All offseason, one of the big storylines for the UConn women’s basketball team revolved around Megan Walker’s transformation over the summer from struggling freshman to critical starter.
In her first season, she didn’t see the court as often as many expected and was benched at one point in a blowout against Tulane. Head coach Geno Auriemma never really said much about Walker’s issues and when he did, it was vague.
However, after the Huskies season-opening win against Ohio State, Auriemma finally revealed what held back the former No. 1 recruit.
“When you come into a program like ours, there’s such a high premium put on competing and you have to be a very competitive person to be successful here,” he said. “I thought last year, right from her first week of summer school, there was this unawareness of ‘I have to compete’ and it might’ve been a shock to her system, I don’t know. There really wasn’t any of that last season. When we did see it and think we were getting some place, it would disappear and this year, she’s been much more consistent.”
Walker said things clicked in her head towards the end of last season. It wasn’t just about competing hard in games. She always needed to be competing, whether it was a game, practice, or even shootaround.
“I was a little shocked and I felt like I didn’t know everything and I didn’t have it figured out,” Walker said of her freshmen year. “It’s an everyday grind at UConn basketball. It’s at another level than any other school in the country.”
While Walker’s work ethic has gotten better, Auriemma wants to see her continue to improve on it.
“I show her Napheesa [Collier] all the time and say ‘That’s your role model right there. That’s how you approach this game, with that kind of motor,’” he said. “Pheesa goes. With Megan’s talent, if she gets a motor like Pheesa’s and goes, she could be incredible. It wasn’t there last year. It’s there more often this year.”
Walker performed well in her first career start against Ohio State, scoring 15 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Auriemma didn’t hedge how important Walker will be to the overall success of the team going forward.
“She has to really add a lot to our team for us to be the type of team we want to be,” He said. “Today was a very good start.”