On Wednesday, Haley Jones, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019, committed to Stanford over UConn along with Notre Dame, Oregon and South Carolina. In a vacuum, the decision wasn’t that shocking. Jones is from Santa Cruz, California, just 45 minutes away from Stanford.
But the week prior, Worcester Academy product Aliyah Boston chose South Carolina over the Huskies. UConn was in Boston’s native Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam, and her decision to go with the Gamecocks was certainly a surprise.
Overall, it was a rough recruiting cycle for Geno Auriemma in his staff, who missed out on both their top targets and will sign just one player in the class of 2019, Aubrey Griffin. However, the coach didn’t sound too concerned when he was asked about it.
“You just go through some cycles where the kids you want, you know it’s a long shot,” Auriemma said. “‘Why don’t you take some other kids?’ I don’t want them. But you have to do something.”
“There’s a lot of other schools out there every year that go ‘How come Connecticut gets [the best recruits] all the time?’ Sometimes you don’t. This is one of those years where we didn’t but that doesn’t mean next year we won’t.”
Despite Griffin being ranked just the No. 33 player in the class, Auriemma is still really excited for what she can bring to Storrs.
“We have a really good player, Aubrey Griffin is a really good player. She fits us perfectly,” he said. “She’s one of those kids that by the time she’s finished playing, she’s going to be 100 times better than she is right now and she’s pretty good as is.”
“She’s long, athletic, loves to guard people and gets to the rim all the time...she’s longer, she’s 6-1. She’s exactly what we need. She’s going to be terrific for us and she’s the nicest kid in the world.”
The Huskies will need that length next season. Napheesa Collier (6-foot-2) and Katie Lou Samuelson (6-foot-3) are both graduating, leaving UConn without much experience in the frontcourt.
That leaves Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Kyla Irwin and Batouly Camara as the remaining post players. Nelson-Ododa is the likeliest to slide into the starting lineup, though Irwin is a darkhorse with the way Auriemma talks about her. Camara’s injury history makes her tough to rely on.
Then, Megan Walker can slide into a stretch-four role along with Griffin off the bench. Crystal Dangerfield and Christyn Williams would fill two spots in the starting five, leaving one spot open. Mikayala Coombs is the most logical options as a former McDonalds All-American and the top guard off the bench right now. And who knows, maybe Molly Bent could develop into a Kelly Farris or Saniya Chong type as a senior.
But it’s still only November. There’s a lot that can change between now and March, let alone next November. But it’s hard to rely on the things listed above to happen. It feels like Auriemma needs to add at least another player or two to the mix, potentially a grad transfer. It would give the Huskies a quick, immediate fix to depth issues without locking up a scholarship beyond next season.
Adding a big would provide security if Nelson-Ododa isn’t developing as fast as hoped or to give some depth off the bench. A guard would provide depth if one (or both) of Coombs and Bent can’t step up. Auriemma has never gone after grad transfers (UConn had added just three transfers total in program history, all in the last five years) but he really hasn’t needed to.
Either way, if the cries of “UConn women’s basketball is dead!” are loud this year, they’re going to be even louder next year. But that’s not uncharted territory for Auriemma.
“I remember reading that in 2005 after Diana graduated, I remember every year, 2005, ‘06, ‘07, I read the program’s done, it’s over. It was it was over for 3 years. We averaged like 29- 30 wins a year. We fell on hard times then. We went through a deep depression,” he joked.
And if this year’s recruiting class does lead to a few relatively “down” years, it just shows how much more parity is in women’s college basketball.
“You go through cycles, you’re supposed to. We’re the only one that’s been immune to any cycles of anybody in the country. Every single team in America has gone through some cycle where they have not been good, except us,” Auriemma said.
It’s important to remember this is just one weak recruiting class. That isn’t going to make or break the future of the program. We don’t even know UConn will look at the end of this season, let alone in years to come. Let’s not predict their doom prematurely.