Category Archives: 2013 WNBA Draft

Faris Is Learning About The Realities Of WNBA Life

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, Connecticut Sun, Kelly Faris, Kelsey Griffin, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

During her career at UConn, Kelly Faris played in 154 games. She was a member of four Final Four teams and two national champions, including the Huskies’ 39-0 team in 2009-10.

    In her golden era, UConn lost just 11 games, seven to Notre Dame. The success against the rest was surely intoxicating, resulting in the sense of infallibility which has fueled Geno Auriemma’s perennial powerful program for the last two decades.

   But as every UConn player who joins the WNBA finds out, the glow doesn’t persist. Players fly commercial, often live alone in a condominium and play against the top talent in the world on a daily basis. It’s an unremitting tempo that can initially shock your system.

   And after the Connecticut Sun’s 78-68 loss to the New York Liberty Friday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the look on Faris’ face suggested her new reality was starting to wear on her.

  “I’ve been spoiled by my past,” Faris admitted. “At UConn, I was a part of very good teams with a lot of talent. Right now, it’s frustrating to me that we’re in kind of in a hole.”

   The loss dropped the Sun to 2-4 and set up a very crucial early-season game Sunday against the Seattle Storm (1-3) at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

   Without both Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird this season, the Storm are the league’s lowest scoring team. They had just four points in the third quarter of Friday’s 68-59 loss in Atlanta.

   And as it tries to rebound Sunday, the Sun realize they must find a way to gather momentum into July without either Renee Montgomery (high ankle sprain) or Tan White (broken finger). They also know there is no alternative. With Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and New York off to strong starts in the Eastern Conference, there is no time to waste.

  “The conference is going to be a battle to the end,” Kelsey Griffin said. “Everyone [in the conference] is really good. There are no gimmes and everyone knows it.”

   On Friday, the Liberty held Tina Charles to seven points (3-of-17) and four rebounds in 26 minutes. It was the first time this season the MVP didn’t reach a double-double.

    Charles, burdened with four fouls early in the third quarter, said after the game that she “wasn’t as aggressive” as she wanted to be in the first half

    “I thought in the second half [when they outscored Connecticut 54-35] they [the Liberty] really came at us aggressively,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “We came back after their runs, but we were waiting on Tina [Charles] to get going a lot of times. We need to get aggressive and confident in other positions all the time. We need to play off of Tina when she’s playing well or when she’s not. We’re very aware of that now and hopefully it’s something that we continue to remember in the future. “

  One of the ways Donovan hopes to insure that after Sunday is by getting newcomer Iziane Castro Marques more involved. The veteran guard, signed last week, played just five first-half minutes on Friday with two points. She will be counted on to complement the scoring provided by Kara Lawson and Allie Hightower, who combined for 33 points and six three-pointers against the Liberty.

 “We needed some practice time to get Izzie into a rotation and to see how she might be able to help us so we were playing a lot of minutes with Kara [35 on Friday], Alli [35] and Kalana [Greene, who played 29].

   “Kelly stepped up and gave us some good minutes [five points in 16 minutes] but we need to get Izzie into that rotation as well.  We need some practice time, to be honest, and we get that after Seattle [the next game is June 23].  And I’ll feel better, probably, at that point to know exactly what we got. “

  As for Faris, the time will likely help her better understand the realism of professional basketball where there are no UConns. In Tulsa, her former college nemesis, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, the third pick in the draft, is on a team that’s 1-6.

  “This team [the Sun] is full of talent,” Faris said. “We all need to get on the same page and there is plenty of time for us to turn it around. We’re more than capable of focusing on the little things we need to do better to improve as a group.”




It’s A New Day, A New World For Kelly Faris

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, Connecticut Sun, Kelly Faris, Tina Charles, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

Although her college days are done, Kelly Faris, the consummate honor student, still had homework to do Tuesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

    The former UConn guard sat at her assigned seat inside the arena doing what she did so well for four seasons in college – multitasking.

    She answered questions from reporters while filling out the generic questionnaire her new team, the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, will use to personalize her profile that will appear in its media guide.

   Yes, one of Faris’ favorite shows is “The Big Bang Theory” and when she isn’t playing she likes to sleep and eat, just like millions of other college kids.

   Of course, that is not what convinced the Sun to use its first-round pick, 11th overall, to take the 5-11 guard who helped lead the Huskies to their eighth national championship in April.

 The Sun, which fell one win short of the WNBA Finals last season, think Faris has the intangibles that will help them take the next requisite step.

   “I finally reached the top [the national championship] and now I am back at the bottom [trying to win a job with the Sun],” Faris said with a smile. “But it’s OK. This is a good group of players.

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End Of A League – End Of A Relationship?

by Categorized: 2013 Big East Tournament, 2013 WNBA Draft, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Mohegan Sun Arena, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

Tuesday’s title game ends the contiguous 10-year relationship between the Big East tournament and the XL Center. Even if the league remained intact, its contract to play the postseason tournament in Hartford is over.

The XL Center and UConn administration have expressed interest in bringing the new and still nameless league’s first tournament back to Hartford.

But there is growing sentiment that Mohegan Sun Arena will have enough support within the new league to host the tournament in 2014, at the very least.

Danielle Donehew, the associate commissioner of the Big East for women’s basketball, said no discussion about a future site will take place until at least May, when the new league’s first spring meeting is scheduled to take place in Florida.

Hot Shot Kaleena

Kaleena  Mosqueda-Lewis comes into the game three three-pointers shy of the UConn single-season program record (107) set by Wendy Davis in 1991-92.

Scouting combine

A number of WNBA coaches and executives have attended the tournament over the last two days. Diggins, UConn’s Kelly Faris, Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers and Syracuse center Kayla Alexander will be among the top players taken in the April draft.

But actually making one of the 11-man rosters (there are 12 teams in the league) has become a harrowing task for those not taken in the first round. Some draft picks won’t even be invited to training camp.

“It’s a crime,” said Anne Donovan, the coach of the Connecticut Sun. “You can only have 15 players in training camp and we’ve already signed four free agents. Do the math. It’s such a disservice to these kids. It’s such a long shot to crack 11 roster spots. It’s a small window [for success] and it breaks my heart to know it.”

Donovan, who coached Seattle to the 2004 WNBA title, knows the business has changed because of economic concerns.

“It’s the nature of the business in order to survive,” Donovan said. “I’m sure that’s why we are where we are. There isn’t anyone who wouldn’t want to see it changed. … It’s an issue; I understand [the WNBA] is a growing business. But it is unfortunate for those players looking to break in.”


Donovan Working To Master Her Juggling Act

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, Anne Donovan, Big East women's basketball, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

When Anne Donovan informed Seton Hall in January she would resign as coach to take over the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun everyone said the right things.

Her bosses were supportive, even though she had barely started the third year of a five-year contract. Sun management was patient, even though they would not have their new coach on site for five months.

But there was one reaction much harder to predict. How would Donovan’s players react to the reality of playing for someone who would soon be leaving them?

“I wasn’t as concerned before the season about how it might go, certainly not as concerned as some of the people around me were,” Donovan said. “I have a very good relationship with my players and it was very hard to tell them that I was leaving. I had promised them all that I would be here with them to try and build it [the program].

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UConn: Where Dreams Often Become Reality

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, Big East women's basketball, Bria Hartley, Brian Agler, Geno Auriemma, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, St. John's women's basketball, Stefanie Dolson, Sue Bird, UConn women's basketball, USA Basketball, WNBA Date:

Now that her junior year is about to enter its stretch run, Stefanie Dolson’s mom sat her down the other day to discuss her options for life after college.

“I’m just trying to figure it out, slowly but surely,” Dolson said.

This scene is sure to repeat all across the nation. But there is a difference in the Dolson household: If things go according to plan – the way they’ve gone with the UConn women’s basketball program since 1995 – her first job won’t be on the bottom rung of some corporate ladder.

It will be on the top, playing professional basketball in the United States and overseas. And she’ll be making good money doing it.

“Playing professionally is a dream many of us have,” Dolson said. “It is something that I want and that I have worked for. If the opportunity eventually presents itself, than that’s what I will do that. If not, then I hopefully will find a job that I love.”

Since the WNBA began play in 1997, few programs have enjoyed as much inclusion as the Huskies. During the 2012 season, UConn placed more players in the league (13) than any other.

On this current UConn team, ranked third(19-1) and on a seven-game winning streak heading to Saturday’s game at St. John’s, there are a number of players poised to continue the tradition.

That will begin with senior Kelly Faris, the Huskies all-purpose guard.

“She is terrific player,” Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault said earlier this month. “She is what you want in a college player because you can use her in so many different spots. She is strong enough and tough enough to defend power forwards. She is such a great defender who is really improving offensively. She has great instincts and is a great athlete.

“If Kelly keeps improving, there will not be a question about her. She is getting better at knocking down outside shots and even looking for them, which I think she stopped doing for a while last season.

“But I tell you this, if you had to pick a kid to represent your program, she is a pretty good one.”

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Mike Thibault Rearranging The Furniture In Washington

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, Mike Thibault, UConn women's basketball, Washington Mystics, WNBA Date:

Until a short time ago, the desk in office of the Washington Mystics head coach at the Verizon Center faced a window overlooking the bustle of the street below.

No longer. The new resident has moved the desk to the other side of the office; no more view of the city, just the hallway.

“I wanted to change the karma,” Mike Thibault said.

Funny he should say that. In November, the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, with whom he coached for 10 years and brought to two WNBA Finals, decided to do the same thing.

They fired Thibault a month after their elimination in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“That’s in the past now,” Thibault said Thursday. “I don’t look back on it anyone, to be honest. I’ve moved on. They’ve clearly moved on. And we’ll both go about our business.”

Ironically, on Jan. 3, the day Seton Hall coach Anne Dovovan was named his successor, Thibault was also on the casino campus tending to one last piece of old business.

“I was in Connecticut,” Thibault said. “That morning, I turned in my car back to the team.”

Since then, now living in downtown Washington, life has taken on a new pace.

“I’ve been scrambling to get a lot of things done. I’m trying to get a house sold in one place [Connecticut] while arranging for temporary housing in another.

“I’m trying to put names to faces in this new organization. I am preparing [as the GM] for the start of free agency. I am scouting college players. I am working towards putting together my staff.

“Every day, I have a list of things I need to do. If I can cross off a number of them, I feel good. But by the end of the day, I’ve likely added 10 more.”

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The Big East Certainly Looks Different Today

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, ACC, Anne Donovan, Big East women's basketball, Breanna Stewart, Gampel Pavilion, Geno Auriemma, Notre Dame women's basketball, Skylar Diggins, UConn women's basketball Date:

If you haven’t noticed by now these are strange times in the Big East conference. Institutions are entering and exiting faster than weather patterns across the national map.

Here is startling example of how topsy-turvy things have become: Look at this morning’s women’s basketball standings.

Seton Hall (1-0) is ahead of UConn (0-1) in the conference standings.

This is a clear throwback to the 1980s, as nostalgic as if Geno Auriemma grew a mullet prior to the Huskies’ game at Georgetown on Wednesday.

Take a picture for posterity. You may not see it again for quite some time, especially now that Lady Pirates coach Anne Donovan is coming to Connecticut to coach in the WNBA.


However, one day of it is likely enough for UConn. And “one” is the theme after the Huskies lost their Big East opener Saturday to Notre Dame.

UConn lost by one point, 73-72. They lost because Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ last-chance three from the right corner with six seconds to play didn’t drop.

They lost one point when a three made by Bria Hartley at the end of the first half was changed to a two. They were outrebounded by one.

They had one more personal foul than Notre Dame. The Irish made one more three and had one more offensive rebound.

“We were mirror images of each other,” Auriemma said.

Who knows how one switch in any of those stats, in any one sequence, could have changed the game.

But now, UConn’s one-week reign as the nation’s consensus No. 1 team is over.

“We still have a lot of practices and a lot of games left,” Stefanie Dolson said. “We are going to get better from here.”

Perhaps the most telling comment in the rush of the postgame was offered by Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame’s All-American senior guard.

She said that her team, which has now won five of the last six games against UConn, was “not afraid” of the UConn jersey, one of the major advantages the Huskies have enjoyed over their opponents during the championship era.

“They [Notre Dame] did a great job of just being tough,” Dolson said. “They were physical down low. Their guards were pressuring our guards. They just played very good defense, took charges when they needed to. I don’t know what else to say.”

Miami is the last team to beat Connecticut five times in a six-game stretch (1992-94).

Should this trend continues, UConn’s task down the stretch may be tougher than anyone has anticipated. It plays Notre Dame on March 4 in South Bend to end the regular season.

And if the tradition continues, the teams will play again March 12 in Hartford for the Big East tournament title. That would be their 14th meeting since the start of the 2010-11 season.

“I was just really pleased with our grit, our determination,” Notre Dame coach McGraw said. “We came out and played pretty well in the first half. Then, they made a couple of runs, and I thought we answered them. We kind of held our own. We went toe-to-toe with them. We took their best shot a couple of times. They made a little bit of a run on occasion, and we were able to come back.”


Diggins and junior Kayla McBride killed UConn by combining for the 40 points. Like Bria Hartley (39 minutes), Dolson and Kelly Faris (40 minutes), they were there for every just about every beat of the pulsating game.

And even though McBride and Diggins combined to shoot just 14-of-36, they seemed to scored every point Notre Dame needed when it needed to be scored.

“They are two great guards,” Auriemma said.

Meanwhile, three of UConn’s stars were crossed on Saturday.

Caroline Doty, who played perhaps her best game ever at Oregon on Dec. 31, seemed to hurt her right ankle early in the game and did not score in 10 minutes.

Hartley, who played just seven minutes at Oregon on Dec. 31, scored just nine points and had almost as many turnovers (four) as assists.

And Breanna Stewart, the nation’s top high school player last season, showed some inexperience offensively, shooting 5 of 17 in 22 minutes. But she did have nine rebounds and six blocked shots.

“I wouldn’t say I am annoyed about what happened,” said Dolson, who shared UConn’s scoring lead with Mosqueda-Lewis (17 points). “Notre Dame came out ready to fight and be strong. And so did we. Things just went their way.

“No, I am not annoyed. But I am angry and I am mad now [Saturday night], I will mad in the morning and I will mad in two weeks. I am mad that we lost and so is everyone on the team.”

And now there will be a new No. 1, which doesn’t bother UConn because being on top of the world didn’t thrill it to begin with.

“I don’t care about [being] No. 1, either,” McGraw said.








2013 WNBA Draft In Primetime For 1st Time

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, ESPN2, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

  The 2013 WNBA Draft, schedule for April 15, will take place in prime time for the first time in the league’s 17-year history.

   ESPN2 will provide coverage and analysis of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET from ESPN in Bristol, Conn.  ESPNU will air the second and third rounds beginning at 9 p.m. ET.  

“To schedule the WNBA Draft in prime time is a significant commitment by our broadcast partner, ESPN, and is indicative of the growing interest in the league and the women’s game overall,” said WNBA President, Laurel J. Richie. “We are very much looking forward to the 2013 season and that tips off with what we anticipate will be one of the most exciting – and followed – drafts in league history.”

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Mercury Win First Pick In WNBA Draft Lottery

by Categorized: 2013 WNBA Draft, Elena Delle Donne, Phoenix Mercury, Tulsa Shock, WNBA Date:

Who says life or basketball is fair.

The Phoenix Mercury, who basically allowed Diana Taurasi to skip the 2012 season (at least the post-Olympic part of it), used the strategy and some luck to win the top pick in the 2013 Draft on Wednesday.

And despite what Carolyn Peck said on ESPN after the draft lottery was over, they almost certainly will take 6-8 center Brittney Griner from Baylor because the team needs her and not taking her would simply be stupid.

The Mercury had 276 chances out of 1,000 to receive the first overall selection, the second most of any of the four teams in the Lottery mix. It’s the third time Phoenix has won the WNBA Draft Lottery.  The Mercury previously came away with the No. 1 overall selection in 2004, which they used to select Diana Taurasi, and for the 2009 Draft, when they chose Lindsey Harding.

Chicago, which already has an Olympic center, Sylvia Fowles, but could use Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, gets the second pick, which means they would have to overlook Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne first.

The Sky had smallest chance of winning the Lottery (10.4 percent).

Picking third will be lowly Tulsa, which also has a center, but one (6-8 Australian Liz Cambage) who didn’t even play a second for them this season because of the Olympics and then her disinterest in coming to the USA.

Washington, which could used Delle Donne to boost attendance, will pick fourth, which will be like getting stuck with vanilla ice cream when the italian and french pasties and souffles are gone from the buffet.