Ogwumike Sisters Bond To Help Education Of Nigerian Girls

by Categorized: Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun Date:

Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, the Stanford sisters who became first overall picks in the WNBA draft, are launching a fundraising competition open to middle and high school basketball teams to raise money to support UNICEF programs focusing on girls’ education and empowerment.

The goal is to give one million girls in Nigeria, the heritage of the Ogwumikes, access to quality schooling by providing scholarships for female teachers and establishing safe places for study,

The competition will rewards teams that sign up the most donors. The top prize is a private basketball clinic with the sisters.

Other prizes include autographed jerseys, pictures and the chance to interact with them via Google Hangouts.

To join the Ogwumike’s challenge: www.crowdrise.com/nnekaandchiney

Dolson Says Nothing Special Planned For White House Return

by Categorized: Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Washington Mystics, WNBA Date:

Catching up with Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Kalana Greene on Wednesday after the Washington Mystics practiced in Uncasville made for a nice hour. They all look good, feel good and are excited about Thursday’s game at the casino against the Connecticut Sun.

“Just walking through airport [Bradley International] it felt nice to be back,” Dolson said. “Seeing all the fans again is going to be fun.”

Hartley agreed.

“I was saying to Stefanie that this feels like home,” Hartley said. “Maybe not being at Mohegan, although we did play here last year [the American Athletic Conference tournament]. But just Connecticut, in general. We hope the Connecticut fans we have here will show us a little bit of love [Thursday].”

Dolson and Hartley said most of their former UConn teammates and coaches are planning to attend the game. And they both were hoping to spend some time on campus with those now on campus taking classes and playing pick-up games at some point Wednesday, if transportation could be arranged.

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Ogwumike Is WNBA’s Rookie Of The Month

by Categorized: Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun Date:

The play of rookie Chiney Ogwumike, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been a major bright spot during the first seven games of the WNBA season for the Connecticut Sun.
And on Wednesday, she was named the league’s rookie of the month of May.

Ogwumike led all rookies in points (17.2 ppg), rebounds (9.2 rpg), blocked shots (1.8 bpg), and minutes (32.2 mpg).
Overall, she led the league in total offensive rebounds (24) and was in the top ten in points, rebounds, and minutes played, while ranking fourth in blocks.
She registered a double-double with career highs in points (25) and steals (four) with 10 rebounds and three blocks in a 90-87 loss to the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on May 18. She also had a career-best 15 rebounds in a 79-65 loss to the Indiana Fever on May 29.

Ogwumike is currently tied with two others for the league lead in double-doubles (four) and has posted double digits in scoring in each of the Sun’s seven games.

How Does Renee Montgomery Fit In? Be Careful How You Ask

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, Renee Montgomery, WNBA Date:

Anne Donovan’s patience clearly wearing thin Sunday after Sunday’s 85-76 win for the Connecticut Sun over Atlanta at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Seldom does any coach – especially one with a WNBA title and Olympic gold medal – enjoy being asked about how and why they use – or don’t use – players. And that certainly was the case when Donovan was asked what’s been up lately with Renee Montgomery, now in her fifth season with the team.

“As I’ve told Renee, if Alex [Bentley] is in there and does well, Renee probably is not going to get an opportunity,” Donovan said. “That’s how it’s been. Whoever goes in there first, when they play well, they keep the opportunity [to play]. Same thing with Chiney [Ogwumike], same thing with (Kelsey) Bone. It’s not just Renee specific.
“Anybody else have any questions on that? You guys [the media] are looking for something … This is the game of basketball. People play based on production.”

Ok Anne, I think we get the point. It’s the coaches prerogative to play who she wants to play. And its the media’s prerogative to ask why.

But here’s another point:

In the three previous games, Montgomery had played just 15 minutes, including none in the team’s first win of the season, May 23 against Seattle. During last week’s road trip in Indiana and Chicago, which resulted in two defeats and featured a 4-for-25 performance from three-point range, Montgomery played seven minutes in Indiana and eight in Chicago. During those eight minutes, Montgomery was 4-for-5 from the field and scored 11 points.

After playing such a big role in the win Sunday – 18 points in 19 minutes – Montgomery was clearly happy. The former UConn All-American, who had made 210 three-pointers in her first four seasons with the Sun, has been admittedly curious about her role and why it has diminished. But she didn’t want to speculate why.
“Are you trying to get me in trouble?” Montgomery asked. “I don’t want to stir up trouble. I just want to let the way I play speak for itself. I’m not going to try to get into the who, what, where, when or why.
“I just want to work hard and give myself the best chance to be ready when my number is called.”
While Montgomery remains one of the Sun’s potentially potent offense players, it’s her defense and size that has apparently caused the coaching staff to stray.
“It’s very rare that an opponent specifically goes at me [challenges her defensively],” Montogomery. “But I was told that I haven’t caught fire, that I haven’t been making shots and haven’t been playing defense. So now it’s about me doing all of the above.”
Montgomery was inherited from the Mike Thibault era, which now features just four remaining players on the current roster – Montgomery, Kelsey Griffin, Allison Hightower and Danielle McCray.
This new roster is based on bigger guards with more defensive strength and reach. And Bentley, the former Penn State star, was specifically acquired by Donovan in the three-team trade that shipped Kara Lawson to Washington in the offseason.
“I’m looking at Renee for more offense,” Donovan said Sunday. “That’s Renee’s strength – her offense.”
Donovan was forced to shuffle her personnel Sunday because Griffin missed the game with a stomach disorder and the team was coming off back-to-back road games in Thursday and Friday.
She gave forward Kelsey Bone the start and then dipped more liberally into her bench, at least as it concerned Montgomery and Kayla Pedersen, who played nearly 15 minutes after getting just 31 in the previous six games
“Keeping Bone and Chiney [Ogwumike[ fresh, that’s where both the other posts [Pedersen and Kelley Cain, who played 9:35] got minutes,” Donovan said. “And both did a nice job by the way. Alex [Bentley] has been playing point very well, Renee [Montgomery] has been inching her way up there and then Allie [Hightower] got into foul trouble. So it was not really by design. I think by need and by necessity.”

Where and how Montgomery will fit into Donovan’s future plans remain unclear, which Montgomery seems to understand.
“I understand this is a different situation, but I know what I’ve accomplished in the past,” Montgomery said. “I spent the first four years of my career in the WNBA trying to prove myself. Last year was basically lost to injury.
“But I felt I was going to have to reprove myself this season, which happens sometimes after injuries, especially when you have a different coach. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m proving I belong here … It’s different, I admit. I’m technically considered a veteran now, and now I’m in a situation where I need to constant prove myself over and over again.
“I guess it’s good. I didn’t expect this. But I’m just going to do my best to stay ready, whether I play one minute or 40.”


Kelly Faris Trying To Adjust To New Role: Waiting For A Chance

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, Kelly Faris, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

Throughout her successful career as an Indiana high school star and UConn focal point, Kelly Faris has always understood nothing worthwhile has come easy for her.
She has relied on impeccable fundamentals and work habits to compensate for whatever physical skills were lacking. And somehow she has always been able to make it work for herself and her team.
But in her second season with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, Faris is facing the first serious roadblock in her career.
On a young, rebuilding team, stocked with many like-talents, she is now the last player on a 12-player depth chart in a rotation that has rarely gone deeper than nine.

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Chiney Ogwumike Says UConn’s “Lou” A Hybrid Of Her Sisters

by Categorized: Chiney Ogwumike, Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn women's basketball Date:

Chiney Ogwumike, the first overall selection in the WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun, is very familiar with Katie Lou Samuelson, California’s reigning Gatorade high school player of the year who announced this week she will play for UConn beginning in 2015-16.
That’s because Ogwumike said Katie Lou was around a lot since her two sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, were members of Stanford’s Final Four team last season.
“Having the chance to play with Bonnie and Karlie, I have been able to see what their games are like,” Ogwumike said Friday. “Lou is a mix of them. She can shoot the ball and is very athletic.
“Bonnie is more of a pure shooter. Karlie is a little more athletic and can do more things off the bounce. But all of the Samuelson girls can really shoot. I would call her [Katie Lou] a hybrid.”

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Doug Bruno On What He Told Geno About Natalie Butler

by Categorized: Doug Bruno, Geno Auriemma, Natalie Butler, UConn women's basketball Date:

When Geno Auriemma first heard Georgetown freshman Natalie Butler was interested in transferring to UConn, he turned to one of his best friends and confidants for advice.
And DePaul coach Doug Bruno, the man who will assist Auriemma again during the 2014 World Championships in Turkey, gave him an honest assessment of the 6-5 center and Big East’s rookie of the year.
“I think Natalie Butler has the potential to be a great player,” Bruno said. “She’s strong at the basket, a great rebounder. She catches anything that’s thrown to her and she finishes extremely well. And she’s a solid interior passer.”
Bruno realized Auriemma might be looking for a comparison to Stefanie Dolson, the All-American who helped lead UConn to two straight national championships.
Butler, the freshman of the year in the Big East last season, will sit out the 2014-15 season and join the Huskies as a sophomore the following season.
After being an all-state career at Lake Braddock High in Fairfax, Va., Butler led the Hoyas in minutes played (1157), the only player to start all 32 games of the 2013-14 season. She scored double-figures in all but four. She finished fifth in the nation in rebounding (13.3 per game) and was first among all freshmen in Division I. After averaging 13.9 ppg and 13.4 rebounds, Butler and also named to Big East’s second team after setting a freshman record with 425 boards.
“When someone is able to collect the amount to rebounds she had, it [the conference honors] was kind of a moot point,” Bruno said. “How could you argue in behalf of any of the other kids [candidates].
“She set a lot of Big East records and I realize the conference record book is somewhat skewed because the great UConn players that came before her often didn’t play enough minutes to make an impact in areas like that.
“So I am not going to tell you Butler is as good as Rebecca [Lobo] or Kara Wolters or Breanna Stewart. I’m not going to even try to compare her to Dolson, Tamika Williams, Swin Cash or Asjha Jones.
“But Natalie still broke records set by all the other players in all of the other programs in Big East history. And this conference has been together for a long time. That is what put her into a special place.”

Auriemma Says In Time Butler Will Be A Great Asset

by Categorized: Geno Auriemma, Natalie Butler, UConn women's basketball Date:

Natalie Butler’s transfer to UConn was made official by the women’s basketball program on Wednesday and Geno Auriemma believes the 6-5 center from Georgetown will be a great asset to his program.
“Coming out of high school, Natalie was one of these kids who said it herself, ‘I didn’t play much. I was on a real good AAU team and didn’t play much.’
“And all of a sudden she’s at Georgetown and she’s averaging a double-double and playing 30 something minutes.”
Butler, the freshman of the year in the Big East last season, will sit out the 2014-15 season and join the Huskies as a sophomore the following season,

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Banks Tells UConn She Will Transfer

by Categorized: Brianna Banks, UConn women's basketball Date:

UConn announced Tuesday that junior guard Brianna Banks will transfer.
“Brianna showed great heart during her time with us, whether it was on the floor or during the rehab process,” Geno Auriemma said. “I wish Brianna nothing but the best in the future.”
Banks, from Newnan, Ga., said in a school release that she was looking forward to starting fresh at a program closer to her home.
“I decided to transfer because I feel like I need a fresh start somewhere closer to home,” Banks said. “I really appreciate all that my teammates, coaches, and the university have done for me and I will miss everyone at UConn dearly.”

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ASGR’s McCormick: “I Don’t See UConn Losing For A Long Time.”

by Categorized: All Star Girls Report, Bret McCormick, UConn women's basketball Date:

When Katie Lou Samuelson, the versatile 6-3 wing from Huntington Beach, Calif., and Mater Dei High, announced on Twitter Monday she will play for UConn it put a exclamation point on a remarkable two-year recruiting run for the nine-time national champions.
And that’s even without getting A’ja Wilson, the top player in the Class of 2014 who chose South Carolina.
“I don’t see them losing for a very long time,” said Bret McCormick, the managing partner and publisher of the All-Star Girls Report, one of the nation’s premier recruiting websites. “I am serious. I mean, something could happen. Someone could slip up along the way. But they are not losing for a long time. It’s like looking at Tiger Woods. I mean Phil Mickelson is a great golfer, but Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods.”
Samuelson becomes the third top five ASGR prospect to join the Huskies Class of 2015, joining Napheesa Collier of St. Louis and Maryland’s De’Janae Boykin. And that class will also be joined in 2015-16 by 6-5 center Natalie Butler, the Big East freshman of the year last season at Georgetown, who transferred to UConn last week.
And when they start their careers, they will join a group of four guards that come to campus this season as freshmen: Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams, Sadie Edwards and Courtney Ekmark.
That will give the Huskies eight players in their first or second seasons during the 2015-16 season, when Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson are seniors.
After recruiting four guards for this season, McCormick said UConn went out looking for big posts to help them move replace Stefanie Dolson and Kiah Stokes, who will be a senior this season.
“They needed kids 6-5 or even bigger,” McCormick said. “If you remember the NCAA game they played against BYU, they had some trouble dealing with Jennifer Hamson [the 6-7 center. She even bothered Dolson a little.
“Natalie Butler is a very mature player. She was a good player coming out of high school. I just don’t she was as confident about herself. She will be a great player for them.
“I think they are all set. I think all they really to need right now is to find out if they can also get Asia Durr [the highly touted 5-10 guard from Atlanta]. If they get her, too, man, I don’t know what else you can say about it? There is no else UConn really needs to take.”
McCormick has Durr and Samuelson as co-No. 1 players in the Class of 2015.
The Huskies may actually be nearing a situation where they have too many players and not enough minutes to give them when Samuelson, Boykin, Collier and Butler arrive. They will join a team that will also have juniors Morgan Tuck and Saniya Chong along with Jefferson and Stewart. That’s a dozen of the best players in the nation all at UConn’s disposal.
“I still think UConn will concentrate of trying to get Asia Durr,” McCormick said. “If they can get her, they will take her. If they don’t get her, they don’t need anyone else. She along the lines of Maya Moore; she competes hard, loves the game, plays many positions. That’s what Geno loves, players who compete.”
Prior to the commitment of Samuelson, the Huskies were very interested in 6-2 forward Erin Boley. But there doesn’t seem to a place for her now, since her skill set seems to mirror those of Collier and Boykin.
There is also a chance UConn may still want to look at 6-4 Kalani Brown of Louisiana for the Class of 2015, to step in next to Butler. But it’s more likely Durr is the bigger target and the Huskies will focus more on to 2016, where 5-5 point guard Crystal Dangerfield of Muffreesboro, Tenn., has seriously interested the UConn coaching staff.
“Coaches spend too much time recruiting for position,” McCormick said. “Geno recruits kids who can play and the he puts them on the floor. He has so much size now, and his kids can play so many different positions, that he’s going to be a match-up nightmare. All these kids can shoot, pass and dribble.”
Samuelson chose the Huskies despite the fact her two sisters, Bonnie, a senior, and Karlie, a sophomore, play for Stanford. The Cardinal were also very interested in Katie Lou, as was Notre Dame. Samuelson is an outstanding offensive threat with consistent range who is considered able to create her own shots off the dribble.
Last season, she averaged 26.3 points and shot 62 percent from the field and 54 percent (81 of 151) from the three-point line. She is also an 89.4 percent free throw shooter.
Samuelson, the Gatorade Player of the Year in California, was named to the 2013 USA Basketball Women’s U16 national team. She was also the Orange County Register Player of the Year and a first-team USA Today All-American.
Samuelson made her official visit to UConn in April along with Collier, Boykin and Haley Gorecki of Palatine, Ill. Only Gorecki (Duke) did not eventually chose the Huskies.
Samuelson will try out this summer with Team USA’s U17 team, which is scheduled to play in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship in the Czech Republic, June 28-July 6. Tryouts are May 22-26 and training camp is scheduled for June 12-17 before the team departs for an exhibition tournament in France June 20-22.