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UConn in the WNBA: Pre-season notebook

Former Huskies reflect on their experience in the Wubble and more.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The WNBA’s 2020 season is set to tip off next Saturday June 25th. Here’s the latest on former UConn stars in the league:

On the Wubble experience

The former Huskies that have arrived at the Bradenton, FL IMG campus for the WNBA season compared the WNBA bubble (or Wubble) to summer camp, college, the Olympic village, or playing overseas.

“I do think it’s similar to like if you took college and you added like a summer camp to it. That’s what it is but as adults,” said Stefanie Dolson. “So I can’t say it’s anything like I’ve ever done. But it is similar to some things I’ve done as my younger self.”

Most players echoed the sentiment that the bubble has been a unique experience so far, and not exactly like anything they’ve experienced in the past.

“It was like reminiscent of going to camp as a kid because you know you came with all your bags, usually with your parents and you probably had like your sleeping bag and your fan, because it was summer camp. You had to check in and get your jersey and like do all that stuff. It was very reminiscent of that,” Sue Bird said.

Bird’s teammate in Seattle also related it back to her younger days. “I keep picturing it as like an AAU tournament, you know, you see the kids walking out with their backpacks and their flip flops and that type of thing. And that’s us. You know, we’re walking around the campus with our backpacks and flip flops,” said Breanna Stewart.

Moriah Jefferson and Kiah Stokes both compared the wubble situation to their experiences overseas. Jefferson noted the similarity in that “you kind of go to practice, you go back to your room.”

Diana Taurasi also noted a similarity to her time overseas in Russia, and also drew comparisons to an Olympic village or world championship environment.

Either way, she said “I feel like, I was made for quarantine in the bubble,” and is ready to make the best out of the situation.

The newest Huskies in Dallas

Two new former Huskies will suit up in blue and green for the Dallas Wings this season. Moriah Jefferson was traded there after the 2018 season, but was out with an injury all of last year. Katie Lou Samuelson was also traded to Dallas this off season.

“We’re going to count on both of those people to really bring their championship and winning pedigree to our team and help us build this franchise,” said Wings head coach Brian Agler.

Jefferson’s WNBA career has been injury riddled, but she appears ready for the 2020 season.

“Moriah now you know she’s still shaken off some of the rust from not playing for a couple years, but she’s excited she’s energetic, she plays and competes very hard,” said Agler. “She’s plays at a really important position at the point guard one that we didn’t have really last year so having her on the floor is just an extreme upgrade from, how we operate a year ago. Arike played a lot of that for us and she was unnatural for her.”

Agler also had good things to say about the addition of Samuelson, noting “Lou is obviously one of our smartest players, she’s a tremendous three point shooter, she knows how to get her shots... we’re going to count on her to do that.”

Dolson’s recovery and return to the court from COVID-19

In May, Stefanie Dolson opened up about her battle with COVID-19 in the Player’s Tribune. Two months later, she is in the wubble and gearing up to play for the Chicago Sky this season.

“I feel good. I feel really good. I think because I was, not lucky, but lucky enough to get it right when everything kind of started. I’ve had a lot of time to recover and my body has just got back to normal,” said Dolson.

Her road back to the court was not an easy one. Dolson noted that it took her a month to a month and a half to really recover and start working out again, which took a toll on her conditioning for this season. Even so, Sky head coach James Wade seems impressed with her preparation for the season.

“We didn’t see a Stefanie that was recovering from COVID, we saw a Stefanie that had already recovered,” said Wade. “We didn’t get a chance to see that. So, right now she’s in a good place. She’s in a good place mentally. She’s in a good place physically. So we expect good things from her and good leadership from this year.”

Collier and Dangerfield reunited in Minnesota

Good news for UConn fans looking forward to seeing Crystal Dangerfield and Napheesa Collier back on the court together: they’re picking up where they left off.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty fun. It feels like we haven’t really skipped a beat. Now it’s been it’s been a year and everything but I still know her tendencies, she still knows mine and it’s been fun,” said Dangerfield of being back on the court with Collier.

Collier echoed the sentiment saying, “It just feels comfortable. I played with her for three years so we know what each other likes to do on the court, where we like to be, where we like the ball. So, it’s been really nice to play with her again and kind of get into the flow of that.”

How often we will see Napheesa and Crystal on the court together might be a bigger variable, however.

“Sometimes [Dangerfield] might be the best point guard that we have on our team, but it’s not gonna matter, because we’re going to be playing the players that are ahead of her,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “We know we want Crystal Dangerfield in the Minnesota Lynx franchise, you just may not see the affinity that we have for her right away translating in the minutes.”