Three weeks ago, UConn women’s basketball fell to Baylor at the XL Center. It was the last time assistant coach Jasmine Lister was on the bench for the Huskies. Since then, Lister has been absent from both games and practice. The only official word from the team was that she was sick — no specifics or estimated timetables for her return.
After UConn’s win over Cincinnati, head coach Geno Auriemma commented on the absence for the first time.
“We will (address the situation) when the right time comes,” he said. “She’s on a personal leave right now.”
UPDATE: The school provided a formal update on the situation. Lister is taking a leave of absence due to “personal reasons,” leaving the the Huskies with just two assistant coaches.
Because of that, Jamelle Elliot will replace her on staff for the rest of the season. Elliot currently holds the title Associate Athletic Director for the National C Club, but spent 11 years on Auriemma’s staff as an assistant from 1998-2009. More recently, she was the head coach at Cincinnati from 2009 to 2018. Elliot also played for the Huskies from 1993-1997, winning a national title in 1995.
Groundhog Day for Huskies
On Monday night, UConn women’s basketball led the US women’s national team in the fourth quarter of the exhibition game. On Thursday, the Huskies were out-scored by Cincinnati 22-9 in the second quarter.
Inconsistency has plagued UConn all year long. While Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker are close to sure-things most nights, it’s anyone’s guess to which of the Huskies’ other five rotation players will show up. That fact isn’t lost on the players, either.
“It’s like Groundhog Day with our team every day,” Dangerfield said. “We’re not sure what team we’re going to get every time out there on the floor and that’s something we have to work on.”
There’s no magic fairy dust Auriemma or anyone else can sprinkle on the team that’ll fix it. For example even if Anna Makurat makes eight threes every game like she did against ECU, that can only help UConn so much if Olivia Nelson-Ododa is on the bench with foul trouble. Instead, it needs to be a collective effort.
“Everybody just take personal accountability of what their job is on our team,” Dangerfield said. “We say it from time to time: Do your job so the next person can do theirs. I think if everyone understands that and takes it to heart, it’ll make everything easier and what we do on the floor will look a lot better.”
Megan “Rocky” Walker
It wasn’t a fun day to be Megan Walker. In the third quarter, the junior got poked in the left eye twice in the third quarter. After the second time, she exited the game and shortly thereafter went into the locker room briefly but returned to the bench before the quarter ended.
At that point, UConn was in clear control of the game and Auriemma didn’t plan to put Walker back in. But she moved from her original spot at the end of the bench up next to associate head coach Chris Dailey, which caught Auriemma’s attention.
“It’s pretty swollen,” Auriemma said of Walker’s eye postgame. “I had no intention of putting her back in and she came over and sat on the bench. I looked at her and said ‘What’s up?’ and she shook her head, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ I said ‘You sure?’ and she said ‘Yeah.’”
Apparently her eye was swollen enough that it reminded Auriemma of another Philadelphia legend: Rocky Balboa.
“I looked at her eye, I thought she was going to say ‘Cut me, Micky,’” he said, alluding to the famous Rocky scene. “I didn’t know what she was going to say.”
Camara in uniform
For the first time this season, Batouly Camara participated in pre-game warm ups and dressed in uniform for the game, though she was the only player not to see game action. According to Auriemma, that was all part of the plan.
“Janelle [Francisco], our athletic trainer said I’m going to let Batouly warm up tomorrow with the team. That’s a step but it’s not a ringing endorsement like ‘She’s ready to go,’” he said. “We’ll see how that goes. We’ve got the day off tomorrow, we’ve got a couple practices, we’ll play it by ear. Little by little, one day at a time. She’s doing more things today that she did five days ago.”
Camara underwent a left knee scope in November, with an original recovery time of 6-8 weeks. That got moved to January before the team eventually removed any timetable for her.
Quote of note
“We know this isn’t what we’re used to. The upperclassmen know this isn’t what we’ve done the last couple years and it’s really falling on us to try to get it back. Right now it’s difficult but we had a talk and we’re going to be better about it.” - Dangerfield on the team’s “struggles” this season.