Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.
The Weekly is a newsletter! Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Thursday at 7 a.m. before it hits the site.
From The UConn Blog and Storrs Central:
- 2021 No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd commits to UConn
- Chasing Perfection: Azzi Fudd is coming to UConn
- Chasing Perfection: 30 years of UConn stories with Meghan (Pattyson) Culmo
- UConn women’s basketball ranked No. 3 in AP preseason poll
- UConn women’s basketball 2020 offseason recap
- UConn women’s basketball preseason watch list tracker
- UConn women’s basketball schedule tracker
Last week’s Weekly:
- UConn lands commitment from No. 1 women’s basketball prospect Azzi Fudd (ESPN) — The story on how Fudd came to decide on UConn.
- ‘It’s just different’: Why top recruit Azzi Fudd chose UConn (The Athletic)
- Remember the name Azzi Fudd (Bleacher Report) — From January 2019, but a phenomenal feature on Fudd.
- UConn’s Griffin gets some NBA coaching from her father (Hearst CT)
- Analyzing UConn’s 2021 class (Hearst CT)
- Big East predictions: UConn returns, resumes role as top dog (ESPN)
In The News
2022 guard puts UConn in top 5
The last time the Huskies brought in a guard from Texas, things worked out pretty well. Moriah Jefferson helped UConn win four national titles, became a two-time All-American and won the WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year Award as a sophomore.
Now, the Huskies are one of five finalists for Ashlon Jackson along with Duke, Louisville, Oregon and Stanford. A 5-foot-10 guard out of Sour Lake, Texas, Jackson is rated as the No. 22 player and No. 2 guard in the class of 2022.
With Azzi Fudd, the Huskies have an embarrassment of riches
When discussing recruiting, there’s an important qualifier that always needs to be added: If things work out.
Recruiting is an inexact science, which UConn knows all too well. The Huskies’ 2017 class came to Storrs ranked No. 1 in the country but three players transferred out without making an impact while Megan Walker left early for the WNBA. Elena Delle Donne was a generation prospect when she committed to Geno Auriemma and his staff but she only lasted a couple days before returning home to Delaware.
Throughout UConn history, there are plenty of stories of recruits with gobs of potential that never panned out. Talented players that weren’t right for the program. Injuries derailing promising careers. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to recruiting.
But when the Huskies hit — they hit.
In 2012, UConn landed the top three recruits in the class — Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck. You may remember them as the only players in NCAA history to win four straight national titles.
In 1998, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Keirsten Walters and Tamika Williams came to Storrs and helped the Huskies win two national titles. The 2002 squad — this class’ senior year — is regarded as one of, if not the best team in program history.
So if things work out, UConn’s current crop of players can become one of the greatest collections of talent in Auriemma’s career. This could well be the Huskies’ next unstoppable juggernaut.
UConn’s five-player 2020 class — which includes No. 1 recruit Paige Bueckers — was ranked second-best in the nation while its 2021 class was rated as third-best by ESPN. Then on Wednesday, the Huskies added Azzi Fudd to that group — the top 2021 player and one of the highly-regarded prospects in recent memory.
Combine those two recruiting classes with the current sophomores and juniors on the team and Auriemma has built a strong roster top-to-bottom with depth at every position on the floor. UConn is loaded with talent for the foreseeable future.
At point guard, Evina Westbrook is a veteran player who averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 assists per game in the SEC. If things work out with her knee and she can shake off the rust, she’s the favorite to be the starting floor general. Behind her, Bueckers brings the talent and upside of a No. 1 recruit while Nika Muhl is an older player with experience playing at a high level in Europe and is already drawing rave reviews for her passing abilities.
Moving over to off-ball guard, Christyn Williams is another former No. 1 prospect that — as Notre Dame learned — is hard to stop when she’s on. Anna Makurat showed off elite court vision and a deadly 3-point shot last season and came back this year in better shape. Her offensive potential is through the roof.
As for the signees, Caroline Ducharme has drawn comparison to Katie Lou Samuelson as a tall guard who doesn’t miss from three. Saylor Poffenbarger fits a similar mold, though her game may not be as refined as Ducharme’s. Fudd, of course, is the No. 1 prospect with “no holes in her game,” according to ESPN. Steph Curry (yes, that Steph Curry) likened her jump shot to Ray Allen and Klay Thompson.
Out on the wing, Aubrey Griffin was borderline unstoppable on the boards at times last season, frequently terrorized opposing teams on defense and is still far from a finished product on offense. Mir McLean’s athleticism is supposedly comparable to Griffin’s.
Down low, UConn struggled to land players with size for a while, though that trend is now reversing. The Huskies have 6-foot-5 Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who should threaten Breanna Stewart’s record for the most blocked shots in school history and has steadily improved on offense. Aaliyah Edwards stands 6-foot-3, already has 14 appearances with the Canadian Senior National Team and reminds Auriemma of Napheesa Collier. UConn also has 6-foot-5 Piath Gabriel, a lottery ticket-type project big.
Next season, the Huskies will add Amari DeBerry, another 6-foot-5 player who plays a similar game to Nelson-Ododa. In the class of 2022, 6-foot-3 Isuneh Brady already committed. She’s the No. 5 player in her class and is described as “physical and efficient low-post performer” by ESPN who can reportedly stretch the floor as well.
Even if you remove Bueckers and Fudd from the equation, UConn still has a huge influx of talent committed for the future in addition to what it already has on the team. With those two, it’s hard not to let your imagination run wild about just how good the Huskies could be over the next few seasons if things work out.
When Paige Bueckers committed to UConn a year and a half ago, the Huskies’ outlook was drastically different. Griffin was the team’s only player in the class of 2019 while Bueckers was their first 2020 commitment.
Since that time, Auriemma and his staff have committed 11 players and put together the second-best and top-ranked recruiting classes in the country, respectively, over the last two seasons. UConn’s scholarship grid — once barren and empty — is now nearly full.
Look at the difference between when Paige Bueckers committed a year and a half ago and now.— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) November 11, 2020
Geno's still got it. pic.twitter.com/cymIHBHWi4
Obviously, not everything will go exactly to plan. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game which nobody can control. Some players are bound to disappoint and a few transfers are always possible — especially with the number of players that are projected to be on the roster next season.
But the Huskies have done as well as they could on the recruiting trail. Now, the challenge for Auriemma and his assistants will be working to translate all that potential into on-court production.
And based on how the last 25 years have gone, it’s hard not to imagine UConn once again becoming an unstoppable juggernaut that it was in 1995, in 2002, in 2009 and 2010 and from 2013-16.
Of course, if things work out.
Best of social media
UConn has quite the international flavor this season:
bok, cześć, bonjour/hello pic.twitter.com/BhcpuBdos1— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 5, 2020
Some new footage from practice:
It’s me and my friends pic.twitter.com/kZEgEDcBPg— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 6, 2020
You know the season is close when the Huskies film their pre-game hype video:
Quite a way for UConn to announce its signees:
The best posts from Azzi Fudd’s commitment:
I think Paige Bueckers is excited that Azzi Fudd’s coming to UConn pic.twitter.com/P14FFDB7NZ— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) November 11, 2020
The rest of the country seeing Geno get another No. 1 recruit pic.twitter.com/Mka8bvQtKG— The UConn Blog (@TheUConnBlog) November 11, 2020
I'm just gonna go back and highlight all of the thinkpieces that called our program washed up.... https://t.co/VHCo8l7L8u— Alysa Auriemma Total Landscaping (@AlysaAuriemma) November 11, 2020
I mean, I would say it's more due to Paige ;) https://t.co/CKl8CjkC3k— Alysa Auriemma Total Landscaping (@AlysaAuriemma) November 11, 2020
Meg Culmo shared a great Geno story on Chasing Perfection last week. Here’s a clip of it:
New episode of Chasing Perfection!@meghanculmo joined the show and shared this story about Geno (featuring @RebeccaLobo). After hearing it, you’ll never look at squirrels the same way again.— The UConn Blog (@TheUConnBlog) November 6, 2020
Listen to the full interview: https://t.co/24fLjbndB8 pic.twitter.com/HFKJ1wPHkd