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UConn Women’s Basketball Positional Preview: Forwards

Even without Azura Stevens, this unit is still one of the best in country.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

With the departure of Gabby Williams and Azura Stevens, there are big shoes to fill in UConn’s lineup of forwards. Seniors Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson will certainly be the stars of this year’s front court, but the remaining forwards combined for only 14.2 minutes per game last season. Here’s the breakdown of this year’s forwards:

Napheesa Collier - Senior

Collier is expected to return to the Huskies’ starting lineup for her senior season. Last year, she averaged 16.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, which was slightly below her sophomore season averages of 20.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Collier has also had a strong defensive presence for the Huskies, blocking 5.9 percent of her opponents’ two-point attempts while on the floor last season, which ranked in the top six percent of the country. She also averaged 1.4 steals per game.

While Collier’s performance last year was still impressive, Coach Auriemma has said that UConn “is going to need her to get back to her sophomore year” this season.

If Collier can return to or exceed her sophomore year numbers, the Huskies should be on track for another dominant season.

Katie Lou Samuelson - Senior

The returning two-time firs-team All-American is also expected to return to the starting lineup. Samuelson is the Huskies’ most efficient returning scorer, averaging 1.36 points per scoring attempt last season which ranked sixth in the nation.

Samuelson, known for her 3-point shooting, also poster a career-high 3-point percentage last year of 47.5 percent. Her 3-point shooting has improved every season at UConn, and from the looks of her performance in the 3-point contest at First Night, her senior year should be no different. Expect Samuelson to be a key part of UConn’s offense from both inside and outside the arc in the 2018-19 season.

Batouly Camara - Redshirt Junior

Camara transferred to UConn after her freshman year at Kentucky in 2015-16. After sitting out the 2016-17 season, she was plagued with knee injuries last season and played limited minutes.

In her freshman season, Camara averaged 18 minutes a game and shot just shy of 50 percent from the floor. She also blocked 4.7 percent of her opponents’ two-point shot attempts, which ranked in the 91st percentile.

In her limited time on the floor last season, Camara proved to be an aggressive player. Her physical style of play could be a welcomed addition to the UConn lineup this year, if she remains healthy.

Kyla Irwin - Junior

Heading into her junior season, Irwin has seen limited minutes for the Huskies. She averaged just 7.8 minutes per game in her freshman year, and 9.4 during her sophomore season.

When on the court, Irwin has shot 47.1 percent from the floor, which ranks in the top 15 percent in the country. She has also impressed on the offensive glass, collecting 9.8 percent of available offensive rebounds.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa - Freshman

Nelson-Ododa, a McDonald’s All-American freshman from Georgia, is one of two additions to UConn’s roster this season. At 6-4, the top-five recruit (per ESPN HoopGurlz ratings), adds some more height to the Huskies’ roster. She has also captured national attention for her dunking abilities.

Nelson-Ododa also spent time with USA basketball this summer and helped lead the team to a FIBA Americas U18 Gold Medal. In her time with the team, she started four of their six games and averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game.

With her height advantage, the freshman has potential to make an impact both in the paint and on the glass for UConn’s front court.