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UConn Women’s Basketball: 2019 offseason recap

Looking back at one of the crazier offseasons for the Huskies.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

We are less than a week away from the opening of a new UConn women’s basketball season with the Huskies kicking off their preseason slate on Sunday, Nov. 3 against Jefferson University at Gampel Pavilion.

With that, we decided to look back at one of the most eventful offseasons in both program and school history:

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

When the buzzer sounded on UConn’s 81-76 loss to Notre Dame in the Final Four, it marked the end of an era for the program. It was the last time Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson donned the flag blue and white as the duo finished their respective careers as two of the best in program history, even if their national championship totals fall short of some others.

They began the next phase of their careers shortly after as Samuelson went No. 4 overall to the Chicago Sky while Collier went No. 6 overall to the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA Draft.

With the seniors graduated, the Huskies started the summer with just nine players on their roster. That number dropped to just eight after sophomore guard Mikayla Coombs decided to transfer back home to the University of Georgia. After that, we broke down the roster in a three-part series, detailing what led to UConn being so thin, where they could add depth and what the future recruiting outlook is.

It didn’t take long for Geno Auriemma to answer those questions, both short-term and long-term. The Huskies landed Polish guard Anna Makurat as a freshman, Murray State grad transfer Evelyn Adebayo and Tennessee (!!!) transfer Evina Westbrook to shore up the immediate needs of the roster. We broke down Makurat’s film and analyzed what Adebayo and Westbrook bring to the roster.

However, Auriemma and his staff weren’t content stopping there. After bringing in just one American freshman in the class of 2019, the Huskies built a loaded 2020 class over the summer. It started with No. 1 prospect Paige Bueckers committing in April followed by Croatian guard Nika Muhl joining her after the Final Four. After locking down its backcourt, UConn then added commitments from athletic wing Mir McLean, 6-foot-5 center Piath Gabriel and Canadian wing Aaliyah Edwards.

The Huskies also got a head start on their 2021 class, picking up 6-foot-2 guard Saylor Poffenbarger.

In June, the Earth-shattering news broke that UConn will leave the AAC and go back to the Big East in 2020. We broke down what the news meant for the Huskies’ women’s basketball program and declared them the biggest winners of the move (along with the men’s basketball team). Auriemma shared his personal thoughts on the move as well.

Keeping with an eye to the future, UConn extended its respective series with South Carolina and Notre Dame. However, the Huskies’ move to the Big East means they will play 20 league games per year with nine non-conference slots in the 2020-21 season. UConn currently has 11 games scheduled for next season which means it will either need to move or cut two games.

As for this season, the Huskies finally released their full 2019-20 schedule in mid-September. The team also unveiled the newcomers’ jersey numbers.

Sophomores Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa spent a lot of the summer with the US women’s national team. The pair played on USA’s gold medal 3x3 squad for the PanAm Games while Williams carried on with the FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series. Nelson-Ododa went back to the regular game and made the US’s AmeriCup Roster — the sole collegiate player to do so.

In team news, Crystal Dangerfield (hip) and Westbrook (knee) both underwent surgery in June. As for their recovery, Dangerfield is close to 100 percent but isn’t fully participating yet. Westbrook is a bit behind Dangerfield in her recovery but still isn’t drastically far off either.

At AAC media day in Philadelphia, UConn was (shockingly) picked to finish first in the conference and Dangerfield was tabbed as co-Preseason Player of the Year along with UCF’s Kay Kay Wright. Four of the Huskies’ five projected starters are on a watch list for national awards at their respective position as well.

One of the biggest storylines this offseason is Westbrook’s status. UConn submitted a waiver for the Tennessee transfer to play immediately and were “‘confident” she would get it, according to Russ Steinberg of A Dime Back. However, the NCAA tightened its waiver guidelines in June, making what seemed like a slam-dunk much less certain. Now, the Huskies and Westbrook are left waiting in the dark on the NCAA’s decision.

Follow UConn women’s basketball all season long with our coverage here at The UConn Blog, Storrs Central and on The UConn Pod. Also, stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.