Monday, March 16, 2020 - The last six days have proven to be some of the most extraordinary times in history. And it's not going to get better anytime soon with this thing called "coronavirus." It continues to spread, the CDC has indicated at least 8 weeks of life not being "normal." Which also means the sports world is on hold, in some cases seasons cancelled and others delayed.
Among those cancellations is March Madness, meaning the basketball seasons are over. The senior's careers are done. Think of all the great names that won't have a chance to play for a national championship. Sabrina Ionescu, Lauren Cox, Ty Harris...Crystal Dangerfield....and the list goes on, and on and on......Of course Cox and her Baylor Bears were going for a repeat. But you get the idea. For the UConn Women, a team that was playing it's best basketball heading into the tournament, will never know IF the Huskies could have gotten to a 13th straight Final Four. So here are my thoughts on the season that was....and wasn't.
Crystal Dangerfield: The senior point guard maybe didn't have the assists she had a season ago. Then again, she didn't have Katie Lou and Naphessa to get the ball to. Teammates missed shots, the team lost games and yes the Huskies lost three games to the top 3 teams in the country. All by double digits.. Was it all her fault ? Absolutely not. But at UConn and if you're the point guard, well it is your fault. Dangerfield was a solid point guard all season not to mention the defensive stopper. One number that went up ? Her three point shot. 45% as a sophomore, 35% as a junior and 41% in the 2019-20 season. For a young lady who's not really vocal, she had to be. She became the go-to gal and she accentuated the offense. If and when there is a WNBA Draft, she'll get picked. Question is, will her game be complete enough ? I think so.
Kayla Irwin: She was the fifth starter for a good part of the season before Anna Makurat took off. Nothing fancy from Kayla. Knows where she has to be on the floor, like a second point guard. A pretty good rebounder, and a more than capable passer. Who once in a while made a big shot. The highlight game of the season was her 15 point day on 5-5 shooting at SMU. A Coach's daughter, it's beyond sad her career ended with a thud loud enough to fracture her left elbow in the AAC Semi's in a fluke incident. We wish her all the best.
Molly Bent: Like Kayla, Molly stuck around for four years and she couldn't be happier that she stuck through the process. Yes, she plays fast...sometimes too fast. The body faster than the mind, and did I mention a 4.0 student ?? Molly started 3 games this season. She was the one who started in place of Dangerfield when Crystal's back spasms flared up and produced. Especially the wild night at Seton Hall where the Huskies rallied from an early deficit to get the win.
Batouly Camara: This young lady never caught a break, but she did find herself and purpose in life it would seem. The knee injuries continued to mount, capped by the last surgery November 4th to cut into her senior. But she's loved every moment of her time in Storrs. She had never been to her parents' native land of Guinea until a few years ago. Since then, she's become a muslim and is looking to give back to Guinea. Good Luck to her
Evelyn Adebayo: UConn's first grad transfer from Murray State looked good on paper for her, but the first semester didn't go well. When she returned, a recharge and she made some good contributions in conference play. 2rpg and made her first three 3ptrs...the young lady from London wants to get involved in Coaching.
Megan Walker: Megan went from a non factor as a freshman, to a sophomore season becoming a major contributor to a junior year where she led the team in scoring and was a close second in rebounding. She was the AAC player of the year and the tournaments most outstanding player. BUT when it came to being the big game player ?? 5-20 against Baylor, 3-13 against Tennessee, 3-16 against Oregon and 5-11 at South Carolina. These numbers don't lie. The great players step up in the big games. Walker didn't do that this season. And now she's passing up on her senior season to make herself draft eligible. I certainly hope the best for her, but I'm not sure she's ready. As a trusted writer friend of mine puts it, there are no ECU's Memphis and ECU's in the WNBA. And she must learn to take better care of the ball. A 4th year would have been beneficial, but Meg's taking the chance. The first player to leave after her junior year after spending three years with the program.....healthy (note: Morgan Tuck spent 4 years on campus, played three due to knee injuries)
Olivia Nelson-Ododa: like Meg, Liv made a big jump in year two. And she still has a huge upside coming. Up in minutes, points, rebounds and blocks. She basically was the post game with a lot of help from undersized players, like Walker. Liv has come a long way playing with her back to the basket. Developed some nice moves, but still doesn't look totally comfortable in the post. Defensively, Liv got better playing with foul trouble as the season went on, but there is another big step Liv needs to take, controlling her blocks as opposed to always making the "big block." Another off season of conditioning and weight room work will get Olivia ready for her Junior Year....And now, she'll be a leader along with.....
Christyn Williams: Squeaks' battle was as much mental as anything this season. Not that she didn't try and work thru it, oh she did...but some years it just doesn't happen. There were times those struggles effected the rest of her game, and like the Baylor and DePaul Games, she showed some feistiness on the glass. There was a 7 game stretch, beginning with Oregon where 5 games were single digits and the other 2 were 20+ point performances. But the last six games, she shot the ball better, especially from the free throw line. Christyn's game needs consistency next season. And I'll be interested to see, like Liv how they handle being the leaders on next season's team.
Anna Makurat: The longer into the season, the better she was in a lot of areas. After a rough start shooting, she finished 41% from long distance. We saw her getting more aggressive driving to the basket with her size. And we saw she can he a high risk, high reward passer. But the biggest issue with Anna in her freshman season, way too many missed layups. All of these issues are correctable and she'll be the first person to tell you that.Geno told me as the season went on Anna just needs to stay on the floor and get experience. She did and Anna is very coachable. A very outgoing person that will be ready to help Liv and Christyn from a leadership aspect.
Aubrey Griffin: By the time Gabby Williams was a senior, she was more than athletic, she was a basketball player that's taken her to the WNBA. Aubrey's freshman year showed us just the beginning of what's possible for this young lady. She was a HS All American where she sat atop a zone press/trap and wreaked havoc at Ossining. She was asked to do so much more as a Husky in her freshman year and for the most part, she succeeded knowing full well the sky is the limit. When you see the things she did, Aubrey has a chance to exceed what Gabby Williams did IF she progresses the right way in this long off season. Aubrey will be more comfortable in the offense for sure as many times in the half court with the ball, she looked lost this season. Her ability to grab rebounds and run is unbridled. But this is an All American in the making.
Looking Ahead: A big freshman class comes to Storrs in the fall....led by top recruit 5-11 Paige Beuckers. She's the likely point guard next season....OR is she ?? Anna Makurat could run the point. 5-10 Nika Muhl comes over from Croatia along with 5-11 Mir McLean. While 6-2 Aaliyah Edwards and 6-5 Paith Gabriel join the fray. This team will not have a senior in the 20-21' campaign. It'll be another tough non-conference schedule that will need to be adjusted given a 20 game conference schedule is coming in the Big East. But we'll see what DePaul, Marquette, St John's and the others bring....and where will the Big East Tourney be next March ?? The answer coming soon, but it looks like Mohegan Sun Arena is the venue.
Stay Tuned. It's been a fun ride that hit the biggest road block ever. Thanks for tuning in !! We'll do it again in the fall...HOPEFULLY !!