Saniya Chong Just Weeks Away From Transitioning To Life At UConn

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Saniya Chong, the lone freshman to join UConn’s  women’s basketball national champion next season, is within days of playing her ultimate transition game.

   “My graduation [from Ossining (NY) High] is June 21 and I go up to UConn on July 15 for summer preseason,” Chong said Tuesday. “And what I m going to do for the time in between is relax a little bit, but not too much. I got a summer [workout] packet for me to start and I’ve been working with my trainer every day.”

   Just like Kelly Faris did four years ago, Chong will have to figure things out pretty much on her own when she gets to Storrs. The upper classmen and coaches will be there to answer questions, but unlike last year’s freshman class – Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson – the Class of 2013 will be up to her alone to distinguish.

“Being the only freshman just challenges me,” Chong said. “Knowing that I’m the only one makes me strive harder. And being the only one, I don’t want to make a bad impression. I plan to give my all [to the program].”

   Chong, Parade Magazine’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year, is the third straight honoree to attend UConn. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart preceded her. And both have already made a great impact on the program.

   Mosqueda-Lewis was a first-team WBCA All-American this season after setting a UConn single-season record for three-pointers. Stewart was the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four.

  “Knowing that my high school days are over is kind of sad, but I am also happy in a way,” Chong said. “I’m sad that it is the last time I’ll ever be with my high school teammates, but I’m excited to start new, with a new team and new friends. I’m just trying to be a part of the UConn Nation.”

   Chong, 5-feet-9, scored 2,988 points in four varsity seasons. She averaged 34.4 points, scoring a state record 928 points as a senior with 9.1 assists, six rebounds and five steals a game. She also shot 87 percent from the foul line.

  Here’s an example of how explosive a high school scorer Chong was: She scored 46 points in an 80-69 defeat of St. Anthony’s (Melville) on Dec. 28, 2012 and then two days later drained nine three-pointers and scored 51 in a 90-84 defeat of reigning state Class B champ Irvington. On Jan. 4, she had 46 points in an 89-84 win against Christ the King (Middle Village), including 33 points in the second half.

  In her career, Chong scored at least 30 points in 51 of her 96 high school games. And as a senior, she led Ossining to its first New York State Public Schools state championship in its history.

 Despite her reputation and ability as a scorer (108 three-points in 27 games last season) Chong said she anticipates having no trouble putting those instincts aside to play the type of team game that Geno Auriemma and his coaches require.

  “I will do anything to help my team win; if that means one game I need to just pass, one game I just need defense, one game they just need my support,” Chong said. “Being a team is the No. 1 priority for me.”

 When she gets to UConn, she will wear No. 12. And as excited as she is to play for Auriemma, she seems equally pumped up about playing for the fan base she once was a part of.

  “My friends are so excited for me,” she said. “They tell me all the time they’ll be at all the games. I know I always will have their support.
“I’m looking forward to doing big things. I want to get there and do my best just fitting in. I’d like to say to the UConn fans that I can’t wait to be there and have your support, as well.”

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