On Saturday against Rutgers at Gampel Pavilion, Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson will have their turn to walk to center court on Senior Day with their parents and greet Geno Auriemma one last formal time. The day will have extra significance since both players will also see their uniform numbers raised to the Huskies Wall of Honor, since both are All-Americans.
I recently spoke to Simone Hartley about her daughter.
“You know, I don’t remember going over any of the recruiting letters Bria received, although I believe we still have boxes and boxes of them. There were just too many of them.
“Her father [Dennis] did most of the traveling [visits] with her, but I do remember taking the Stanford and North Carolina trips with her. The interesting thing was, we went there [UNC] on a lacrosse visit because she was being heavily recruited by their coach.
“Bria played soccer, lacrosse and basketball in her senior year and had played lacrosse since 7th grade. So when we were there on the lacrosse visit, we were taken over to see Sylvia Hatchell [UNC’s basketball coachj] on an unofficial visit.
“But the only two [basketball] programs that ever visited our home were North Carolina and Connecticut. I don’t think Bria actually knew right away what sport she was going to play in college. She was being recruited by schools in all three sports and she was simply trying to figure out what she wanted to do. She finally made the determination to play basketball because he thought she could go further with it than any of the other sports. And I think she made the right decision.
“When Geno came to visit our house, the first thing he said to Bria was ‘I am not promising you any playing time.’ My husband and I looked at each other at the same time and immediately realized UConn was the right school for her because we already knew she would work hard for anything that she wanted. It didn’t bother us at all that he said it. In fact, it’s what convinced us that’s where she belonged.
Bria has two older brothers who were already out of the house when she was in high school. She essentially fit the only child syndrome and was very independent, so we knew she would do well in college. She was mature and capable enough to make her own decisions about things. In fact, when she left for school she said, ‘Mom, don’t expect me to call you every week.’ I said, that’s OK, Bria, I don’t expect you too.’ And she said, ‘Ok, I just wanted to let you know.’
“And what’s happened to her over the last four years has offered us no surprises. She has always worked hard, especially academically. We always expected her to excel, especially in math and the sciences, in which she’s always done well.
“In terms of basketball, all I can say is that we sensed there was something different about her from the time she was 4. And it wasn’t always about her scoring a lot, although I remember she did score a lot of goals playing youth soccer. I remember one day, she was about 10, and she’d scored a few and the coaches sat her and she spent the rest of the game running up and down the sidelines cheering her teammates on. So from early on I knew it wasn’t just about her, it was about the team. She had no selfishness inside of her.”
“But now Bria has a bigger dream still remaining… Olympic gold. If that’s really the case, well, I know she is going to work hard for it and we’ll just see what will happen next.”