but amazing to describe it," UConn All-American forward Napheesa Collier said. "We're so grateful that he would do that for us."
Bryant's message to Stanford ended with, "Go get that 'ship."
"Our Nike team came in and said, 'We've got a message for you,' " Stanford guard Karlie Samuelson said. "Everyone went crazy. We almost didn't hear the beginning part. Then we listened and he just said play hard and do what you have to do to win the games."
Mississippi State is affiliated with adidas while South Carolina is affiliated with Under Armour.
NEW ROLE FOR DANGERFIELD
While UConn is making its 10th consecutive Final Four appearance, it's the first for freshman Dangerfield. She had watched the Huskies win national championship in Nashville (2014), Tampa (2015), and Indianapolis (2016) from the stands.
"It's pretty cool to finally be on the players side of it instead of as a fan or as a recruit," Dangerfield said. "It's been exciting. I had always wondered what it would be like to be a player here and it's amazing just being able to experience it like this."
UConn arrived here Tuesday, less than 24 hours after eliminating Oregon in the Bridgeport Regional final. During one of the numerous events the Huskies attended during the lead up to the games, they spent time doing some line dancing. Fortunately for Dangerfield, she had experience doing it.
"I had done some in Tennessee so I was used to it," Dangerfield said. "We had some people that were lost at first but they slowed things down a bit and taught the steps and everyone got it together."
Dangerfield has played in 30 games with six starts. The American Athletic Conference all-freshman team pick is averaging 6.2 points and ranks ninth in the league in assists (3.8) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).
This summer she hopes to try out for the United States national team that will compete in the FIBA U-19 world championships to be held in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy, July 22-30. Dangerfield has won two gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2013 U-16 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2015 U-19 world championships. She made the 2016 U-18 team a year ago but was forced to withdraw with a hip injury that required surgery.
"I haven't heard anything and they're probably waiting until the season is over," Dangerfield said. "If I can do it, I want to do it."
The Huskies are scheduled to tour Italy in August.
If UConn and Stanford reach the national championship game, it would mark the first time a UConn player would face off against her sister. The Huskies have All-American sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson while her sister, Karlie, is a Stanford senior.
It appeared it was going to happen during the 2015-16 season. UConn and Stanford had met in six straight regular seasons with the last game being the Cardinal's 88-86 overtime win on Nov. 17, 2014, at Maples Pavilion. It's the Huskies' only loss in the last 159 games. But a new deal was never signed, though at first it appeared the series would only be delayed.
Coincidentally, the decision to end the series followed Katie Lou Samuelson's decision not to follow her sisters Bonnie and Karlie to Stanford.
"It's disappointing. Absolutely I wanted to play Lou in Connecticut during the season," Karlie Samuelson said. "Just playing Connecticut is an amazing experience. We are still the last team to beat them, which is crazy. I swear they must be beating the record for the most records broken in a season. That's got to be a record."
UConn's 13-game non-league schedule for 2017-18 is set. The Huskies will host California, Louisville, Maryland, and Notre Dame, visit DePaul, Nevada, Ohio State, South Carolina, Texas, and UCLA, and play neutral site games against Duquesne (in Toronto for a homecoming game for junior guard Kia Nurse), Michigan State (at Eugene, Oregon), and Oklahoma (at Mohegan Sun Arena).
Their exhibition schedule is also done as they will host Division II national champion Ashland and D-II quarterfinalist Fort Hays State. The Ashland game will be played on Sunday, Nov. 5. Ashland finished its season 37-0 by beating Virginia Union 93-77 in the D-2 final last Friday.
"When you're looking at scheduling, I was trying to schedule an exhibition game and I had a really hard time getting a game for a variety of reasons," Ashland coach Robyn Fralick said in a statement. "I kept having people kind of jokingly say, 'Well, you should just ask UConn.' One of my old college teammates worked with one of the current UConn assistants, so that was the connection. They had somebody cancel, so it worked out really well that we inquired. We were really excited that we got it."
Ashland played an exhibition against NCAA Sweet 16 participant Ohio State last November and fell 88-79 in Columbus.