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UConn WBB Weekly: With 2022 recruiting class, Huskies hope to have assembled frontcourt of the future

With Ice Brady and Ayanna Patterson, Geno Auriemma believes UConn got “exactly what we were looking for.”

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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  • Middletown’s Saylor Poffenbarger transferring from UConn (Frederick News-Post) — Includes eyebrow-raising comments from Poffenbarger’s mom.
  • Paige Bueckers was named Big East Player of the Week for her 34-point performance against Arkansas.
  • South Carolina and UConn held at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the AP Poll. Maryland moved up to No. 3 while Stanford dropped four spots to No. 7 with its loss to Texas.

With 2022 recruiting class, UConn has assembled frontcourt of the future

When UConn women’s basketball landed its 2022 recruiting class of Isuneh “Ice” Brady and Ayanna Patterson, each required a leap of faith.

For Brady, that conviction came from the Huskies. She committed in December of her sophomore year — earlier than any other recruit in the program’s history, according to the Manchester JI’s Carl Adamec. Although ESPN rated Brady as the third-best prospect in the class at the time, it’s a risk to take a player that early — one Geno Auriemma rarely takes.

“You can maybe take a take a guess, like you cross your fingers and go ‘This kid’s pretty good as a sophomore.’ And so when you say yes to a kid — that’s why I never do, hardly ever do. I don’t know why I did it (with Brady). I just lost my mind. But I said yes and then she turned out to be what I hoped she’d become. Sometimes you think so and it doesn’t work out that way,” he said.

Meanwhile, Patterson had to completely believe and buy in to what the coaching staff told her about UConn. She decided on the Huskies in March 2021 without ever visiting Storrs because of the pandemic.

“You gotta really admire a kid who has that much trust both in herself and us to want to be able to make that commitment at that time,” Auriemma said.

Both players are now officially part of the UConn program after signing their letters of intent last Wednesday, which allows Auriemma to finally comment on them. With the class of 2021, he wanted the Huskies to get back to the versatility that has defined the team through the years.

For 2022, the goal was to build UConn’s future frontcourt. With the 6-foot-2 Patterson (ESPN’s No. 4 prospect in the class) and the 6-foot-3 Brady (No. 5), the coach hopes they’ve accomplished that.

“During the recruiting period for this class, we set out to find a couple bigs who could play multiple positions,” Auriemma said in a release. “I think we found the two best in the country in Ayanna and Ice. As a tandem, I think they’re going to give us exactly what we were looking for.”

The timing is important. Olivia Nelson-Ododa, the stalwart of the Huskies’ frontcourt from the past three seasons, is set to graduate while Ohio State transfer Dorka Juhász could leave for the WNBA with a strong season.

If that happens, Aaliyah Edwards, Piath Gabriel, and Amari DeBerry will be left as the only returning bigs in 2022, which means Brady and Patterson will have the opportunity to contribute right away as freshmen.

Brady, a San Diego native, is a traditional low post player and a prototypical UConn big.

“Our offense really is predicated on big kids that can move, catch, pass, shoot it, dribble, and I think she fits that mold,” Auriemma said. “She’s a big-bodied, tough kid. I mean, as tough as a kid from California can be. I let her know that too. Especially San Diego.”

That’s been tougher for the Huskies to find in recent years, though. That’s what drew UConn to Piath Gabriel, who featured the physical tools at 6-foot-5 but had an extremely raw skillset.

Once the staff discovered Brady and saw that she checked all the boxes, they made her a priority despite the fact that she was still a sophomore.

“Big kids that can pass, shoot the ball a little bit, handle themselves all over the court pretty much, are very rare to find unless you go to volleyball practice,” Auriemma said. “So when you find somebody like that, you just kind of hope that each year they get better and better and better and [Brady] has.”

Patterson is a different player than Brady. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native has a combination of size, strength, and athleticism that’s uncommon at any level. Though her skillset isn’t as developed as Brady’s, Auriemma can’t help but dream about Patterson’s potential whenever he sees her play.

“The things that I like about Ayanna — and it’s hard to really project because every time she plays, she’s double and triple-teamed. So you say to yourself, ‘Well, how would she do when she’s not?’ And that’s what I’m thinking,” he said.

As Aubrey Griffin showed two seasons ago, an athletic player can make an immediate impact as a freshman. Patterson has the potential to do the same.

“She has a great stroke and she’s not consistent enough with it. So that’s going to be a big point because if she does that, then obviously she can help us a ton,” Auriemma said. “Athletically, I think defensively and around the rim...anytime you can get from here to there quickly (Auriemma points from one spot to another) and can get from here to there quickly, you have a chance to contribute and she can do that.”

But above anything else, Auriemma and his staff put a priority on recruiting the right people. UConn sets a high bar not just for performance on the court but for the way the players are expected to act. Not every prospect is a fit for that culture.

Whether or not Brady and Patterson pan out for the Huskies as basketball players remains to be seen but in terms of their makeup, Auriemma is confident they got it right.

“We’re getting two great kids. Two great individuals,” he said. “If you ever listened to both of them in interviews, they all say the right things. It comes from the heart. They’re the kind of kids that we’re used to having here in Connecticut so I’m awfully excited for that.”


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Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog