‘The Geno Auriemma Show’ premiered on SNY following UConn women’s basketball’s win over Cincinnati. In the first episode of the season, Auriemma had no shortage of things to say about his star freshman, Christyn Williams. In the highest form of praise, he talked about how she reminds him of arguably the greatest player to ever wear a Connecticut jersey: Breanna Stewart.
“Obviously, she’s not 6-foot-4. She doesn’t have the wingspan and all that other stuff. But in mindset, she’s got the same mindset that Stewie had, for sure,” Auriemma said of Williams.
That mindset has been on display from Williams since well before she took the court for the first time in November. Earlier this summer she said that UConn was going to win the national championship. When Stewart arrived in Connecticut, she said that she wanted to win four national championships and four most outstanding player awards — and she did just that.
Williams has shown that mindset Auriemma mentions on the court, as well. Her 28 points at No. 1 Notre Dame is among one of the best freshman performances in recent memory. A performance that Auriemma again likened to Stewart.
“In November of Stewie’s freshman year, she was exactly the same,” he said. “She just played. She was fearless. She just said ‘This is what I’ve done all my life. I just get the ball and I go score.’”
Williams showed that again in Wednesday’s game against Cincinnati, when she put up 15 points in the first half. However, the start of her freshman season has still had some bumps in the road. After her impressive performance against Notre Dame, Williams entered a bit of a slump in the Huskies’ road trips to California and Texas. Most notably, while UConn struggled from the floor against Baylor, Williams took just six shots all game and didn’t score her first points until the end of the third quarter.
“She has to be reminded sometimes that ‘Hey Christyn, what makes our team really good is when you catch the ball and go to the basket and get a layup’,” Auriemma said.
In a season that started very similar to Williams’ — with a Paradise Jam title and a victory over the top ranked team before then falling to another highly ranked opponent to start the new year — Stewart’s freshman year had similar challenges. Around the same point in the season, Stewart entered a slump going 1-5 from the floor at Stanford, and then 5-17 when the Huskies lost at home to Notre Dame a week later. Stewart’s struggles actually led to her being taken out of the starting lineup for a stretch mid-season.
With UConn’s current lack of depth, Auriemma can’t afford to do the same with Williams. But perhaps working through her freshman year challenges in game situations will better prepare Williams for March.
One key to that development will be Williams’ ability to be a volume scorer for the Huskies. She has had just one 20-plus point game so far this season, with her 19 points against Cincinnati as her second highest scoring performance. For comparison, at the same point in her freshman season Stewart had posted 20 or more points in five games.
Williams remains the most efficient shooter in UConn’s lineup so far. Her 1.30 points per scoring attempt rank among the top two percent of players in the nation. Stewart was scoring 1.22 points per attempt after the same number of games in her freshman year.
Auriemma has also been impressed with Williams’ efficiency.
“She probably finishes around the basket better than anyone we have, which is unique for a young player,” he said.
There is still plenty of time for Williams to continue to improve her game before March and help this UConn team on their quest for a 12th national title. Only time will tell how the rest of her tenure will compare to Stewart’s, but for now, Williams is certainly good company.