Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.
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From The UConn Blog and Storrs Central
Lots of stories this past week thanks to Big East media day. We’ve split it into two categories to make life easier.
- UConn women’s basketball to open Big East play at Seton Hall on Dec. 6
- UConn fan attendance at Gampel Pavilion restricted by state health officials
- UConn women’s basketball announces full non-conference schedule
- Big East mulling all options to keep full basketball season in play
- Big East COVID-19 protocols remain a work in progress
- UConn women’s basketball picked to finish first in 2020 Big East Coaches’ Poll
- Christyn Williams named Big East Preseason Player of the Year; Paige Bueckers named Preseason Freshman of the Year
- UConn women’s basketball schedule tracker
- Chasing Perfection: Media Day Madness
- Geno Auriemma breaks down UConn women’s basketball roster
- Geno Auriemma: “I’ve never felt anything like I’m seeing and feeling in today’s world”
- Breanna Stewart announced as highest-ranked WNBA player in NBA 2K21
- UConn women’s basketball dominates Big East media day
Last week’s Weekly:
- Why Mohegan Sun could be bubble option for Big East (Hearst CT)
- Checking in with former UConn standout Kia Nurse: Offseason plans, review of the WNBA bubble and the vast potential of Husky freshman Aaliyah Edwards (Hartford Courant)
- Heeding the call for fall ball (Frederick News Post) — Good story about 2021 commit Saylor Poffenbarger.
- 2020-21 Big East Women’s Basketball Team Preview: Connecticut Huskies (Anonymous Eagle) — From SB Nation’s Marquette blog.
- Jeff Jacobs: Rebecca Lobo says difference between her and Paige Bueckers’ first year ‘night and day’ (Hearst CT)
Checking in on former Huskies around the country
It’s been four years since UConn won a national championship — tied for the Huskies’ second-longest title drought since 1995. If we ranked the causes of the trophy-less streak, the Huskies’ heartbreaking, buzzer-beater losses in the 2017 and 2018 Final Fours stand out — especially consider they would’ve rolled to an easy victory had they advanced to either championship game.
But UConn’s 2017 recruiting class can’t be ignored, either. The Huskies brought in four players and four years later, none remain with the program.
Andra-Espinoza Hunter transferred out midway through her freshman year. Lexi Gordon departed after her third semester and Mikayla Coombs followed them out the door at the end of her sophomore year. Only one player — Megan Walker — actually made an impact on the court and even she declared for the WNBA Draft following her junior season.
If UConn got more of a contribution out of that class, would it have been enough to push the Huskies past Notre Dame in either national semifinal game? It probably wouldn’t have hurt, but we’ll never know.
Recruiting is an inexact science, which means even the greatest swing and miss sometimes — though Walker did become an All-American, so a bad class for UConn is still better than most other schools in the nation. It also helps that the three 2017 recruits are the only former Huskies playing in college basketball right, so the staff has hit on every class since then.
With that, let’s check in with each of those three players in addition to a former commit. We recapped each of their 2019-20 campaigns in March but now we’ll look ahead to their upcoming season:
Mikayla Coombs, Georgia
After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Coombs will finally be eligible to suit up for the Bulldogs.
ESPN placed Coombs at No. 37 in their newcomer impact rankings:
Life after UConn extends beyond Elena Delle Donne’s unique case. Natalie Butler, Courtney Ekmark and Lexi Gordon are among those who found their best fit elsewhere. After sitting out last season, Coombs could be next in Georgia’s backcourt.
Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Mississippi State
After two years with Mississippi State, Espinoza-Hunter opted-out of this season over COVID-19 concerns. Though she will get an extra year of eligibility, it’s unclear if she’ll use it at Mississippi State or anywhere else.
Espinoza-Hunter appeared to be a player for the Bulldogs to build around during her first season in Starkville after recording 9.0 points per game and a 42.2 percent mark from beyond the arc. However, she disappointed as a junior as she dropped to 4.6 points per game and 26.2 percent from three.
Lexi Gordon, Texas Tech
It’s been an eventful offseason for Gordon. In August, USA Today exposed a culture of “fear, anxiety and depression” under Marlene Stollings at Texas Tech. Gordon put her name in the transfer portal but decided to stay with the Red Raiders after the school dismissed Stollings and replaced her with Krista Gerlich.
Despite being a senior, this will only be Gordon’s second full season of college basketball. As a sophomore, she transferred from UConn at the end of the fall semester and subsequently couldn’t start playing for Texas Tech until after the fall semester concluded this past year due to NCAA transfer rules.
With a freshman and transfer heavy roster, the Red Raiders will rely on Gordon as a senior this season. Though she had high peaks last year (like a 31-point, 11-rebound night against UTSA), she often went through cold stretches. If Gordon can perform consistently, she could be one of the better players in the Big 12.
Charli Collier, Texas
Though she never officially played for UConn, Collier committed to the Huskies as a member of the 2018 class but eventually flipped to Texas to be close to home.
When the preseason watch lists begin to trickle out, Collier is a lock to find her name on plenty. She was one of the best centers in the country as a sophomore last year, earning All-Big 12 first team honors as well as a spot on the Lisa Leslie Award top-10 finalists list, given to the nation’s best center.
It’s likely that this will be Collier’s final season playing college basketball, though. She’s eligible to enter the 2021 WNBA Draft and is projected the No. 1 pick by Draftsite.
Best of social media
Geno Auriemma: aspiring Instagram influencer:
Funny moment from Big East media day:
Here’s the full mask! pic.twitter.com/Psh4dDojbb— Charlotte Carroll (@charlottecrrll) October 29, 2020
Geno hosted the team at his house on Election Night. UConn’s nine eligible players all voted:
Registered ✅— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) November 4, 2020
Voted ✅ pic.twitter.com/tgkh1FGGgh
What did Geno do to survive quarantine?
“I put a real dent in my wine cellar. I gotta tell you, I’m really proud of myself.”
Incredible story from Creighton coach Jim Flanery during media day. In short: UConn’s return is already giving opposing coaches nightmares.