UConn women’s basketball isn’t exactly known as an easy place for a freshman to play. Breanna Stewart struggled until the postseason of her first year, while current roster members Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker didn’t make a consistent impact until they were sophomores. Making the leap from high school ball to college is hard enough, and the added pressure of playing at the best program in the nation can make it hard for a freshman to succeed.
However, some players can overcome all that and be a contributor from the get-go like Christyn Williams did last season. Geno Auriemma expects Polish freshman Anna Makurat to fit into the latter category.
“I don’t think Anna’s going to take any amount of time to get acclimated. She’s a pro. She’s been playing away from home since she was 13,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any type of basketball environment, any system, where she’ll feel out of place. She’s going to fill in right away.”
Prior to coming to UConn, Makurat played for Arka Gdynia in Basket Liga Kobiet — Poland’s professional league — which has featured numerous WNBA players such as former Husky Tiffany Hayes, the Connecticut Sun’s Jasmine Thomas and the New York Liberty’s Rebecca Allen.
While Makurat hasn’t experienced much basketball at UConn outside summer workouts, she did get enough of a feel for the level of play to compare to it to the Polish league.
“We work much harder here. But basketball I think is pretty much the same level,” Makurat said. “I think competing is better here.”
Since she was already playing in a professional league, Makurat could’ve stayed in her home country and began her pro career at age 19. But sometimes the best choice isn’t always the easiest choice.
“Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to chase your dream,” she said. “It was always my dream to come play basketball here, competing and playing at the highest level.”
While Makurat committed to the Huskies later than most freshmen in May, she said there wasn’t anything abnormal about the recruiting process. If anything, it started 15 years ago when Diana Taurasi, Makurat’s favorite player, was at UConn. Geno Auriemma and his staff just needed to close the deal.
“Diana was the first reason I started to watch UConn but Coach Geno and the rest of the coaching staff is great here,” she said. “The first time they reached out to me I was sure it was going to be a great place for me. I was sure it was going to be my choice.”
With an ability to stroke it from deep and good court vision, Makurat is expected to be an instant-impact addition for the Huskies. Well, an instant-impact addition on offense, at least.
“She showed me her letter of intent and she said ‘It doesn’t say anything here about playing defense,’” Auriemma joked. “So I’m trying to get my attorney to re-write the letter of intent so she gets that part.”