It’s not easy to play at the best program in women’s college basketball. Geno Auriemma is demanding and tough on his players, the expectations are through the roof and of course, it requires an elite skillset.
By unofficial count, 25 players have left UConn since Auriemma took over in 1985, excluding Morgan Tuck, Azura Stevens and Megan Walker, who left for the WNBA before exhausting their eligibility.
Currently, there are three former Huskies still in college basketball around the country along with a former commit. All three transfers were from UConn’s maligned class of 2017, where not a single player from that original group is still in Storrs after Walker’s departure.
Let’s check in on how each player did this past season:
Mikayla Coombs, Georgia
The most recent departure from UConn, Coombs was forced to sit out the entire season after the NCAA denied her waiver. While the exact reasoning was not made public, Georgia head coach Joni Taylor felt Coombs’ situation fell under “extenuating circumstances” and UConn supported the waiver as well.
Though Coombs couldn’t take part in game action or travel to road games, she drew rave reviews from the team about her work ethic in practice and earned praise as a teammate — most notably helping point guard Gabby Connally recover from wisdom teeth surgery.
Coombs will have two season of eligibility left once the 2020 season finally begins.
Lexi Gordon, Texas Tech
After amicably departing UConn at the end of the first semester in 2018, Lexi Gordon had to sit out Texas Tech’s first six games of the 2019-20 campaign due to the NCAA transfer rules. Once she got on the court though, it didn’t take long for her to make an impact.
In just her second game, Gordon single-handedly surpassed her entire point total at UConn (12) with a 16-point performance. Against UTSA, she recorded her first double-double with a 31-point, 11-rebound night where she shot 12-16 from the floor. That earned her Big 12 Player of the Week as well as a permanent spot in the Lady Raiders’ starting lineup.
In each of her next three games, Gordon reached double-figures before hitting a stretch where she struggled with consistency. Though she’d still have nights where she’d score 12, 18 and 19 points, respectively, those performances were sprinkled few and far between games where she’d finish with just five, seven, two or six points — to name a few.
But after getting blanked in 11 minutes on the road against West Virginia, Gordon turned it around and closed the season with double-figures in five of Texas Tech’s last six games, including 30 points in an upset win over No. 25 TCU.
Gordon will be a senior next season.
Andra Espinoza-Hunter, Mississippi State
Early in the season, Espinoza-Hunter seemed to pick up where she left off after a sophomore year in which she averaged 9.0 points per game and hit 42.2 percent from beyond the arc. She reached double-figures in five straight games early on and despite not shooting great from three, still found other ways to score.
However, as the year wore on, Espinoza-Hunter mostly became a non-factor for the Bulldogs. In 20 of Mississippi State’s final 26 games, she failed to make more than one basket and despite four games of at least 10 points, those were outweighed by nine scoreless efforts.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Against LSU in early December, an injury to Rickea Jackson gave Espinoza-Hunter the start and she responded with 10 points in a season-high 37 minutes. Later, she brought the Bulldogs even with Alabama with five seconds left on a free throw — her only point of the game — though the Crimson Tide eventually went on to win. In the SEC Tournament, Espinoza-Hunter hit a circus 3-pointer before the half as well.
Andra Espinoza-Hunter at the buzzer pic.twitter.com/KcaYlVn4Zq— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 7, 2020
Espinoza-Hunter averaged 4.6 points and 1.0 rebound per game and only hit 26.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Charli Collier, Texas
A former verbal commit to UConn from the class of 2018, Collier decommitted from the Huskies and decided to stay home with Texas following a tough year and a half in which she lost her father and then survived Hurricane Harvey.
As a sophomore this season, Collier blossomed into one of the best centers in the nation, averaging a double-double with 13.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. She led Texas to an upset over then-No. 1 Stanford with 20 points and 19 rebounds, which earned her Big 12, ESPNW and USBWA Player of the Week honors.
The Daily Texan wrote a profile on Collier in early February while the Longhorn Network did its own feature in January.
Collier finished her sophomore season as an All-Big 12 First Team selection and a finalist Lisa Leslie Award top-10 finalist, given to the nation’s best center.