Kelly Faris, a pragmatic thinker if there ever was one, could look at Wednesday’s trip to the White House with the UConn women’s basketball team as the end of her time with the program. One final handshake.
Truth is, Faris, Heather Buck and Caroline Doty all played their final game for Geno Auriemma in New Orleans in April. And its that win over Louisville in the national championship game that brings the team together once again to be feted by President Barack Obama.
But Faris, now a rookie guard with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, doesn’t look at the ceremony as a formal goodbye to an institution that took her to four Final Fours and helped her win two championships.
“I don’t look at it as the end of my time as UConn. It’s a cliché, but it’s true, once you are a member of the UConn family you never leave,” Faris said Tuesday. “I will be back [to Storrs]. I am close enough to them [the UConn program] that I can.
“But then again, it’s on the next season for them. What we accomplished last year is going to help the team this season accomplish it again.”
Faris has been given permission by Sun coach Anne Donovan to miss Wednesday’s practice. The Sun play Indiana at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday night.
She plans on meeting UConn’s traveling contingent Wednesday morning at Bradley International Airport for its flight to Washington. The formal ceremony begins at 2 p.m.
Since graduation, Faris said she hasn’t seen many of her UConn teammates; Stefanie Dolson, who worked this summer as an SNY intern in Manhattan, did attend a Sun game in Newark, N.J. earlier this season and the two quickly caught up.
But Faris, a UConn captain and one of its most well-rounded players, is looking forward to a bigger reunion that will take place in a very special place, one reserved for champions of professional and collegiate sports.
“It’s such an awesome privilege. It’s great for all of us. It’s one of those things you never would have thought possible, but seems to happen when you play for a program like UConn,” Faris said. “A lot of people naturally look at the basketball experience we have [at UConn] and say ‘Wow.’
“And that’s understandable. We accomplished a lot during the years I was there. But there are so many other things, off the court, that we get to be a part of just because of our association with the program. I feel very fortunate to be able to go and experience another day like this.”
Faris was a freshman on the UConn’s second-straight undefeated national champion in 2010 and made her only other trip to the White House in the spring that followed it.
“It was raining so we were all worried about our hair,” Faris said. “Hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow. I remember we got the tour, saw all of the historic rooms and then the ceremony. That was very cool and then when they took the formal picture of us, I was standing next to the First Lady [Michelle Obama]. Those are the kind of things you don’t forget.”
And as she experiences it all once again, this time as one of those likely in charge of handing the President his UConn jersey, Faris will think again about all the unexpected doors that swung open for her during her college years.
“I look back at my freshman year when we had a team that was simply unbelievable and so much came out of that, like going on the Jimmy Fallon Show and attending the ESPY Awards,” she said.
“At that point you realize that not only does the hard work pay off on the basketball end, but it allows you to have some fun, too.”