A fractured elbow and subsequent surgery might’ve knocked Kyla Irwin out for the rest of the season but it couldn’t stop her from delivering a pre-game ritual: A short rap, written by the senior herself.
“She sent us her video, her rap that she does before every game,” Crystal Dangerfield relayed. “We call them ‘Short Poems by Kyla Irwin.’”
Dangerfield declined the share Monday’s video but said it lived up to high bar that Irwin has set.
“I can’t play it and I don’t have that type of memory,” she said. “It’s four solid bars though, I’ll tell you that. Kyla’s great at that.”
Throughout the whole night, Irwin’s presence was felt. Though she couldn’t be there in person for UConn’s blowout win over Cincinnati to claim its final AAC title, she did everything she could to still participate. Along with the rap video, Irwin was on FaceTime with the team when the locker room opened up to the media after the game.
“We made sure Kyla was involved in everything we had going on. We FaceTimed her after the game. She’s still on the phone,” Crystal Dangerfield exclaimed.
Even before the injury, it was never hard to find Irwin — even when she wasn’t in the game. She’s the loudest, most expressive player on the bench and gets far more excited for anything her teammates do than her own accomplishments.
So it’s only natural that after the game, once the team finished celebrating on the court, dumped a gatorade bucket of confetti on Geno Auriemma, received its hardware and returned to the locker room, Irwin was, amazingly, the happiest of the bunch.
“Screaming. Screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming,” Dangerfield said of Irwin’s reaction when she answered the call. “We threw confetti in the phone. She was cheering. She said she was proud of us.”
“She was going crazy on the phone. It felt like she was here with us so that was nice,” Griffin added.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, regardless of the situation. But for someone like Irwin to have their collegiate career end in a flash is especially cruel. The senior is regarded as the hardest worker on the team and it’d be hard to find someone more selfless. Nobody’s career should end this way, but especially not Irwin’s.
But Irwin always finds the positive in situations. So it was no surprise that on Monday, just a few hours removed from surgery, she still maintained her presence around the team.
“When it’s your senior year and you don’t have a chance to be a part of what’s going on, it hurts,” Dangerfield said. “I know Kyla, more than anybody, would want to be here and share this moment with her teammates.”
Irwin delivered a message to UConn fans through the team’s Twitter on Tuesday:
To UConn Nation #BleedBlue pic.twitter.com/7NKIh6H4r6— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) March 10, 2020
Griffin earns her due
Aubrey Griffin earned a well-deserved spot on the All-Tournament team, opening the postseason with a 15 point, 16 rebound performance and finishing the weekend with 9.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the three games. But according to her teammates, that shouldn’t have been her first conference accolade.
Griffin was left off the AAC All-Freshman team, a surprise considering she averaged 6.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game along with 21 steals and 11 blocks. Compare that to Temple’s Asonah Alexander’s stat line, who did make the team, of just 3.5 points and 2.6 assists per game.
While Griffin clearly deserved a spot, that wasn’t the snub her teammates were most upset about. Instead, they felt she should’ve been the AAC Defensive Player of the Year.
“I thought she should’ve been on the All-Freshman team and I think she should’ve won Defensive Player of the Year award,” Dangerfield said. “There’s not many people in our conference that can do what she does.”
“She should be Defensive Player of the Year,” Makurat added.
Griffin, however, was much more reserved and was just happy to make the All-Tournament team itself.
“I was not expecting it but it does feel good,” she said.