The components that have led to the success Kelly Faris has had in basketball have translated well to the classroom.
She epitomizes organization and self-discipline, characteristics crucial to success. She sets goals and works to reach them. And there is always a carrot out there she seems to be chasing.
“It can be a very stressful life,” Faris said Tuesday. “It’s not easy to organize your athletic life with your academic life. That was my biggest challenge when I came to college; I had to learn how to manage my time.
“But once you have that year under your belt, you get better at figuring out what you should do and shouldn’t be doing. It’s not easy, but if you work hard, you can do it.”
Faris scored 11 points, had seven rebounds, made four assists and five steals in Tuesday’s 94-37 win over Marquette, She is now 54 points shy of joining the 1,000-point club. Those assists moved her into a tie with Tiffany Hayes (483) for ninth on the Huskies’ all-time list.
But at halftime she was recognized with 18 other UConn athletes for her top-shelf academic achievement.
Last spring, while the Huskies were working and traveling to reach and then play in the Final Four, Faris worked doubly hard. She promised herself she would get a 4.0 GPA for the first time. And she did.
Four other Huskies, Heather Buck, Stefanie Dolson, graduate student Caroline Doty and Kiah Stokes, were named to the athletic director’s honor roll for earning at least a 3.0 GPA in at least one of the 2012 semesters.
“A 4.0 is always my goal and if I don’t get it I’m not happy,” Faris said. “It was nice to see because I know all my studying paid off.
“I actually get annoyed with how much I study. If I’m not studying for something, I somehow come up with something to study. That’s how my brain works, unfortunately. It was nice to have the payoff.”
During his coaching career, Geno Auriemma has had three Academic All-Americans, Jennifer Rizzotti, Rebecca Lobo and Maya Moore. Lobo and Moore won twice honored.
Before Auriemma arrived, Leigh Curl started the tradition and she is now the only woman in professional sports in the United States to serve as the orthopedic surgeon of a professional team – the NFL champion Baltimore Ravens.
“It’s no mystery to why Kelly had a 4.0,” Auriemma said. “She is very bright. She’s very prideful in everything she does. Plus, she wanted to get a 4.0 so she got one.
“We talked about that after the game [Tuesday] with the other players. Once you put a number on something it holds you more accountable. Kelly likes being held accountable. She probably said to herself she wanted to get a 4.0 and if she didn’t she felt like she failed.
“More kids could probably do better than they are doing now academically if they put a number on it and work their butt off to get it.”
Auriemma knows that every player is wired the same so the program does things to try to meld academics and athletics.
“We break the team into three groups and those kids compete for the highest grade-point averages,” he said. “For some of them, unless you make it [academics] competitive, they may go, ‘eh.’ But Kelly doesn’t need any of that. I know Kelly and Heather were first-round draft picks.
“Basketball is a hard sport academically because it encompasses both semesters. The back end of the spring is a pain because if you’re in the NCAA Tournament you’re traveling a lot. What Kelly does better than most people is she puts everything in its own little compartment and then works it all the time.
“When we practice, that’s all that matters. When she studies, she’s not thinking basketball. And when she is in class, she’s not thinking about anything else but class. She’s able to do that and a lot of kids aren’t able to. It’s a credit to her mom and dad – and to her.”
But nothing lasts forever. Last semester, Faris’ goal of getting another 4.0 was blocked by an opponent she found hard to beat.
“Well, I stick at geography. I have no sense of direction,” Faris said. “I’m just terrible. I was really mad; I got a B. The course was really hard, OK? So that ruined my 4.0.”