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UConn women’s basketball positional preview: Guards

Crystal Dangerfield and Christyn Williams headline a talented backcourt for the Huskies.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The strength of the 2019-2020 UConn women’s basketball team lies in the guards. The Huskies return two starters from last season and also bring in a handful of talented newcomers to augment the group.

While there are plenty of question marks in UConn’s frontcourt, the backcourt features high-end talent, gobs of potential and some quality depth.

Crystal Dangerfield - Senior

As the lone senior to play significant minutes, there’s no question this is Crystal Dangerfield’s team. She’s embraced her role as a team leader and will once again be the commander of the offense as the point guard.

Dangerfield’s passing abilities are well-known. Last season, she finished with the second-most assists in a single season in program history (225) and has four games with 10+ assists. She also flourished as a scorer last year, reaching double-figures in all but five games.

While Dangerfield has established herself as one of the best point guards in the country, she’ll need to become one of the best players in the country, period, if she wants to avoid being the first four-year player since Charde Houston, Ketia Swanier and Mel Thomas to not win a national title at UConn.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Molly Bent - Senior

Through three years, Molly Bent hasn’t done much for the Huskies. In 89 career games, she’s never reached double-figures in points scored. The most minutes she’s ever played in a game is just 21. She hasn’t made a start.

However, there are some signs that Bent contributes this year. Last season, despite her total minutes dropping, she took more shots, made a higher percentage of those shots, scored more points and cut her turnovers nearly in half.

Bent looked as comfortable as she’s ever been in a UConn uniform during the preseason. She wasn’t just beating up on Division II opponents either. Bent played well in practice leading up the exhibitions, according to Auriemma.

“Molly’s had a great three weeks, hopefully she can help,” he said.

The Huskies don’t need Bent to be an All-American. But if she can protect the ball and be a threat from three on offense and play solid defense, the senior will certain be an asset for UConn this season.

Evina Westbrook - Junior*

At the moment, it looks like Evina Westbrook will sit out the season after transferring from Tennessee. The NCAA denied her waiver to play immediately and the school is waiting to hear back on its appeal.

In the event UConn does win the appeal and Westbrook can play, her impact early in the season may be limited. While she’s an experienced and proven player having averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 assists per game last season with the Lady Vols, Westbrook underwent knee surgery in June and sat out summer workouts. Auriemma admitted prior to the waiver news that she was a bit of an unknown commodity “until she’s been here a couple months and obviously practiced and got 100% healthy.”

That doesn’t mean Westbrook wouldn’t be an asset to the Huskies at all this season, it might just take her some time to find her footing. So even if UConn does win the appeal, early expectations for Westbrook should be tempered.

Christyn Williams - Sophomore

Christyn Williams is coming off one of the best freshman seasons in recent memory, starting every game and scoring the eighth-highest point total of any freshman in program history. As a sophomore, Williams needs to work on being more consistent and improving her defense.

Williams spent much of the summer with the USA 3x3 National Team, first winning gold in the PanAm games before playing in the FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series. With less people on the court to help out, Williams felt the experience helped improve her defense.

“I think my on-ball defense. It helped a lot because there’s no helpside (defense),” she said. “So you have to keep the person in front of you. It’s a lot easier in 5-on-5.”

Auriemma isn’t so sure about that.

“That goes to show you how bad (her defense) was. She thinks it got better. It’s like a drowning person now has their eyes above the water saying ‘I’m doing good.’ Yeah, okay,” he said.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Aubrey Griffin - Freshman

Aubrey Griffin might be listed as a guard on UConn’s roster but that’s not entirely accurate. The freshman doesn’t really have a standard position on the court. Instead, she goes into the game and uses her athleticism to make an impact however she can, whether it be on defense, by crashing the offensive glass or by blowing by defenders on the drive.

While she’s still a bit raw, Griffin should have make an impact as a spark of energy off the bench and can also help on the boards if Olivia Nelson-Ododa or Megan Walker get into foul trouble. Griffin’s potential is sky-high and as long as her confidence stays up, she should only get better as the season progresses.

Anna Makurat - Freshman

A late addition to the class of 2019, Anna Makurat comes to UConn after previously playing with Arka Gdynia in the Polish League. She’s impressed both her teammates and coaches with her maturity and well-developed offensive game. Dangerfield routinely calls Makurat “a pro” while Auriemma said she’s a freshman in name only.

“I want to say she’s a freshman, she’s not really a freshman,” he said. “She’s a much more mature basketball player than anyone could ever be because of her playing experience.”

While, Makurat started both the Huskies’ exhibition games, she didn’t look totally comfortable in either appearance. She’s still transitioning to the American style of play so it might take her another game or two to get settled in. But once she does, expect Makurat to become a stalwart in UConn’s offense.