Now that her junior year is about to enter its stretch run, Stefanie Dolson’s mom sat her down the other day to discuss her options for life after college.
“I’m just trying to figure it out, slowly but surely,” Dolson said.
This scene is sure to repeat all across the nation. But there is a difference in the Dolson household: If things go according to plan – the way they’ve gone with the UConn women’s basketball program since 1995 – her first job won’t be on the bottom rung of some corporate ladder.
It will be on the top, playing professional basketball in the United States and overseas. And she’ll be making good money doing it.
“Playing professionally is a dream many of us have,” Dolson said. “It is something that I want and that I have worked for. If the opportunity eventually presents itself, than that’s what I will do that. If not, then I hopefully will find a job that I love.”
Since the WNBA began play in 1997, few programs have enjoyed as much inclusion as the Huskies. During the 2012 season, UConn placed more players in the league (13) than any other.
On this current UConn team, ranked third(19-1) and on a seven-game winning streak heading to Saturday’s game at St. John’s, there are a number of players poised to continue the tradition.
That will begin with senior Kelly Faris, the Huskies all-purpose guard.
“She is terrific player,” Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault said earlier this month. “She is what you want in a college player because you can use her in so many different spots. She is strong enough and tough enough to defend power forwards. She is such a great defender who is really improving offensively. She has great instincts and is a great athlete.
“If Kelly keeps improving, there will not be a question about her. She is getting better at knocking down outside shots and even looking for them, which I think she stopped doing for a while last season.
“But I tell you this, if you had to pick a kid to represent your program, she is a pretty good one.”
Last week in Cincinnati, Seattle coach Brian Agler was watching Faris play. The Storm has the sixth pick in the first round in the April draft. While it’s unlikely she would go that high, Agler said he has come to appreciate the pedigree of UConn players after coaching Sue Bird, Svetlana Abrosimova and Swin Cash.
“UConn’s players always come to the WNBA ready to play,” Agler said.
Bird also thinks Faris is WNBA-ready.
“What Kelly brings to the table is something not a lot of people bring,” Bird said. “She possesses a lot of intangible things that frankly many WNBA teams tend to overlook on an 11-player roster.”
After Faris, Dolson and Bria Hartley will follow in 2014. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis may be the top pick in 2015 and Breanna Stewart, at the very least, will make the jump in three years.
“You see all the players that have come out of Connecticut [to play professionally] and see what coach has been able to do,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It’s impossible not to notice that when you come here. I want coach to make me the best player I can be. That’s what I came here. I know he’s going to do that. I know he’s going to do whatever he can for me.”
Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson have provided the foundation for this aspiring UConn team.
“We try to be the rock,” Mosqueda-Lewis said.
Mosqueda-Lewis is shooting 50.8 percent from three-point range (61 for 120) and Dolson is leading the nation in field goal percentage (61.2) – including four three-pointers.
“Junior year is the time for people to have a revelation,” Dolson said. “You are stupid nervous all the time as a freshman and make mistakes. As a sophomore, you’re a little more settled and sure, but you still make mistakes. The junior year is the time to step into your game and be the kind of player you are meant to be.”