It may only be the middle of the summer but Megan Walker can’t wait for this upcoming season to begin. The rising junior is already relishing the chance to become the go-to player for UConn. But with the Huskies set for one of the best non-conference schedules in program history and potentially the final year in the American Athletic Conference, she’s also looking forward to playing the bad guy.
“I feel like ever since I got to the University of Connecticut, we’ve always been the black hat, the bad guy,” Walker said. “I enjoy it. If we didn’t want that, if we didn’t want to take on that challenge, we wouldn’t be here at this university so I’m excited, whatever conference we’re in, we’re excited to play.”
UConn’s players often talk about ignoring what people outside the program are saying about the team. But as we saw after last season’s NCAA Selection Show, when the Huskies were shockingly tabbed as a 2-seed instead of a one, sometimes the noise gets through. Walker is sick of hearing how UConn has fallen off in recent years.
“We like those games (big games during the non-conference schedule). That’s another game we can get up for — we get up for every game — but another chance to prove to everyone that we still are the school that we used to be,” she said.
The Huskies will get more than enough chances to prove that against the likes of Notre Dame, Baylor, Tennessee and South Carolina. But perhaps the best chance to make a statement? That’ll be against Oregon at Gampel Pavilion. The Ducks are expected to be the preseason No. 1 after coming off a trip to the Final Four and returning Sabrina Ionescu. Walker is looking forward to giving them a proper welcome.
“They’re in for a surprise,” she said. “It’s not easy to come into Gampel and play us. “So we need to get ready and do the best we can.”
Prince Picks Oregon
Texas transfer Sedona Prince committed to Oregon on Friday, adding another piece to an already-loaded Ducks roster. The No. 8 player in the class of 2018, Prince visited with UConn in mid-June and also took a visit to Notre Dame.
Auriemma said at his Fore the Kids Golf Tournament that Prince was likely the last possible addition to the team and with her now off to Oregon, the Huskies’ 2019-20 roster is all but set.
With just about four months until UConn opens the season against Cal on Nov. 10, here’s a way-too-early guess at what the starting lineup might look like in the opener:
G: Crystal Dangerfield
G: Christyn Williams
F: Megan Walker
F: Evelyn Adebayo
C: Olivia Nelson-Ododa
Dangerfield, Williams and Walker are locked in as returning starters. Nelson-Ododa showed a lot of promise down the stretch in the postseason and should make a big leap as a sophomore. The fifth spot is the big question mark and will likely depend on whether or not Evina Westbrook gets a waiver to play this season. If that happens, she could be the fifth starter. But if she is forced to sit out after transferring, that leaves the competition wide open.
It won’t be like last season where the same five players started every game when each was healthy. That fifth spot could very easily be a rotating door depending on who had the best week in practice prior to the game. Right now, Adebayo is the pick because of her experience, though it wouldn’t surprise me if Aubrey Griffin claimed a starting spot sooner rather than later.
Batouly Camara Opens Up
UConn’s fifth-year senior Batouly Camara appeared on the “In the World of Female Sports” podcast recently and talked about everything from her upbringing in New York City to her work spreading the game of basketball to girls around the world. She also touched on some interesting points about her time at UConn:
Why she transferred to UConn from Kentucky: “For me, it was definitely distance (from home). And because to me, ‘I can do this, I went to boarding school’, but it’s a big difference when you go from two hours to 14 hours. And [Kentucky] didn’t feel like home in a lot of ways. Maybe there’s more to that, maybe there’s less to that. Maybe I was too young, there’s that but at the time, it wasn’t more so about ‘I don’t want to be at Kentucky.’ It was more so ‘I’m excited for the opportunity to be at UConn.’”
“In high school, it was my last two, Kentucky and UConn. I was like ‘Oops, gotta do a little flip.’ A lot of people don’t get [to attend both their final two schools] and I’m thankful for that.”
What she remembers from her first year at UConn: “My first year was so fun. Every year has been fun, every year has been interesting. But I do remember vividly coming in with [Duke transfer] Azura Stevens and we talked about our experiences and the differences and how we were here.
Somewhere in Brene Brown’s book called Braving the Wilderness she says — I’m paraphrasing horribly — but basically what she was saying was you get to a point where you sit on a bench and you just sit and you breathe and you’re like ‘I’m here.’ Everything’s okay. And that was something incredible, the first year, the second year, now, it’s been definitely a growing process and I think everything should be and everything is. But that first year was different because you’re learning. You’ve been exposed to college but it’s different everywhere. And that’s cool. That’s cool.”
How she feels entering her final year at UConn: “What I’m most excited about is this last season. Working on my body, working on just developing, I would say, overall as a person. Now, I’m going into a fifth year and I’m like “Oh my god, I’m old. I’m the old person on the team now. Freshmen are coming in like ‘I was born in 2001’ and I’m like ‘Oh my god, what is going on right now?’
“Present day is good, it’s fun. I started graduate classes. I’m majoring in Sport Management...I have my first class on Monday and that’s really exciting. We’re now in summer school, three weeks down and I’m like ‘This is my final summer school as a senior.’ That’s exciting because you see the growth, you see people starting their first summer and you’re like ‘You’re not even going to recognize who you are in four years. I can’t wait for me to come back and you’re leading the troops.’ That’s the most fun part. Then we work out and you’re like ‘This is going to be fun,’ because no matter what you plan for a season, you never know what’s going to happen. So it’s just exciting to see the way everything develops. And just to feel that sense of calm and (say) ‘Okay, this is it.’”