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Instigators, the dangerous one and ‘a little sneaky sneak’: Evina Westbrook on the many personalities of UConn women’s basketball

An inside look at what the Huskies are like away from the basketball court.

Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Last season, one of the defining characteristics of the UConn women’s basketball roster was how close-knit the entire group was. Even in the preseason, Geno Auriemma said the team hit a “grand slam” with its off-court chemistry. By all accounts, that’s continued into the new season even with four new players joining the fray.

As we also know, the Husky roster includes many unique personalities. To get a better idea of the person behind each player, we enlisted Evina Westbrook — Momma E herself — to give us the inside scoop on all 14 members of UConn’s roster.

The team

Westbrook began by speaking about the team as a whole.

“Everyone is funny in their own way and it’s crazy to see how everyone’s personalities on the team fits and we all kind of feed off each other.”

Olivia Nelson-Ododa — The Instigator

“Liv is the biggest instigator that we have on the team. Biggest instigator. She’s great at what she does, though. She’s hilarious, she’s goofy, she’s funny. But like I said: Biggest instigator on the team.”

What’s an instigator?

“If me and Christyn (Williams) are having an argument about whatever, basketball, she’s ‘Blah, blah’ and Liv knows I’m right, she’ll instigate Christyn and be like ‘No, Christyn, you’re right. You got it, yeah.’ Like, no. And she’ll look at me and I’ll be like ‘Liv, stop.’ Little things like that she’ll do.”

Christyn Williams — The Old Soul

“Christyn, she’s goofy. She’s a little on the slow side with some things. It just takes her a while to get it. She has an old soul — as do I — loves old school music, big on vibes, real chill.”

Dorka Juhász — The Rebel

Juhász, a native of Pecs, Hungary, is new to the team after transferring in from Ohio State. The summer session was the Huskies’ first chance to get to know her.

“She has a little rebel side to her. Like, she’s down for whatever. If we’re going somewhere, Dorka will be like, ‘I’m coming.’ We’re going out or whatever, Dorka’s like, ‘I’m coming too.’ Like, okay (laughs). So she’s been great.”

Aubrey Griffin — The Happy-Go-Lucky

“Super goofy, dancing all the time. She’s a part of the TikTok group.”

“She’s a really smart kid. She’s super smart. In school, she takes her time with everything, gets her work done. She’s a hard worker. Goofy, I mean just constantly smiling, constantly laughing. When she’s walking up the street, just smiling. It’s never — never — a bad day with Aubrey.”

Piath Gabriel — The Comedian

“Piath is part of the TikTok group. She’s hilarious. I mean, it’s just constant jokes with Piath, just saying funny stuff all the time. She sees everything so she’s saying this goofy stuff.”

“She’s kind of quiet if you don’t know her. But when she’s involved with everything, I mean she just lights up a room. She’ll light up a conversation, just have everyone laughing. Anything that comes out her mouth is funny. It’s like, we gotta laugh.”

Paige Bueckers — The Social Media Superstar

“Paige is always TikToking and she’s hilarious too — everyone’s funny.”

“She’s funny. She’s just in tune with everything, just knowing everyone’s personalities. Goofy, telling jokes all the time, little jokester. She’s an instigator too. She’s a ball of fun to have around.”

Baylor v UConn Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Nika Mühl — The Crazy One

“That’s the crazy one. She’s crazy. She’s got no filter. I think that’s just from her just being overseas, kind of just says what’s on her mind. But she’s going to tell you how she really feels. Very open, super funny, always laughing, always a smile on her face, super competitive.

“She’s dangerous. So that’s the kid I gotta make sure I know where she’s at at all times.”

Mir McLean — The Mysterious One

“Mir’s the mysterious one. Mir, she’s a huge instigator (laughs). Biggest instigator.”

There seem to be a lot of instigators on the team.

“Yes, them three (McLean, Nelson-Ododa, Bueckers).”

“Mir is super funny, always telling jokes, always smiling, always laughing, always a good time with Mir. But she has like this little sneaky side to her. Like, she would do stuff. We don’t know who it is but she won’t say it’s her. So we gotta watch out.”

Stuff like what? Pranks?

“I’m not even sure. Like she’ll know something, and we’ll know she’ll know, but she won’t say. But it’s like, ‘Mir, we know.’ She’s a little sneaky.”

Aaliyah Edwards — The Silent Assassin

Edwards wasn’t around for the summer session because of commitments with the Canadian national team.

“We all miss Aaliyah. I want to say she’s an instigator too but not to their level. Not to Liv’s and Mir’s level. She’s kind of like a silent assassin. That’s what I think of her as. But she’s funny, she’s goofy too. She’s super smart. Super smart — book smart, life smart. ... She’s a ball of fun to have around as well.”

What about goofing on her being a vegetarian?

“We do that all the time. The freshman class — sophomore class now — does that all the time to her. So if she can’t eat bacon, so they call it facon (like fake bacon). Little stuff like that. Or we’re out eating, like ‘Oh Aaliyah, you can’t have this. Aaliyah, you can’t have this either.’ So we joke around with her but she’ll love it. She’ll joke back with them. She’ll be on their head too.”

Saylor Poffenbarger — The Tweener

Poffenbarger found herself in a difficult situation last season, coming to UConn in January after the team had already gone through so much together in the previous six months.

“She’s very involved with everyone and I really like that about her. She takes her time to get to know everybody. She’s funny. She’ll have them dying, just about. ... Always smiling, always laughing. She’s great to have around too.”

Azzi Fudd — The Sneaky Sneak

Last season, the freshman class were the ones who started calling Westbrook “Momma E”. Now that they’re sophomores, they don’t allow the new freshmen to call Westbrook mom, so she’s now “Grandma” to the newcomers. Westbrook’s not a fan, but she still goes along with it.

“I’m learning more about my grandkids,” she said when asked the true freshmen.

“Azzi, she’s a little sneaky sneak too. She’s a sneaky little thing. I don’t know if it’s just me that she does it to but she’ll poke the bear. She’ll just come around, really just poking. Like what are you doing? You can’t get mad at her, she’ll just start laughing, she’ll walk out smiling. Always has a smile on her face, always in a good mood. I’ve never really seen her in a bad mood. She’s been great to have around.”

Amari DeBerry — The Talker

“Amari will talk your ear off. She likes to talk about anything. She’s very knowledgeable, though. She knows a lot of kind of weird things that you would never think she’d know. Just kind of knows a little bit about everything. We’ll be like ‘How do you know that?’ She’s great to have around. Another one who’s just always smiling.”

“She’s been trying to get better in here, man. Just trying to see her push through everything.”

Caroline Ducharme — The One Who Needs a New Nickname

“Caroline, seeing her come out of her shell — she was very quiet in the beginning. I called her Mute. She didn’t really talk. But now just being around her, she’ll come in the room and just start talking. ‘Okay, Carol.’ We have to come up with a nickname because Carol is not a great nickname. We’ll call her Carol for now. We can’t say CD, Caroline is just a lot to say when you’re yelling for the ball. So just going with Carol for now until we figure out something else.”

“Just seeing her come out of her shell ... Just seeing her come out laughing, telling jokes. She’s like — what is that, dry humor? — she has a little bit of dry humor — so does Amari. You’d be like, ‘That was a good joke.’ So, she’s definitely coming out of her shell. She’s funny too.”

Evina Westbrook — Momma E

Westbrook spoke about everyone else on the team, what about herself?

“Me? A little bit of everything. I’m goofy, knowledgeable. To me, I just kind of keep everyone together, keep everyone sane. If we need to do something, Momma E kind of makes sure everything is organized. ‘Okay we’re leaving at this time.’ All that type of stuff. So I’m a real mom, Momma E.”

Arizona v Connecticut Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images