While UConn was rolling to its eighth national championship in April, Courtney Ekmark had a prime seat in the New Orleans Arena. There were two reasons for her being there, both equally valid:
Her father, Curtis, the coach of her premier high school program, St. Mary’s of Phoenix, Ariz., was the head coach of the one of the WBCA all-star teams that played there earlier in the weekend.
Just as cool was she was there to see a former teammate, Courtney Walton, play for Louisville, and her future teammates play for UConn.
“It was very exciting for me to be there,” Courtney Ekmark said. “I felt a connection to both teams … It was awesome. It helped me be able to visualize what it might be like a couple of years when it is me out on the floor.
“And the experience reaffirmed some things for me. I obviously always knew that UConn had a tremendous fan following. And it gave me another sense of exactly how they [UConn] play. It was very interesting for me to see that in person; how fast the game is played, how physical UConn was.”
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There apparently are no shortcuts in the basketball world of Sadie Edwards, or at least none one of UConn’s Class of 2014 cares to take.
From the day she offered the Huskies her verbal commitment in March, Edwards says she’s made a conscious decision to just work harder.
“Lots of times when you make a commitment to a high-level school, people think you can just relax,” Edwards said. “But if anything, I am working even harder now. I understand there are very high expectations about going to UConn. That’s fine. But I also have very high expectations of myself. You have to work extra hard once you decide to play at UConn and it is giving me the incentive to do so.”
If ever a coach merited this type of remembrance, you would have to admit its Pat Summitt. And the University of Tennessee is planning such a honor for their iconic women’s basketball coach.
The constriction of the WNBA into a 12-player league has caused intense competition for jobs and stress for the coaches who dispense them.
There are only 132 roster spots now and most are held by players in their prime, meaning they are not readily available to the rookies and free agents who audition each season.
This hard and cold fact troubles Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, who cut her second- and third-round picks this spring almost as soon as training camp began.
But three cuts that will bring the Sun to their 11-player limit promise be excruciatingly tough for Donovan.
“You can see what our dilemma has been,” Donovan said. “We are going to have a very hard time figuring out what the roster is going to look like. It’s been very competitive.
Gabby Williams, one of the three guards who have offered UConn a verbal commitment to the Class of 2014, took some time during lunch today at Reed High in Sparks, Nevada to catch me up on how she is feeling.
Williams, 5-feet-11, was averaging 28 points, 11 rebounds and six assists when she tore the ACL in her right knee against Reno High on Jan. 19.
“I went to go up for a layup. The girl in front of me tried to take a charge,” Williams said. “I tried to jump around her to avoid [a collision]. But when I left my feet, another girl behind me had her hand on me as I went up and it resulted in me taking a weird step. It was all just bad timing. Wrong time and wrong place and there was nothing I could do about it.
“At first, I was totally in denial, completely in denial. On the day I was injured, my [physical] therapist was at the game and he immediately came over to check on me. He was doing some tests on my knee and I could tell it felt super loose. I knew it didn’t look right. But I couldn’t accept it. I remember asking them ‘You can just wrap it [the knee] up, right?”
“After the MRI results came back, it was actually more difficult on my parents. They were both very upset about it. I was doing my best to stay strong about.”
Since there is still much for Anne Donovan to do getting accustomed to coaching the Connecticut Sun, it gives her some relief to know that at least a solid veteran core is in place.
And what Donovan can feel most comfortable about is having someone like Kara Lawson around.
Now in her 11th season, there isn’t much Lawson hasn’t seen, hasn’t done or hasn’t attempted to do. That’s why the Sun signed her to a three-year extension that will run through 2015.
“Anne just knows that I get it and that comes from being in this league for 11 years,” Lawson said. “She understands who I am as a player. And as a result, there is a lot that we don’t need to discuss. I get it and she gets it.”
Coming off perhaps her greatest season in the WNBA in 2012 (a career-high 15.1 scoring average and 74 three-pointers), Lawson is ready to go again. She scored 10 points in just 12 minutes, 17 seconds in the Sun’s 83-74 preseason win over New York on Saturday, shooting 4-of-7 with four assists.
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Even though she has not been able to practice as of yet because of her injured foot, Kelly Faris, the Connecticut Sun rookie guard has signed to play for Sopron this winter,
Sopron, the defending Hungarian league champions, announced hey have also signed Tianna Hawkins, the former Maryland star, for the 2013-14 season.
There are few college basketball coaches busier than Geno Auriemma. When he’s not flying somewhere, he’s usually speeding on the ground trying to get somewhere else on time.
Such was the case Saturday night when UConn’s women’s basketball coach ran late for cocktails to this appointed date as guest speaker at St. Joseph University’s inaugural Hall of Fame induction.
Still, Auriemma wouldn’t have missed it. The invitation came from two of his multitude of friends, Blue Jays’ athletic director Bill Cardarelli, and former player Debbie Fiske, the university’s associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator and radio analyst on the UConn women’s basketball network.
“I didn’t wake up 3 months ago and say, you know what, I need to go to St. Joseph’s and speak at their Hall of Fame induction ceremony. That’s not what you do in life,” Auriemma said. “What you do in life is things for people you care about, people that have had some kind of influence in life, like Bill Carderelli and Debbie Fiske.
In a great decade as Sun coach, Mike Thibault did everything but win a WNBA championship. So it was simple for Anne Donovan to discern what was expected of her – bring title No. 1 to the Mohegan Sun Arena, just like she did in Seattle in 2004.
A little more than five months taking the job, Donovan began the process with the Sun’s preseason opener against the New York Liberty at the casino.
And the Sun came to play. They opened the new era with a nice 83-74 win over the New York Liberty that gave Donovan a long, good look at the some of the young players trying to wedge their way onto a very tight roster.
Allison Hightower led the Sun with 12 points. Kara Lawson and free agent forward Latoya Williams had 10 each.
The former UConn All-American, still the greatest point guard in women’s basketball, has had yet another surgery after already deciding not to play this WNBA season for her Seattle Storm.
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