Had a nice evening in New York City Wednesday attending the pregame festivities for the Jimmy V Fund annual fundraising dinner.
The event was held at Gotham Hall on 37th Street and Broadway, a fabulous venue just in case your daughter, sister, niece or granddaughter are looking for a splashy place to have a wedding reception.
It’s a converted bank building, very old-school gothic. It looked like the place George Banks worked in Mary Poppins, a place they might stamp your passbooks with the deposit amount when you were a child.
The beef sliders and duck eggs rolls? To die for!
Anyway, here’s a few notes and quotes:
· A little birdie tells me UConn may have something especially special in store for its annual First Night ceremonies in two weeks. Nothing solid yet, but if it does come to pass, and there’s no way to tell yet if it will, it should make the night somewhat more interesting than it usually is.
And let’s face it, it’s not the most exciting night of the year especially once the fog clears from the smoke machines.
You can expect the normal crew of UConn recruits at the event. My peers who endeavor to write about recruiting report that Courtney Ekmark, Sadie Edwards and Gabby Williams, the three guards who have offered verbals for 2014, will all be making official visits. But we all know who UConn is focused in on now – center A’ja Wilson of South Carolina. She is the missing piece to the 2014 puzzle. UConn needs her. UConn wants her.
· There will be a press conference held in Bridgeport on Monday to finally announce what we’ve all known for quite some time: Both the UConn men and women will be playing one game each at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena this season. The women’s gameappears to be against Temple on Jan. 11 at noon.
· Geno Auriemma is on his way to Las Vegas to run his first camp of his second term as head coach of the USA national team.
And before he left, he made a point to tell us how busy he was recruiting in September because he knows he won’t be around next year at this time to woo prospects. He will be in Istanbul coaching in the World Championship.
He said he was in 14 cities in 20 days (including Xapala, Mexico) to make connections with kids from classes ranging from 2014-17. Those younger were likely taking naps and didn’t have time to talk to him.
Geno was in Mexico to scout a FIBA Tournament that involved Canadian guard Kia Nurse, a 17-year-old from Ontario he would dearly love to have. Her father, Richard, was a wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL. Her mother, Cathy, starred for the McMaster Marauders women’s basketball team. Her older sister, Tamika, played basketball at the University of Oregon. Her older brother, Darnell, was a first-round draft pick in the NHL this season. And her uncle, through marriage, is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.
“I was doing my part for UConn because that was my No. 1 focus, that is my job and that is my first and foremost responsibility and I enjoyed it,” Auriemma said. “We made a lot of inroads and we got a lot done because next September I am not going to be around and I am not going to be here next September, I am going to be in Istanbul … I just wanted to make sure I made some contact with all of these kids so I got to know them personally and they got to know me so in that respect it was maybe one of the best 20 days I have spent in a long, long time.”
As for this weekend in Las Vegas, where Auriemma will be joined by current players Bria Hartley, Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stegfanie Dolson, the coach says he just wants the kids to get a glimpse of what the high-life is like.
“I would say 90 percent of them, 99 percent of them, aren’t good enough to play for the Olympic team,” Auriemma said. “It is going to be difficult. Being there is going to remind them how difficult it is and what they want to do if they want to get to that level. … Right now they are in college so they re going to see the difference between professional basketball and they are also going to get a sense of what USA Basketball means at that level not like 16 and under, 17 and under, this is something at a whole other level.”