Kelly Faris, UConn’s shutdown defender, is one of the most reliable and fundamentally sound players Geno Auriemma has ever coached.
But she is good enough, right now, to take on the task of stopping the game’s premier scorers in the WNBA?
“In my time here, I would say the best defender we ever had on the perimeter was Jennifer Rizzotti,” Auriemma said.”Tamika Williams also comes to mind. And both Jen and Tamika were undersized players.
“What happens with players like Kelly is, you understand you can likely guard anyone because you are either tougher or smarter than the player you are against. And she’s both. When she meets up with players who are just as smart and tough as her it will be a challenge.
“Fortunately for us, there aren’t a lot of players around [in the college game] and that is why she has been so successful. But for players who want to become great defenders, the thing to remember is, it’s not as important how tall or short you may be. Jen used to guard Beth Morgan [the Notre Dame guard] who was 6-2. Size isn’t as much of an issue as toughness or smarts.”
As much as he loves the way Faris plays the game, Auriemma isn’t brazen enough to predict she will be able to automatically shutdown the top small forwards and two-guards she will face in the WNBA.
“No probably not,” Auriemma said. “Then again, you if use Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore as examples [of offensive stars], you just mentioned two guys no one in the WNBA right now can guard. If that’s the case, how the heck is Kelly going to do it?
“One of things I find funny about the conversations that take place over players [before the WNBA draft] is when people debate whether a kid can guard Diana Taurasi. And when they determine she [the draftee] can’t, they decide not to draft her.
“Well, you know what [those coaches] shouldn’t coach anybody because there isn’t a damn player in the league that can guard Diana. There are lots of players in the league Kelly will be able to guard, as long as you remember that the reason those guys are in the league in the first place is because they usually can’t be guarded.”
Along with having 66 assists and just 17 turnovers, Faris also has 245 steals, which places were 10th in UConn history.
“All you do is hope you have the ability to make those players do things they aren’t comfortable doing,” Auriemma said. “And yes, Kelly can definitely do that. Her work ethic and adaptability is going to help her tremendously, as well as she likely isn’t going to be asked to guard someone for the whole game. That doesn’t happen at that level [the WNBA].”
I asked Kelly on Monday what she would tell a WNBA GM or coach about her skills in a job interview:
“I am a big team player. I try to figure out a way to work with other athletes. I respect my elders and am a very motivated person who doesn’t like to lose. I am a very competitive person.”
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