The greatest recruiting class in the history of women’s college basketball – Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams – left UConn as WNBA first-round picks after winning a second national title in 2002.
That left Geno Auriemma wondering what would become of his program, one now led by the incomparable Diana Taurasi and a strong supporting cast.
“I am one who tries to focus on what’s here now and coming up next,” Auriemma said. “When those guys graduated, I remember on the first day of practice thinking we had five players who had been around a long time who knew our stuff inside-out with their eyes closed.
“I remember Barbara Turner, Nicole Wolff and Ann Strother, in particular, really taking to it because they hadn’t been asked to a lot. They did all did things here and there that led me to believe, as soon as the second or third week of practice, that we had a chance to be really good.
“Diana was healthy, in great shape, on top of her game. When she played with the others [the four that graduated] she often deferred to them, held back. But now she was completely dominate in all areas and everyone else fed off of her.”
The end result was two more national titles in 2003 and 2004, giving UConn three straight.
On Sunday, seven members of the 2002-03 and 2003-04 national championship teams are expected to be on hand when those programs, which went 71-5, become the fourth and fifth women’s teams inducted into the Huskies of Honor.
Ashley Battle, Maria Conlon, Stacey Marron, Jessica Moore, Ann Strother, Ashley Valley and Nicole Wolff joined Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, an assistant coach on those UConn teams, during the award ceremony.
“It was great to relive the glory for a couple of hours, a couple of days,” Conlon said. “It’s wonderful to get caught up with what everyone is doing personally and professionally. There isn’t another place in the country that does things like this.”
As an added bonus, Svetlana Abrosimova, already among the Huskies of Honor, was at the game. Taurasi is now playing professionally in Russia.
Both Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley will be added to the Huskies on Honor at the end of their senior seasons. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis will join them next year.