Author Archives: John Altavilla

Wilson Stays Home; Chooses South Carolina

by Categorized: A'ja Wilson Date:

Geno Auriemma sensed for a very long time that UConn wasn’t going to get top-ranked A’ja Wilson. And his suspicion was confirmed Wednesday when the 6-4 forward from Heathwood Hall in Columbia. S.C., decided to stay home and go to USC.

“There is really no place like home,” Wilson said after making the announcement.

Wilson, a multi-talented 6-foot-4 wing, chose between UConn, South Carolina and North Carolina and Tennessee.  She averaged 35 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks as a senior and led her team to a state championship and ranks second in school history in career points and first in career rebounds and blocks.

She is also a veteran on USA Basketball programs, having played last summer on the U19 world championship team in Lithuania. She averaged 10.9 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds during the team’s run to the gold medal. UConn’s Morgan Tuck, Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart were her teammates.

In December, she set the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational single-game scoring record with 56 points. She also broke the four-game records for points (167) and rebounds (83) at the event, which is held in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Wilson is the WBCA, Parade Magazine and Naismith player of the year.

If she had choosen UConn, she would have completed another great recruiting class from the two-time defending national champions and helped fill the void left by the graduation of All-American Stefanie Dolson, who was selected sixth overall in the WNBA draft by the Washington Mystics on Monday.

The Huskies already will greet four big guards, Gabby Williams, Courtney Ekmark, Sadie Edwards and Kia Nurse, who is expected to be the point guard on the 2014 Canadian World Championship team this autumn in Turkey.

This still could still be a big weekend for the program. The Huskies are hosting the official visits of four of the nation’s top juniors, De’Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier, Haley Gorecki, and Katie Lou Samuelson.

Boykin, 6-3, was Maryland’s Gatorade Player of the Year and a member of the United States U-16 national team in 2013.

Collier, a 6-1 forward from St. Louis, is also considering Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Notre Dame.

Gorecki, a 6-0 guard from Illinois, averaged 22.6 points as a junior.

And Samuelson, a 6-3 forward, was California’s Gatorade Player of the Year at Mater Dei, the school that sent Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to UConn. She is also the sister of Stanford standouts Bonnie and Karlie Samuelsson.
But UConn fans will still get to see her twice in the upcoming seasons. The Huskies and Gamecocks begin a  home-and-home next season in Connecticut.

On Fenway, Fallon And Mohegan Sun

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Jimmy Fallon, Stefanie Dolson, The Tonight Show, UConn men's basketball, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

As we await the decision of A’ja Wilson this afternoon on ESPNU at 3 p.m. ….

The national champion UConn women and men will be heading to Fenway Park on April 22 to be honored by the world champion Red Sox. It is still unclear what kind of ceremony will take place before the game; you know, the first ball thing, who throws it, who catches it…But the Huskies will be there to share and get to see a baseball game. And what is better than that?

Stefanie Dolson [of the Washington Mystics] is still likely to show up on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, at some point, but as you can tell from watching NBC this week the show is already on a hiatus and in repeats. UConn is enlisting the help of NBC Connecticut executives in trying to put the gig together. If you recall, Stef asked Fallon to ‘Hit her up” during her impromptu address to the nation following UConn’s win over ND in the national championship game. Fallon did just that was using the first two minutes of his monologue one night latter to talk about the “Lady” Huskies and Dolson’s invite He invited her to play some one-on-one and XBox. Let’s hope it happens. And now, the WNBA can even help make it happen. It’s legal now.

The Mohegan Sun Arena and the American Athletic Conference will be announcing a one-year extension to their agreement to stage the conference tournament at the casino on Thursday morning. Let’s face it. the tournament would be there FOREVER, but no one is quite clear what UConn’s future is in the AAC and why would Mohegan Sun want a multiple-year deal with the AAC knowing its championship game might between East Carolina and Tulsa someday?

A Mystical Night For Those Who Value UConn Players

by Categorized: 2014 WNBA Draft, Bria Hartley, Mike Thibault, Seattle Storm, Stefanie Dolson, WNBA Date:

During his decade coaching the Connecticut Sun, Mike Thibault learned to appreciate how profesionally ready many UConn players seemed to be on draft.
And so, he entered the 2014 WNBA draft hoping to get UConn’s Stefanie Dolson or Bria Hartley for the Washington Mystics.
He ended with both.
“They know how to win. They expect to win. They practice every day to win,” Thibault said. “That is the mentality that has been instilled with them at UConn. And I would think the styles Geno and I use are somewhat close. They [UConn players] may learn some plays differently [in the WNBA}, but in terms of our expectations, our practices, the things we do, it’s very similar.
“In terms of myself, I know what I am getting [with UConn players]. They win. They are well-coached, well-prepared for this level.”

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Auriemma, Ollie Take A Call From The Boss

by Categorized: Barack Obama, Geno Auriemma Date:

Nope, not Bruce Springsteen. Nope, not even Susan Herbst.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama called Geno Auriemma and Kevin Ollie to congratulate both teams on their national championships.

The President,who is now practically on a first name basis with Geno, commended Ollie and his team on their decisive championship victory and noted that he enjoyed watching the team throughout their tournament run.

On the call with Auriemma, the President expressed how impressive it’s been to see the team continue to dominate the field and commended him on yet another [nine] championship win.

The President told both he looks forward to congratulating their teams at the White House in the coming months.

Tina Charles Says She Just Wanted To Go Home

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

So here’s what it comes down to. Tina Charles, a former rookie of the year and MVP for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, said Tuesday her decision to ask for a trade was fueled primarily by her urge to play closer to her birthplace, be close to her family and play [for a championship] in Madison Square Garden.

That is not a hard concept to understand. What’s harder is understanding what took her so long to tell the Sun and what caused the breakdown in communication that led to it.

“I don’t want to be a part of a team where names pop off of a page,” Charles said from Russia in a conference call. “I want to be with a team where our entire presence is felt. I know Bill Laimbeer [the Liberty coach] will allow that to happen.”

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Telling Thoughts From Geno Auriemma

by Categorized: A'ja Wilson, Geno Auriemma Date:

As we await Wednesday’s college announcement on ESPNU (3 p.m.) by South Carolina high school star A’ja Wilson, the top-ranked player in the Class of 2014, I thought you might be interested in this stream of consciousness from Coach Auriemma.

What you will read has no direct connection with Wilson, who will chose between UConn, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, In fact, the question was about having 15 No. 1 draft picks in WNBA history and what that means to the program.

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The Day After The Explosion Of The Sun

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, Uncategorized Date:

What a most interesting day in the history of the Connecticut Sun. Some thoughts:

* I don’t believe I have ever seen a relationship between a star player and a team end as acrimoniously as what went down the last two weeks with Tina Charles and the Sun. The Sun is very, very angry with the way Charles conducted herself, last year as a player and this year as a restricted free agent. They believe she did not give good effort on many occasions, was not a leader and, perhaps worst of all. misled them about her intention to play for them this season. Remember. this is a team who tried to build around a former rookie of the year and MVP. That is one helluva thing to say, She gets her chance to answer back this afternoon in a teleconference at 2:30. That should be very interesting.

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Give Thanks On Parade Day, Before The Parade Passes By

by Categorized: Geno Auriemma, UConn women's basketball Date:

I will not be at the UConn parade today. I am afraid of clowns. And you never know if someone from the SEC will show up to ruin UConn’s celebration at the state capitol.

I have transitioned into my summer job; covering the Connecticut Sun and WNBA, and I will be spending the day today fawning over the Mets, preparing for tomorrow’s draft and getting ready to watch Mad Men.

Before I do, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who came here to visit my blog this season for information – and hopefully entertainment. My bosses tell me the numbers are in the high hundreds of thousands. I don’t have that many of anything, with the possible exception of faux reading glasses spread around the house.

There are many, many places you could turn to on this well-covered beat, many informed voices and minds to choose from. Thank you for choosing mine on so many occasions.

As I prepare to head to the casino, I have one more thing I want to say. I have said this many times on many formats, but I think it bears repeating before parade begins.

UConn basketball fans, particularly the fans of Geno Auriemma’s program, are living in the gilded age of college sports. Seriously, what you have seen transpire over the last 20 years will never happen again, exactly like this again, in our lifetime. It can’t. It’s an original. You never forget your first.

There may come a time when another coach in another program learns how to sustain; but it will never approach what has happened at UConn since Auriemma won his first national championship in 1995. The circumstances are too unique, the environment too perfect, the coach too dynamic, the players too remarkable.

Look, I realize he could care less what I think, and his supporters and friends are far more well-positioned in life, but I sincerely believe, yes I do, that Auriemma is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, college or professional.

He is the Walter Camp, Knute Rockne, Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, Red Auerbach, John Wooden and Scotty Bowman of his sport and his time. He is generational in his impact.

If more people cared about women’s basketball in this country- I live in the world 24-7 and I know they don’t – he would be right up there with Coach K and Bob Knight, Joe Torre and Bill Belichick. He would be an iconic figure.

Someone would put his name on Sunday sauce or wine or a restaurant. Oh wait, they have. This is Connecticut. Check please?

What he has done for his sport, and his school, is remarkable. Women’s basketball is a heavy thing to lift and frankly he hasn’t had much help over the last 15 years. But there he is, with nine national championships, one world championship and one Olympic gold medal, many of the greatest players in the game’s history by his side, holding the sport – collegiate, professional and international – over his head.

So here’s what I have to say to UConn fans, some of the most loyal, fervent, but occasionally spoiled in the world. Take a second to take…this…all…in.

Sit back and savor the gifts of nine national championships and five undefeated seasons and national players of the year.

Don’t tie yourself into knots worrying about the little stupid things, like why there was only one freshman last year or why this or that happens or doesn’t. Let Geno and Chris Dailey worry about it. They have it covered quite nicely.

It is going to end someday. Even Geno said so. It has to. Nothing sustains, lasts forever. Not even Mad Men. Someday, UConn may be just another competitive program fighting to get to the Final Four, not one able to order room service for the 2015 Final Four before the regular season even starts.

Thank you for coming. Drive home safely. Enjoy the day. Beware of clowns.


Chiney Ogwumike Wins Wooden

by Categorized: Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun, Stanford women's basketball, WNBA Date:

Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford, expected to be the first overall selection in Monday’s WNBA Draft by the Connecticut Sun, has won the Wooden Award as college basketball’s female athlete of the year.

She received the award from Wooden’s grandson, Craig Impelman, at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Her coach, Tara VanDerveer, and her sister, Nneka Ogwumike of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, were on hand. Nneka was a two-time finalist for the Wooden Award.

Chiney led the Cardinal to the Final Four, where they lost to UConn the semifinals. She was a two-time Pac-12 player of the year and three-time league defensive player of the year. Ogwumike averaged 26.5 points and 12.1 rebounds this season and ended her career as the league’s career scoring leader with 2,722 points.

Ogwumike carries a 3.6 grade-point average in international relations, a component of the award that was important to Wooden.

Ogwumike received 774 points in nationwide voting. Odyssey Sims of Baylor finished second with 761. Breanna Stewart was third at 732. Kayla McBride of Notre Dame finished fourth at 562 and Alyssa Thomas of Maryland was fifth at 509.


Connecticut Sun Draft History

by Categorized: 2014 WNBA Draft, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

Connecticut Sun draft history (player and slot)


Kelly Faris, 11, Anna Prins 23, Andrea Smith, 35


Astan Dabo, 9, Chay Shegog, 21
Sydney Colson, 16, Adrienne Johnson, 28

Tina Charles, 1, Danielle McCray, 7, Allison Hightower, 15, Johannah Leedham, 27

Chante Black, 10, Lyndra Littles, 17, Alba Torrens, 36

Amber Holt, 9, Ketia Swanier, 12 ,Jolene Anderson, 23, Lauren Ervin, 37

Kamesha Hairston, 12, Sandrine Gruda, 13, Cori Chambers, 26, Kiera Hardy, 39

Debbie Merrill, 28, Marita Payne, 42

Katie Feenstra, 8, Erin Phillips, 21, Megan Mahoney, 34

Lindsay Whalen, 4, Jessica Brungo, 16, Candace Futrell, 29

Courtney Coleman, 13, Lindsey Wilson, 34