In part one of the series, we examined what led to UConn women’s basketball having so little depth. In part two, we look at the present roster and how the Huskies could fill some holes.
Nobody in women’s college basketball is feeling sorry for UConn. Even though the Huskies only have eight scholarship players, five of those are McDonalds’ All-Americans. But regardless of how much talent any team has, only having nine players is tempting fate. If the injury bug hits hard, the Huskies could find themselves without a bench.
Take into account Batouly Camara’s injury history and UConn isn’t far off from a seven-player roster. Notre Dame lost four players to season-ending injuries in 2017-18. That level of devastation would leave the Huskies with only four players. Not even enough to field a team.
While adding bodies is important, UConn also could use an addition or two to shore up the team. Outside of Crystal Dangerfield, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Megan Walker and Christyn Williams, nobody else on the roster has proven they can produce consistently at the college level. Geno Auriemma says that if a player doesn’t get it before their junior year, they probably aren’t going to so relying on any of the returners is a gamble.
Over the past five years, UConn fills between 10-12 of its scholarships so we’re not talking about replacing the roster, just adding a few players. Let’s take a look at where the Huskies could look for some reinforcements:
UConn isn’t going to add another top-100 player like Aubrey Griffin over the summer but that doesn’t mean the Huskies are bringing in freshmen. The Journal Inquirer’s Carl Adamec reported in February that Polish guard Anna Makurat “wants to attend UConn” and that the interest is mutual. However, she can’t visit until after the signing period ends on May 15 and her current club, Arka Gydnia, could ultimately pay her to stay in Poland.
Foreign players appear to be a burgeoning recruiting pool for UConn. The Huskies added 2020 point guard Nika Muhl out of Croatia and were pursuing Australian forward Ezi Magbegor before she choose to stay home and play professionally.
Auriemma won’t recruit players for the sake of numbers — he only wants players he thinks can fit into the program. He also realizes he can’t sit back and do nothing.
“You just go through some cycles where the kids you want, you know it’s a long shot,” he said in November. “‘Why don’t you take some other kids?’” I don’t want them. But you have to do something.”
Based on UConn’s recent recruiting classes, it seems like Auriemma is finding less American players he likes. If that’s the case, looking into more foreign players is a logical move.
As for domestic freshmen, there were questions if 2019’s No. 2 prospect Jordon Horston could re-open her commitment after Tennessee fired Holly Warlick but Horston re-affirmed her commitment to the Lady Vols last week.
Since 2011, graduate transfers have increased in basketball and football after the NCAA tweaked its rules which allow players that graduate to transfer to a new school without having to sit out a year.
UConn hasn’t signed a grad transfer before but the Huskies haven’t needed to. But that could be changing: Adamec also reported the team “will look into” the market. It makes sense — UConn needs someone who can step into the starting lineup immediately, something a grad transfer should be capable of.
A grad transfer would also only use up a scholarship for one season, giving the Huskies the quick-fix for a season they need before the 2020 recruiting class comes in.
With an abundance of scholarships, the Huskies can afford to take on one or two true transfers that need to sit out a year. UConn’s recent history with transfers is a mixed bag. Natalie Butler came to Storrs from Georgetown, where she earned Big East Freshman of the Year honors but never regained that form with the Huskies. She played for two seasons as a reserve before leaving as a grad transfer to George Mason.
Camara and Azura Stevens both joined the program in the same offseason coming from Kentucky and Duke, respectively. Injuries have hampered Camara’s career to this point but Stevens became one of UConn’s best players down the stretch during her sole season of play in 2017-18.
It definitely wouldn’t hurt to add an experienced player in 2020 as a complement to what should be a bigger incoming freshman class if the Huskies find the right player.
UConn needs to add scholarship player one way or another, but a walk-on or two would make sense just to add some extra bodies for practice and on the bench in case injuries strike. Back in 2012, Briana Pulido and Tierney Lawlor both joined the team after a tryout, so the Huskies could go the same route. At the same time, Auriemma won’t take a walk-on for the sake of it. He’ll only add a player he wants.