In Dorka Juhasz’s third-ever game at Ohio State, she and the Buckeyes traveled to Storrs to take a UConn team that, at the time, featured Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson and Crystal Dangerfield. Though Juhász had heard plenty about UConn, she got a crash course introduction to the program and its fanbase that day.
“They just put me right into the game — ‘You’re starting, you’re playing, you’re playing UConn’ — so it was obviously like a great experience,” she said. “I think it was like a packed game, there were so many fans. I loved the environment...It was a good opportunity for me just to get to know a little bit more [about] one of the best basketball (schools) in the country.”
UConn won 85-53 that day and the next season, traveled to Ohio State and battled to a 73-62 victory. After her junior year, Juhász entered the transfer portal. As a back-to-back First Team All-Big Ten selection, she received plenty of interest from quality programs but UConn — with the memory of that game in Storrs still in the back of her head — ultimately proved too hard to turn down.
“My biggest reason to leave (Ohio State) was to find a place where I can get better and improve as a player the most,” Juhász said. “I was in the transfer portal, I had many many great offers, but I just feel like UConn was that one place that I could really see myself improving and just getting better.”
Juhász has two years of eligibility remaining: Her senior season and the bonus COVID year. She came to UConn with the intention using both but also wants to keep her options open.
“When I transferred, I’m definitely looking forward to having that two years,” she said. “It’s gonna be one by one. We’ll see how obviously this year goes but I’m definitely not looking forward to just use one year, I’m definitely looking forward to use two.”
If Juhász does stay for two years, it would be a big boost to the Huskies’ future frontcourt. With Olivia Nelson-Ododa set to graduate, the 6-foot-5 Juhász could take over as the main option in the low post while freshman Amari DeBerry and 2022 commit Isuneh Brady develop in 2022-23.
That’s not to overlook this upcoming season, though. Even though the team only just completed summer workouts, Juhász has already emerged as a potential different-maker.
“She’s all of 6-5 and she’s long and aggressive as hell. She’s fitting in nicely in a lot of ways,” Geno Auriemma said. “She can shoot the hell out of it and she’s really highly skilled. Just need to calm her down a little bit. She’s so excited about playing, being here. But I love her personality. I love that she brings a old school work ethic.”
In particular, Juhász and Nelson-Ododa have been battling against each other in practice which will only benefit both players in the long run.
“She’s super talented. She brings a very versatile skillset,” Nelson-Ododa said. “So being able to compete with her and go head-to-head like that I think has made both of us better.”
While the pressure and expectations that come with playing at UConn can be too much for some players to handle, there shouldn’t be any concerns about Juhász, even if she’s still a little over-eager. The purpose of the summer workouts are mostly to acclimate new players into the new program, something Juhász believed she accomplished over the five weeks.
“It was great just to get to know the players, the coaches, how they’re handling stuff and obviously we got a new strength coach,” Juhász said. “It was good to have the connection already before preseason.”
It also allowed Juhász to get to know her new teammates personally considering her only experience with some of them had been as opponents. Though she didn’t say it outright, Juhász implied she wasn’t a big fan of Nelson-Ododa — until she finally met her.
“Playing against some of these players are so different and I actually get to know them and I’m like ‘Liv, oh, you’re such a sweet person.’ [When] you’re playing it’s like — I don’t know what kind of person you are,” she said.
It didn’t take long for Juhász to mesh with the vibe of the squad.
“It’s so good to have Dorka,” Nika Mühl said. “I think she’s a great add-on to the team. She’s so versatile and off the court, she’s funny. It’s just us Europeans. I love Dorka.”
In fact, the biggest adjustment has been to the campus more than anything. After spending the last three years in Columbus, Ohio, where there was constant activity and she could get practically anything she needed at any hour of the day, moving to the backwoods of Connecticut has been a welcome change of pace — if still a bit of a culture shock.
“It’s kinda reminding me of home, just being a little bit like more quiet and not like that busy and it’s also good I think, just less distractions,” she said. “We can just focus on school, being great in school and practicing and obviously hanging out. But I like the green, I like the environment so I’m having fun here.”
“I look out the window I see deer, I see like a lot of animals running around. I really like it.”